HERE AND NOW
EVEN THE DISBELIEVER SEARCHES FOR BELIEF
there is no God
there is no God,
but do we not, in our search
for all knowledge and final truth
an approximation of God,
what is God
but the alpha and omega,
the perfect final
of all, including truth.
you search, the philosopher adds,
because you believe
that there is an end to all
your belief and your search for the truth
that is all truth
no different than that
of the Hindu holy man sitting
cross-legged on a mountain peak
contemplating his way
to the One at the center of the All,
or, the monk in his cell
flagellating his bloody back
because he thinks pain will clear the pathway
to the presence of God, or,
the Methodist minister who does good works
because he thinks God notices
those who do good
and seeks desperately that notice,
like yours, all of them a search for the God
of final things, like
the Greeks searched for God
through the creation of ideals,
gods like men,
men like gods, the ideal of creation
there is no God
except the one who exists
as the most basic craving of our humanity,
the one who urges our rational self
to disbelieve so as to protect
the truth of our
that essence which spirits away
to other realms when our rational self
Big Bend National Park, Chisos Mountains, Chisos Basin
The Texas Big Bend, as I recall it in this painting.
I WANT A DONUT
I said, I want
not a carrot stick
or a celery stalk
not a bowl of moose munch
no cold little
not even a
don't want it
I want a good ol'
glazed Dixie Cream
you gotta fight back
or the older you get
the less you get
Lost Jigger of gin
Many readers love him. About the same number hate him. I enjoy reading his dark, bleak, wrong side of life poems because in them, you always know his hero will, like the Dude., abide.
What I most admire about him as a creative artist is that he created a persona he maintained consistently in both his poetry and his fiction, breaking his cover, but only a little, near the end when he know his end was coming.
Who was Bukowski, really, beneath the persona he created? Maybe his ex-wives knew.
Here are two of his poems, the first as philosopical as I've ever read him, and the second back to his familiar turf.
Both of these are from his collection Open All Night, published by Harper Collins, in 2003. Like so many of his collections, it was published after his death.
THIS IS A FACT
in the company of fools
we relax upon
enjoy bad food, cheap drinks,
mingle with the men and
in the company of fools
we throw days away like
in this company
our music is loud and our
we have nothing to lose
but our selves.
we are now
THERE'S ONE IN EVERY BAR
the pathetic squirrel drinks Johnny Walker Red
at Stinky's Bar & Grill,
in love with the cocktail waitaares
he watches her body
he dreams of her on his sofa
crossing her legs and giggling
he dreams of her drunk in his bedroom
he dreams of victory
he leaves her very large tips
he says very little to her.
the pathetic squirrel dislikes
how crude and obvious the other
and he's delighted when
she laughes at them
and says things like
"back off, Marty!"
the pathetic squirrel loves the large bow
on the back of her short dresss.
he leaves each night
knowing he will be sick on the job
the next day.
the pathetic squirrel is in love with the
but ask her about him
and she'll confide:
"he makes me sick! he's a complete asshole!"
an she'll be right.
but he still has his dream
and that might be enough in itself
because he doesn't realize that
she'a a complete asshole
I did not intend to do a third Bukowsky here, but when putting the book back in the shelf, it opened to this piece, Self-appraisal, such a rarity for this poet. But, of course, not as himself, even as he recognizes the end of his life is approaching, but as the persona the created, his alter ego through out all his poems, Chinaski, who will live far beyond his time, in books published long after his death. Chinaski, not him, but in his mind, I think, more than him.
parodies himself, romanticizes himself.
he's in a small room again,
always in a small room, closing the door,
closing out the world.
in his 70s he's still trying to over-
come his brutal childhood
and he's never had a real understanding
his writing is uneven
and even at its best there is a feeling
of nothing new.
he has been imitated by hordes
who find his simple style
he now has a home, a swimming
pool, a spa, a fine car
and a wife who feeds him
he is a recluse
and if you apparoach him at the
there is a chance you will be
ignored or insulted.
his only visitors appear to be
film directors and
upon his death
perhaps a small place will be
made for him
in world literature
where he will sulk in the
shadow of Celine, Hemingway, Jeffers
and Henry Miller.
God rest his alcoholic
and now let us go on to
Now, A couple of images from the central Texas hills. One, a picture from the road of the legendary longhorn, and the other, from the campus of Texas State University.
(a found poem: NewYork Times, Front Page, Januayr 14, 2009)
PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW
on a motorbike
an ordinary question
"Are you going to school?"
then he pulled her burqa
from her head
and sprayed her face
with burning acid
and bravely back in school,
"They want us to be stupid things."
in all his cruel and hideous
Another Practice Board
Another favorite poet, Polish winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literatrure, Weslawa Szymborska. The piece is from her book View With a Grain of Sand, publishedby Harcourt Brace in 1993. Translation was by Stanislaw Barqanczak and Clare Cavanagh.
UNDER ONE SMALL STAR
My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity if I'm mistaken, after all.
Please don't be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.
May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each
My apologies to past lovers for thinking that the latest is
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing my flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from
I apologize to those who wait in railroad stations for being
asleep today at five a.m.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for lauging from time to time.
Pardon me, deserts, that I don't rush to you bearing a
spoonful of water.
And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the
your gaze always fixed on the same point in space,
forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.
My apologies to the felled tree for the table's four legs.
My apologies to great questions for small answers.
Truth, please don't pay me much attentioin.
Dignity, please be magnanimours.
Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the
occasional thread from you train.
Soul, don't take offense that I've only got you now and then.
My apologies to everything that I can't be everywhere
My apologies to everyone that I can't be each woman and
I know I won't be justified as long as I live,
since I myself stand in my own way.
Don't bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,
then labor heavily so that athey might seem light.
what this poem means
and so do you
but it would be so great
if we could get
some rainy afternoon
in a coffeehouse
on a tree-lined boulevardin
in a quiet neighborhood
until you understood
what I wrote
and I knew what
Clown for hire
SCATTERED IN THE WIDE NIGHT SKY
in the wide night sky
are pinpoints of light
to worlds like
pining the universal spark
and on others
at its most simple
protected from the
and on a relatively few
creatures who strive
like you and me
like some people
a product of longing
in the lonely night
for a companion
of our best nature
Crackpots of the world unite
in a cowboy
from a quart
some kind of
and one hand
against his palm
like Bob Dole
in his clenched
like Bob Dole
that Bob Dole
a fine president
if he hadn't
and 143 years
what is it
and their dicks
like just another
all the time
or too married
for any man
to mess with
put your dicks
back in your
for christ's sake
supposed to be
on your dearly
who ought to be
across the head
three of four
you get it on
A funny story before the poem.
During the last years of my professional career, I had offices in about 15 cities in South Texas, including Del Rio. I visited each office at least once a quarter so that local staff could know me and know I was interested in what they were doing. eating breakfast every morning at a cafe next to my hotel, I noticed I was getting extaordinary service with every meal.
Kenny Rogers was filming a movie near the city at the time of one of my quartely visits. At the time, my hair and beard were considerably longer and grayer. I learned later that one of the staffr at the cafe had become certain and had convinced the rest of the staff that I was Kenny Rogers.
not the only time I was mistaken for rogers, none of the other times led to such excellent breakfasts.
Now the poem.
ON THE RIVER
and four sausage links -
five dollars, ninety-eight cents
in the very early morning
in Del Rio, Texas,
County Seat, Val Verde County,
on the river, 150 miles west of San Antonio
southeast of E Paso,
with a population of about 45,000,
largest collection of Texas bodies and souls
between the two, not counting Cuidad Acuna
on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande,
where the lights in Boy's Town
make cigarettes glow a sparkly,
and a slender, young whore
dances naked in a dim-lit courtyard
among scattered tables
with 16-year-old boys, college carousers,
oil-tattooed roughnecks, leather-faced cowboys
and fat businessmen belching beer
and three-dollar cigar smoke, watching
ever slow, sweat-oiled move,
every one of them, man and boy,
looking for something at a place
where they're sure to never
look, but don't touch
for touching costs more
than the price of a bottle of Mexican beer...
but not a lot more
Finishing with another practicve board.