Dos Vidas. Photo by Thomas Kist from the 2006 Arjan Vlakveld film “Rod
McKuen: A Man Alone” for Netherlands Public Television. Photo ©2006,
2007 by Stanyan Audio Video Archives. All Rights Reserved.
A Thought for Today
To love somebody truly, it is not necessary to be false to all other relationships.
SEVEN ON A SUMMER BEACH
for Wes Kuney & Newt Eades
Wes the learner made mistakes
but with his youth to cushion him
he always fell to safety.
Murphys plumber tools were shiny.
Every other week he went,
coming back on even weeks
to tell us how his time was spent.
Bill believed in nothing
except pots and bowls and busts
that he could conjure out of clay
with his own hands.
Others in our circle.
Newt who tried to be a poet
and with his dying finally was.
Buck with all the morals of a rabbit.
In his head a haunted house
locked with secret secrets to this day.
Lenny lived above the boardwalk
and cooked all day
lending me his room two blocks away,
teaching me while he was there,
leaving me to learn alone when he was gone.
Seven on a summer beach
that stretched the length
of Santa Monica.
Sunday to Sunday we lived
seventeen summers ago.
Even then my songs were starting
to be only those
of my invention,
made for me
and my small audience
The next song coming
I would always breathe up
from the bottom of my belly
the air I had.
Out of the army, out of work,
I was training for nothing,
not even the saying of words
or the singing of songs.
But dreams are cheap enough to come by
and I had store fronts full of those.
Dream I did
along that Sunday beach
and then sun saturated
joined the others in the bar.
My unemployment checks now gone
Billy always bought the beer
I nursed the first two hours
till some new friend would buy another.
Ten years later each time we met
he still reminded me that in my early life
hed been St. Benefactor of The Beer.
Of the seven
Bill was the first to marry.
None of us expected it
but all of us were pleased
By then the two of us
had passed from being friends.
After all, Id sponged
and in his mind was winning.
What I wondered then.
What I wonder now.
I hope that in Bills union
there are no guilty parties.
Lenny goes on cooking
for all I know.
Probably the chef supreme
with apprentices of every kind.
I hope hes teaching them
all the lessons he taught me,
truths so valuable and ingrained
Id be hard pressed to call them up
or list them one by one by name.
He called once when I was gone.
There are those whove told
Ive been gone some time.
Murphy went on drinking
till half a glass at evening
became a bottle, finally two.
And evening started on awakening
and ended when he went to sleep.
Not long ago he drifted back,
came into town and stayed a time,
then like his rusty plumbers tools
I think the only one he saw was Wes.
Even now the horror
of Murphys gentle giant head
shot through with shot-glass webbing
is hard for me to understand.
Ill never know his like again
if I even knew it then.
Buck went back to Indiana.
He wrote me once to say
the hunting wasnt great but good
and shouldnt I come there
and shouldnt I give up the city
and be another country Robin Hood ?
One year Newt sent out a Christmas card
that showed him taking a long walk
along our old familiar beach.
Printed on it was a paragraph that said
here there is a tree
I want some unborn child to see.
Some years later he was dead,
cut down by person or persons
yet unknown to anyone but him.
I grieve for him
because I always promised
him and me
that if I made it
Id find an audience somewhere
for all the things I knew hed write.
He left no will and all his poetry
is still locked in the ground
inside his head.
Sure wasnt much of a funeral,
even the flowers were dying.
And I remember further
that all he asked from any friend
was a patchwork quilt of hope.
Wes and I are left.
Our lives could not be
more different / more alike.
Passing forty in the same
weve both grown beards.
We both have semi-steady hands.
Each of us is bored with beaching
and the wasted time it takes
to cultivate a tan.
I like him better now
we have a kinship, having both survived.
wears well on him,
hes fatter and he laughs
and finally hes that little boy
he used to such perfection
back when he was just another one of us
shaking sand from out his socks
and following friendly enemies
everywhere and home.
If I smile too much
my friend corrects my grin
but I love Wes enough now
to find no single thing in him
That leaves me.
I am where I left off
a month, an hour ago.
My lament is yet unwritten
therefore still not sung.
It does not come up from my stomach
Could I put it into one long line
Id have to say that what I longed for
knowing it or not
is out there somewhere out of reach
and day by day, week by week,
I lose the Jason urge to start the chase.
It may be
the one I have imagined
or imagine not
will, on some quiet afternoon
or silent night
when this old house resounds
or fails to echo the small noise
make on my own,
finding this place, know enough
to come in slowly, unafraid
and share with me a certain kind
- from "Come To Me In Silence", 1973
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