as the poems go
as the poems go into the thousands you
realize that you’ve created very
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
and the worst,
far too much.
now, listen, when I die I don’t want any crying, just get the
disposal under way, I’ve had a full some life, and
if anybody has had an edge, I’ve
had it, I’ve lived 7 or 8 lives in one, enough for
we are all, finally, the same, so no speeches, please,
unless you want to say he played the horses and was very
good at that.
you’re next and I already know something you don’t,
naked along the side of the house,
8 a.m., spreading sesame seed oil
over my body, Jesus, have I come
I once battled in dark alleys for a
now I’m not laughing.
I splash myself with oil and wonder,
how many years do you want?
how many days?
my blood is soiled and a dark
angel sits in my brain.
things are made of something and
go to nothing.
I understand the fall of cities, of
a small plane passes overhead.
I look upward as if it made sense to
it’s true, the sky has rotted:
it won’t be long for any of
the American writer
I sit under the tv lights
and am interviewed again
I am asked questions
I give answers
I make no attempt to be
to be truthful
I feel bored
and I almost never feel
“do you?…” they ask.
“oh, yeah, well I…”
“and what do you think of…”
“I don’t think of it much. I
don’t think too much…”
somehow it ends.
that evening somebody tells me
I’m on the news
we turn the set on.
there I am. I look pissed.
I wave people off.
I am bored.
how marvelous to be me without
it looks on tv
as if I knew exactly what I
Poem For My 43rd Birthday
To end up alone
in a tomb of a room
just a lightbulb
and a potbelly,
and glad to have
…in the morning
they’re out there
and you turn over
to your left side
to get the sun
on your back
of your eyes.
here I am …
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
an old man
maddened for the flesh of young girls in this
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, be-
cause 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
pour another glass and
make love to the fresh new whiteness
maybe get lucky
first time my father overheard me listening to
this bit of music he asked me,
“what is it?”
“it’s called Love For Three Oranges,”
I informed him.
“boy,” he said, “that’s getting it
he meant sex.
listening to it
I always imagined three oranges
you know how orange they can
so mightily orange.
maybe Prokofiev had meant
what my father
if so, I preferred it the
the most horrible thing
I could think of
was part of me being
what ejaculated out of the
end of his
I will never forgive him
his trick that I am stuck
I find no nobility in
I say kill the Father
before he makes more
They are building a house
half a block down
and I sit up here
with the shades down
listening to the sounds,
the hammers pounding in nails,
thack thack thack thack,
and then I hear birds,
and thack thack thack,
and I go to bed,
I pull the covers to my throat;
they have been building this house
for a month, and soon it will have
its people…sleeping, eating,
loving, moving around,
it is not right,
there seems a madness,
men walk on top with nails
in their mouths
and I read about Castro and Cuba,
and at night I walk by
and the ribs of the house show
and inside I can see cats walking
the way cats walk,
and then a boy rides by on a bicycle
and still the house is not done
and in the morning the men
will be back
walking around on the house
with their hammers,
and it seems people should not build houses
it seems people should not get married
it seems people should stop working
and sit in small rooms
on 2nd floors
under electric lights without shades;
it seems there is a lot to forget
and a lot not to do,
and in drugstores, markets, bars,
the people are tired, they do not want
to move, and I stand there at night
and look through this house and the
house does not want to be built;
through its sides I can see the purple hills
and the first lights of evening,
and it is cold
and I button my coat
and I stand there looking through the house
and the cats stop and look at me
until I am embarrased
and move North up the sidewalk
where I will buy
cigarettes and beer
and return to my room.
she was a short one
getting fat and she had once been
she drank the wine
she drank the wine in bed and
talked and screamed and cursed at
and i told her
please, I need some
-sleep? sleep? ya son of a
bitch, ya never sleep, ya
don’t need any
I buried her one morning early
I carried her down the sides of the Hollywood Hills
brambles and rabbits and rocks
running in front of me
and by the time I’d dug the ditch
and stuck her in
and put the dirt back on
the sun was up and it was warm
and the flies were lazy and
I could hardly see anything out of my eyes
everything was so
warm and yellow.
I managed to drive home and I got into bed and I
slept for 5 days and 4
the final curtain on one of the longest running
musicals ever, some people claim to have
seen it over one hundred times.
I saw it on the tv news, that final curtain:
flowers, cheers, tears, a thunderous
I have not seen this particular musical
but I know if I had that I wouldn’t have
been able to bear it, it would have
trust me on this, the world and its
peoples and its artful entertainment has
done very little for me, only to me.
still, let them enjoy one another, it will
keep them from my door
and for this, my own thunderous
with one punch, at the age of 16 and 1/2,
I knocked out my father,
a cruel shiny bastard with bad breath,
and I didn’t go home for some time, only now and then
to try to get a dollar from
it was 1937 in Los Angeles and it was a hell of a
I ran with these older guys
but for them it was the same:
mostly breathing gasps of hard air
and robbing gas stations that didn’t have any
money, and a few lucky among us
worked part-time as Western Union messenger
we slept in rented rooms that weren’t rented
and we drank ale and wine
with the shades down
being quiet quiet
and then awakening the whole building
with a fistfight
breaking mirrors and chairs and lamps
and then running down the stairway
just before the police arrived
some of us soldiers of the future
running through the empty starving streets and alleys of
and all of us
getting together later
in Pete’s room
a small cube of space under a stairway, there we were,
packed in there
without anything to drink,
while the rich pawed away at their many
choices and the young girls let
the same girls who spit at our shadows as we
it was a hell of a
3 of us under that stairway
were killed in World War II.
another one is now manager of a mattress
me? I’m 30 years older,
the town is 4 or 5 times as big
but just as rotten
and the girls still spit on my
shadow, another war is building for another
reason, and I can hardly get a job now
for the same reason I couldn’t then:
I don’t know anything, I can’t do
sex? well, just the old ones knock on my door after
midnight. I can’t sleep and they see the lights and are
the old ones. their husbands no longer want them,
their children are gone, and if they show me enough good
leg (the legs go last)
I go to bed with
so the old women bring me love and I smoke their cigarettes
talk talk talk
and then we go to bed again and
I bring them love
and they feel good and
until the sun comes
up, then we
it’s a hell of a
a threat to my immortality
she undressed in front of me
keeping her pussy to the front
while I layed in bed with a bottle of
where’d you get that wart on
your ass? I asked.
that’s no wart, she said,
that’s a mole, a kind of
that thing scares me, I said,
I got out of bed and
walked into the other room and
sat on the rocker
she walked out. now, listen, you
old fart. you’ve got warts and scars and
all kinds of things all over
you. I do believe you’re the ugliest
I’ve ever seen.
forget that, I said, tell me some more
mole on your butt.
she walked into the other room
and got dressed and then ran past me
slammed the door
and to think,
she’d read all my books of
I just hoped she wouldn’t tell
I wasn’t pretty.
the goldfish sing all night with guitars,
and the whores go down with the stars,
the whores go down with the stars
I’m sorry, sir, we close at 4:30,
besides yr mother’s neck is dirty,
and the whores go down with the etc.,
the whrs. go dn. with the etc.
I’m sorry jack you can’t come back,
I’ve fallen in love with another sap,
3/4 Italian and 1/2 Jap,
and the whores go
the whores go
often it is the only
between you and
no woman’s love,
nothing can save
it keeps the walls
the hordes from
it blasts the
writing is the
god of all the
it knows no
it is the last
bumming with Jane
there wasn’t a stove
and we put cans of beans
in hot water in the sink
to heat them
and we read the Sunday papers
after digging them out of the
but somehow we managed
money for wine
and the money came off
out of hock shops
out of nowhere
and all that mattered
was the next
and we drank and sang
were in and out
we barricaded ourselves
and the other roomers
and the desk clerk
of the hotel
and it went on
and it was one of the
most wonderful times
cows in art class
it doesn’t always happen
and when it does
if he’s bad
there’s more chance
he’ll stay that way,
or if he’s good
he might hang
but a woman
the absence or
presence of sun
or good times.
a woman must be nursed
where a man can become
by being hated.
I am drinking tonight in Spangler’s Bar
and I remember the cows
I once painted in Art class
and they looked good
they looked better than anything
in here. I am drinking in Spangler’s Bar
wondering which to love and which
to hate, but the rules are gone:
I love and hate only
they stand outside me
like an orange dropped from the table
and rolling away; it’s what I’ve got to
kill myself or
which is the treason?
where’s the information
books…like broken glass:
I wouldn’t wipe my ass with ’em
yet, it’s getting
(we drink here and speak to
each other and
buy the cow with the biggest
buy the cow with the biggest
the bartender slides me a beer
it runs down the bar
like an Olympic sprinter
and the pair of pliers that is my hand
stops it, lifts it,
golden piss of dull temptation,
I drink and
the weather bad for cows
but my brush is ready
to stroke up
the green grass straw eye
sadness takes me all over
and I drink the beer straight down
order a shot
to give me the guts and the love to
waiting for death
like a cat
that will jump on the
I am so very sorry for
she will see this
shake it once, then
it’s not my death that
worries me, it’s my wife
left with this
I want to
let her know
that all the nights
even the useless
and the hard
I ever feared to
can now be
my first computer poem
have I gone the way of the deathly death?
will this machine finish me
where booze and women and poverty
is Whitman laughing at me from his grave?
does Creeley care?
is this properly spaced?
will Ginsberg howl?
get me lucky!
get me good!
get me going!
I am a virgin again.
a 70 year old virgin.
don’t fuck me, machine
talk to me, machine!
we can drink together.
we can have fun.
think of all the people who will hate me at this
we’ll add them to the others
and continue right
so this is the beginning
They found him walking along the freeway
all red in
he had taken a rusty tin can
and cut off his sexual
as if to say,-
see what you’ve done to
me? you might as well have the
and he put part of him
in one pocket and
part of him in
and that’s how they found him,
they gave him over to the
who tried to sew the parts
but the parts were
the way they
I think sometimes of all the good
turned over to the
monsters of the
maybe it was his protest against
a one man
that never squeezed in
between the concert reviews and the
God, or somebody,
I Met A Genius
I met a genius on the train
about 6 years old,
he sat beside me
and as the train
ran down along the coast
we came to the ocean
and we both looked out the window
at the ocean
and then he looked at me
“It’s not pretty.”
it was the first time I’d
footnote on the construction of the masses:
some people are young and nothing
some people are old and nothing
and some people are in between and
just in between.
and if the flies wore clothes on their
and all the buildings burned in
if heaven shook like a belly
and all the atom bombs began to
some people would be young and nothing
some people old and nothing
and the rest would be the same
the rest would be the same.
the few who are different
are eliminated quickly enough
by the police, by their mothers, their
brothers, others; by
all that’s left is what you
Back up to poetry
I take a walk
It seems lately I’ve been doing a lot of walking
And I’m alone
With only my thoughts to keep me company,
Walking down the road to another endless day
Of flipping eggs and beer battering perch
Or walking home to an empty apartment
Where I’ll flip through the channels
And watch reruns of TV shows I’ve seen 312 times before
Down the road twice a day
Cars pass me by
Faces stare at me
Wondering why I’m walking
“Where’s your car” the eyes ask
As they stare for the two seconds it takes to pass
And their thoughts turn back to work or kids or groceries
What they don’t take the time to think is,
Maybe, I like my walk.
I want to know who you think you are,
With your huge bank accounts and Mercedes car,
Tellin’ me stories from what you see,
Your life has no relevence to me.
You sit there bein’ waited on in your easy chair,
I’ve got news for you buddy, I don’t wish I was there.
You gave away what you care about
Your life, your love, so don’t scream and shout
I want to tell you I enjoy my life
Suprising as it may be, I enjoy my strife
Because, when you’re real and living
There’s an equal amount of taking and giving
I don’t see life through rose colored glasses
Like you and your friends with all your free passes
To the best clubs and the best dinners
In the end we’ll see who comes out as winner
So don’t look at me and shake your head
And wonder who’ll remember me after I’m dead
If I don’t care neither should you
Cause I don’t have anything I’d rather be doin’
Than workin’, thinkin’, writin’, and booin’
You who give up, sell out, and die
When you’re gone life will have passed you by
Real life comes with hardship and pain
It also comes with friendship, happiness, and gain
So sit there and think of all you’ve given up
And next time you see someone homeless, pretend you’re holdin’ that cup
So, wave goodbye to your useless life
Say goodbye to your kids, your dog, and your wife
Get out there, live life for what it’s worth
Before you’re pushin’ up daisies from under the earth.
THE BLACKBIRDS ARE ROUGH TODAY
lonely as a dry and used orchard
spread over the earth
for use and surrender.
shot down like an ex-pug selling
dailies on the corner.
taken by tears like
an aging chorus girl
who has gotten her last check.
a hanky is in order your lord your
the blackbirds are rough today
in an overnight
wine wine whine,
the blackbirds run around and
Spanish melodies and bones.
and everywhere is
the dream is as bad as
flapjacks and flat tires:
why do we go on
with our minds and
pockets full of
like a bad boy just out of
you who were a hero in some
you who teach children
you who drink with calmness
you who own large homes
and walk in gardens
you who have killed a man and own a
you tell me
why I am on fire like old dry
we might surely have some interesting
it will keep the mailman busy.
and the butterflies and ants and bridges and
the rocket-makers and dogs and garage mechanics
will still go on a
until we run out of stamps
don’t be ashamed of
anything; I guess God meant it all
the secret of my endurance
I still get letters in the mail, mostly from cracked-up
men in tiny rooms with factory jobs or no jobs who are
living with whores or no woman at all, no hope, just
booze and madness.
Most of their letters are on lined paper
written with an unsharpened pencil
or in ink
in tiny handwriting that slants to the
and the paper is often torn
usually halfway up the middle
and they say they like my stuff,
I’ve written from where it’s at, and
they recognize that. truly, I’ve given them a second
chance, some recognition of where they’re at.
it’s true, I was there, worse off than most
but I wonder if they realize where their letters
well, they are dropped into a box
behind a six-foot hedge with a long driveway leading
to a two car garage, rose garden, fruit trees,
animals, a beautiful woman, mortgage about half
paid after a year, a new car,
fireplace and a green rug two-inches thick
with a young boy to write my stuff now,
I keep him in a ten-foot cage with a
typewriter, feed him whiskey and raw whores,
belt him pretty good three or four times
I’m 59 years old now and the critics say
my stuff is getting better than ever.
to the whore who took my poems
some say we should keep personal remorse from the
stay abstract, and there is some reason in this,
twelve poems gone and I don’t keep carbons and you have
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 mony 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
Come here, nasty words, so many I can hardly
tell where you all came from.
That ugly slut thinks I’m a joke
and refuses to give us back
the poems, can you believe this shit?
Lets hunt her down , and demand them back!
Who is she, you ask? That one, who you see
strutting around, with ugly clown lips,
laughing like a pesky French poodle.
Surround her, ask for them again!
“Rotten slut, give my poems back!
Give ’em back, rotten slut, the poems!”
Doesn’t give a shit? Oh, crap. Whorehouse.
or if anything’s worse, you’re it.
But I’ve not had enough thinking about this.
If nothing else, lets make that
pinched bitch turn red-faced.
All together shout, once more, louder:
“Rotten slut, give my poems back!
Give ’em back, rotten slut, the poems!”
But nothing helps, nothing moves her.
A change in your methods is cool,
if you can get anything more done.
“Sweet thing, give my poems back!”
adeste hendecasyllabi. quot estis
omnes. undique quotquot estis omnes.
iocum me putat esse moecha turpis.
et negat mihi nostra reddituram
pugillaria si pati potestis.
persequamur eam. et reflagitemus.
quae sit quaeritis. illa quam uidetis
turpe incedere mimice ac moleste
ridentem catuli ore Gallicani.
circumsistite eam. et reflagitate.
moecha putida. redde codicillos.
redde putida moecha codicillos.
non assis facis. o lutum. lupanar,
aut si perditius potest quid esse.
sed non est tamen hoc satis putandum
quod si non aliud potest ruborem
ferreo canis exprimamus ore.
conclamate iterum altiore uoce.
moecha putide. redde codicillos.
redde putida moecha moecha codicillos.
sed nil proficimus. nihil mouetur.
mutanda est ratio modusque uobis
siquid proficere amplius potestis.
pudica et proba. redde codicillos.
HEMINGWAY, DRUNK BEFORE NOON
she knew Hemingway in Cuba
and she took this photo of him one day
drunk before noon-
he was stretched on the floor
face puffed with drink
gut hanging out over his
belt, hardly looking
he heard the click of the camera,
lifted his head a bit from the
said, “Sister, don’t you ever publish that
I have the photo framed now
on the south wall
facing the door.
the lady gifted me this
now her book has just been
issued by Rusconi (Italy) and is
there are photos:
Hemingway with the lady and a
Hemingway feeding a
Mary Hemingway with the
Hemingway and Mary, Venezia, 31
Hemingway and the
Ettore Sottsass jr.
Hemingway, Venezia, marzo
from a man who was very good
with the word
the lady had kept
BEFORE GRANDPA DIED
he was so tired hunched forward
I’m beginning to understand why he was this
way because of having children because of
relatives & friends mortgages taxes heating
bills marriage wars bad food pesticides x-rays
debts alcohol cigarettes illnesses suicide broken
bones lawyers political rhetoric poverty
stupidity street gangs sit-coms car accidents
arrogant stupid baseball players making a
million dollars a year handguns heroin plastic
drift nets gay-bashing pens banks and credit
card companies trying to fuck you out of your
money fat-faced moronic plumbers ants
cockroaches misogynists earthquakes hornets
ethnic cleansing rats the post office autism lust
rudeness money-grubbing doctors greed
religious fanatics murder rape child abuse
miscarriages abortions the death penalty
cowards who beat their wives racism
christianity pollution broken promises
insincerity rabies bad breath cheap wine tumors
diarrhea nausea pharmaceutical companies
AIDS snow storms Arabs & Jews the Irish &
the English blacks & whites the Japs & the
Chinese nuclear bombs space travel sex & blah
blah-blah blah blah.
oh yes it’s easy to understand why Grandpa
was so tired so damned tired before he died.
THE OLDER I GET
the more it seems I’m
becoming my father, shaving
with a Remington Electric Razor,
using Old Spice, feeling
patriotic, drinking ice cold glasses
of milk, listening
to old Western tunes from the 40s
by the Sons of the Pioneers.
At least I’m not
as bad yet as my wife
who’s becoming her mother,
talking to herself all
the damn time and dribbling food
down the front of her blouse.
Upon The Mathematics Of The Breath And The Way
I was going to begin this with a little rundown on the female but
since the smoke on the local battlefront has cleared a bit I will
relent, but there are 50,000 men in this nation who must sleep on
their bellies for fear of loosing their parts to women with wild-
glazed eyes and knives. Brothers and sisters, I am 52 and there
is a trail of females behind me, enough for 5 men’s lives. Some
of the ladies have claimed that I have betrayed them for drink;
well, I’d like to see any man stick his pecker into a fifth of
whiskey. Of course, you can get your tongue in there but the
bottle doesn’t respond. Well, haha among the trumpets, let’s get
back to the word.
The word. I’m on the way to the track, opening day at Hollywood
Park, but I’ll tell you about the word. To get the word down
proper, that takes courage, seeing the form, living the life, and
getting it into the line. Hemingway takes his critical blows now
from people who can’t write. There are hundreds of thousands of
people who think they can write. They are the critics, the belly-
achers and the mockers. To point to a good writer and call him a
hunk of shit helps satisfy their loss as creators, and the better
a man gets the more he is envied and., in turn, hated. You ought
to hear them razz and demean Pincay and Shoemaker, two of the
greatest jocks ever to steer a horse. There’s a little man outside
our local tracks who sells newspapers and he says, “Get your paper,
get your info on Shoemaker the Faker.” Here he is calling a man
who has ridden more winners than any other jock alive (and he’s
still riding and riding well) and here’s this newspaper guy
selling papers for a dime and calling the Shoe a fraud. The Shoe
is a millionaire, not that that’s important, but he did get it
with his talent and he could buy this guy’s newspapers, all of
them, rest of this guy’s life and into a half dozen eternities.
Hemingway too, gets the sneers from the newspaper boys and girls
of writing. They didn’t like his exit. I thought his exit was quite
fine. He created his own mercy killing. And he created some writing.
Some of it depended too much on style but it was a style he broke-
through with; a style that ruined thousands of writers who attempted
to use any portion of it. Once a style is evolved it is thought of
as a simple thing, but style not only evolves through a method, it
evolves through feeling, it is like laying a brush to canvas in a
certain way and if you’re not living along the path of power and
flow, style vanishes. Hemingway’s style did tend to vanish toward
the end, progressively, but that’s because he let down his guard
and let people do things to him. But he gave us more than plenty.
There is a minor poet I know who came over the other night. He is a
learned man, and clever, he lets the ladies support him so you know
he’s good at something. He is a very powerful figure of a man
growing soft around the edges, looks quite literary and carries
these black notebooks around with him and he reads to you from them.
This boy told me the other night, “Bukowski, I can write like you
but you can’t write like me.” I didn’t answer him because he needs
his self-glory, but really, he only thinks he can write like me.
Genius could be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way,
or even to say a simple thing in a simpler way. Oh, by the way, if
you want to get one angle on a minor writer, it is one who throws a
party or gets one thrown for him when his book comes out.
Hemingway studied the bullfights for form and meaning and courage
and failure and the way. I go to boxing matches and attend horse
races for the same reason. There is a feeling at the wrists and the
shoulders and the temples. There is a manner of watching and
recording that grows into the line and the form and the act and the
fact and the flower, and the dog walking and the dirty panties
under the bed, and the sound of the typewriter as you’re sitting
there, that’s the big sound, the biggest sound in the world, when
you’re getting it down in your way, the right way, and no beautiful
woman counts before it and nothing that you could paint or sculpt
counts before it; it is the final art, this writing down of the
word, and the reason for valor is all there, it is the finest gamble
ever arranged and not many win.
Somebody asked me, “Bukowski, if you taught a course in writing what
would you ask them to do?” I answered, “I’d send them all to the
racetrack and force them to bet $5 on each race.” This ass thought I
was joking. The human race is very good at treachery and cheating
and modifying a position. What people who want to be writers need is
to be put in an area that they cannot manuever out of by weak and
dirty play. This is why groups of people at parties are so disgusting:
all their envy and smallness and trickery surfaces. If you want to
find out who your friends are you can do two things: invite them to a
party or go to jail. You will soon find that you don’t have any friends.
If you think I am wandering here, hold your tits or your balls or
hold somebody else’s. Everything fits here.
And since I must presume (I haven’t seen any of it) that I am
being honored and criticized in this issue I should say something
about the little magazines, although I might have said some of it
elsewhere? – at least over a row of beer bottles. Little magazines
are useless perpetuaters of useless talent. Back in the 20’s and
30’s there was not an abundance of littles. A little magazine was
an event, not a calamity. One could trace the names from the
littles and up through literary history; I mean, they began there
and they went up, they became. They became books, novels, things.
Now most little magazine people begin little and remain little.
There are always exceptions. For instance, I remember first reading
Truman Capote in a little named Decade, and I thought here is a man
with some briskness, style and fairly original energy. But basically,
like it or not, the large slick magazines print a much higher level
of work than the littles – and most especially in prose. Every jack-
ass in America pumps out countless and ineffectual poems. And a
large number of them are published in the littles.
Tra la la, another edition. Give us a grant, see what we are doing!
I receive countless little magazines through the mail, unsolicited,
un-asked for. I flip through them. Arid vast nothingness. I think
that the miracle of our times is that so many people can write down
so many words that mean absolutely nothing. Try it sometime. It’s
almost impossible to write down words that mean absolutely nothing,
but they can do it, and they do it continually and relentlessly. I
put out 3 issues of a little, Laugh Literary and Man the Humping
Guns. The material received was so totally inept that the other
editor and myself were forced to write most of the poems. He’d
write the first half of one poem, then I’d finish it. Then I’d go
the first half of another and he’d finish it. Then we’d sit around
and get to the names: “Let’s see, whatta we gonna call this
And with the discovery of the mimeo machine everybody became
an editor, all with great flair, very little expense and no results at
all. Ole was an early exception and I might grant you one or two
other exceptions if you corner me with the facts. As per the better
printed (non-mimeo) mags one must grant The Wormwood Review
(one-half hundred issues now) as the outstanding work of our time
in that area. Quietly and without weeping or ranting or bitching or
quitting or pausing, or without writing braggodoccio letters (as
most do) about being arrested for driving drunk on a bicycle in
Pacific Palisades or corn-holing one of the National Endowment for
the Arts editors in a Portland hotel room, Malone has simply gone
on and on and compiled an exact and lively talent, issue after
issue after issue. Malone lets his issues speak for themselves and
remains invisible. You won’t find him beating on your door one
night with a huge jug of cheap port wine saying, “Hey, I’m Marvin
Malone, I printed your poem Catshit in a Bird’s Nest in my last
issue. I think I’m gonna kick me some ass. Ya got anything for me
to fuck around here?”
A vast grinding lonely hearts club of no-talents, that’s what the
littles have evolved to, with the editors a worse breed than the
writers. If you are a writer seriously interested in creating an
art instead of a foolishness, then there are, at any moment, a few
littles to submit to, where the editing is professional instead of
personal. I haven’t read the mag that this piece is submitted to
but I would suggest, along with Wormwood, as decent arenas:
The New York Quarterly, Event, Second Aeon, Joe Dimaggio,
Second Coming, The Little Magazine and Hearse.
“You’re supposed to be a writer,” she says, “if you put all the
energy into writing that you put into the racetrack you’d be great.”
I think of something Wallace Stevens once said, “Success as the
result of industry is a peasant’s ideal.” Or if he didn’t say that
he said something close to that. The writing arrives when it wants
to. There is nothing you can do about it. You can’t squeeze more
writing out of the living than is there. Any attempt to do so
creates a panic in the soul, diffuses and jars the line. There are
stories that Hemingway would get up early in the morning and have
all his work done at noon, but though I never met him personally I
feel as if Hemingway were an alcoholic who wanted to get his work
out of the way so he could get drunk.
What I have seen evolve in the littles with most new and fresh
talent is an interesting first splash. I think, ah, here’s finally one.
Maybe we have something now. But the same mechanism begins
over and over again. The fresh new talent, having splashed, begins
to appear everywhere. He sleeps and bathes with the god damned
typewriter and it’s running all the time. His name is in every mimeo
from Maine to Mexico and the work grows weaker and weaker
and weaker and continues to appear. Somebody gets a book
out for him (or her) and then they are reading at your local
university. They read the 6 or 7 good early poems and all the bad
ones. They you have another little magazine “name”. But what has
happened is that instead of trying to create the poem they try for
as many little mag appearances in as many little magazines as pos-
sible. It becomes a contest of publication rather than creation. This
diffusion of talent usually occurs among writers in their twenties who
don’t have enough experience, who don’t have enough meat to pick
off the bone. You can’t write without living and writing all the time is
not living. Nor does drinking create a writer or brawling create a
writer, and although I’ve done plenty of both, it’s merely a fallacy
and a sick romanticism to assume that these actions will make a
better writer of one. Of course, there are times when you have to
fight and times when you have to drink, but these times are really
anti-creative and there’s nothing you can do about them.
Writing, finally, even becomes work especially if you are trying to
pay the rent and child support with it. But it is the finest work and
the only work, and it’s a work that boosts your ability to live and
your ability to live pays you back with your ability to create. One
feeds the other, it is all very magic. I quit a very dull job at the
age of 50 (twas said I had security for life, ah!) and I sat down in
front of the typewriter. There’s no better way. There are moments
of total flaming hell when you feel as if you’re going mad; there are
moments, days, weeks of no word, no sound, as if it had all vanished.
Then it arrives and you sit smoking, pounding, pounding, it roars and
roars. You can get up at noon, you can work until 3 a.m. Some people
will bother you. They will not understand what you are trying to do.
They will knock on your door and sit in a chair and eat up your hours
while giving you nothing. When too many nothing people arrive and
keep arriving you must be cruel to them for they are being cruel to you.
You must run their asses out on the street. There are some people who
pay their way, they bring their own energy and their own light but
most of the others are useless both to you and to themselves. It is
not being humane to tolerate the dead, it only increases their dead-
ness and they always leave plenty of it with you after they are gone.
And then, of course, there are the ladies. The ladies would rather go
to bed with a poet than anything, even a German police dog, though I
knew one lady who took very much delight in claiming she had fucked
one President Kennedy. I had no way of knowing. So, if you’re a good
poet, I’d suggest that you learn to be a good lover too, this is a creative
act in itself, being a good lover, so learn how. Learn how to do it very
well because if you’re a good poet you’re going to get many opportunities,
and though it’s not like being a rock star, it will come along, so don’t
waste it like rock stars waste it by going at it rote and half-assed.
Let the ladies know that you are really there. Then, of course, they will
keep buying your books.
And let this be enough advice for a little while. Oh yes, I won $180
opening day, dropped $80 yesterday, so today is the day that counts.
It’s ten minutes to eleven. First post 2 p.m. I must start lining up
my horse genes. There was a guy out there yesterday with a heart
machine attached to himself and he was sitting in a wheelchair. He
was making bets. Put him in a rest home and he’ll be dead overnight.
Saw another guy out there, blind. He must have had a better day
than I did yesterday. I’ve got to phone Quagliano and tell him I’ve
finished this article. Now there’s a very strange son of a bitch. I
don’t know how he makes it and he won’t tell me. I see him at the
boxing matches sitting there with a beer and looking very relaxed. I
wonder what he’s got going? He’s got me worried…
Bukowski – by Linda King
“Charles Bukowski? Never heard of him,” I said.
“He’s the best poet in L.A.”
I picked up a small poetry mag…Laugh Literary and Man
the Humping Guns…”In disgust with poetry Chicago, with
the dull, dumpling pattycake safe Creeley’s, Olsons, Dickeys,
Merwins, Nemerovs and Merediths…”
I started reading his poem, “The Grand Pricks of the Hob
Nailed Sun”…getting to the line…”God tongues out your
asshole” I asked, “Is this Bukowski guy homosexual?”
“I don’t know…” Just then a yelling and bellowing starts across
the street. Two guys are wrestling. “That’s Charles Bukowski
coming right now…maybe you can ask him.”
The younger guy comes in first and Peter says, “Hey, Neeli,
you’re Hank’s friend. This lady wants to know if he’s homo-
“I don’t suck his cock, ” Neeli answers.
And I’m thinking…these guys…”Be quiet out there,” a black
woman yells from inside, “The reading’s started.” My sister
and I duck behind the blanket into the dark poetry hole…The
Bridge. Bukowski, Neeli and Peter enter with beer and wine.
They get settled on a mattress. Bukowski eyes the legs of a
woman in a mini-skirt. He listens to about three poems, picks
up his beer and walks out.
A couple of weeks later, at the same place. I’m listening to the
flute, trying to be entertained, my nerves crawling for some
action. I finally whisper to Peter. “God, doesn’t anything ever
happen here? Where’s something exciting? Some action?” And
the flute went on calmly, quietly. Peter made a phone call…
“O.K., we’ll be right over.” and he turned to me. “I’m taking
you to Charles Bukowski’s.” I thought to myself…am I ready
for this? Peter drove like a madman, screeching his tires into a
liquor store for a six-pack.
“Look, Peter, why don’t I get my car and follow you?”
“O.K.’ and he squealed his tires back to The Bridge. “I’ll be
right out. Got to get the money.” He ran inside. Through the
window I could see him arguing with the black singer…his woman.
The door and windows of Bukowski’s court were overgrown
with bushes. Bukowski was old…too old. Fat…too fat…and
“I want to introduce you to…”
“Come on what’s your name?”
“That’s it. I just want people to know right away I’m Morona
…kind of dumb…so they will know what to expect. They can
never say I didn’t warn them.”
“O.K., Morona sit down.”
Bukowski didn’t say much. He looked at me like I didn’t have
eyes, ears or a soul. We said this and we said that and Bukowski
talked like he’d seen it all, heard it all, done it all. Peter was
laughing and lively and the conversation got around to poetry.
“So you write poetry,” Bukowski said. He and Peter gave
each other a look.
“Yes, I write. I was about to crawl up the walls in that place…
the flute going po. po. pooo. po., the poets read so quiet.
Doesn’t anyone scream in this city. I like to scream mine like
this…” I started a poem.
Peter jumped in front of me yelling, “No, no, not to Charles
Bukowski…not to Charles Bukowski.”
“Why not to Charles Bukowski? I don’t know him,” and I
jumped on the table acting out the madwoman in my poem.
Bukowski reached over and turned up the radio full blast
to drown me out and Peter grabbed me trying to put his
hand over my mouth at the same time screaming obscenitites.
I jumped off the table holding out above the roar.
“Let’s dance…let’s fuck…,” Peter yelled, pushing against me.
“Let’s do the thing…” The poem is finally over.
“It’s a goddamn rhymer…I knew it. Nobody rhymes anymore.”
“Just we morons. I still like nursery rhymes too.”
“That’s right. Your name is Morona. I see.”
The phone rings. It’s Peter’s girl friend. “I’ve got to go,” he
says, “but you’ve got to kiss me first.”
“Peter, come on, leave me alone.” I get up.
“Bukowski, let’s both fuck her.”
“I’m going.” I said.
“Oh no, you’re staying here . . . with Hank.” Peter hurls me
down on the couch into Bukowski’s arms and runs out slam-
ming the door behind him.
Everything gets very quiet. I look at him. He looks at me.
I know I’m not going to have anything to do with him. He
knows he’s not going to have anything to do with me. We
kiss a couple of times. I don’t let him really kiss…just a
touch. Hummm, a touch or two more.
“You’re a tease.”
“Yes, I’m a tease.”
He tries again. A kiss, but not a kiss.
“Little Bo-peep has to go now.”
Standing up our lips touch again…just a teaser. I slip out the
door feeling like I might have just barely escaped a lion’s cage.
I went to four books stores before I found one with Bukowski.
His books had a strange effect on me. I read them through my
company, hiding in the bathroom, all night, later staring at the
walls, wide awake. He made me laugh out loud, he made me
furious, disgusted, indignant, sad. I thought, what is this man;
Does he really think women are like that?…”Well, he’s a good
writer, but he doesn’t know shit about women.”
The next poem I wrote also rhymed (he wasn’t going to tell
me if I could rhyme or not). It was a long, bad poem with
some lines reading . .
come out of that hole, you old Troll
come and frolic
with the little liberated Billies
we’ll put some daisies in your hair
I sent him the poem and asked if I could sculpture his head.
It was nine at night when I knocked on his door to take pictures
for the sculpture. I thought we’d talked two or three hours,
before I decided I’d better go home. I walked outside. The sun
was coming up. It was morning. I couldn’t believe so many hours
had passed so fast. I was still sure I’d never get involved with
Charles Bukowski. He was twenty years older. I didn’t like his
negative attitude toward people. And, the drinking, no sane
woman would get involved with him. I went home and dreamed
he was lying on the side of a road dying. The supermarket was
over the hill. If he didn’t get over the embankment to the store
he’d die. Alone he’d die. I saw in the dream a big bridge and
construction just started that he and I were to build, but he
had to have food first.
When I told him the dream he said, “Maybe it’s because I
haven’t eaten for four or five days. I’ve been drinking.”
“You’d better get to the store.” I said.
Over the clay I fell in-love with his head…or my head. I teased
him, looking into his eyes, long looks, pretending I was only
looking with a sculptress’ eye. I knew I was getting him hot
and I’d say, professionally…
“Now, turn your head a little more to the left.”
Every new day he came for a sitting it was hotter and hotter
until finally he was reaching over the space between us,
backing me up against the stove, the refigerator for long
kisses, great Kisses. He was losing weight, on the breath
chasers, in new shirts. I kept having to take clay off the face
as the pounds disappeared. Every-day he’d go home and
write back a love letter, great long hot letters making me
forget he was too old for me, that my mother wouldn’t ap-
prove, that he drank.
And I found myself stating my terms, “I’ll never get mixed up
with a man again who doesn’t like to eat pussy..uh..huh…never
again. If a man doesn’t like it…he doesn’t like it. There’s no
way.” And one day when the kids were outside, the sculpture
still unfinished (it took months), he locked the doors and
carried me into the bedroom, kicking and screaming…”No
we can’t…” and proved to me he did like it. He sent me the
poem, “I have eaten your cunt like a peach,” which I read in
the middle of the night and turned on fire. I called him up
and masturbated listening to his voice on the phone and still
I said…”No, he’s too old for me. I can’t. It’s crazy.”
Godomighty, I loved his humor, the look in his eyes, his
sardonic comments and he kissed like…well, like great.
“Do you want to come to a party tonight?” he asked me.
“It’s a collating party.”
“A copulating party? I’d love to. No really, what did you
“Putting the magazine together, that’s collating.”
“Oh, sure. Who’s going to be there?”
“A bunch of half-assed poets,…myself.”
“Poets, look, I’m scared. I’m from the country. I don’t know
how to talk.”
“You don’t have to talk. Just be there.”
“Now if it was a copulating…”
“It will be you and me…after…..,”
my little girl ran in breaking up another long kiss. The steam
was blowing out of both of us like a pressure cooker and I
didn’t know if I wanted to be alone with him. All this time,
all these days and weeks of sculpturing I’d been protected by
my sister dropping in, my little girl, my son coming home from
school. This time we’d be alone…really alone.
That night I dreamed Bukowski showed me something he
didn’t show many people – his closet full of stuffed animals.
Toy bears, elephants, wolves that had never been touched.
I thought how sad no one had ever played with them. The
same night I dreamed that my handsome actor friend, whom
I’d also been thinking about, had cancer of his poetry, two
thirds of the paper was eaten away.
His bedroom was stacks of books, poems, newspapers,
old letters. The mattress was like a rocky road. I jumped
up from the bed screaming…”You came inside! Jesus
Christ, man, I told you I don’t take birth control…”
“Look, I haven’t been with a woman in four years. I was
too hot. It just happened. What do I do?”
“Do? You’re fifty years old…you’re supposed to know
things. Any eighteen year old would know what to do…by
jesus christ…you’d better decide on a name. I’m pregnant
for sure with that shot.”
“…the first time.”
“How about Clyde K. Bukowski?”
Later. “I guess the only thing that saved me was probably all
your sperm were pickled with alcohol.”
Bukowski was a mass of sensitivies, egotism, uncertainties,
confidence…humor, talent. The first month I was with him
the unknown enemy was coming out of the walls. He had a
knife taped behind the door. He jumped up five times a night
facing murderers. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t sleep…and
shadows spoke. Spirits stood around the bed watching us.
Death walked down the sidewalk every night.
One night we lay in bed having a conversation with the light.
It went on for yes, off for no. Each off and on was carefully
answered after the question. We both got spooked. We’d
lay in the mornings when the kids were gone and he’d say,
“Let’s just lay here until they come and get us.”
“O.K.” Days would pass fast…always too fast. When the
fights started we fought like tigers. God, did we ever fight.
Bukowski jumped up and ended everything, walked out and
we’d call each other all night, hanging up after having our say.
I accused him of picking fights to get drunk. And he’d call at
two, three, four, five with raving madman, drunk, poetic
speeches about women, souls, love and hate. Crazy beautiful
lines. What word power. I was impressed in the middle of
my worst rage.
In the middle of the night he’d return the sculptured head and
I’d find it on my doorstep in the morning. He’d come again
and leave a letter…”I hate you with all the hate there is in the
world.” We split forty…fifty times in a year. Each one final
for both of us. Each one the last. I was a tease and a flirt and
when he was drinking, I was the whore, looking for other
men, turning on for everyone, at the races, at the restaurant,
at the park.
“You and Jane are the whores of the century!”…better than
that…only Bukowski can say it like he says it with all the em-
phasis and words and lines. He’d slam down the reciever.
I’d lay on the bed boiling until I thought of an answer. Dial
his number…normandie 1…
“Bukowski, don’t hang up until you hear this…I just want
you to know there is one thing worse than a whore. It is a
bore…and you’re boring me.” Slam. I took my phone off
the hook so he couldn’t call back.
Hard on the nerves? Yes, but knowing I was never going
back to him. It was all over this time…made it not so bad.
It was drama. It was life. We’d make up with mad crazy
passionate lovemaking both of us knowing we couldn’t make
it together. Both saying, “Let’s enjoy this one last time…”
Laying by Bukowski on the bed I’d feel a heat or rays of
some kind coming from the center of him. It would move
into me and warm me in a way I’d never been warmed.
Sometimes it was so strong I’d put my hand over that area
and test it to make sure it was real. The same vibes would
enter my hand.
Bukowski is a person who changes. He listens to what you
say. He reacts to how you feel, immediately. From day to
day he comes back with a new approach, a different way
to get to me. He read my moods like an open book and
usually knew immediately what was passing through my
mind, even if he was at his place, I at mine. Countless times
he’d call and say, “What’s wrong?”…just as something was
wrong. He’d say, “What happened at three o’clock…some-
thing happened at three o’clock.” Usually he was right, an
old boyfriend had called or I’d gotten angry at something
he’d said yesterday.
His sensitivities were too raw and he’d dull them with alcohol.
His body didn’t like the drunks anymore than I did. I’d think
he was being unfair. Our two tempers would explode like
shooting geysers and we’d roar down our emotional roller
coaster with one more fight…one more split up. I to my
freedom, he to a woman who really cared or back to where
he had it all solved. I refused to be his nurse through his
hangovers. I’d jump in my car, go up the coast, go to Utah…
go anywhere, until the day I go mad enough to rent a U-haul
and move three states away….to really end it for the last
time…”the mad…ass, son of a bitch.”
After four months, three or four hundred dollars in phone calls,
a new woman for him, a one night stand for me, I’m back in
town to make a new start. How did he get back in my bed?
Marvelous, two weeks straight of love…two, three times a day.
We couldn’t get enough of each other. I felt like rolling all over
him…in every direction. Soak up those feelings.
It’s not because he’s a great poet. He is, I know that. It is all
that magic on the sheets, in the afternoon, in the morning…at
midnight, the real poetry. We’ve only split once this month.
big night on the town
drunk on the dark streets of some city,
it’s night, you’re lost, where’s your
you enter a bar to find yourself,
order scotch and water.
damned bar’s sloppy wet, it soaks
part of one of your shirt
It’s a clip joint-the scotch is weak.
you order a bottle of beer.
Madame Death walks up to you
wearing a dress.
she sits down, you buy her a
beer, she stinks of swamps, presses
a leg against you.
the bar tender sneers.
you’ve got him worried, he doesn’t
know if you’re a cop, a killer, a
madman or an
you ask for a vodka.
you pour the vodka into the top of
the beer bottle.
It’s one a.m. In a dead cow world.
you ask her how much for head,
drink everything down, it tastes
like machine oil.
you leave Madame Death there,
you leave the sneering bartender
you have remembered where
your room is.
the room with the full bottle of
wine on the dresser.
the room with the dance of the
Perfection in the Star Turd
where love died
a challenge to the dark
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…
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…
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
and the moon and the stars and the world
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 took my girlfriend to your last poetry reading,
yes, yes? I asked.
she’s young and pretty, she said.
and? I asked.
she hated your
then she stretched out on the couch
and pulled off her
I don’t have very good legs,
all right, I thought, I don’t have very good
poetry; she doesn’t have very good
the way the dead love
There we are like rats–
rats with no place to hide,
rats with rent to pay.
A COUPLE OF WINOS
I was in my 20’s and although I was drinking heavily and not eating, I was still strong. I mean, physically, and that’s some
luck for you when not much else is going right. My mind was in riot against my lot and life, and the only way I could calm it was
to drink and drink and drink. I was walking up the road, it was dusty and dirty and hot, and I believe the state was California,
but I’m no longer sure. It was desert land. I was walking along the road, my stockings hard and rotted and stinking, the nails
were coming up through the soles of my shoes and into my feet and I had to keep cardboard in my shoes–cardboard,
newspaper, anything that I could find. The nails worked through that, and you either got some more or you turned the stuff
around, or upsidedown, or reshaped it.
The truck stopped alongside of me. I ignored it and kept walking. The truck started up again and the guy rode along
“Kid,” the guy said, ” you want a job?”
“Who’ve I got to kill?’ I asked.
“Nobody,” said the guy, “come on, get in.”
I went around to the other side and when I got there the door was open. I stepped up on the running board, slid in,
pulled the door shut and leaned back in the leather seat. I was out of the sun.
“You wanna suck me,” said the guy, “you get five bucks.”
I put the right hand hard into his gut, got the left somewhere in between the ear and the neck, came back with the right to
the mouth and the truck ran off the road. I grabbed the wheel and steered it back. Then I cut the motor and braked. I climbed
out and continued to walk along the road. About five minutes later the truck was running along next to me again.
“Kid,” said the guy, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean you were a homo. I mean, though, you kind of half-look
like a homo. Is there anything wrong with being a homo?”
“I guess if you’re a homo there’s not.”
“Come on,” said the guy, “get in. I got a real honest job for you. You can make some money, get on your feet.”
I climbed in again. We drove off.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “you got a real tough face, but look at your hands. You got ladies’ hands.”
“Don’t worry about my hands,” I said.
“Well, it’s a tough job. Loadin’ ties. You ever loaded ties?
“It’s hard work.”
“I’ve done hard work all my life.”
“O.k.,” said the guy, “o.k.”
We drove along not talking, the truck rocking back and forth. There was nothing but dust, dust and desert. The guy
didn’t have much of a face, he didn’t have much of anything. But sometimes small people who stay in the same place for a long
time achieve minor prestige and power. He had the truck and he was hiring. Sometimes you have to go along with that.
We drove along and there was an old guy walking along the road. He must have been in his mid-forites. That’s old for