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Charles Bukowski, Selected Poetry

 

Contents

air and light and time and space   —    the feel of it   —    art   —    this   —    now   —   
let me tell you   —    see here, you   —    a suborder of naked buds   —    dinosauria, we   —    between races   —   


air and light and time and space

"— you know, I've either had a family, a job, something
has always been in the
way
but now
I've sold my house, I've found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I'm going to have a place and the time to
create."

no baby, if you're going to create
you're going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
or
you're going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you're on
welfare,
you're going to create with part of your mind and your
body blown
away,
you're going to create blind
crippled
demented,
you're giong to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don't create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses
for.

 


the feel of it

A. Huxley died at 69,
much too early for such a
fierce talent,
and I read all his
works
but actually
Point Counter Point
did help a bit
in carrying me through
the factories and the
drunk tanks and the
unsavory
ladies.
that
book
along with Hamsun's
Hunger
they helped a
bit.
great books are
the ones we
need.

I was astonished at
myself for liking the
Huxley book
but it did come from
such a rabid
beautiful
pessimistic
intellectualism,
and when I first
read P.C.P
I was living in a
hotel room
with a wild and
crazy
alcoholic woman
who once threw
Pound's Cantos
at me
and missed,
as they did
with me.

I was working
as a packer
in a light fixture
plant
and once
during a drinking
bout
I told the lady,
"here, read this!"
(referring to
Point Counter
Point
.)

"ah, jam it up
your ass!" she
screamed at
me.

anyway, 69 seemed
too early for Aldous
Huxley to
die.
but I guess it's
just as fair
as the death of a
scrubwoman
at the same
age.

it's just that
with those who
help us
get on through,
then
all that light
dying, it works the
gut a bit —
scrubwomen, cab drivers,
cops, nurses, bank
robbers, priests,
fishermen, fry cooks,
jockeys and the
like
be
damned.

 


art

as
the
spirit
wanes
the
form
appears

 


this

self-congratulatory nonsense as the
famous gather to applaud their seeming
greatness


you
wonder where
the real ones are


what
giant cave
hides them


as
the deathly talentless
bow to
accolades


as
the fools are
fooled
again


you
wonder where
the real ones are


if there are
real ones.


this
self-congratulatory nonsense
has lasted
decades
and
with some exceptions


centuries.


this
is so dreary
is so absolutely pitiless


it
churns the gut to
powder
shackles hope


it
makes little things
like
pulling up a shade
or
putting on your shoes
or
walking out on the street


more difficult
near
damnable


as
the famous gather to
applaud their
seeming
greatness


as
the fools are
fooled
again


humanity
you sick
motherfucker.

 


now

to reach here
gliding into old age
the decades gone
without ever meeting one person
truly evil
without ever meeting one person
truly exceptional
without ever meeting one person
truly good


gliding into old age


the decades gone


the mornings are the worst.

 


let me tell you

hell is built
piece by piece
brick by brick
around
you.
it's a gradual,
not a rapid
process.


we build our
own
inferno,
blame
others.


but hell is
hell.


wordly hell is
hell.


my hell and
your
hell.


our
hell.


hell, hell,
hell.

the song of
hell.


putting your
shoes on
in the
morning,
hell.

 


see here, you

blazing bastard fools
poets
with your
idiot scrolls
you are so
pompous
in your
knowledge
so
assured
that you are
on a hot roll
to
nirvana


you
soft lumps of
humanity


you
imitators of
other
pretenders


you are still
in
the shadow of
the
Mother


you
have never
bargained with
the
Beast


you have never
tasted
the full flavor of
Hell


you have never
seen
the Edge of
yourself


you have never
been alone
with the
razor-sharp
walls


you
blazing bastard fools
with your
idiot scrolls


there is nothing
to
know


no place
to
travel


your
lives
your
deaths
your
idiot
scrolls


useless


disgusting


and


not as real
as


the
wart
on the ass
of
a
hog.


you
are rejected by
circumstance.


good
bye.

 


a suborder of naked buds

the uselessness of the word is
evident.
I would like to make
this
piece of paper
shriek and dance and
laugh
but
the keys just
strike it harmlessly
and
we settle
for just a fraction of
the whole.


this incompleteness is all
we have:
we write the same things
over and over
again.
we are fools,
driven.


the uselessness of the word is
evident.


writers can only pretend to
succeed
some pretend well, others
not so


yet
none of us come
near
none of us even
close
sitting at these
machines


behooved to
live
out
our indecent
profession.

 


the bully

actually, I do think that
my father was
insane,
the way he drove his
car,
honking,
cursing at people;
the way he got into
violent arguments
in public places
over the most
trivial incidents;
the way he beat
his only child
almost daily
upon the slightest
provocation.


of course, bullies
sometimes meet their
masters.


I remember once
entering the house
and my mother
told me,
"your father was
in a terrible
fight."


I looked for him,
found him sitting
on the toilet
with the bathroom
door
open.


his face was a mass of
bruises, welts,
puffed and black
eyes.
he even had a broken
arm
in a cast.


I was 13 years old.
I stood looking
at him.
I looked for
some time.


then he screamed,
"what the hell you
staring at!
what's your
problem?"


I looked at him
some more,
then walked
off.


it was to be
3 years later
that
I would knock him
on his
ass, no problem
with that
at
all.

 


dinosauria, we

born like this
into this
as the chalk faces smile
as Mrs. Death laughs
as the elevators break
as political landscapes dissolve
as the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
as the oily fish spit out their oily prey
as the sun is masked


we are
born like this
into this
into these carefully mad wars
into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
into bars where people no longer speak to each other
into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings


born into this
into hospitals which are so expensive that it's cheaper to die
into lawyers who charge so much it's cheaper to plead guilty
into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes


born into this
walking and living through this
dying because of this
muted because of this
castrated
debauched
disinherited
because of this
fooled by this
used by this
pissed on by this
made crazy and sick by this
made violent
made inhuman
by this


the heart is blackened
the fingers reach for the throat
the gun
the knife
the bomb
the fingers reach toward an unresponsive god


the fingers reach for the bottle
the pill
the powder


we are born into this sorrowful deadliness
we are born into a government 60 years in debt
that soon will be unable to even pay the interest on that debt
and the banks will burn
money will be useless
there will be open and unpunished murder in the streets
it will be guns and roving mobs
land will be useless
food will become a diminishing return
nuclear power will be taken over by the many
explosions will continually shake the earth
radiated robot men will stalk each other
the rich and the chosen will watch from space platforms
Dante's Inferno will be made to look like a children's playground


the sun will not be seen and it will always be night
trees will die
all vegetation will die
radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men
the sea will be poisoned
the lakes and rivers will vanish
rain will be the new gold


the rotting bodies of men and animals will stink in the dark wind
the last few survivors will be overtaken by new and hideous diseases


and the space platforms will be destroyed by attrition
the petering out of supplies
the natural effect of general decay


and there will be the most beautiful silence never heard
born out of that.


the sun still hidden there
awaiting the next chapter.

 


between races

I know that I'm not supposed to bother
you, he said.


you've got that right, I
answered.


but, he went on, I want to tell you
that I was up all night
reading your
latest book.
I've read all your
books.
I work in the
post office.


oh, I said.


and I want to interview you for
our newspaper.


no, I said, no
interview.


why? he asked.


I'm tired of interviews, they have
nothing to do with
anything.


listen, he went on, I'll make it
easy for you, I'll come to your
house or I'll buy you dinner at
Musso's.


no, thank you, I said.


look, the interview isn't really for
our paper, it's for
me, I'm a writer and I want to get
out of the post
office.


listen, I said, just pull up a chair
and sit down at your
typewriter.


no interview? he asked.


no, I answered.


he walked
off.


they were coming out on the track
for the next race.


talking to the young man had
made me feel
bad.


they thought that writing had
something to do with
the politics of the
thing.


they were simply not
crazy enough
in the head
to sit down to a
typer
and let the words bang
out.


they didn't want to
write
they wanted to
succeed at
writing.


I got up to make
my bet.


no use letting a little
conversation
ruin your
day.


 

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