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Henry Charles Bukowski was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Bukowski's writing was heavily influenced by the geography and atmosphere of his home city of Los Angeles, and is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, ... Read more
Henry Charles Bukowski was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Bukowski's writing was heavily influenced by the geography and atmosphere of his home city of Los Angeles, and is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, ... Read more

with an Apple Macintosh
you can't run Radio Shack programs
in its disc drive.
nor can a Commodore 64
drive read a file
you have created on an
IBM Personal Computer.
both Kaypro and Osborne computers use
the CP/M operating system
but can't read each other's
handwriting
for they format (write
on) discs in different
ways.
the Tandy 2000 runs MS-DOS but
can't use most programs produced for
the IBM Personal Computer
unless certain
bits and bytes are
altered
but the wind still blows over
Savannah
and in the Spring
the turkey buzzard struts and
flounces before his
hens.

at the track today,
Father's Day,
each paid admission was
entitled to a wallet
and each contained a
little surprise.
most of the men seemed
between 30 and 55,
going to fat,
many of them in walking
shorts,
they had gone stale in
life,
flattened out....
in fact, damn it, they
aren't even worth writing
about!
why am I doing
this?
these don't even
deserve a death bed,
these little walking
whales,
only there are so
many of
them,
in the urinals,
in the food lines,
they have managed to
survive
in a most limited
sense
but when you see
so many of them
like that,
there and not there,
breathing, farting,
commenting,
waiting for a thunder
that will not arrive,
waiting for the charging
white horse of
Glory,
waiting for the lovely
female that is not
there,
waiting to WIN,
waiting for the great
dream to
engulf them
but they do nothing,
they clomp in their
sandals,
gnaw at hot dogs
dog style,
gulping at the
meat,
they complain about
losing,
blame the jocks,
drink green
beer,
the parking lot is
jammed with their
unpaid for
cars,
the jocks mount
again for another
race,
the men press
toward the betting
windows
mesmerized,
fathers and non-fathers
Monday is waiting
for them,
this is the last
big lark.
and the horses are
totally
beautiful.
it is shocking how
beautiful they
are
at that time,
at that place,
their life shines
through;
miracles happen,
even in
hell.
I decide to stay for
one more
race.

from Transit magazine, 1994

from my bed
I watch
3 birds
on a telephone
wire.

one flies
off.
then
another.

one is left,
then
it too
is gone.

my typewriter is
tombstone
still.

and I am
reduced to bird
watching.

just thought I'd
let you
know,
fucker.

shot in the eye
shot in the brain
shot in the ass
shot like a flower in the dance

amazing how death wins hands down
amazing how much credence is given to idiot forms of life

amazing how laughter has been drowned out
amazing how viciousness is such a constant

I must soon declare my own war on their war
I must hold to my last piece of ground
I must protect the small space I have made that has allowed me life

my life not their death
my death not their death...

the phone rang at 1:30 a.m.
  and it was a man from Denver:
  
   "Chinaski, you got a following in
  Denver..."
    "yeah?"
   "yeah, I got a magazine and I want some
  poems from you..."
    "FUCK YOU, CHINASKI!" I heard a voice
  in the background...
   "I see you have a friend,"
  I said.
   "yeah," he answered, "now, I want
  six poems..."
    "CHINASKI SUCKS! CHINASKI'S A PRICK!"
  I heard the other
  voice.
    "you fellows been drinking?"
  I asked.
    "so what?" he answered. "you drink."
    "that's true..."
   "CHINASKI'S AN ASSHOLE!"
    then
  the editor of the magazine gave me the
  address and I copied it down on the back
  of an envelope.
    "send us some poems now..."
    "I'll see what I can do..."
   "CHINASKI WRITES SHIT!"
   "goodbye," I said.
   "goodbye," said the
  editor.
    I hung up.
    there are certainly any number of lonely
  people without much to do with
  their nights.

George was lying in his trailer, flat on his back, watching a small portable T.V. His
dinner dishes were undone, his breakfast dishes were undone, he needed a shave, and ash
from his rolled cigarettes dropped onto his undershirt. Some of the ash was still burning.
Sometimes the burning ash missed the undershirt and hit his skin, then he cursed, brushing
it away. There was a knock on the trailer door. He got slowly to his feet and answered the
door. It was Constance. She had a fifth of unopened whiskey in a bag.
"George, I left that son of a bitch, I couldn't stand that son of a bitch
anymore."
"Sit down."
George opened the fifth, got two glasses, filled each a third with whiskey, two thirds
with water. He sat down on the bed with Constance. She took a cigarette out of her purse
and lit it. She was drunk and her hands trembled.
"I took his damn money too. I took his damn money and split while he was at work.
You don't know how I've suffered with that son of a bitch." "
Lemme have a smoke," said George. She handed it to him and as she leaned near,
George put his arm around her, pulled her over and kissed her.
"You son of a bitch," she said, "I missed you."
"I miss those good legs of yours , Connie. I've really missed those good
legs."
"You still like 'em?"
"I get hot just looking."
"I could never make it with a college guy," said Connie. "They're too
soft, they're milktoast. And he kept his house clean. George , it was like having a maid.
He did it all. The place was spotless. You could eat beef stew right off the crapper. He
was antisceptic, that's what he was."
"Drink up, you'll feel better."
"And he couldn't make love."
"You mean he couldn't get it up?"
"Oh he got it up, he got it up all the time. But he didn't know how to make a
woman happy, you know. He didn't know what to do. All that money, all that education, he
was useless."
"I wish I had a college education."
"You don't need one. You have everything you need, George."
"I'm just a flunkey. All the shit jobs."
"I said you have everything you need, George. You know how to make a woman
happy."
"Yeh?"
"Yes. And you know what else? His mother came around! His mother! Two or three
times a week. And she'd sit there looking at me, pretending to like me but all the time
she was treating me like I was a whore. Like I was a big bad whore stealing her son away
from her! Her precious Wallace! Christ! What a mess!" "He claimed he loved me.
And I'd say, 'Look at my pussy, Walter!' And he wouldn't look at my pussy. He said, 'I
don't want to look at that thing.' That thing! That's what he called it! You're not afraid
of my pussy, are you, George?"
"It's never bit me yet." "But you've bit it, you've nibbled it, haven't
you George?"
"I suppose I have."
"And you've licked it , sucked it?"
"I suppose so."
"You know damn well, George, what you've done."
"How much money did you get?"
"Six hundred dollars."
"I don't like people who rob other people, Connie."
"That's why you're a fucking dishwasher. You're honest. But he's such an ass,
George. And he can afford the money, and I've earned it... him and his mother and his
love, his mother-love, his clean l;ittle wash bowls and toilets and disposal bags and
breath chasers and after shave lotions and his little hard-ons and his precious
love-making. All for himself, you understand, all for himself! You know what a woman
wants, George."
"Thanks for the whiskey, Connie. Lemme have another cigarette."
George filled them up again. "I missed your legs, Connie. I've really missed those
legs. I like the way you wear those high heels. They drive me crazy. These modern women
don't know what they're missing. The high heel shapes the calf, the thigh, the ass; it
puts rythm into the walk. It really turns me on!"
"You talk like a poet, George. Sometimes you talk like that. You are one hell of a
dishwasher."
"You know what I'd really like to do?"
"What?"
"I'd like to whip you with my belt on the legs, the ass, the thighs. I'd like to
make you quiver and cry and then when you're quivering and crying I'd slam it into you
pure love."
"I don't want that, George. You've never talked like that to me before. You've
always done right with me."
"Pull your dress up higher."
"What?"
"Pull your dress up higher, I want to see more of your legs."
"You like my legs, don't you, George?"
"Let the light shine on them!"
Constance hiked her dress.
"God christ shit," said George.
"You like my legs?"
"I love your legs!" Then george reached across the bed and slapped Constance
hard across the face. Her cigarette flipped out of her mouth.
"what'd you do that for?"
"You fucked Walter! You fucked Walter!"
"So what the hell?"
"So pull your dress up higher!"
"No!"
"Do what I say!" George slapped again, harder. Constance hiked her skirt.
"Just up to the panties!" shouted George. "I don't quite want to see the
panties!"
"Christ, george, what's gone wrong with you?"
"You fucked Walter!"
"George, I swear, you've gone crazy. I want to leave. Let me out of here,
George!"
"Don't move or I'll kill you!"
"You'd kill me?"
"I swear it!" George got up and poured himself a shot of straight whiskey,
drank it, and sat down next to Constance. He took the cigarette and held it against her
wrist. She screamed. HE held it there, firmly, then pulled it away.
"I'm a man , baby, understand that?"
"I know you're a man , George."
"Here, look at my muscles!" george sat up and flexed both of his arms.
"Beautiful, eh ,baby? Look at that muscle! Feel it! Feel it!"
Constance felt one of the arms, then the other.
"Yes, you have a beautiful body, George."
"I'm a man. I'm a dishwasher but I'm a man, a real man."
"I know it, George." "I'm not the milkshit you left."
"I know it."
"And I can sing, too. You ought to hear my voice."
Constance sat there. George began to sing. He sang "Old man River." Then he
sang "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen." He sang "The St. Louis
Blues." He sasng "God Bless America," stopping several times and laughing.
Then he sat down next to Constance. He said, "Connie, you have beautiful legs."
He asked for another cigarette. He smoked it, drank two more drinks, then put his head
down on Connie's legs, against the stockings, in her lap, and he said, "Connie, I
guess I'm no good, I guess I'm crazy, I'm sorry I hit you, I'm sorry I burned you with
that cigarette."
Constance sat there. She ran her fingers through George's hair, stroking him, soothing
him. Soon he was asleep. She waited a while longer. Then she lifted his head and placed it
on the pillow, lifted his legs and straightened them out on the bed. She stood up, walked
to the fifth, poured a jolt of good whiskey in to her glass, added a touch of water and
drank it sown. She walked to the trailer door, pulled it open, stepped out, closed it. She
walked through the backyard, opened the fence gate, walked up the alley under the one
o'clock moon. The sky was clear of clouds. The same skyful of clouds was up there. She got
out on the boulevard and walked east and reached the entrance of The Blue Mirror. She
walked in, and there was Walter sitting alone and drunk at the end of the bar. She walked
up and sat down next to him. "Missed me, baby?" she asked. Walter looked up. He
recognized her. He didn't answer. He looked at the bartender and the bartender walked
toward them They all knew eachother.

there's nothing like being young
and starving,
living in a roominghouse and
pretending to be a
writer
while other men are occupied
with their professions and
their possessions.
there's nothing like being
young and
starving,
listening to Brahms,
your belly sucked-in,
nary an ounce of
fat,
stretched out on the bed
in the dark,
smoking a rolled
cigarette
and working on the
last bottle of
wine,
the sheets of your
writing strewn across the
floor.
you have walked on and across
them,
your masterpieces, and
either
they'll be read in
hell,
or perhaps
gnawed at by the
curious
mice.
Brahms is the only
friend you have,
the only friend you
want,
him and the wine
bottle,
as you realize that
you will never
be a citizen of the
world,
and if you
live to be very
old
you still will never
be a citizen of the
world.
the wine and
Brahms mix well as
you watch the
lights
move across the
ceiling,
courtesy of
passing
automobiles.
soon you'll sleep
and
tomorrow there
certainly
will be
more
masterpieces.

it was on the 2nd floor on Coronado Street
I used to get drunk
and throw the radio through the window
while it was playing, and, of course,
it would break the glass in the window
and the radio would sit there on the roof
still playing
and I'd tell my woman,
"Ah, what a marvelous radio!"
the next morning I'd take the window
off the hinges
and carry it down the street
to the glass man
who would put in another pane.
I kept throwing that radio through the window
each time I got drunk
and it would sit there on the roof
still playing-
a magic radio
a radio with guts,
and each morning I'd take the window
back to the glass man.
I don't remember how it ended exactly
though I do remember
we finally moved out.
there was a woman downstairs who worked in
the garden in her bathing suit,
she really dug with that trowel
and she put her behind up in the air
and I used to sit in the window
and watch the sun shine all over that thing
while the music played.

when Whitman wrote, "I sing the body electric"

I know what he
meant
I know what he
wanted:

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can't cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take
us

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as
ours.

I should not have blamed only my father, but,
he was the first to introduce me to
raw and stupid hatred.
he was really best at it: anything and everything made him
mad-things of the slightest consequence brought his hatred quickly
to the surface
and I seemed to be the main source of his
irritation.
I did not fear him
but his rages made me ill at heart
for he was most of my world then
and it was a world of horror but I should not have blamed only
my father
for when I left that... home... I found his counterparts
everywhere: my father was only a small part of the
whole, though he was the best at hatred
I was ever to meet.
but others were very good at it too: some of the
foremen, some of the street bums, some of the women
I was to live with,
most of the women, were gifted at
hating-blaming my voice, my actions, my presence
blaming me
for what they, in retrospect, had failed
at.
I was simply the target of their discontent
and in some real sense
they blamed me
for not being able to rouse them
out of a failed past; what they didn't consider was
that I had my troubles too-most of them caused by
simply living with them.

I am a dolt of a man, easily made happy or even
stupidly happy almost without cause
and left alone I am mostly content.

but I've lived so often and so long with this hatred
that
my only freedom, my only peace is when I am away from
them, when I am anywhere else, no matter where-
some fat old waitress bringing me a cup of coffee
is in comparison
like a fresh wild wind blowing.

"--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 going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquakes, 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 only things I remember about
New York City
in the summer
are the fire escapes
and how the people go
out on the fire escapes
in the evening
when the sun is setting
on the other side
of the buildings
and some stretch out
and sleep there
while others sit quietly
where it's cool.

and on many
of the window sills
sit pots of geraniums or
planters filled with red
geraniums
and the half-dressed people
rest there
on the fire escapes
and there are
red geraniums
everywhere.

this is really
something to see rather
than to talk about.

it's like a great colorful
and surprising painting
not hanging anywhere
else.

the higher you climb
the greater the pressure.

those who manage to
endure
learn
that the distance
between the
top and the
bottom
is
obscenely
great.

and those who
succeed
know
this secret:
there isn't
one.

the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
much
and nobody finds the
one
but keep
looking
crawling in and out
of beds.
flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than
flesh.

there's no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular
fate.

nobody ever finds
the one.

the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill

nothing else
fills.

I see you drinking at a fountain with tiny
blue hands, no, your hands are not tiny
they are small, and the fountain is in France
where you wrote me that last letter and
I answered and never heard from you again.
you used to write insane poems about
ANGELS AND GOD, all in upper case, and you
knew famous artists and most of them
were your lovers, and I wrote back, it' all right,
go ahead, enter their lives, I' not jealous
because we' never met. we got close once in
New Orleans, one half block, but never met, never
touched. so you went with the famous and wrote
about the famous, and, of course, what you found out
is that the famous are worried about
their fame -- not the beautiful young girl in bed
with them, who gives them that, and then awakens
in the morning to write upper case poems about
ANGELS AND GOD. we know God is dead, they' told
us, but listening to you I wasn' sure. maybe
it was the upper case. you were one of the
best female poets and I told the publishers,
editors, " her, print her, she' mad but she'
magic. there' no lie in her fire." I loved you
like a man loves a woman he never touches, only
writes to, keeps little photographs of. I would have
loved you more if I had sat in a small room rolling a
cigarette and listened to you piss in the bathroom,
but that didn' happen. your letters got sadder.
your lovers betrayed you. kid, I wrote back, all
lovers betray. it didn' help. you said
you had a crying bench and it was by a bridge and
the bridge was over a river and you sat on the crying
bench every night and wept for the lovers who had
hurt and forgotten you. I wrote back but never
heard again. a friend wrote me of your suicide
3 or 4 months after it happened. if I had met you
I would probably have been unfair to you or you
to me. it was best like this.

Long walks at night--
that's what good for the soul:
peeking into windows
watching tired housewives
trying to fight off
their beer-maddened husbands.

having the low down blues and going
into a restraunt to eat.
you sit at a table.
the waitress smiles at you.
she's dumpy. her ass is too big.
she radiates kindess and symphaty.
live with her 3 months and a man would no real agony.
o.k., you'll tip her 15 percent.
you order a turkey sandwich and a
beer.
the man at the table across from you
has watery blue eyes and
a head like an elephant.
at a table further down are 3 men
with very tiny heads
and long necks
like ostiches.
they talk loudly of land development.
why, you think, did I ever come
in here when I have the low-down
blues?
then the the waitress comes back eith the sandwich
and she asks you if there will be anything
else?
snd you tell her, no no, this will be
fine.
then somebody behind you laughs.
it's a cork laugh filled with sand and
broken glass.

you begin eating the sandwhich.

it's something.
it's a minor, difficult,
sensible action
like composing a popular song
to make a 14-year old
weep.
you order another beer.
jesus,look at that guy
his hands hang down almost to his knees and he's
whistling.
well, time to get out.
pivk up the bill.
tip.
go to the register.
pay.
pick up a toothpick.
go out the door.
your car is still there.
and there are 3 men with heads
and necks
like ostriches all getting into one
car.
they each have a toothpick and now
they are talking about women.
they drive away first
they drive away fast.
they're best i guess.
it's an unberably hot day.
there's a first-stage smog alert.
all the birds and plants are dead
or dying.

you start the engine.

washed-up, on shore, the old yellow notebook
  out again
  I write from the bed
  as I did last
  year.
  will see the doctor,
  Monday.
  "yes, doctor, weak legs, vertigo, head-
  aches and my back
  hurts."
  "are you drinking?" he will ask.
  "are you getting your
exercise, your
  vitamins?"
  I think that I am just ill
  with life, the same stale yet
  fluctuating
  factors.
  even at the track
  I watch the horses run by
  and it seems
  meaningless.
  I leave early after buying tickets on the
  remaining races.
  "taking off?" asks the motel
  clerk.
  "yes, it's boring,"
  I tell him.
  "If you think it's boring
  out there," he tells me, "you oughta be
  back here."
  so here I am
  propped up against my pillows
  again
  just an old guy
  just an old writer
  with a yellow
  notebook.
  something is
  walking across the
  floor
  toward
  me.
  oh, it's just
  my cat
  this
  time.

as the poems go into the thousands you
realize that you've created very
little.
it comes down to the rain, the sunlight,
the traffic, the nights and the days of the
years, the faces.
leaving this will be easier than living
it, typing one more line now as
a man plays a piano through the radio,
the best writers have said very
little
and the worst,
far too much.
from ONTHEBUS - 1992

To give life you must take life,
and as our grief falls flat and hollow
upon the billion-blooded sea
I pass upon serious inward-breaking shoals rimmed
with white-legged, white-bellied rotting creatures
lengthily dead and rioting against surrounding scenes.
Dear child, I only did to you what the sparrow
did to you; I am old when it is fashionable to be
young; I cry when it is fashionable to laugh.
I hated you when it would have taken less courage
to love.

 
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