Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bradley Mason Hamlin writes

Blues for Charles Bukowski
A blessing and a curse
the legacy of Charles Bukowski
a sanction for his grace with words
a curse his shadow ghost haunting us all
as the monster screams from Hell’s black fire
but you know as well I do
inside the beast
was a scared little boy
the fear and scars
carving themselves visible on his adult face
and this is one blue note for Charles Bukowski
as the little Bukowskis pray
angels all of them, spreading their winged song
as Hank lifts his pitchfork in a fuck you gesture,
smiling, knowing,
there is no peace waiting for you
only the next long green mile
so you better be tough
when you get there
or it’s going to be a hell of a journey
and this is the ghost of a Chet Baker melody
for Charles Bukowski
who said he wanted to be alone
while reaching out from typewritten soul
and we heard you
we heard you, kid
and that was your damnation
you received the love
you never knew you were capable of
you received the love you must have thought
you didn’t deserve
this is the 12-bar broken guitar
for Charles Bukowski
who was never published in The New Yorker
but better yet, grew up in L.A.
rollin dice on 5th street
bettin on horseshit in Hollywood
with no luck for humanity
and anyway you play it
you won’t win, can’t win, shouldn’t win
don’t try
for the big fat gold ring of eternity
here in this half cooked world
it’s what you leave behind that counts
and goddamnit,
you’re immortal ‘kowski
you of the unholy poetry
are something sacred
in the iconoclastic hands of the unlucky
whether you wanted to be or not
a drunken bear-hug
hanging onto the beating hearts
of the worst of us.

Image result for bukowski los angeles paintings


  1. Heinrich Karl Bukowski was born in Andernach during the Allied occupation of Germany after World War I but moved to the US when he was 3 and then to Los Angeles when he was 10. He claimed his father beat him with a razor strap 3 times a week from the ages of six to 11 years, and this experience helped him to understand undeserved pain. He graduated from Los Angeles High School and attended Los Angeles City College for 2 years, taking courses in art, journalism, and literature, before quitting at the start of World War II. His German birth was a problem since the US was at war against Nazi Germany, and he was arrested in Philadelphia in 1944 on suspicion of evading the draft. He was imprisoned for 17 days, and 16 days after that he failed the psychological examination that was part of his mandatory military entrance physical test, leading to his being classified as unfit for military service. The experience solidified the Americanization of his name to Charles Bukowski, and he created a recurring literary alter ego, Henry Chinaski. Eventually he returned to Los Angeles. “I was a young man, starving and drinking and trying to be a writer. I did most of my reading at the downtown L.A. Public Library, and nothing that I read related to me or to the streets or to the people about me. Then one day I pulled a book down and opened it, and there it was. I stood for a moment, reading. Then like a man who had found gold in the city dump, I carried the book to a table. The lines rolled easily across the page, there was a flow. Each line had its own energy and was followed by another like it. The very substance of each line gave the page a form, a feeling of something carved into it. And here, at last, was a man who was not afraid of emotion. The humour and the pain were intermixed with a superb simplicity. The beginning of that book was a wild and enormous miracle to me.” The book was "Ask the Dust," a forgotten 1939 book by forgotten writer John Fante, describing his immigrant experience: “I have vomited at their newspapers, read their literature, observed their customs, eaten their food, desired their women, gaped at their art. But I am poor, and my name ends with a soft vowel, and they hate me and my father, and my father’s father, and they would have my blood and put me down...." The novel helped Bukoski discover his own writing identity, and located it in the city where he lived most of his life. ("Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town." -- John Fante). In the 1960s and 1970s, as Bukowski developed his craft, he lived most of the time at De Longpre, an apartment he rented for $29 a month, in the Thai Town area of the city. At 50, he published his 1st novel, "Post Office" (1971). In 1992, in 1 of his last poems, he described his domicile at "5124 De Longpre Ave/ somewhere between/ alcoholism and/ madness.” After his death Black Sparrow Press continued to release new poetry collections every year or so, but (like Emily Dickinson before him) they have been comprehensively tampered with by his editors.

  2. You Don't Know What Love Is
    (an evening with Charles Bukowski)

    You don't know what love is Bukowski said
    I'm 51 years old look at me
    I'm in love with this young broad
    I got it bad but she's hung up too
    so it's all right man that's the way it should be
    I get in their blood and they can't get me out
    They try everything to get away from me
    but they all come back in the end
    They all came back to me except
    the one I planted
    I cried over that one
    but I cried easy in those days
    Don't let me get onto the hard stuff man
    I get mean then
    I could sit here and drink beer
    with you hippies all night
    I could drink ten quarts of this beer
    and nothing it's like water
    But let me get onto the hard stuff
    and I'll start throwing people out windows
    I'll throw anybody out the window
    I've done it

  3. But you don't know what love is
    You don't know because you've never
    been in love it's that simple
    I got this young broad see she's beautiful
    She calls me Bukowski
    Bukowski she says in this little voice
    and I say What
    But you don't know what love is
    I'm telling you what it is
    but you aren't listening
    There isn't one of you in this room
    would recognize love if it stepped up
    and buggered you in the ass
    I used to think poetry readings were a copout
    Look I'm 51 years old and I've been around
    I know they're a copout
    but I said to myself Bukowski
    starving is even more of a copout
    So there you are and nothing is like it should be
    That fellow what's his name Galway Kinnell
    I saw his picture in a magazine
    He has a handsome mug on him
    but he's a teacher
    Christ can you imagine
    But then you're teachers too
    here I am insulting you already
    No I haven't heard of him
    or him either
    They're all termites
    Maybe it's ego I don't read much anymore
    but these people who build
    reputations on five or six books

  4. Bukowski she says
    Why do you listen to classical music all day
    Can't you hear her saying that
    Bukowski why do you listen to classical music all day
    That surprises you doesn't it
    You wouldn't think a crude bastard like me
    could listen to classical music all day
    Brahms Rachmaninoff Bartok Telemann
    Shit I couldn't write up here
    Too quiet up here too many trees
    I like the city that's the place for me
    I put on my classical music each morning
    and sit down in front of my typewriter
    I light a cigar and I smoke it like this see
    and I say Bukowski you're a lucky man
    Bukowski you've gone through it all
    and you're a lucky man
    and the blue smoke drifts across the table
    and I look out the window onto Delongpre Avenue
    and I see people walking up and down the sidewalk
    and I puff on the cigar like this
    and then I lay the cigar in the ashtray like this and take a deep breath
    and I begin to write
    Bukowski this is the life I say
    it's good to be poor it's good to have hemorrhoids
    it's good to be in love
    But you don't know what it's like
    You don't know what it's like to be in love
    If you could see her you'd know what I mean
    She thought I'd come up here and get laid
    She just knew it
    She told me she knew it
    Shit I'm 51 years old and she's 25
    and we're in love and she's jealous
    Jesus it's beautiful
    she said she'd claw my eyes out if I came up here
    and got laid
    Now that's love for you
    What do any of you know about it
    Let me tell you something
    I've met men in jail who had more style
    than the people who hang around colleges
    and go to poetry readings
    They're bloodsuckers who come to see
    if the poet's socks are dirty
    or if he smells under the arms
    Believe me I won't disappoint em
    But I want you to remember this
    there's only one poet in this room tonight
    only one poet in this town tonight
    maybe only one real poet in this country tonight
    and that's me
    What do any of you know about life
    What do any of you know about anything
    Which of you here has been fired from a job
    or else has beaten up your broad
    or else has been beaten up by your broad
    I was fired from Sears and Roebuck five times
    They'd fire me then hire me back again
    I was a stockboy for them when I was 35
    and then got canned for stealing cookies
    I know what's it like I've been there
    I'm 51 years old now and I'm in love
    This little broad she says
    and I say What and she says
    I think you're full of shit
    and I say baby you understand me
    She's the only broad in the world
    man or woman
    I'd take that from
    But you don't know what love is
    They all came back to me in the end too
    every one of em came back
    except that one I told you about
    the one I planted We were together seven years
    We used to drink a lot
    I see a couple of typers in this room but
    I don't see any poets
    I'm not surprised
    You have to have been in love to write poetry
    and you don't know what it is to be in love
    that's your trouble
    Give me some of that stuff
    That's right no ice good
    That's good that's just fine
    So let's get this show on the road
    I know what I said but I'll have just one
    That tastes good
    Okay then let's go let's get this over with
    only afterwards don't anyone stand close
    to an open window

    --Raymond Carver


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