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A Thought for Today

Good taste is little more than caring.

 

Dear Ken,

I have rustled through the archives and haven't found where you might have previously posted my favorite so ...

Unfortunately, my books are still in boxes so I am unable to submit my request by title or by providing the exact quote, let alone the proper line breaks, etc. But it is from Moment to Moment and to the best of my memory begins ...

I do not dangle on a strand of sunlight,
nor do I perch on paragraphs of prayers,
I'm a hill and gully rider,
Always on the edge of conversations,
never in the center.

Several stanzas that I won't pretend to know verbatim but it ends 

Having been without love for so long
and knowing what _____ each new encounter can bring
I must have been as ready as the rose is to be
first caressed and then ruined by the rain.

An added thanks here to you, not only for the site (you and the man's devotion and expenditure of time and energy is incredible) but for the new site map as well. A huge undertaking I am sure and those of us who benefit from it are grateful.

Namaste,

BJ
(BJ Connery)

Thanks for your letter and kind comments, BJ, and well done on getting the above quotes pretty much right.

The piece you quoted from is the prelude to "Moment to Moment", "The Leaving". As Rod explains in the author's introduction, there were a number of versions of this particular book so both the introduction and some of the poems may differ depending on which version of the book you have in your possession.

I've taken the poem from the British version published by W.H. Allen and the author's note from the original American publication.

Author's Note

I have had small moments I thought big enough to coast on down a lifetime of unrest and no more love and there were epic times, or so I thought, that for some reason run no longer in my head no matter how much effort I put into their remembrance.

If I hadn't kept a diary - and that is what this is, a diary of two long goodbyes and maybe one hello mixed in - I'm not sure what would have stayed remembered and thus how much or little might have been made up. The re-creation sometimes turns out better than the fact. Because I felt these times important for myself, I rushed to write them down almost while they were happening.

I have published a book by this title twice before. The first was done privately and a second edition of that same book greatly revised was published last year in Great Britain by W.H. Allen. This volume contains less than one third of any of the poetry that appears in either of the previous books and some of the remaining poems have been revised sufficiently to make any comparison almost completely impossible.

The greater part of "A House by the Sea" was lived and written this year. With the exception of several poems that have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Woman's Day and Folio, none of the poetry in this section has been previously published. No part of the prose in either section of this book has been printed before.

Several of the poems are meant to be a part of a much larger work about the sea, some of the prose is from The Word Went Out from Boston - a book in progress.

I have traveled to Holland yearly for a dozen years and yet what happened happened there in ten days' time. I have gone to Mexico every January for the past four years, each time coming home with a nearly finished book. I do not expect to visit Mexico again.

Rod McKuen
April, 1974

Don't forget this is your column so if you have a favorite McKuen song or poem you'd like to share with us drop me a line at ken@mckuen.com and I'll take care of the rest.

                                  - Ken, Johannesburg, January 24                                   

Details of Rod's upcoming concerts and appearances can be obtained via the link below:

Rod McKuen Concerts & Appearances

notable birthdays Ali Tatyana o John Belushi o Ernest Borgnine o Bobby Bryant o Neil Diamond o Gennifer Flowers o Elmer Fudpucker o Mark Goodson o Emperor Hadrian o Doug Kershaw o Natassja Kinski o Aaron Neville o Michael Ontkean o Mary Lou Retton o Oral Roberts o Yakov Smirnoff o Ray Stevens o Maria Tallchief o Sharon Tate o Edith Wharton o Estelle Winwood o Warren Zevon
Rod's random thoughts It's the people in our heads that move us forward.

The way to be your own best friend is to care about others.

Looking for love is the only sure way not to find it.

PRELUDE: THE LEAVING

Lingering
as the dying do
between that life just past
and the still unknown,
I only know enough
about myself as yet
to know that I don't know enough.

Nor can I say
I know what's missing -
voids are voids
only seen completely
after we've had victories over them.

I do not dangle
at the dawning
on a strand of sunlight,
nor do I perch on
paragraphs of prayers.
I'm hill and gully rider only 
on the edge of conversations
never in the center.

Get close enough to learn
but lean as little as you can
and only then
to have a closer listen.

All men have lessons
they can give you
even in rejection.
And the least
that you can offer any man
is your good arm or shoulder.

There will be
times when many
will want pieces of you
but only offer up the whole.

The small times count.
The inches not the miles.
Touches not tradition
will fill your memory
in the morning or the end.

And memories are
the only sanity
the world can now assure us.

Men
while traversing 
their lifetimes
should not take steps 
that lead them
    year to year
or even day to decade,
only moment to moment.

So whatever interlude
of kindness or of light,
real or pretended love
you see coming
through the distance
be ready and be open.

The cost of one warm moment
is considerable
but worth the poverty
that staying private means.

I know this and I knew it
that September night in Amsterdam.
And having been without love
for so long a time
and what new knowledge
each encounter brings
I must have been
as ready as the rose is
to be caressed
and then be ruined
        by the rain.

                                - from "Moment to Moment", 1973

1970, 1973, 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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