I was saddened to hear of Rod McKuen’s (April 29, 1933 – January 29, 2015) passing a year ago. It was because of his words that I fell in love with poetry. It was because of what his words inspired in me that I am a poet today.
It was New Year’s day when I sat down with a cup of tea and picked up the iPad to see if the planet made it through the celebrations of the new year without a terrorist incident. I am not a big fan of “the best of” essays which seem to overflow at this transitional time from one year to the next. I did however read an article by William McDonald in the New York Times naming some of the people the world lost during 2015. It was through this article that I learned of Rod’s passing.
I became acquainted with Rod McKuen’s poetry from his three record compilation with Anita Kerr and The San Sebastian Strings – The Earth, The Sea, & The Sky. Produced by Warner Bros. Records in 1968. It was almost twenty years later on the first of January, 1986, when my neighbor knocked on the door.
“Hi! Happy New Year,” Katie blurted out. She had just returned from spending Christmas with her parents in Seattle. “I got this great album from my parents. I want you to hear it.”
Katie and I had been neighbors for over a year during which time we would often hang out together as friends. Our musical tastes were very different. She was into Rock and I enjoyed Jazz but we often shared our different tastes regarding music inside my small apartment because she didn’t have a record player.
“Sure, come on in.” I said. As an additional incentive, although none was needed, she pulled out a joint and a bottle of wine.
I knew Rod McKuen was a poet but was not aware he was also a musician and singer. I had low expectations for the entertainment, but it was always great sharing time with Katie. The furnace in the apartment building was broken and Portland was about to experience one of it famous ice storms. So we climbed into my heated water bed, opened the wine, lit the joint, started the record, and listened to some of the most beautiful poetry I ever heard for the remainder of the day.
Thirty years latter on January 01, 2016, his words still have the same effect upon my being, even without Katie, the bottle of wine, or the joint. His words are timeless flowing examples of love. In fact, I learned more about the emotions of love from the poetry of Rod McKuen than I learned from most of my relationships. Rumi is up there too, but Rod was first. So, I offer you, “tickets around the room and back” to some of my favorite lines from this timeless recording. Thank you Rod. You awakened the poetry in me with your words.
If we ourselves to know, we should get to know the sea. (My Friend The Sea)
This is the way it was while I was waiting for your eyes to find me…I cried too sometimes… I loved every face I thought looked pretty and every kindred eye I saw in crowds… I was drifting, before you. (While Drifting)
You see how easily we fit together as if God’s own hands had cradled only us…. I found a twenty dollar bill once. I was rich in those days. For a week I had everything. I wish I had known you then. (Gifts From The Sea)
Save the rain that falls upon the sea tonight. We’ll ride the rain to France and back and see the world through European windows. Wake up, the boat is leaving soon. Hurry or we’ll miss it. Are you warm enough and do you like the rain? (Do You Like The Rain?)
Let’s be different… Never mind the world… Let’s not miss each other… And what was your first name anyway? (The Days of the Dancing)
I am just a man who needs and wants mostly things he’ll never have…looking for that thing that’s hardest to find, himself… Help me… Please. (Pushing The Clouds Away)
How can we be sure of anything? The tide changes… I love the sea but that doesn’t make me any less afraid of it… I love you but, I’m not alway sure of what you are…how you feel. I like to crawl behind your eyes sometimes and see me the way you do… As it is I worry when you laugh too much. (The Ever Constant Sea)
I put a seashell to my ear and it all comes back… You see what loving does… It makes you trust in horoscopes and gypsy wine, fortune tellers and even seashells. I still believe in love… It’s hard these days you know and yet it’s still a great adventure… (Gypsy Camp)
We’ll go naked in the afternoon and then you can see I’m only me. Have you expected more all this time?… (Beyond The Bend Ahead)
If it comes, that time of leaving. The tide came in, the tide went out… I love you, believe that, and if I ever been unfaithful, it’s only with my friend, the sea. (The Sea)
The earth is where I came from and that is where I’ll go back… At times I think, not soon enough… (The Tender Earth)
Thinking perhaps of boat rides… If we only had a boat?.. You worry yourself with something that doesn’t even have a name. My name, let’s just say I’ll be good to you… I’ll try anyway. (The Butterfly Is Drunk On Sunshine)
How many color of blue make up the sky… Seven, ten maybe… Funny thing to think about while lying here next to you… But I was wondering about the sky… Blue on blue. (How Many Colors of Blue)
Don’t worry me with your conventions. I’ve spent a long time overcoming my own… Take off your coat, take off your conventions… Don’t knock apples if you never bitten into one… (My Dog Likes Oranges)
If I do anything you didn’t expect… Let me know and I’d be more careful next time. (The Forehead of the Morning)
I talk of dying because then I’ll be sure enough to see your eyes darting in the streets, going from face to face seeking my replacement… Stake me out a patch of sky far from everyone and away from everything… (A Patch of Sky, Away From Everything)
There were so many words I wanted to use last night… Words I’m afraid of, like tomorrow and together… And love. If I say I love you, I want it to mean more than I love peanut butter… I want it to mean I’m letting go… Once you say you love somebody, you can’t take it back… I love you. (Sunday)
Sometimes we want so much, we never stop to think… There must have been some goodness there for you as well… An Earthquake? No, tremor maybe… But there are earthquakes in your arms to come… (Earthquakes)
Buy for me the wind and put it in a jar… So That I might take it out and smell it when I’m in stale rooms or unfriendly places… Gather up some sun for me and save it in a little box so in winter time I’ve but to hold your hand and feel the sun… I given you what I have. All I have… In return, buy for me the wind… (Buy For Me The Wind)
What can I say in summing up, that I am a man waiting… That I am some of the sea, part of the earth, and much of the sky… That I used people and let myself be used because it is a means to touch… I am not alone, even if it’s only my own words which keep me company… (In Summing Up)