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A Thought for Today

Impulse and passion may be powerful, but thought rules the world.


In 1974 when I was working on my book ďAloneĒ I decided to begin each chapter with a meditation of sorts; something that would set out in advance what the poems to follow would be about. Here are five of those chapter headings or, if you will, meditations.

The stone cries out. A whisper first, a moan and then a muffled shout. Nobody listens. Why bother with the stone, the single singing rock, the lone man dealing out the cards upon the table in the game of solitaire?

The soloist, whether up above the orchestra, on the outside of the woods, beyond the meatrack or in the farthest elbow of a crowded room, is asking to be left alone or crying out for company. No matter. Very rarely does the solo player engage in double solitaire. The reason is a simple one - always thereís a chance of winning.

By Their Numbers You Will Know Them
Encounters are the footsteps up and down the ladder or through the littered alleyways of time. As such, not to be taken lightly, or cherished beyond the reality as food for the imaginationís future. A friend once told me that to every new encounter he gave only what he himself needed in return.

Fifteen years later I still see him backed up against the jukebox in the same bar where we met before. He looks unchanged, still wearing the old school tie (though the school itself has been razed), still posturing as though a sculptor chiseled him into that single pose and welded him forever there. He even says the same things to me as I pause, nod hello, and then pass over to the next bar continuing in the hunt.

What he says mostly is, ĎDonít let anyone come too close to youí. I smile and nod, because I know that he expects me to smile and nod in silent agreement.

My friend looks the same as fifteen years ago, except when you get close.

Initial Instructions
Go easy. No one will believe you if you come in fast. Take no one unaware. Give each new friend, potential enemy, or love time to do their own mind-making and deciding. And for as long as possible, be open with your own decisions. Never consciously run back home with more than you receive.

Be gentle. God, how all of us want and need that now. Donít cry out. I was only testing you, trying to be sure. Not of you, of me.

To Begin With...
To begin with, every page is blank, until a word, a smudge, a paragraph is set down upon it. Some pages still stay blank after the most intricate, indelible story has been started.

The starting of a new story is always easy; itís the ending that comes hard. Knowing when to draw conclusions, the point to let your characters stop leading you so that you can take command. When is the sum enough to provide the summing up?

I do not know how death will come to me, though once I thought I did. How I will greet it will depend on how hard or easy it comes in. I am very sure that any pain that might accompany my going could not be as bad or worse than some Iíve known within my life. I am resolved that, if I can, I will view the end as the writer does the blank page just in front of him, a beginning.

Afterwards & Afterthoughts
When itís over, love, someoneís birthday, the big game or the funeral, words not only come to mind that would have been said earlier if the brain was always working, but recriminations and prayers for replay fill the mind and work it overtime. A conversation in the head long after every chance has passed is not unusual, more the rule.

After every loss, or what we term to be our losses, a hundred master plans are planned, a dozen avenues we might have taken, had not a certain road been blocked, stretched out before us like a city map.

Finally the afterthoughts afterward are lost like all the melodies that had no meaning and the memories that did.

-from ďAlone,Ē 1975

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 Sarah Bernhardt o Johnny Carson o Michael Crichton o James Daly o Diana Dors o Gertrude Ederle o Doug Flutie o Ellie Greenwich o Senator John H. Heinz III o Emily Kimbrough o Martin Luther King III o Al Leiter o Gummo Marx o Pele o Ned Rorem o Frank Rizzo o Judy Stoner o "WeirdĒ Al Yankovic
Rod's random thoughts Poetry seeks out the real, not the apparent.

Love is the coming together of two ordinary people in order to become one very extraordinary human being.

Before befriending butterflies you have to meet with midnight moths.


Concerto for Four Hands

Those waiting shadows
have always come along
in time to save me
from the mischief
               of myself.
Now in this
        snow-baroque winter
this Telemann time
               of Empty
do some shadows
       not yet formed
conspire to fill
       my empty mattress,
my too-wide room ?

Come soon then
for Iím growing tired
      of Telemann
I could use some Bach.


a butterfly
flew through the eaves
of Villa Trenta
and came to land
upon the middle of my arm.

He crawled with sureness
down to my hand
then back along my shoulder.
He fluttered there
a moment only
then fell dead,
a victim of the heat
or something higher up.

If God
can strike down
birds and butterflies
and then change rain
               to rainbows
and clouds to grays and whites
of every hue,
then the ugliness
       Iíve shown of late
has surely marked me
for an early death.

What troubles me
               is not
my disappearance
but my lack of being
troubled by it.
I am willful now
toward well-meaning friends
when I should have will instead
to fight off the oncoming end.


Only lonely men
know freedom.
as lovely as it is,
still ensnares.

Is it better then
to be on the outside
in the dark and free,
or caged contentedly
but still looking
out beyond the bars?

-from ďAloneĒ, 1975

© 1984, 1988, 1999, 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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