Tuesday, August 16, 2016

You? You.... a Poet?

Bukowski born 96 years ago today. The traditional Egoslavian Bukowski birthday post.


a 340 dollar horse and a 100 dollar whore

Charles Bukowski

don’t ever get the idea I am a poet; you can see me
at the racetrack any day half drunk
betting quarters, sidewheelers and straight thoroughs,
but let me tell you, there are some women there
who go where the money goes, and sometimes when you
look at these whores these onehundreddollar whores
you wonder sometimes if nature isn’t playing a joke
dealing out so much breast and ass and the way
it’s all hung together, you look and you look and
you look and you can’t believe it; there are ordinary women
and then there is something else that wants to make you
tear up paintings and break albums of Beethoven
across the back of the john; anyhow, the season
was dragging and the big boys were getting busted,
all the non-pros, the producers, the cameraman,
the pushers of Mary, the fur salesman, the owners
themselves, and Saint Louie was running this day:
a sidewheeler that broke when he got in close;
he ran with his head down and was mean and ugly
and 35 to 1, and I put a ten down on him.
the driver broke him wide
took him out by the fence where he’d be alone
even if he had to travel four times as far,
and that’s the way he went it
all the way by the outer fence
traveling two miles in one
and he won like he was mad as hell
and he wasn’t even tired,
and the biggest blonde of all
all ass and breast, hardly anything else
went to the payoff window with me.

that night I couldn’t destroy her
although the springs shot sparks
and they pounded on the walls.
later she sat there in her slip
drinking Old Grandad
and she said
what’s a guy like you doing
living in a dump like this?
and I said
I’m a poet

and she threw back her beautiful head and laughed.

you? you . . . a poet?

I guess you’re right, I said, I guess you’re right.

but still she looked good to me, she still looked good,
and all thanks to an ugly horse
who wrote this poem.


  1. Ferlinghetti and Bukowski, years ago, far away: The City Of Paris department store off Union Square in San Francisco was being remodeled into Neiman-Marcus; Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder threw a poetry reading to raise enough money to salvage the small Eiffel Tower replica (COP's logo) from the top of the old building. Sadly don't remember what Snyder read, but Ferlinghetti gave us his "In Fascist America".

    After, I overheard Ferlinghetti relating a Bukowski story to others, which went something like this: LF owned a two-unit building in North Beach, and in the early seventies offered one apartment to Bukowski if he wanted to come up from Southern California for an extended stay. CB did -- but whenever Ferlinghetti dropped by to say hello, CB wouldn't let him in (" 'I'm writin'!, he said "). After a few weeks, LF found CB had split, leaving the apartment door unlocked and bags of empties stacked in the kitchen.

    The building LF owned was on the north side of Francisco Street, between Grant and Stockton. I lived nearby in the Eighties and Nineties; LF and I passed each other, he wearing the grey Stetson fedora, walking up Stockton towards Columbus Avenue and I headed downhill, for the better part of decade before he began nodding hello to me as we passed.

  2. The sequel: For years after that COP reading, I'd do an imitation of LF (had the beat-cadence and his voice down pretty well) reading "In Fascist America". In context of a dinner or a party, it worked and got laughs.

    Many years later, a friend was taking classes in Italian language through Italy's cultural mission in San Francisco. LF was in the class. One assignment for the final was to translate, and read, a piece of poetry. He stood up and read "I Fascisti America".

    My friend, who had listened to my impersonation of LF for years, couldn't contain herself and barely made it out a door and into a bathroom before dissolving in laughs. She told the instructor it was something she ate. LF (fortunately) didn't notice.