THIS ONE DOES IT FOR ME!

 

 

 

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A Thought for Today

All people have lessons they can give us, even in rejection.

 

Dear Ken

Many years ago, far more than I care to remember, I was a regular subscriber to Folio.

One of the issues that has always remained in my heart was called "The Winner of Our Discontent". I have moved so many times that the box with my Folios is still packed somewhere. I know it's rather long, but could it possibly show up on ASPTL?

Right now it would have a special meaning for me.

Thanks and God Bless,

Laura

Thanks for a great choice, Laura. It's been awhile since I last read this and putting today's Flight Plan together reminded me of just what a powerful piece it is.

Rod's been talking about his summer vacation recently so here's what he had to say about his activities in 1977:

"Asked to write an essay on how I spent my summer vacation, I'd have to say mostly writing. Although I didn't get into it as heavily as I should have until August, I made up for that by rewriting the paperback version of "Finding My Father" almost completely. I changed "The Sea Around Me" for its American publication by Simon & Schuster in the Fall; and I wrote and rewrote "Coming Close to the Earth" which Elm Tree Books has just published in England.

There have been periodic columns and articles for the North American News Alliance, The New York Times, Newsweek, Christopher Street, and United Features Syndicate.

Originally I had planned to work only on a long novel that spans three decades, more than half of which was completed before I went on vacation. Now I'm into adding to and taking from "The Morning of My Life". There is a so-called self help book, a collection of prayers and spiritual poetry, and a long narrative tentatively titled "The Hotel Ansonia Poems" some of which has already made its way into print. This long poem, "The Winner of Our Discontent", is part of that book.

Incidentally, I have finally finished the words and music to "The Black Eagle" and will feature new selections from it on my tour of England, South Africa, Ireland and Scotland this fall.

I suppose all this means is that a writer writes - he doesn't vacate very well."

Rod McKuen, F.I.P. / 1977

If you have a favorite McKuen song or poem you'd like to share, drop me a line at ken@mckuen.com and I'll do my best to include it in this column one Wednesday.

 - Ken, Johannesburg, June 13

Two new appearance dates just announced!

Booking for "An Evening with Rod McKuen" at the Riverton Rendezvous is open! Click below for more details:

Concert & Appearance Details

notable birthdays Tim Allen o Reagan Anne Barrans o Don Budge o Fanny Burney o Christo o Ralph Edwards o Bobby Freeman o Red Grange o Paul Lynde o Malcom McDowell o Ashley & Mary-Kate Olsen o Basil Rathbone o Dorothy L. Sayers o Ally Sheedy o Richard Thomas o Mark van Doren o Jamie Walters o Mary Wickes o William Butler Yeats o Si Zentner
Rod's random thoughts We gather strength through fidelity.

Sometimes, love follows where friendship leads, but it doesn’t always work the other way.

To forget we’re God’s children is to never grow up.

WHO WAS THE WINNER
OF OUR DISCONTENT?

1.

I lingered
hour to hour
        day to day
and in the end
grew ill as an excuse
to stay a while longer.

The malady that I had conjured
                       still not diagnosed
stayed with me
until I finally knew
my proximity or practice
was building not just barricades
                   but prison walls.

I was yet to learn
that you would feign
                   an illness.
Did you take your cue
                     from me ?

Each time
I made a new excuse
I made a second or a third
to start a quarrel
and not see you
even though my only life
was lived beneath your smile
inside your groin
tangled in your arms.

When we didn't meet
by your design or mine
I had maladies aplenty.

Finally I flew
across the country
going home to work,
praying that those thousand miles
would make a difference
or that they wouldn't.
I prayed too,
well past the hour of eleven,
that you'd ring up
and say don't go.

The telephone
stayed silent,
so much for prayers.

I'm here
    home,
      working.
Working at it,
nothing comes to me
                    but you.

I write poems,
books and music all about you.
Words and songs
you'll never see or listen to
because you never learned
to read or care.

You seem to listen
only to those things
that scare you
             or intrigue you.

You see with blinders,
always able to discern
the most beautiful
            of beautiful
that comes into a room.
If you don't leave together
it's qualude or the beauties' fault.

As for music,
the only beat
resounding all around you
is the one that comes
from soda water discotheques.

Real music
has not caught you hanging
on its five line staff.

Never mind.
The singer and the song
whether listened to
                or not,
exists.

2.

Truth is not
    your partner
or an old
    acquaintance.

You have a dialogue
     with lies and lying,
as comfortable
                to you
as an inner rib
or an outer arm.

You admit that cheerfully.
Lies are foolish,
    even funny, sometimes.

Finally I think,
the lies that hurt the most
are bits of information
not forthcoming from you
that maybe in your wisdom
                  or lack of
you should volunteer,
from your own lips.

I disliked hearing
how you spent the weekend,
who you spent the weekend
                               with,
your attitudes, beatitudes,
from other mouths.

I was an expert liar once
but gave it up
            the exercise
proved far too hard
as each untruth became
more difficult for me, myself
to exorcise, unravel
                     or remember
even though I initiated it.

You're an amateur.

Your lies pop out
             of plexiglass
but you always come
                    prepared.
Those you call your friends
were never pumped
              or primed
there was no need
to pave and pound the pavement
to ascertain your coming
               and your goings,
your friends and mine
could hardly wait
until I'd read
my morning paper
to bring me up to date
on where you'd been
                   and why
while my head was turned.

But your carelessness with truth
was not enough to make me
                                   run,
your silence did it.
Not saying anything
shouted louder to me
than the bravest, boldest lie.

Don't you know
your lies are needless ?
I'd have understood,
I would, or I'd have tried.

Because I loved you
I'd have said to you,
       even at my wildest
okay, okay.

Because there was
no document
no signed agreement
to get out of

I've still to understand
why you chose and choose me
to come back to every time.

I am grateful
for that much,
your coming to me
out of your own need.

3.

Our trip-each-other games
have been played out now
for nearly half a year.
Had we put our efforts
to learning one another's needs
we'd be on our way
or beyond our dreams
or expectations.

You always had the need
                 to go away
to live any place
but your own back yard.
Given time,
I'd have taken you
                anywhere.
Your games, I think
were simpler than mine
so old they now grace
                   history books.
But I believed you
when I wanted to.
That was nearly every time.

I didn't need to lie,
not even to myself
pretending all unsaid
                    was true.
I loved you and
it didn't matter.

Once you invented sickness
to prevent joy.

Pretending to have vaccinations
not against the killer bee
but me I now suspect.

The most advanced disease
I might have caught from you
would be a soft reminder
that part of you went to me
every part of every hour.

Yet, you cleaned up after me
                 when I was sick
and came to visit
three times daily
exhausted from the workout
                you gave yourself,
no doubt trying to remember
where the truth ended
and that day's lies began,
or maybe you were tired
from spending all your strengths
            and real love
in that other man's arms.

You see, I heard about him too.

I understand. Maybe.
Or have I got it wrong ?
Was that some kind of love
beneath the blood test patch
and up and down each arm ?

If so I've yet to comprehend
the simplest most easy
                       definition
of right from wrong.

4.

We could go down
the final time
and not raise up
troubled or unsure again.
We walked into these troubles
eyes open, unafraid.

I won't demand that you hang in
or ask that you hang on.

You have an answer
            for it all.
We'll be friends
                     you say.
You further amplify
that now at last
you have the same
                 arrangement
with your David.
Sex and friendship
               without love.
How convenient for you.
How easy not to have
                   responsibilities
to come and go
from me to him
and in between the others
with no worry
as to sweeping up.

It seems to me the choice
does not exist for me
in substance or in silence.
I love you and I am not
strong or wise enough
                       to change that.
I am trying hard
not to love you.

I meet with no success
only quarrels that provide
                      more spaces
that take away
what precious time
we should be sharing.

Instead there's only
more misunderstanding.

The silences
        apart or near,
your head against me
           in the simple song
or symphonies that soar
                            and sing
should be quite enough
that or being privy
to your other vast relationships
are what you offer
when perhaps
instead of being here
you're only just along.

What is my answer ?
I'm trying still
to do without you
honestly I am
             I'm trying
(I say so
beneath my breath.)

If anyone's had winters
they can term discontent
we qualify as leaders
in the months just past.

The spring is coming.
I'd settle for United Parcel
or the jaded postman
knocking at the door
or let me stumble with you
coming down the hill
               to level ground.

5.

How weak I feel just now.
Somehow having gotten
through five days
           without you.
A week, and finally two,
then you came back again.

You plowed through
my life and back
and I believed you.

The morning after
              I sit here
caught and beaten down again.

Will it go on happening
or will we change ?
It isn't any one I need.
                  It's you.
You've spoiled me
and I can't pretend
          I like you for it,
only that to be your friend
and that term only
would be hard to do.

Maybe when I go away again
and that time of necessity
        is coming soon
I'll find another bed
                  and breakfast
if not another head
          and so right chest.

Who knows
they could make up
for losing, loving you.
If I can.
In the meantime
you could make it easier.
Less trouble for both of us
by not insisting
we be friends
or even enemies.
Can't you just affect
                 a disappearance ?
Let go of me. Let go.

Sleeping pills are easier.
Liquor, though it never
takes the place of you
is better than a friend
to talk things over with.

My friends all dislike you,
that goes for me as well.
But love you - yes.
That's the daily poison
that I live with.
The Hemlock that will finally
                    stop and drop me
one day when I'm looking
straight into your eyes
as you see past me.

6.

If only love was easier
like mowing lawns or shaving
with a rusty blade.

But love is hard as hate
or peanut brittle
and loving you
not worth the time, I'm told.
How little anyone but me
could say of that.

I love you beyond
               any saying
or even any saying back.

Please, God,
can't you be
the first to go ?

The one that ends it
by not insisting friendship,
bed with only passion.

Can't you
just this once
reach out and help,
by never reaching out to me
                              again ?

Please, I ask you, please.
All this time
as selfish as love is
I only wanted to help you.

Help me this once
by never turning on the street
                 to follow me
by never smiling,
calling at the midnight hour
                      or stopping me
and making promises
you don't intend to keep.

Leave me alone.
I love you, God damn it,
leave me alone.
Don't you recognize
             a cry for help
when you hear it ?

- from "Folio No. 15", Fall 1977

 
© 1977, 1986, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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