Poems about life,
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|born||August 16, 1920||Andernach (Germany)|
|died||March 09, 1994||Los Angeles|
Henry Charles Bukowski (born Heinrich Karl Bukowski) was a German-born American poet, novelist, and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural, and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles. His work addresses the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over 60 books. The poet's father was a sergeant in the United States Army serving in Germany following Germany's defeat in 1918. He had an affair with Katharina, a German friend's sister, and she became pregnant. Charles Bukowski repeatedly claimed to be born out of wedlock, but Andernach marital records indicate that his parents married one month prior to his birth. However, given the crippling reparations being required of Germany, which led to a stagnant economy and high levels of inflation, Henry Bukowski was unable to make a living, so he decided to move the family to the United States. In 1923, they settled in Baltimore, Maryland. The family moved to South Central Los Angeles in 1930, the city where Charles Bukowski's father and grandfather had previously worked and lived. In the 1930s the poet's father was often unemployed. In the autobiographical Ham on Rye Charles Bukowski says that, with his mother's acquiescence, his father was frequently abusive, both physically and mentally, beating his son for the smallest imagined offence. During his youth Bukowski was shy and socially withdrawn, a condition exacerbated during his teens by an extreme case of acne. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, Bukowski attended Los Angeles City College for two years, taking courses in art, journalism, and literature, before quitting at the start of World War II. He then moved to New York to begin a career as a vagrant blue-collar worker with dreams of becoming a writer. Failing to break into the literary world, Bukowski grew disillusioned with the publication process and quit writing for almost a decade, a time that he referred to as a "ten-year drunk". The result of that period was near-fatal bleeding ulcer, a condition that made him spend some time in hospital in 1955. After leaving the hospital he began to write poetry. In 1955 he agreed to marry small-town Texas poet Barbara Frye, sight unseen, but they divorced in 1958. She later died under mysterious circumstances in India. Following his divorce, Bukowski resumed drinking and continued writing poetry. In the early 1950s, Bukowski took a job as a fill-in letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service in Los Angeles but resigned just before he reached three years' service. By 1960, Bukowski had returned to the post office in Los Angeles where he began work as a letter filing clerk, a position he held for more than a decade. In 1962, he was traumatized by the death of Jane Cooney Baker, the object of his first serious romantic attachment. Bukowski turned his inner devastation into a series of poems and stories lamenting her death. In 1964 a daughter, Marina Louise Bukowski, was born to Bukowski and his live-in girlfriend Frances Smith. In 1969 Bukowski accepted an offer from Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin and quit his post office job to dedicate himself to full-time writing. He was then 49 years old. As he explained in a letter at the time, "I have one of two choices – stay in the post office and go crazy ... or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve." Less than one month after leaving the postal service he finished his first novel, Post Office. As a measure of respect for Martin's financial support and faith in a relatively unknown writer, Bukowski published almost all of his subsequent major works - both prose and poetry with Black Sparrow Press. Bukowski embarked on a series of love affairs and one-night trysts. His various affairs and relationships provided material for his stories and poems. In 1976, Bukowski met Linda Lee Beighle, a health food restaurant owner and aspiring actress. They were eventually married in 1985. Beighle is referred to as "Sarah" in Bukowski's novels Women and Hollywood. Bukowski died of leukemia in San Pedro, aged 73, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp. The funeral rites, orchestrated by his widow, were conducted by Buddhist monks.
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.
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 and 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.
There's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out but I'm too tough for him, I say, stay in there, I'm not going to let anybody see you. There's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out but I pour whiskey on him and inhale cigarette smoke and the whores and the bartenders and the grocery clerks never know that he's in there. There's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out but I'm too tough for him, I say, stay down, do you want to mess me up? You want to screw up the works? You want to blow my book sales in Europe? There's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out but I'm too clever, I only let him out at night sometimes when everybody's asleep. I say, I know that you're there, so don't be sad. Then I put him back, but he's singing a little in there, I haven't quite let him die and we sleep together like that with our secret pact and it's nice enough to make a man weep, but I don't weep... Do you?
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.
Don't feel sorry for me. I am a competent, satisfied human being. Be sorry for the others who fidget complain, who constantly rearrange their lives like furniture. Juggling mates and attitudes their confusion is constant and it will touch whoever they deal with. Beware of them: One of their key words is "love." And beware those who only take instructions from their God, for they have failed completely to live their own lives. Don't feel sorry for me because I am alone for even at the most terrible moments humor is my companion. I am a dog walking backwards, I am a broken banjo, I am a telephone wire strung up in Toledo, Ohio, I am a man eating a meal this night in the month of September. Put your sympathy aside. They say water held up Christ: To come through you better be nearly as lucky.
The women of the past keep phoning. There was another yesterday arrived from out of state. She wanted to see me. I told her "no." I don't want to see them, I won't see them. It would be awkward gruesome and useless. I know some people who can watch the same movie more than once. Not me. Once I know the plot, once I know the ending whether it's happy or unhappy or just plain dumb, then for me that movie is finished forever and that's why I refuse to let any of my old movies play over and over again for years.
Drunk again at 3 a.m. at the end of my 2nd bottle of wine, I have typed from a dozen to 15 pages of poesy, an old man maddened for the flesh of young girls in this dwindling twilight, liver gone, kidneys going, pancrea pooped, top-floor blood pressure. While all the fear of the wasted years laughs between my toes no woman will live with me no Florence Nightingale to watch the Johnny Carson show with. If I have a stroke I will lay here for six days, my three cats hungrily ripping the flesh from my elbows, wrists, head. The radio playing classical music... I promised myself never to write old man poems but this one's funny, you see, excusable, because I've long gone past using myself and there's still more left here at 3 a.m. I am going to take this sheet from the typer, pour another glass and insert, make love to the fresh new whiteness. Maybe get lucky again first for me, later for you.
During my worst times on the park benches in the jails, or living with whores, I always had this certain contentment - I wouldn't call it happiness - it was more of an inner balance that settled for whatever was occurring and it helped in the factories and when relationships went wrong with the girls. It helped through the wars, and the hangovers, the back alley fights, the hospitals. To awaken in a cheap room in a strange city and pull up the shade - this was the craziest kind of contentment. And to walk across the floor to an old dresser with a cracked mirror - see myself, ugly, grinning at it all. What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.
I met a genius on the train today about 6 years old, he sat beside me and as the train ran down along the coast, we came to the ocean and then he looked at me and said: It's not pretty. It was the first time I'd realized that.
There are worse things than being alone, but it often takes decades to realize this, and most often when you do it's too late... And there's nothing worse than too late.
Little dark girl with kind eyes when it comes time to use the knife I won't flinch and I won't blame you, as I drive along the shore alone as the palms wave, the ugly heavy palms, as the living does not arrive as the dead do not leave, I won't blame you, instead I will remember the kisses our lips raw with love and how you gave me everything you had and how I offered you what was left of me, and I will remember your small room the feel of you the light in the window, your records, your books, our morning coffee, our noons our nights, our bodies spilled together sleeping, the tiny flowing currents immediate and forever, your leg, my leg, your arm, my arm, your smile and the warmth of you who made me laugh again. Little dark girl with kind eyes you have no knife. The knife is mine and I won't use it yet.
If it doesn't come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don't do it. Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don't do it. If you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don't do it. If you're doing it for money or fame, don't do it. If you're doing it because you want women in your bed, don't do it. If you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don't do it. If it's hard work just thinking about doing it, don't do it. If you're trying to write like somebody else, forget about it. If you have to wait for it to roar out of you, then wait patiently. If it never does roar out of you, do something else. If you first have to read it to your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your parents or to anybody at all, you're not ready. Don't be like so many writers, don't be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers. Don't be dull and boring and pretentious, don't be consumed with self - love. The libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over your kind. Don't add to that. Don't do it. Unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don't do it. Unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don't do it. When it is truly time, and if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. There is no other way. And there never was.
Too much too little or not enough. Too fat too thin or nobody. Laughter or tears or immaculate non-concern. Haters lovers. Armies running through streets of blood waving wine bottles bayoneting and fucking virgins. Or an old guy in a cheap room with a photograph of Marilyn Monroe. Many old guys in cheap rooms without any photographs at all. Many old women rubbing rosaries when they'd prefer to be rubbing cocks. There is a loneliness in this world so great that you can see it in the slow movements of the hands of a clock. There is a loneliness in this world so great that you can see it blinking in neon signs in Vegas, in Baltimore, in Munich... There are people so tired, so strafed, so mutilated by love or no love that buying a bargain can of tuna in a supermarket is their greatest moment, their greatest victory. We don't need new governments, new revolutions, we don't need new men, new women, we don't need new ways, wife-swaps, waterbeds, good Columbian coke, water pipes, dildoes, rubbers with corkscrew stems, watches that give you the date. People are not good to each other one on one. Marx be damned the sin is not the totality of certain systems. Christianity be damned the sin is not the killing of a God. People are just not good to each other. We are afraid, we think that hatred means strength, we think that New York City is the greatest city in America. What we need is less brilliance, what we need is less instruction, what we need are less poets, what we need are less Bukowskies, what we need are less Billy Grahams. What we need is more beer, a typist, more finches, more green-eyed whores who don't eat your heart like a vitamin pill. We don't think about the terror of one person aching in one place alone untouched, unspoken to, watering a plant, being without a telephone that will never ring because there isn't one. More haters than lovers slices of doom like taffeta. People are not good to each other. People are not good to each other. People are not good to each other. And the beads swing, and the clouds cloud, and the dogs piss upon the roses, and the killer beheads the child like taking a bite out of an ice cream cone, and the ocean comes in and out in and out under the direction of a senseless moon. And people are not good to each other. Rich are not good to the poor. We are afraid. Our educational system tells us that we can all be big-ass winners. It hasn't told us about the gutters or the suicides. Or the terror of one person aching in one place alone untouched, unspoken to watering a plant. People are not good to each other. People are not good to each other. People are not good to each other. I suppose they never will be. I don't ask them to be. But sometimes I think about it. The beads will swing, the clouds will cloud, and the killer will behead the child like taking a bite out of an ice cream cone. Too much too little. Too fat too thin or nobody. More haters than lovers. People are not good to each other. Perhaps if they were our deaths would not be so sad. Meanwhile I look at young girls stems flowers of chance. There must be a way. Surely there must be a way that we have not yet though of. Who put this brain inside of me? It cries it demands it says that there is a chance. It will not say "no."
Some say we should keep personal remorse from the poem, stay abstract, and there is some reason in this, but Jesus; Twelve poems gone and I don't keep carbons and you have my paintings too, my best ones; Its stifling: Are you trying to crush me out like the rest of them? Why didn't you take my money? They usually do from the sleeping drunken pants sick in the corner. Next time take my left arm or a fifty, but not my poems: I'm not Shakespeare but sometime simply there won't be any more, abstract or otherwise; There'll always be money, and whores, and drunkards down to the last bomb, but as God said crossing his legs, I see where I have made plenty of poets but not so very much poetry.