Charles Bukowski was an incredibly prolific author, quite prominent in the 70’s. He was an alcoholic with a painful childhood, like many of the great poets. When his was first starting out, an early publisher promised a monthly stipend of $100 “for life” and Bukowski quit his much-hated job as a postal worker. “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.” A month later he finished his first novel. What a great story.
This morning I read 10 of his poems, for pure pleasure. This is one of my favorites:
back to the machine gun
I awaken about noon and go out to get the mail
in my old torn bathrobe.
I’m hung over
hair down in my eyes
gingerly walking on the small sharp rocks
in my path
still afraid of pain behind my four-day beard.
the young housewife next door shakes a rug
out of her window and sees me:
god damn! it’s almost like being shot in the ass
with a .22
“hello,” I say
gathering up my Visa card bill, my Pennysaver coupons,
a Dept. of Water and Power past-due notice,
a letter from the mortgage people
plus a demand from the Weed Abatement Department
giving me 30 days to clean up my act.
I mince back again over the small sharp rocks
thinking, maybe I’d better write something tonight,
they all seem
to be closing in.
there’s only one way to handle those motherfuckers.
the night harness races will have to wait.