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A Thought for Today

Imagination is my only refuge and it has stood me well.


I’m getting a bit behind in answering mail so I’m devoting this space today to letters and the two MPG downloads I promised yesterday.


Mr. McKuen, I memorized one of your poems when I was in high school in the early 70's and have been trying to find it. Could you please tell me what book it is in? I don't even remember the name, but it went something like:

You won't believe this
But I'm going off to war
I know it's hard to understand
to think of me knee deep in mud,
when I so love the sand.

I also had one of your books around that time frame that I would love to find again, but the website doesn’t list the copyright dates or the table of contents. Thank you in advance for your help. I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with your writings. Julie Ault Houston, Texas

Dear Julie: The title of the poem is Twenty-Eight and it comes from “Listen to the Warm" which was published in 1968 by Random House.


You won’t believe this
but I’m going off to war
I know that’s hard to understand.
To think of me knee-deep in mud
when I so love the sand.

When I so love the water
to run along the beach and play
it’s hard to think of killing someone
on a beach someday.

That’s what they want of me, you know
that’s what I’m training for.
To think I used to think our fights
were tantamount to war.

© 1967, 1968 by Rod McKuen

As you know this is a pretty big website, but not so big that we can’t add a list of the books I’ve written, their publication date & the table of contents of each. Jay Hagan (who tracked down the above poem for you) has already provided me with a list of titles of the tracks on all my LP’s and CD’s. We’ll be posting it soon & I’m hoping I can talk him into doing a table of contents for each book and that too should make it easier for you to find the titles of all my poetry and songs.

Thanks for writing Julie and for being patient while Jay and I tracked down the information you requested. Warmly, Rod


Rod, I'd like to tell you how much I love your music. I am only 23 years old, but became interested in your music after hearing cover versions by Mark Lindsay, Terry Jacks, and Barry McGuire. Fortunately I bought all of your CDs before they went out of print in 1999. I was wondering if there are any plans to release your Horizon label material? Also, I was writing a review for "New Carols For Christmas," and was wondering, just who is the "he" in "Here He Comes Again?" Thanks! David Bennett

Dear David: There’s a pretty good story connected with the lyrics to “Here He Comes Again.” I was asked to write lyrics for Lalo Schfrin’s score for “Cool Hand Luke". George Roy Hill screened a rough-cut of the film for me and I was immediately taken with it and agreed to do the project.

Armed with Lalo’s theme I came up with “Here He Comes Again,” to my way of thinking it suited the Paul Newman character and his rebel/Christ like attitude in the film. In the end Hill decided to go a different direction and used a lyric by Gale Garnett. I was disappointed but I retained ownership of the lyric and wrote a melody of my own for it. Later when I recorded a Christmas album I felt the song was suitable for it.

So, I guess the “He” might mean that with all of our flaws and in the face of whatever adversity, we should all try to by Christ-like in our attitude and approach toward life.

Here He Comes Again

Here he comes again head high and smiling,
breaking all the rules and playing it cool.
He smiles as though he had never been
beaten by the crowds, broken by all the fools.

Think of all the men who never knew the answer,
think of all of those who never even tried.
Still there are some who ask why
who want to know, who dare to try.
Every now and then we meet that kind of man
here he comes again and now he’s gone.

© by Rod McKuen, 1967, 1968

"Here He Comes Again" was first published in “Listen to the Warm” but not in the song lyric section. Few of anyone’s lyrics stand up as poetry, but I like to think this one of mine does. Incidentally in the “Song Lyric” section of “Listen to the Warm” there are three lyrics I still don’t remember writing melodies to; “Buffalo Grass,” “That Time of Loving,” and “The Snow.” Make that four, “The Love Creature” was written for the late Ben Bagley and I haven’t set it to a melody

The Horizon sides will definitely come out at some point as will all the early Stanyan albums, but with 200 plus albums released and dozens of unreleased tracks in the can it’s a tough job deciding what to convert to CD next.

“The Platinum 2 CD Set” has done so well that another volume will be released and next up in January is the first “Double Up” CD “New Ballads” & “The Beautiful Strangers” on a single disc. All of my Warner Bros. catalog will follow. Before 2002 comes to a close there will be a deluxe Box Set containing my six RCA albums an elaborate book and 26 unreleased sides, plus airchecks and demos.

All the best to you, David and thanks for your thoughtful letter. Sincerely, Rod


Dear Rod: One thing I do before I go to bed, if it's really late, or first thing in the morning, is check your site. I have enjoyed it since stumbling upon it, but now, it has a totally different role in my life.

All of us are suffering from the terrorism and threats that we hear of daily. The thought of war is never a positive thing. Like many, I OD on CNN, hoping for something good within the horrors.

In my personal life, I am dealing with a disabled daughter, healing from a difficult surgery, taking on my brother who wants full control of the family Trust, (to the point he is trying to evict my daughter and myself from the family home as he has sold it - sight unseen - for considerably under market.). I am also trying to get a divorce from a man who doesn't wish to let go, and the emotional aspects of the trust and treatment of my mother adds another huge burden.

To get through my days, I have little tricks I employ. Your site provides quotes and comments that, more often than not, give me the insight I need to make it through another day in hell.

Thank you for continuing to provide bits of wisdom and humor. This ole' world needs more of that. Warm regards, Kathy

Dear Kathy, God protect us from greedy relatives. I’ve seen what you’re talking about happen too many times. My advice to all the seniors I know; “Spend like hell, forget the kids. Leave them your best wishes, that’s plenty.”

Sorry about the problems with your daughter’s recovery, but this too will pass. I’ll keep good thoughts and ask that other readers do the same. It sounds like you’re carrying a hell of a load and as for the husband, a loveless marriage doesn’t do anyone any good. If you can’t work it out, ditch him, at any cost. It’s only life, but it’s YOUR life. Learn to be a little selfish.

Getting through life isn’t all that easy for anyone, Kathy, but look at it this way . . . you’ve gotten this far. Time to try and snatch some personal happiness in the days and years you have left.

These are tough and uncertain times, but don’t let the uneasiness that has gripped us all since 9/11 add to your already full slate of problems. I’m thrilled to know that you do consider this little spot on the net a refuge. I’ll try to keep it that way. Luv, Rod


My friend Colleen arrived for a facial when FBI agents were leaving Murad on Sunday, October 7, 2001. They were there to interrogate a girl who worked there to find out if she knew anything. The reason for their lead was she was best friends with a girl who was dating an Arab man, who disappeared and was involved in the terrorist attacks on the WTC. He disappeared this summer and left her a note, saying the following "I have to go away and will not be able to see you again. Please do me a favor and do not fly in any planes on September 11, 2001 nor shop at any shopping malls on October 31, 2001"

Don't know about you but I live across the street from a shopping mall, and my in-laws do too. Given my daughter is usually at their house on a Wednesday afternoon, right near the mall, am thinking of somewhere else to go. Halloween may not be so happy this year. Deb Radwin

Deb, Deb, Deb! I’ve just counted the variations on the letter you forwarded to me that I’ve received in the last three weeks. Eleven! That’s right, 11 variations on a theme. All exhorting me and everyone else to stay out of The Malls on Halloween.

I’m not putting much stock in the supposed words of your friends, friends, friend who told Colleen’s about the ‘Arab ex-lover, ‘ , (ever notice how these guys never seem to have names?) But I’ll tell you what does worry me. With so many nuts at large certain tall tales told often enough take on a life of their own. So, without a grand plot, some mall somewhere, maybe more than one, is bound to have an incident on All Saints Eve.

Lets hope this E-mail tail proves to be as erroneous as the ones about the survivor of The World Trade Center who slid down 90 stories on a banister and lived to tell the tail. Or, the widely circulated photo supposedly from a camera found in the ruins of ‘The Site’ that showed a smiling young man on the observation deck with an airplane heading his way. Only problem, the observation deck wasn’t scheduled to open till an hour after the crash and why was the man dressed in full winter field gear on one of the hottest days in New York City?

I won’t be in a mall on Halloween but I hope to attend the annual craziness in West Hollywood which is often more fun than a barrel of terrorists trapped with two dozen Tasmanian Devils. I don’t plan on wearing a costume but you can bet there will be more than one drag queen there dressed as stripper named Ann Thrax. Luv and BOO!, Rod


Hello Rod, I hear that you are busy and happy (my personal informant, Jay passed this on to me). How exciting that you have so many new projects going on. Isn't it just the best feeling to know you are doing what you love best? I feel that way about my work. I am truly glad to go to work each day. People ask, "how can you listen to all that awful stuff, don't you get depressed listening to everyone's problems, all day?" Knowing that what I do, makes things better is what the reward is. Who would have ever thought that a hippie child, ex-waitress, ex-interior / architectural designer, would become a psychotherapist and be really good at it. Love, Jana

Dear Jana: I bitch about work from time to time, but I can’t imagine life without it. With all the unlucky people being laid off these days you bet those of us who have a job can consider ourselves fortunate. And, when you enjoy what you’re doing, that’s the alamode.

What you are doing is really important. Listening to people and helping them come to terms with their life and surroundings is a special talent. I’m sure that in all the years you’ve been working you have made more than one individual realize that most of our problems start and end with each of us and if we can get a handle on our own personalities we’re halfway home. As ever, Rod.


These are MPG files you can download for free. I hope this experiment is successful and we can continue to make additional songs available.

Click on the links below to commence your download.

Rod McKuen / “Soldiers Who Want to be Heroes” (2.8meg)

Rod McKuen / “Love, Let Me Not Hunger” (3.4meg)

Both “Love, Let Me Not Hunger” and “Soldiers Who Want to Be Heroes” words and music by Rod McKuen. Copyright by Stanyan Music Group. They remain the intellectual and real property of Stanyan Records. Downloading is restricted for personal use and neither song or track may be copied, sold or traded for profit without written permission from the copyright holder.

This version of “Soldiers Who Want to be Heroes” is not currently for sale on disc. “Love, Let Me Not Hunger” is from the “Early Harvest” CD, available from Stanyan By Mail. MPG files courtesy of Eric Yeager.

Sleep warm and join me again tomorrow.

RM 10/20/2001 Previously unpublished.


Jay Leno says:

“Even Whitney Houston isn’t opening envelopes containing white powder these days.”


Details of Rod's next appearance can be obtained by following the link below.

"Tap Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman

notable birthdays Herschel Bernardi o Dr. Joyce Brothers o Roosevelt Brown o Art Buchwald o Barrie Chase o Robert Craft o Margaret Dumont o Michael Dunn o Arlene Francis o (Mother) Dolores Hart o Charles Ives o Wanda Jackson o Grandpa Jones o Bela Lugosi o Mickey Mantle o Brown Meggs o Donnii Minogue o Vigo Mortensen o Anna Neagle o Fayard Nicholas o Jerry Orbach o Tom Petty o Arthur Rimbaud o Will Rogers, Jr. o Snoop Doggy Dogg o Sir. Christopher Wren
Rod's random thoughts I forgive my friends everything twice; then I begin to worry.

Whatever the arithmetic, the end of love is slow.

It is impossible to know a loved woman who is not a beautiful woman.


A black kite
flying in the distance
further down the beach
              then gone.
Black birds too are here
scavenging fish heads,
chasing off the killdeer
       and the gull.

The sea -
not blue but double grays,
goes on about its business.
It seems calmer now,
quieter today.

How long will it take,
another century perhaps
till every cloud above
               the water
hangs there hidden, black.

The sand.
I give it fifty years.
The stars, already dimming,
              fifty more.
Blackness in the end
will overtake them both.

How is it
people fear the dark ?
Not me, I’m reconciled.
As every day I see
       the blackness grow,
I’ve come to terms with it,
it knows I know.

Yet I wonder
if the darkness
ever hungers
       or grows lonely
for the light
it’s left behind.

The final blackness
after all is death.
That’s what the elements
are moving to,
I doubt they have regrets.

No cards are being played
no hands dealt out
determining exactly when.
A single game
        of solitaire perhaps
and when it ends
it starts again.

-from “Alone,” 1975

© 1952, 1960, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1975, 1994, 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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