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Flight Plan

December 19, 1998






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A Thought for Today

If we go to beds of boredom knowingly, we deserve the ill attention we receive.


ROD LIVE! Follow this link for Santa Fe ticket information.


Those of you who've followed Rod's work closely over the years will have noticed how he occasionally revises some of his work, sometimes years after they were written.

Today's poem is one such piece and was first published as a Flight Plan on October 9.

- Ken, Johannesburg, December 19


I have a friend in Oregon named Ron. A good friend. Ronís a poet, musician and free spirit. I treat him as badly as all of those I really care about. "All of those" is a bad choice of words, my friends are fewer than theyíve ever been. The trouble with friendship is that you have to put some work into it. Iím so busy putting work into work that I neglect friends and lovers and put off making business decisions that might enable me to take care of both, better.

Old news. All week Iíve been talking about friendship and time. On and on Iíve ruminated about the lack and need of both. There has to be a better way, of not accepting phone calls when youíre on the way out and failing to return them once youíve come back in. Never mind how dead tired and ill equipped you are to deal with those who love and care about you; the ones always there for support who never get it in return. And in return, as Dan Rather would aptly say, they get ZIP.

Some have a genius for friendship. Itís one thing to care and another to be capable of showing it. Wade Alexander is such a person, Chen Sam was another and Ken Blackie too. Each has an instinct about what friendship is and should be. Itís a talent I lack and because of it, one Iím touchy about.

Though I try, Iím long past the stages of apology. Anything I could say to those who needed me when I wasnít there is too little, too late.

What brings all this up is Ronís unreturned phone call and a request from him a while back for "Dancing Lessons". Anybody who knows me knows I donít dance worth a damn, but like all friends Ron and I have lots of codes and code words in our conversations. Ron was speaking to lessons and thoughts on poetry. Ron is a fine writer and composer and needs no lessons from me or anybody else so itís become kind of a running gag between us.

Dancing is one of those descriptive words I like a lot. In 1967 I used it as a metaphor for lack of communication in a poem I wrote for "Listen To The Warm", The Days of the Dancing. It ends with a stanza that begins "These are the days of the dancing, six feet apart. . ." Seventeen years later, in "Looking for a Friend"; I revisited the poem and the subject. Todayís poem, below (greatly revised this week), is the result. 

- R.M. 10/6/98 


Frank Sinatra Jr & The Wood Herman Orchestra have only two concerts on their European Tour left and they are both in Spain. Tomorrow night, Thursday the 26th they are at the Puente Romano Tennis Club and the European Tour comes to an end in Calello on Friday the 27th at Jardins de Cap Roig.


Sunday afternoon, July 29th Rod joins Sally Kellerman, Bruce Vilanche and an all star cast in Santa Fe, NM in ďLive at the Lensic.Ē For ticket information follow the link at the top of this page.

Rod McKuen concert and appearance details can be obtained via the link below.

Concert & Appearance Details

notable birthdays David Belasco o Walter Brennan o Louise Brown o Frank Church o Estelle Getty o Jack Gilford o Steve Goodman o Barbara Harris o Eric Hoffer o Matt LeBlanc o Lila Lee o Janet Margolin o Maxfield Parrish o Walter Payton o Brad Renfro o Woody Strode o Donna Theodore
Rod's random thoughts I have no quarrel with your lovers, only admiration for their taste.

The business of autumn is letting it lie where it falls. The business of man is picking up himself and every member of his family who stumbles in the yellow leaves.

It is not possible to love fully and not be in receipt of more than you have given.


I cannot imagine thinking
more of love fifteen years ago
                    than I do today.

In the cushioned boardroom,
aeroplaning place to place,
walking, riding, flying.
In the X-ray room
or beneath the dentist’s drill,
in my living room -
still tongue-tied when friends
bring strangers to my house –
love is still the bell that goes on
        ringing, singing in my head.

In rooms and out of rooms
beneath the sky and in it
love dominates all thoughts
and sometimes supercedes
                 true thinking.

All the songs are different,.
those of others and my own.
Titles and a snatch of tune
are for reference only.
And younger days
are sometimes yesterday,
this morning or within the hour.

Beretta’s now a mime
in New York City -
lovely as a princess,
though dressed up as a prince.
The lark still lives within her
and if he seldom sings
when he does, the melody
is more than music, even magic.

There are no Silver Dollar bars
                         in San Francisco
and thus no jackpots to be won.
Hustling is now an industry,
not done in shadows .
and finally, if one goes back
no Wasserman, need be practiced.            
Legions must thank God for that,
                                  I do.

Loving is even less collective.
Across the bay the cult of self
has reached proportions laughable
to some, and sad to more.

Still hardly anyone
         dies from lack of love
if his dying place contains
                          a mirror.

The days of the dancing,
        six feet apart
has now been so refined
that bouncer’s battle crowds
who come to die in discos..
These deaths are orchestrated
by Rubel, Regine and rhythm-sections
loud enough to make aspirins
and elevate the headache
onto a plane above mere pain.

Abercrombie’s split
                 with Fitch.
Sears wouldn’t speak
to Roebuck if he could.
To send a telegram
down the nearest street
requires a phone call out of state.
Communication ? Well,
there’s public access television
and the want ads too.
But what we want
                we do not find
or those of us who do
protect our newfound treasures
as we used to sheath
our ducktail pocket combs.

When I think of love,
and I do all the time,
I think if I had
         one more lover
I’d be satisfied forever.
Age hasn’t made my mind up
but how I’ve practiced
               all these years
I feel I could be good now.
I know I’m finally ready.

I worry too
that in this headlong
        stumble forward
perhaps I missed the great love
or brushed aside
        and didn’t pay attention
        to the moment -
in my eagerness to investigate
new moments up ahead.

Sometimes it’s easy.
Love isn’t practiced
        only thought about,
but then the need
like water to the driest land
overtakes me and I’m done.

Just now
want is such a heavy mantle
I’d sign away my eyes
if they’d had a final look
on someone I knew
would be there too,
          and waiting,
within whatever darkness comes.

These are the days of the dancing
        I now know every step
and I am eager to learn others
                        if that will help.

Steve always waves me past the buffaloes
and into green grass.
The music’s on a slippery slide
the lights are flashing faster
                  than a pulse beat.

It’s up to me
to not be carried
too far off by Gloria
and all the glitter.
I too can say I will survive.
I must. For even as the years
                         add up
I know that something waits.

There are no boundaries anymore
except one’s own good taste.
Pause in the dancing,
stop the speeding light,
try to remember to look around
it always worked before.

And so
it’s not the living
         that’s important
re-living is the trick.
Remembering is the key
and that one passkey
unlocks all the locks.

I’m here. I’m trying.
Gloria’s got it ! I will survive.
For I have gone
         beyond survival
to another plane
one that demands
a long reach backward
to pull through the rabbit hole
what I passed up
         on the highway
or lost while sparring in the dance.

Happy the days
of the dancing
for they have all
turned into night.

The shadows are softer
and stars all twinkle
under clapboard skies,
but do not be mistaken
                this is reality
as real as any you will find.

I’m moving straight ahead
it’s only that I’m finally learning
        to look backward.

I see you.
Well, almost.
You have been
collected in my head
from all the things
I want and wanted.
I await your coming
      like the tide
        or some new moon.

I won’t forget
your first name this time.
I’ve practiced free association
till at last I’m free.

Bound by what I need
but free to have it
         if I’ll try.

 - from "Looking For A Friend", 1980

© 1970, 1980, 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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