Friday, April 29, 2016

Two Poems by Charles Bukowski


of late
I’ve had this thought
that this country
has gone backwards
4 or 5 decades
and that all the social advancement
the good feeling of
person toward
has been washed

and replaced by the same

we have
more than ever
the selfish wants of power
the disregard for the
the old
the impoverished

we are replacing want with
salvation with
we have wasted the
we have become

we have our Bomb
it is our fear
our damnation
and our

something so sad
has hold of us
the breath
and we can’t even

school yards of forever

the schoolyard was a horror show: the bullies,
the freaks
the beatings up against the wire fence
our schoolmates watching
glad that they were not the victim;
we were beaten well and good
time after time
and afterwards were
taunted all the way home where often
more beatings awaited us.

in the schoolyard the bullies ruled well,
and in the restrooms and
at the water fountains they
owned and disowned us at will
but in our own way we held strong
never begged for mercy
we took it straight on
we were toughened by that horror
a horror that would later serve us in good stead
and then strangely
as we grew stronger and bolder
the bullies gradually began to back off.

grammar school
jr. high
high school
we grew up like odd neglected plants
gathering nourishment where we could
blossoming in time
and later when the bullies tried to befriend us
we turned them away.

then college
where under a new regime
the bullies melted almost entirely away
we became more and they became much less.

but there were new bullies now
the professors
who had to be taught the hard lessons we'd learned
we glowed madly
it was grand and easy
the coeds dismayed at our gamble
and our nerve
but we looked right through them
to the larger fight waiting out there.

then when we arrived out there
it was back up against the fence
new bullies once again
deeply entrenched by society
bosses and the like
who kept us in our place for decades to come
so we had to begin all over again
in the street
and in small rooms of madness
rooms that were always dim at noon
it lasted and lasted for years like that
but our former training enabled us to endure
and after what seemed like
an eternity
we finally found the tunnel at the end of the light.

it was a small enough victory
no songs of braggadocio because
we knew we had won very little from very little,
and that we had fought so hard to be free
just for the simple sweetness of it.

but even now we still can see the grade school janitor
with his broom
and sleeping face;
we can still see the little girls with their curls
their hair so carefully brushed and shining
in their freshly starched dresses;

see the faces of the teachers
fat folded forlorn;

hear the bell at recess;
see the grass and the baseball diamond;
see the volleyball court and its white net;
feel the sun always up and shining there
spilling down on us like the juice of a giant tangerine.

and we did not soon forget
Herbie Ashcroft
our principal tormentor
his fists as hard as rocks
as we crouched trapped against the steel fence
as we heard the sounds of automobiles passing but not stopping
and as the world went about doing what it does
we asked for no mercy
and we returned the next day and the next and the next
to our classes
the little girls looking so calm and secure
as they sat upright in their seats
in that room of blackboards and chalk
while we hung on grimly to our stubborn disdain
for all the horror and all the strife
and waited for something better
to come along and comfort us
in that never-to-be-forgotten
grammar school world.

Charles Bukowski published numerous books of poetry, among them are Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wail, Hearse Press, 1959; Longshot Poems for Broke Players, 7 Poets Press, 1961; Run with the Hunted, Midwest Poetry Chapbooks, 1962; It Catches My Heart in Its Hands: New and Selected Poems, 1955-1963, Loujon Press, 1963; Grip the Walls, Wormwood Review Press, 1964; Cold Dogs in the Courtyard, Literary Times, 1965; Crucifix in a Deathhand: New Poems, 1963-1965, Loujon Press, 1965; To Kiss the Worms Goodnight, Black Sparrow Press, 1966; The Curtains Are Waving, Black Sparrow Press, 1967; Poems Written before Jumping out of an 8-Story Window, Litmus, 1968; If We Take... , Black Sparrow Press, 1969; Fire Station, Capricorn Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1970; Mockingbird, Wish Me Luck, Black Sparrow Press, 1972; Love Poems to Marina, Black Sparrow Press, 1973; Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems, 1955-1973, Black Sparrow Press, 1974; Weather Report, Pomegranate Press, 1975; Scarlet, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Rosa, CA), 1976; Love Is a Dog from Hell: Poems, 1974-1977, Black Sparrow Press, 1977; Play the Piano Drunk like a Percussion Instrument until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit, Black Sparrow Press, 1979; Dangling in the Tournefortia, Black Sparrow Press, 1981, 2002; Sparks, Black Sparrow Press, 1983; The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems, 1946-1966, Black Sparrow Press, 1988; The Last Night of the Earth Poems, Black Sparrow Press, 1992; (posthumously): Bone Palace Ballet: New Poems, Black Sparrow Press, 1997; The Captain Is out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken over the Ship, Black Sparrow Press, 1998; What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk through the Fire, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Rosa, CA), 1999; Open All Night: New Poems, Black Sparrow Press, 2000; The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps, Ecco, 2002; Sifting Through the Madness for the Line, the Word, the Way, Ecco, 2004; Slouching Toward Nirvana, Ecco, 2005; Come On In! Ecco, 2006; The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems 1951-1993, Ecco, 2007; The Continual Condition, Ecco, 2009; Absence of the Hero, City Lights Publishers, 2010.

His poems have been published in such periodicals and newspapers as Poetry, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Newsweek, New York Times Book Review, Northwest Review, Spectator, Times Literary Supplement, Washington Post and many others (Poetry Foundation).

Charles Bukowski (august 16, 1920 – march 9, 1994)

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