Let It Enfold You (Charles Bukowski)

Either peace or happiness,
let it enfold you

when I was a young man
I felt these things were
dumb, unsophisticated.
I had bad blood, a twisted
mind, a precarious
upbringing.

I was hard as granite, I
leered at the
sun.
I trusted no man and
especially no
woman.

I was living a hell in
small rooms, I broke
things, smashed things,
walked through glass,
cursed.
I challenged everything,
was continually being
evicted, jailed, in and
out of fights, in and out
of my mind.
women were something
to screw and rail
at, I had no male
friends,

I changed jobs and
cities, I hated holidays,
babies, history,
newspapers, museums,
grandmothers,
marriage, movies,
spiders, garbagemen,
english accents,spain,
france,italy,walnuts and
the color
orange.
algebra angred me,
opera sickened me,
charlie chaplin was a
fake
and flowers were for
pansies.

peace and happiness to me
were signs of
inferiority,
tenants of the weak
and
addled
mind.

but as I went on with
my alley fights,
my suicidal years,
my passage through
any number of
women-it gradually
began to occur to
me
that I wasn’t different

from the
others, I was the same,

they were all fulsome
with hatred,
glossed over with petty
grievances,
the men I fought in
alleys had hearts of stone.
everybody was nudging,
inching, cheating for
some insignificant
advantage,
the lie was the
weapon and the
plot was
empty,
darkness was the
dictator.

cautiously, I allowed
myself to feel good
at times.
I found moments of
peace in cheap
rooms
just staring at the
knobs of some
dresser
or listening to the
rain in the
dark.
the less I needed
the better I
felt.

maybe the other life had worn me
down.
I no longer found
glamour
in topping somebody
in conversation.
or in mounting the
body of some poor
drunken female
whose life had
slipped away into
sorrow.

I could never accept
life as it was,
i could never gobble
down all its
poisons
but there were parts,
tenuous magic parts
open for the
asking.

I re formulated
I don’t know when,
date, time, all
that
but the change
occurred.
something in me
relaxed, smoothed
out.
i no longer had to
prove that I was a
man,

I didn’t have to prove
anything.

I began to see things:
coffee cups lined up
behind a counter in a
cafe.
or a dog walking along
a sidewalk.
or the way the mouse
on my dresser top
stopped there
with its body,
its ears,
its nose,
it was fixed,
a bit of life
caught within itself
and its eyes looked
at me
and they were
beautiful.
then- it was
gone.

I began to feel good,
I began to feel good
in the worst situations
and there were plenty
of those.
like say, the boss
behind his desk,
he is going to have
to fire me.

I’ve missed too many
days.
he is dressed in a
suit, necktie, glasses,
he says, ‘I am going
to have to let you go’

‘it’s all right’ I tell
him.

He must do what he
must do, he has a
wife, a house, children,
expenses, most probably
a girlfriend.

I am sorry for him
he is caught.

I walk onto the blazing
sunshine.
the whole day is
mine
temporarily,
anyhow.

(the whole world is at the
throat of the world,
everybody feels angry,
short-changed, cheated,
everybody is despondent,
disillusioned)

I welcomed shots of
peace, tattered shards of
happiness.

I embraced that stuff
like the hottest number,
like high heels, breasts,
singing,the
works.

(don’t get me wrong,
there is such a thing as cockeyed optimism
that overlooks all
basic problems just for
the sake of
itself-
this is a shield and a
sickness.)

The knife got near my
throat again,
I almost turned on the
gas
again
but when the good
moments arrived
again
I didn’t fight them off
like an alley
adversary.
I let them take me,
I luxuriated in them,
I made them welcome
home.
I even looked into
the mirror
once having thought
myself to be
ugly,
I now liked what
I saw, almost
handsome, yes,
a bit ripped and
ragged,
scares, lumps,
odd turns,
but all in all,
not too bad,
almost handsome,
better at least than
some of those movie
star faces
like the cheeks of
a baby’s
butt.

and finally I discovered
real feelings of
others,
unheralded,
like lately,
like this morning,
as I was leaving,
for the track,
i saw my wife in bed,
just the
shape of
her head there
(not forgetting
centuries of the living
and the dead and
the dying,
the pyramids,
Mozart dead
but his music still
there in the
room, weeds growing,
the earth turning,
the tote board waiting for
me)
I saw the shape of my
wife’s head,
she so still,
I ached for her life,
just being there
under the
covers.

I kissed her in the
forehead,
got down the stairway,
got outside,
got into my marvelous
car,
fixed the seatbelt,
backed out the
drive.
feeling warm to
the fingertips,
down to my
foot on the gas
pedal,
I entered the world
once
more,
drove down the
hill
past the houses
full and empty
of
people,
I saw the mailman,
honked,
he waved
back
at me.

For The Foxes (Charles Bukowski)

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.

Don’t forget (Charles Bukowski)

There is always somebody or something
waiting for you,
something stronger, more intelligent,
more evil, more kind, more durable,
something bigger, something better,
something worse, something with
eyes like the tiger, jaws like the shark,
something crazier than crazy,
saner than sane,
there is always something or somebody
waiting for you
as you put on your shoes
or as you sleep
or as you empty a garbage can
or pet your cat
or brush your teeth
or celebrate a holiday
there is always somebody or something
waiting for you.

keep this fully in mind
so that when it happens
you will be as ready as possible.

meanwhile, a good day to
you
if you are still there.
I think that I am—
I just burnt my fingers on
this
cigarette.

Safe (Charles Bukowski)

The house next door makes me
sad.
both man and wife rise early and
go to work.
they arrive home in early evening.
they have a young boy and a girl.
by 9 p.m. all the lights in the house
are out.
the next morning both man and
wife rise early again and go to
work.
they return in early evening.
By 9 p.m. all the lights are
out.

the house next door makes me
sad.
the people are nice people, I
like them.

but I feel them drowning.
and I can’t save them.

they are surviving.
they are not
homeless.

but the price is
terrible.

sometimes during the day
I will look at the house
and the house will look at
me
and the house will
weep, yes, it does, I
feel it.

The Crunch (Charles Bukowski)

(Original Version)

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 winebottles
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.

Three Oranges (Charles Bukowski)

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
cheap.”
he meant sex.
listening to it
I always imagined three oranges
sitting there,
you know how orange they can
get,
so mightily orange.
maybe Prokofiev had meant
what my father
thought.
if so, I preferred it the
other way
the most horrible thing
I could think of
was part of me being
what ejaculated out of the
end of his
stupid penis.
I will never forgive him
for that,
his trick that I am stuck
with,
I find no nobility in
parenthood.
I say kill the Father
before he makes more
such as
I.

What Makes? (Charles Bukowski)

This is hard to explain, I mean who the man was,
anyhow, it was in a large structure and he sat in
a chair in uniform, red coat and all, his job was
to examine the hand-stamp of those who left the
structure and returned, there was a lamp you put
your hand under and the stamp appeared (god that
was work) anyhow, as I put my hand under the lamp
the man asked, “listen, what’s your name?”
“Hank,” I answered
“listen, Hank,” he asked, “what makes a man a
writer?”
“well,” I said, “it’s simple, it’s either you
get it down on paper or you jump off a
bridge.
writers are desperate people and when they stop
being desperate they stop being
writers.”
“are you desperate?”
“I don’t know…”
I walked on through and as I took the escalator up
I saw him sitting there, probably thinking that it was possibly
bullshit, he had wanted me to suggest some special
school, some special way, like some way to get out
of that red coat, it was not an enlightening job
like designing a bridge or batting cleanup for the
Dodgers but
he wasn’t desperate enough, the desperate don’t ask,
they do
and at the top of the escalator I pushed through the
glass doors and as I did, I thought, son of a bitch,
I should have asked him his name, and then I felt
bad for him and for myself but a few minutes later
I had forgotten all about him
and the other way around
and he watched more hand-stamps under the lamp
and I watched the toteboard and the horses and
the desperate people
desperate in all the wrong
ways, in-
deed.

What Can We Do? (Charles Bukowski)

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.

Two Kinds Of Hell (Charles Bukowski)

I sat in the same bar for 7 years, from 5 a.m.
(the day bartender let me in 2 hours early)
to 2 a.m.

sometimes I didn’t even remember going back
to my room

it were as if I were sitting on the barstool
forever

I had no money but the drinks kept
arriving
to them I wasn’t the bar clown
but the bar fool
but at times a fool will find a greater
fool to
admire him,
and,
it was a crowded
place

actually, I had a viewpoint: I was waiting for
something extraordinary to
happen

but as the years wasted on
nothing ever did unless I
caused it:

broken bar mirrors, a fight with a 7 foot
giant, a dalliance with a lesbian, many things
like the ability to call a spade a spade and to
settle arguments that I did not
begin and etc. and etc. and etc.

one day I just upped and left the
place

like that

and I began to drink alone and I found the company
quite all right

then, as if the gods were bored with my peace at
heart, knocks began upon my door: ladies
the gods had sent the ladies to the
fool

and the ladies arrived one at a time and when it ended with
one
the gods immediately–without allowing me any respite–sent
another

and each began as a flash of miracle–even the bed–and the
good ended up
bad

my fault, of course, yes, that’s what they told
me

but I remembered the 7 years in the bar, I hardly ever bedded
down with anybody

the gods just won’t let a man drink alone, they are jealous of
his simple strength and salvation, they will send the lady
knocking upon that door
I remember all those cheap hotels, it were as if the women
were one: the delicate little rap on the wood and then:
“oh, I heard you playing that music on your radio…we’re
neighbors, I’m down at 603 but I’ve never even seen you in
the hall…”

“come on in…”

and there go your balls and your sanctity, Men’s Liberation,
they say, is not needed
and then you remember the bar
when you walked up behind the 7 foot giant and knocked his
cowboy hat off his head, yelling:
“I’ll bet you sucked your mother’s nipples until you were
12 years old!”

somebody in the bar saying: “hey, sir, forget it, he’s a mental
case, he’s an asshole, he doesn’t know what he is
saying!”

“I know EXACTLY what I am saying and I’ll say it again:
I’ll bet you sucked…”

he won but you didn’t die, not at all the way you died when the
gods arranged to get all those ladies knocking and you went for
the first flash of miracle

the other fight was more fair: he was slow, stupid and even a
little bit frightened and it went well for quite a good while,
just like with the ladies those gods
sent

the difference being, I thought I had a chance with the
ladies

The New Place (Charles Bukowski)

I type at a window that faces the street
on ground level and
if I fall out
the worst that can happen is a dirty shirt
under a tiny banana tree.

as I type people go by
mostly women
and I sit in my shorts
(without top)
and going by they
can’t be sure I am not entirely
naked. so
I get these faces
which pretend they don’t see
anything
but I think they do:
they see me as I
sweat the poem like beating an
ugly hog to death
as the sun begins to fail over
Sunset Blvd.
over the motel sign
where hot sweaty people from
Arkansas and Iowa
pay too much to sleep while
dreaming of movie stars.
there is a religionist next door
and he plays his radio loud
and it seems to have
very good tubes
so I am getting the
message.
and there’s a white cat
chewed-up and neurotic
who calls 2 or 3 times a day
eats and leaves
but just looking at him
lifts the soul a little
like something on strings.
and the same young man from the nudist
magazine phones and we talk
and I get the idea
that we each hang up
mildly thinking each other
somewhat the fool.

now the woman calls me to dinner.
it’s good to have food.
when you’ve starved enough
food always remains a
miracle.
the rent is a little higher here
but so far I’ve been able to
pay it
and that’s a miracle too
like still maybe being sane
while thinking of guns and sidewalks
and old ladies in libraries.
there are still
small things to do
like rip this sheet from the typer
go in and eat
stay alive this way.
there are lots of curtains here
and now the woman has walked in
she’s rocking back and forth
in the rocker behind me
a bit angry
the food is getting cold and
I’ve got to go
she doesn’t understand that
I’ve got to finish this thing
but it’s just a poor little neighborhood
not much place for Art,
whatever that is, and
I hear sprinklers
there’s a shopping basket
a boy on roller skates.
I quit I quit

for the miracle of food and
maybe nobody ever angry
again, this place and
all the other places.

Relentless As The Tarantula (Charles Bukowski)

They’re not going to let you
sit at a front table
at some cafe in Europe
in the mid-afternoon sun.
if you do, somebody’s going to
drive by and
spray your guts with a
submachine gun.

they’re not going to let you
feel good
for very long
anywhere.
the forces aren’t going to
let you sit around
fucking-off and
relaxing.
you’ve got to go
their way.

the unhappy, the bitter and
the vengeful
need their
fix – which is
you or somebody
anybody
in agony, or
better yet
dead, dropped into some
hole.

as long as there are
humans about
there is never going to be
any peace
for any individual
upon this earth or
anywhere else
they might
escape to.

all you can do
is maybe grab
ten lucky minutes
here
or maybe an hour
there.

something
is working toward you
right now, and
I mean you
and nobody but
you.

Bluebird (Charles Bukowski)

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?

Air and Light and Time and Space (Charles Bukowski)

‘- you know, I’ve either had a family, a job, something
has always been in the
way
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have a place and
the time to
create.’
no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
or
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
welfare,
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your
body blown
away,
you’re going to create blind
crippled
demented,
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquakes, bombardment,
flood and fire.
baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses
for.

Pull A String, A Puppet Moves (Charles Bukowski)

each man must realize
that it can all disappear very
quickly:
the cat, the woman, the job,
the front tire,
the bed, the walls, the
room; all our necessities
including love,
rest on foundations of sand –
and any given cause,
no matter how unrelated:
the death of a boy in Hong Kong
or a blizzard in Omaha …
can serve as your undoing.
all your chinaware crashing to the
kitchen floor, your girl will enter
and you’ll be standing, drunk,
in the center of it and she’ll ask:
my god, what’s the matter?
and you’ll answer: I don’t know,
I don’t know …

Be Kind (Charles Bukowski)

we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
viewpoint
no matter how
out-dated
foolish or
obnoxious.

one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
with
kindliness,
especially if they are
aged.

but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
badly
because they have
lived
out of focus,
they have refused to
see.

not their fault?

whose fault?
mine?

I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their
fear.

age is no crime

but the shame
of a deliberately
wasted
life

among so many
deliberately
wasted
lives

is.