Ham on Rye: A Novel by Charles Bukowski

in grievous deity my cat
walks around
he walks around and around
with
electric tail and
push-button
eyes

he is
alive and
plush and
final as a plum tree

neither of us understands
cathedrals or
the man outside
watering his
lawn

if I were all the man
that he is
cat--
if there were men
like this
the world could
begin

he leaps up on the couch
and walks through
porticoes of my
admiration.

if I suffer at this
typewriter
think how I'd feel
among the lettuce-
pickers of Salinas?
I think of the men
I've known in
factories
with no way to
get out-
choking while living
choking while laughing
at Bob Hope or Lucille
Ball while
2 or 3 children beat
tennis balls against
the wall.
some suicides are never
recorded.

7.2k
So Now?

the words have come and gone,
I sit ill.
the phone rings, the cats sleep.
Linda vacuums.
I am waiting to live,
waiting to die.
I wish I could ring in some bravery.
it's a lousy fix
but the tree outside doesn't know:
I watch it moving with the wind
in the late afternoon sun.
there's nothing to declare here,
just a waiting.
each faces it alone.
Oh, I was once young,
Oh, I was once unbelievably
young!
from Transit magazine, 1994

I even hear the mountains
the way they laugh
up and down their blue sides
and down in the water
the fish cry
and the water
is their tears.
I listen to the water
on nights I drink away
and the sadness becomes so great
I hear it in my clock
it becomes knobs upon my dresser
it becomes paper on the floor
it becomes a shoehorn
a laundry ticket
it becomes
cigarette smoke
climbing a chapel of dark vines. . .
it matters little
very little love is not so bad
or very little life
what counts
is waiting on walls
I was born for this
I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead.

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...

small cheap rooms where you walk
down the hall to the
bathroom can seem romantic to
a young writer.
even the rejection slips are
amusing because you are sure that
you are
one of the best.

but while sitting there
looking across the room
at the portable typer
waiting for you on the table
you are really
in a sense
insane

as you wait for
one more night to arrive to sit and
type Immortal Words--but now you
just sit and think about it
on your first afternoon in a strange city.

looking over at the door you
almost
expect a beautiful woman to walk in.

being young
helps get you through
many senseless and terrible
days.

being old
does
too.

"They only burn themselves to reach Paradise"
                                       - Mne. Nhu

original courage is good,
motivation be damned,
and if you say they are trained
to feel no pain,
are they
guarenteed this?
is it still not possible
to die for somebody else?

you sophisticates
who lay back and
make statements of explanation,
I have seen the red rose burning
and this means more.

I used to take the back off
the telephone and stuff it with rags
and when somebody knocked
I wouldn't answer and if they persisted
I'd tell them in terms vulgar
to vanish.

just another old crank
with wings of gold
flabby white belly
plus
eyes to knock out
the sun.

I reached up into the top of the closet
and took out a pair of blue panties
and showed them to her and
asked "are these yours?"
and she looked and said,
"no, those belong to a dog."
she left after that and I haven't seen
her since. she's not at her place.
I keep going there, leaving notes stuck
into the door. I go back and the notes
are still there. I take the Maltese cross
cut it down from my car mirror, tie it
to her doorknob with a shoelace, leave
a book of poems.
when I go back the next night everything
is still there.
I keep searching the streets for that
blood-wine battleship she drives
with a weak battery, and the doors
hanging from broken hinges.
I drive around the streets
an inch away from weeping,
ashamed of my sentimentality and
possible love.
a confused old man driving in the rain
wondering where the good luck
went.

it sits outside my window now
like and old woman going to market;
it sits and watches me,
it sweats nevously
through wire and fog and dog-bark
until suddenly
I slam the screen with a newspaper
like slapping at a fly
and you could hear the scream
over this plain city,
and then it left.

the way to end a poem
like this
is to become suddenly
quiet.

6.4k
Finish

We are like roses that have never bothered to
bloom when we should have bloomed and
it is as if
the sun has become disgusted with
waiting

the wind blows hard tonight
and it's a cold wind
and I think about
the boys on the row.
I hope some of them have a bottle of
red.
it's when you're on the row
that you notice that
everything
is owned
and that there are locks on
everything.
this is the way a democracy
works:
you get what you can,
try to keep that
and add to it
if possible.
this is the way a dictatorship
works too
only they either enslave or
destroy their
derelicts.
we just forgot ours.
in either case
it's a hard
cold
wind.

I've come by, she says, to tell you
that this is it. I'm not kidding, it's
over. this is it.
I sit on the couch watching her arrange
her long red hair before my bedroom
mirror.
she pulls her hair up and
piles it on top of her head-
she lets her eyes look at
my eyes-
then she drops her hair and
lets it fall down in front of her face.
we go to bed and I hold her
speechlessly from the back
my arm around her neck
I touch her wrists and hands
feel up to
her elbows
no further.
she gets up.
this is it, she says,
this will do. well,
I'm going.
I get up and walk her
to the door
just as she leaves
she says,
I want you to buy me
some high-heeled shoes
with tall thin spikes,
black high-heeled shoes.
no, I want them
red.
I watch her walk down the cement walk
under the trees
she walks all right and
as the pointsettas drip in the sun
I close the door.

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.

5.9k
Yes Yes

when God created love he didn't help most
when God created dogs He didn't help dogs
when God created plants that was average
when God created hate we had a standard utility
when God created me He created me
when God created the monkey He was asleep
when He created the giraffe He was drunk
when He created narcotics He was high
and when He created suicide He was low

when He created you lying in bed
He knew what He was doing
He was drunk and He was high
and He created the mountians and the sea and fire at the same time

He made some mistakes
but when He created you lying in bed
He came all over His Blessed Universe.

a girlfriend came in
built me a bed
scrubbed and waxed the kitchen floor
scrubbed the walls
vacuumed
cleaned the toilet
the bathtub
scrubbed the bathroom floor
and cut my toenails and
my hair.
then
all on the same day
the plumber came and fixed the kitchen faucet
and the toilet
and the gas man fixed the heater
and the phone man fixed the phone.
noe I sit in all this perfection.
it is quiet.
I have broken off with all 3 of my girlfriends.
I felt better when everything was in
disorder.
it will take me some months to get back to normal:
I can't even find a roach to commune with.
I have lost my rythm.
I can't sleep.
I can't eat.
I have been robbed of
my filth.

5.5k
Shoes

when you're young
a pair of
female
high-heeled shoes
just sitting
alone
in the closet
can fire your
bones;
when you're old
it's just
a pair of shoes
without
anybody
in them
and
just as
well.

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.

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.

5.4k
It's Ours

there is always that space there
just before they get to us
that space
that fine relaxer
the breather
while say
flopping on a bed
thinking of nothing
or say
pouring a glass of water from the
spigot
while entranced by
nothing

that
gentle pure
space

it's worth

centuries of
existence

say

just to scratch your neck
while looking out the window at
a bare branch

that space
there
before they get to us
ensures
that
when they do
they won't
get it all

ever.

when I look back now

at the abuse I took from

her

I feel shame that I was so

innocent,

but I must say

she did match me drink for

drink,

and I realized that her life

her feelings for things

had been ruined

along the way

and that I was no mare than a

temporary

companion;

she was ten years older

and mortally hurt by the past

and the present;

she treated me badly:

desertion, other

men;

she brought me immense

pain,

continually;

she lied, stole;

there was desertion,

other men,

yet we had our moments; and

our little soap opera ended

with her in a coma

in the hospital,

and I sat at her bed

for hours

talking to her,

and then she opened her eyes

and saw me:

"I knew it would be you,"

she said.

then hse closed her

eyes.


the next day she was

dead.


I drank alone

for two years

after that.

5.3k
Nirvana

not much chance,
completely cut loose from
purpose,
he was a young man
riding a bus
through North Carolina
on the wat to somewhere
and it began to snow
and the bus stopped
at a little cafe
in the hills
and the passengers
entered.
he sat at the counter
with the others,
he ordered and the
food arived.
the meal was
particularly
good
and the
coffee.
the waitress was
unlike the women
he had
known.
she was unaffected,
there was a natural
humor which came
from her.
the fry cook said
crazy things.
the dishwasher.
in back,
laughed, a good
clean
pleasant
laugh.
the young man watched
the snow through the
windows.
he wanted to stay
in that cafe
forever.
the curious feeling
swam through him
that everything
was
beautiful
there,
that it would always
stay beautiful
there.
then the bus driver
told the passengers
that it was time
to board.
the young man
thought, I'll just sit
here, I'll just stay
here.
but then
he rose and followed
the others into the
bus.
he found his seat
and looked at the cafe
through the bus
window.
then the bus moved
off, down a curve,
downward, out of
the hills.
the young man
looked straight
foreward.
he heard the other
passengers
speaking
of other things,
or they were
reading
or
attempting to
sleep.
they had not
noticed
the
magic.
the young man
put his head to
one side,
closed his
eyes,
pretended to
sleep.
there was nothing
else to do-
just to listen to the
sound of the
engine,
the sound of the
tires
in the
snow.

5.2k
such luck

we were at this table,
men and women,
after dinner.
somehow
the conversation got
around to
PMS.
one of the ladies
stated firmly that
the only cure for
PMS
was old
age.
there were other
remarks
that I have
forgotten,
except for one
which came from this
German guest
once married,
now divorced
also, I had seen
him with
any number of
beautiful young
girlfriends.
anyhow, after quietly
listening
to our conversation
for some time
he asked us,
"what's PMS?"

now here was one
truly touched
by
the angels.

the light was so
bright
we
all looked
away.

ah, christ, what a CREW:
more
poetry, always more
P O E T R Y .

if it doesn't come, coax it out with a
laxative. get your name in LIGHTS,
get it up there in
8 1/2 x 11 mimeo.

keep it coming like a miracle.

ah christ, writers are the most sickening
of all the louts!
yellow-toothed, slump-shouldered,
gutless, flea-bitten and
obvious . . . in tinker-toy rooms
with their flabby hearts
they tell us
what's wrong with the world-
as if we didn't know that a cop's club
can crack the head
and that war is a dirtier game than
marriage . . .
or down in a basement bar
hiding from a wife who doesn't appreciate him
and children he doesn't
want
he tells us that his heart is drowning in
vomit. hell, all our hearts are drowning in vomit,
in pork salt, in bad verse, in soggy
love.
but he thinks he's alone and
he thinks he's special and he thinks he's Rimbaud
and he thinks he's
Pound.

and death! how about death? did you know
that we all have to die? even Keats died, even
Milton!
and D. Thomas-THEY KILLED HIM, of course.
Thomas didn't want all those free drinks
all that free pussy-
they . . . FORCED IT ON HIM
when they should have left him alone so he could
write write WRITE!

poets.

and there's another
type. I've met them at their country
places (don't ask me what I was doing there because
I don't know).

they were born with money and
they don't have to dirty their hands in
slaughterhouses or washing
dishes in grease joints or
driving cabs or pimping or selling pot.

this gives them time to understand
Life.

they walk in with their cocktail glass
held about heart high
and when they drink they just
sip.

you are drinking green beer which you
brought with you
because you have found out through the years
that rich bastards are tight-
they use 5 cent stamps instead of airmail
they promise to have all sorts of goodies ready
upon your arrival
from gallons of whisky to
50 cent cigars. but it's never
there.
and they HIDE their women from you-
their wives, x-wives, daughters, maids, so forth,
because they've read your poems and
figure all you want to do is fuck everybody and
everything. which once might have been
true but is no longer quite
true.

and-
he WRITES TOO.
POETRY, of
course. everybody
writes
poetry.

he has plenty of time and a
postoffice box in town
and he drives there 3 or 4 times a day
looking and hoping for accepted
poems.

he thinks that poverty is a weakness of the
soul.

he thinks your mind is ill because you are
drunk all the time and have to work in a
factory 10 or 12 hours a
night.

he brings his wife in, a beauty, stolen from a
poorer rich
man.
he lets you gaze for 30 seconds
then hustles her
out. she has been crying for some
reason.

you've got 3 or 4 days to linger in the
guesthouse he says,
"come on over to dinner
sometime."
but he doesn't say when or
where. and then you find out that you are not even
IN HIS HOUSE.

you are in
ONE of his houses but
his house is somewhere
else-
you don't know
where.

he even has x-wives in some of his
houses.

his main concern is to keep his x-wives away from
you. he doesn't want to give up a
damn thing. and you can't blame him:
his x-wives are all young, stolen, kept,
talented, well-dressed, schooled, with
varying French-German accents.

and!: they
WRITE POETRY TOO. or
PAINT. or
fuck.

but his big problem is to get down to that mail
box in town to get back his
rejected poems
and to keep his eye on all the other mail boxes
in all his other
houses.

meanwhile, the starving Indians
sell beads and baskets in the streets of the small desert
town.

the Indians are not allowed in his houses
not so much because they are a fuck-threat
but because they are
dirty and
ignorant. dirty? I look down at my shirt
with the beerstain on the front.
ignorant? I light a 6 cent cigar and
forget about
it.

he or they or somebody was supposed to meet me at
the
train station.

of course, they weren't
there. "We'll be there to meet the great
Poet!"

well, I looked around and didn't see any
great poet. besides it was 7 a.m. and
40 degrees. those things
happen. the trouble was there were no
bars open. nothing open. not even a
jail.

he's a poet.
he's also a doctor, a head-shrinker.
no blood involved that
way. he won't tell me whether I am crazy or
not-I don't have the
money.

he walks out with his cocktail glass
disappears for 2 hours, 3 hours,
then suddenly comes walking back in
unannounced
with the same cocktail glass
to make sure I haven't gotten hold of
something more precious than
Life itself.

my cheap green beer is killing
me. he shows heart (hurrah) and
gives me a little pill that stops my
gagging.
but nothing decent to
drink.

he'd bought a small 6 pack
for my arrival but that was gone in an
hour and 15
minutes.

"I'll buy you barrels of beer," he had
said.

I used his phone (one of his phones)
to get deliveries of beer and
cheap whisky. the town was ten miles away,
downhill. I peeled my poor dollars from my poor
roll. and the boy needed a tip, of
course.

the way it was shaping up I could see that I was
hardly Dylan Thomas yet, not even
Robert Creeley. certainly Creeley wouldn't have
had beerstains on his
shirt.

anyhow, when I finally got hold of one of his
x-wives I was too drunk to
make it.

scared too. sure, I imagined him peering
through the window-
he didn't want to give up a damn thing-
and
leveling the luger while I was
working
while "The March to the Gallows" was playing over
the Muzak
and shooting me in the ass first and
my poor brain
later.

"an intruder," I could hear him telling them,
"ravishing one of my helpless x-wives."

I see him published in some of the magazines
now. not very good stuff.

a poem about me
too: the Polack.

the Polack whines too much. the Polack whines about his
country, other countries, all countries, the Polack
works overtime in a factory like a fool, among other
fools with "pre-drained spirits."
the Polack drinks seas of green beer
full of acid. the Polack has an ulcerated
hemorrhoid. the Polack picks on fags
"fragile fags." the Polack hates his
wife, hates his daughter. his daughter will become
an alcoholic, a prostitute. the Polack has an
"obese burned out wife." the Polack has a
spastic gut. the Polack has a
"rectal brain."

thank you, Doctor (and poet). any charge for
this? I know I still owe you for the
pill.

Your poem is not too good
but at least I got your starch up.
most of your stuff is about as lively as a
wet and deflated
beachball. but it is your round, you've won a round.
going to invite me out this
Summer? I might scrape up
trainfare. got an Indian friend who'd like to meet
you and yours. he swears he's got the biggest
pecker in the state of California.

and guess what?
he writes
POETRY
too!

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.

some dogs who sleep ay night
must dream of bones
and I remember your bones
in flesh
and best
in that dark green dress
and those high-heeled bright
black shoes,
you always cursed when you drank,
your hair coimng down you
wanted to explode out of
what was holding you:
rotten memories of a
rotten
past, and
you finally got
out
by dying,
leaving me with the
rotten
present;
you've been dead
28 years
yet I remember you
better than any of
the rest;
you were the only one
who understood
the futility of the
arrangement of
life;
all the others were only
displeased with
trivial segments,
carped
nonsensically about
nonsense;
Jane, you were
killed by
knowing too much.
here's a drink
to your bones
that
this dog
still
dreams about.

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.

I was shacked with a
24 year old girl from
New York City for
two weeks- about
the time of the garbage
strike out there, and
one night my 34 year
old woman arrived and
she said, "I want to see
my rival." she did
and then she said, "o,
you're a cute little thing!"
next I knew there was a
screech of wildcats-
such screaming and scratch-
ing, wounded animal moans,
blood and piss. . .
I was drunk and in my
shorts. I tried to
seperate them and fell,
wrenched my knee. then
they were through the screen
door and down the walk
and out into the street.
squadcars full of cops
arrived. a police heli-
coptor circled overhead.
I stood in the bathroom
and grinned in the mirror.
it's not often at the age
of 55 that such splendid
things occur.
better than the Watts
riots.
the 34 year old
came back in. she had
pissed all over her-
self and her clothing
was torn and she was
followed by 2 cops who
wanted to know why.
pulling up my shorts
I tried to explain.

in the hospitals and jails
it's the worst
in madhouses
it's the worst
in penthouses
it's the worst
in skid row flophouses
it's the worst
at poetry readings
at rock concerts
at benefits for the disabled
it's the worst
at funerals
at weddings
it's the worst
at parades
at skating rinks
at sexual orgies
it's the worst
at midnight
at 3 a.m.
at 5:45 p.m.
it's the worst
falling through the sky
firing squads
that's the best
thinking of India
looking at popcorn stands
watching the bull get the matador
that's the best
boxed lightbulbs
an old dog scratching
peanuts in a celluloid bag
that's the best
spraying roaches
a clean pair of stockings
natural guts defeating natural talent
that's the best
in front of firing squads
throwing crusts to seagulls
slicing tomatoes
that's the best
rugs with cigarette burns
cracks in sidewalks
waitresses still sane
that's the best

my hands dead
my heart dead
silence
adagio of rocks
the world ablaze
that's the best
for me.

They dont make it
the beautiful die in flame-
sucide pills,rat poison,rope what-
ever...
they rip their arms off,
throw themselves out of windows,
they pull their eyes out of the sockets,
reject love
reject hate
reject,reject.

they do'nt make it
the beautiful can't endure,
they are butterflies
they are doves
they are sparrows,
they dont make it.

onetall shot of flame
while the old men play checkers in the park
one flame,one good flame
while the old men play checkers in the park
in the sun.

the beautiful are found in the edge of a room
crumpled into spiders and needles and silence
and we can never understand why they
left,they were so
beautiful.

they dont make it,
the beautiful die young
and leave the ugly to their ugly lives.

lovley and brilliant: life and suidcide and death
as the old men play checkers in the sun
in the park.

these things that we support most well
have nothing to do with up,
and we do with them
out of boredom or fear or money
or cracked intelligence;
our circle and our candle of light
being small,
so small we cannot bear it,
we heave out with Idea
and lose the Center:
all wax without the wick,
and we see names that once meant
wisdom,
like signs into ghost towns,
and only the graves are real.

the vultures at the zoo
(all three of the)
sit very quietly in their
caged tree
and below
on the ground
are chunks of rotten meat.
the vultures are over-full.
our taxes have fed them
well.

we move on to the next
cage.
a man is in there
sitting on the ground
eating
his own shit.
i recognize him as
our former mailman.
his favorite expression
had been:
"have a beautiful day."

that day i did.

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.

I can remember starving in a
small room in a strange city
shades pulled down, listening to
classical music
I was young I was so young it hurt like a knife
inside
because there was no alternative except to hide as long
as possible--
not in self-pity but with dismay at my limited chance:
trying to connect.

the old composers -- Mozart, Bach, Beethoven,
Brahms were the only ones who spoke to me and
they were dead.

finally, starved and beaten, I had to go into
the streets to be interviewed for low-paying and
monotonous
jobs
by strange men behind desks
men without eyes men without faces
who would take away my hours
break them
piss on them.

now I work for the editors the readers the
critics

but still hang around and drink with
Mozart, Bach, Brahms and the
Bee
some buddies
some men
sometimes all we need to be able to continue alone
are the dead
rattling the walls
that close us in.

4.5k
8 count

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.

4.5k
carnival

he got drunk and went to sleep
in his bed
and the fire started
and he layed in there
burning
until a friend in the next room
smelled it
and ran in
and tried to pull him out of the fire
by his arms
and the skin rolled right off the arms
and he had to grab again
deeper
near the bone,
and he got him out and up
and the guy started screaming
and running blind,
he hit some walls
finally made 2 doorways
and with half a dozen men trying
to hold him
he broke free
and ran into the yard
screaming
still running
he ran right into some barbed wire
and tangled in the barbed wire
screaming
and they had to go up
and get him loose
from the wire

he lived for 3 nights and 3
days

drinking and smoking
are bad for the
health.

4.5k
Layover

Making love in the sun, in the morning sun
in a hotel room
above the alley
where poor men poke for bottles;
making love in the sun
making love by a carpet redder than our blood,
making love while the boys sell headlines
and Cadillacs,
making love by a photograph of Paris
and an open pack of Chesterfields,
making love while other men- poor folks-
work.
That moment- to this. . .
may be years in the way they measure,
but it's only one sentence back in my mind-
there are so many days
when living stops and pulls up and sits
and waits like a train on the rails.
I pass the hotel at 8
and at 5; there are cats in the alleys
and bottles and bums,
and I look up at the window and think,
I no longer know where you are,
and I walk on and wonder where
the living goes
when it stops.

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

4.4k
For Jane

225 days under grass
and you know more than i.
they have long taken your blood,
you are a dry stick in a basket.
is this how it works?
in this room
the hours of love
still make shadows,

when you left
you took almost
everything.
I kneel in the nights
before tigers
that will not let me be.

what you were
will not happen again.
the tigers have found me
and I do not care.

sway with me, everything sad --
madmen in stone houses
without doors,
lepers steaming love and song
frogs trying to figure
the sky;
sway with me, sad things --
fingers split on a forge
old age like breakfast shell
used books, used people
used flowers, used love
I need you
I need you
I need you:
it has run away
like a horse or a dog,
dead or lost
or unforgiving.

4.2k
Freedom

he drank wine all night of the
28th, and he kept thinking of her:
the way she walked and talked and loved
the way she told him things that seemed true
but were not, and he knew the color of each
of her dresses
and her shoes-he knew the stock and curve of
each heel
as well as the leg shaped by it.

and she was out again and whe he came home,and
she'd come back with that special stink again,
and she did
she came in at 3 a.m in the morning
filthy like a dung eating swine
and
he took out a butchers knife
and she screamed
backing into the roominghouse wall
still pretty somehow
in spite of love's reek
and he finished the glass of wine.

that yellow dress
his favorite
and she screamed again.

and he took up the knife
and unhooked his belt
and tore away the cloth before her
and cut off his balls.

and carried them in his hands
like apricots
and flushed them down the
toilet bowl
and she kept screaming
as the room became red

GOD O GOD!
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

and he sat there holding 3 towels
between his legs
no caring now wether she lft or
stayed
wore yellow or green or
anything at all.

and one hand holding and one hand
lifting he poured
another wine

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.

4.1k
Poetry

it
takes
a lot of
desperation
dissatisfaction
and
disillusion
to
write
a
few
good
poems.
it's not
for
everybody
either to
write
it
or even to
read
it.

at their best, there is gentleness in Humanity.
some understanding and, at times, acts of
courage
but all in all it is a mass, a glob that doesn't
have too much.
it is like a large animal deep in sleep and
almost nothing can awaken it.
when activated it's best at brutality,
selfishness, unjust judgments, murder.
what can we do with it, this Humanity?
nothing.
avoid the thing as much as possible.
treat it as you would anything poisonous, vicious
and mindless.
but be careful. it has enacted laws to protect
itself from you.
it can kill you without cause.
and to escape it you must be subtle.
few escape.
it's up to you to figure a plan.
I have met nobody who has escaped.
I have met some of the great and
famous but they have not escaped
for they are only great and famous within
Humanity.
I have not escaped
but I have not failed in trying again and
again.
before my death I hope to obtain my
life.
from blank gun silencer - 1994

comfrock, you motherfuck
get up off your crazy knees
and I'll belt you down
again --
       what's that?
       you say I eat stem pipes?
I'll kill you!

stop crying. god damn.
all right, we dumped your car into the sea
and raped your daughter
but we are only extending the possibilities of a working
realism, shut up!, I said
any man must be ready for anything and
if he isn't then he isn't a
man a goat a note or a plantleaf,
you shoulda known the entirety of the trap, asshole,
love means eventual pain
victory means eventual defeat
grace means eventual slovenliness,
there's no way
out . . . you see, you
understand?

hey, Mickey, hold his head up
want to break his nose with this pipe . . .
god damn, I almost forgot the
nose!
death is every second, punk.
the calendar is death. the sheets are death. you put on your
stockings: death. buttons on your shirt are death.
lace sportshirts are death. don't you smell it? temperature is
death. little girls are death. free coupons are death. carrots are
death. didn't you
know?

o.k., Mack, we got the nose.
no, not the balls, too much bleeding.
what was he when? oh, yeah, he used to be a cabby
we snatched him from his cab
right off Madison, destroyed his home, his car, raped his
12 year old daughter, it was beautiful, burned his wife with
gasoline.
look at his eyes
begging mercy . . .

4.0k
Now
Now

I sit here on the 2nd floor
hunched over in yellow
pajamas
still pretending to be
a writer.
some damned gall,
at 71,
my brain cells eaten
away by
life.
rows of books
behind me,
I scratch my thinning
hair
and search for the
word.
for decades now
I have infuriated the
ladies,
the critics,
the university
suck-toads.
they all will soon have
their time to
celebrate.
"terribly overrated..."
"gross..."
"an aberration..."
my hands sink into the
keyboard
of my
Macintosh,
it's the same old
con
that scraped me
off the streets and
park benches,
the same simple
line
I learned in those
cheap rooms,
I can't let
go,
sitting here
on this 2nd floor
hunched over in yellow
pajamas
still pretending to be
a writer.
the gods smile down,
the gods smile down,
the gods smile down.
Black Sparrow "New Year's Greeting" 1992

by God, I don't know what to
do.
they're so nice to have around.
they have a way of playing with
the balls
and looking at the cock very
seriously
turning it
tweeking it
examining each part
as their long hair falls on
your belly.
it's not the fucking and sucking
alone that reaches into a man
and softens him, it's the extras,
it's all the extras.
now it's raining tonight
and there's nobody
they are elsewhere
examining things
in new bedrooms
in new moods
or maybe in old
bedrooms.
anyhow, it's raining tonight,
on hell of a dashing, pouring
rain....
very little to do.
I've read the newspaper
paid the gas bill
the electric co.
the phone bill.
it keeps raining.
they soften a man
and then let him swim
in his own juice.
I need an old-fashioned whore
at the door tonight
closing her green umbrella,
drops her green umbrella,
drops of moonlit rain on her
purse, saying "shit, man,
can't you get better music
than that on your radio?
and turn up the heat..."
it's always when a man's swollen
with love and everything
else
that keeps raining
splattering
flooding
rain
good for the trees and the
grass and the air...
good for things that
live alone.
I would give anything
for a female's hand on me
tonight.
they soften a man and
then leave him
listening to the rain.

the ground war began today
at dawn
in a desert land
far from here.
the U.S. ground troops were
largely
made up of
Blacks, Mexicans and poor
whites
most of whom had joined
the military
because it was the only job
they could find.

the ground war began today
at dawn
in a desert land
far from here
and the Blacks, Mexicans
and poor whites
were sent there
to fight and win
as on tv
and on the radio
the fat white rich newscasters
first told us all about
it
and then the fat rich white
analysts
told us
why
again
and again
and again
on almost every
tv and radio station
almost every minute
day and night
because
the Blacks, Mexicans
and poor whites
were sent there
to fight and win
at dawn
in a desert land
far enough away from
here.

4.0k
ruin

William Saroyan said, "I ruined my
life by marrying the same woman
twice."

there will always be something
to ruin our lives,
William,
it all depends upon
what or which
finds us
first,
we are always
ripe and ready
to be
taken.

ruined lives are
normal
both for the wise
and
others.

it is only when
that life
ruined
becomes ours
we realize
then
that the suicides, the
drunkards, the mad, the
jailed, the dopers
and etc. etc.
are just as common
a part of existence
as the gladiola, the
rainbow
the
hurricane
and nothing
left
on the kitchen
shelf.

4.0k
Marina

majestic, majic
infinite
my little girl is
sun
on the carpet-
out the door
picking a flower, ha!
an old man,
battle-wrecked,
emerges from his
chair
and she looks at me
but only sees
love,
ha!, and I become
quick with the world
and love right back
just like I was meant
to do.

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