A Bukowski poem, on moving to LA

I don’t know too many writers — male mostly, I’ll admit — who didn’t go through their Bukowski phase. The question more tends to be whether, maybe how, they come out of it.

Charles Bukowski is, arguably, Los Angeles’ great poet. Ray Bradbury may have him beat as LA’s great writer, and any great number of great writers passed through here, perhaps doing a bit of work in Hollywood. But living, breathing, fighting in LA — that’s Bukowski.

His writing is raw, bare and stark. You can almost hear the clanking of the typewriter.

It’s writing that, for me at this point, doesn’t resonate so much. But yes, I went through the phase. I tend to take my poetry these days a bit more formalized and explicitly crafted. (Look through our old Wednesday poems to see what I mean.) The commonalities, if they ever were real, are largely gone, although the move to LA got me thinking again about his tales of race tracks and bars and alleys.

To learn a little more, here’s one site. And here’s a poem of his that feels relevant on an Ashtanga blog.

***

Bluebird

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?

***

Posted by Steve