Hiya, just to let you know, my new blog is teacupfullofwhisky.wordpress.com. It’s been a pleasure sharing these past few months with everyone. Stay creative! <3 Terri
In 1969, the year before Bukowski’s fiftieth birthday, he caught the attention of Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin, who offered Buk a monthly stipend of $100 to quit his day job and dedicate himself fully to writing. (It was by no means a novel idea — the King of Poland had done essentially the same for the great astronomer Johannes Hevelius five centuries earlier.) Bukowski gladly complied. Less than two years later, Black Sparrow Press published his first novel, appropriately titled Post Office.
August 12, 1986
Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s overtime and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.
You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”
And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.
As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?
Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”
They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.
Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:
“I put in 35 years…”
“It ain’t right…”
“I don’t know what to do…”
They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?
I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.
I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”
One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.
So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.
To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.
This is perfection. Sitting and reading. Me with my Rilke. You and your Joyce. Coffee steaming from our mugs. Cream pirouetting like butterflies And at the same moment, our eyes meet above the pages. I can see your smile even … Continue reading
Ah! I see you now!
behind your screen,
speaking to no one,
throwing fond glances at the cat
and sipping tea,
Maybe it’s this super moon that revealed to me the shadows
you lurk in
and illuminated your behavior
so coveted, so magical,
so tremendously marvelous to me,
I read and read the books you write
the different ways you arrange the 26 letters
to make sense for me
your world in there
your home, your brain, your heart.
where I can only go
through your message
I scour the biographies
to live like you and yours
to dine like Fisher
to hunt like Hemingway
to love like Nin
to curse like Parker
to travel like Kerouac
to protest like Ginsberg and Hughes
to celebrate femininity and desire for life like Angelou
and seek like Hesse.
but I know the truth now
(I think it was Bukowski who left the door ajar
just enough so that I could peer in).
It is all those heroes,
that ache to be told,
burn to be written
like fire in my fingers and
I hold my breath
until the last sentence ends
and the period drops
from the cursor.
I know the truth now,
you all seemed larger than life
and behind the curtain,
(or screen as may be),
the great Oz
yet stronger than most
a little depressed, probably
eternally optimistic and romantic
maybe a touch alcoholic
yet feeling much deeper than others–
which gets drowned out
or Jesus the savior,
feelings which haunt us
like ghosts in our ears
and mice driving racecars furiously around our brains
until the next piece is ready
to be born
from our fingers,
out of our slightly to mostly crazy minds
which need the darkness
to balance out our rose-colored glasses
and make us feel,
so deeply feel,
and remind us that our mission as writers
is to hope that by the right combination
of those 26 letters,
we can share a moment of sameness,
a brief encounter of closeness,
partake in a instant of shared experience
with another beautiful creature,
our devoted/friendly/sympathetic/lucky reader
without having to venture out
into the world
where the cracks in our souls
might reveal the depths
of what we’ve seen, experienced,
who we really are.
So that’s it.
It wasn’t the great swooning moment I’d hoped it would be
There were no violins or tearful goodbyes
Just a smile hiding a broken heart
the kind where my soul
sinks like a moon at dawn
into the pit of my stomach
and my fingers tingle
with the reverberations of
brokenness at the lives
that were once
and were subsequently washed
in the cool ocean,
cooling the molten emotion,
And as in life
which is given birth daily in my imagination
among the memories
of movie musicals
and long, dramatic kisses,
two people collided
causing an explosion
I thought that explosion would give
rise to a calamitous
A light that would last forever.
But entropic as the universe is,
she began sorting out the chaos
that was once us
and moves us peacefully now
away from each other
into parallel systems.
Just floating slowly away.
just as the universe moves
her cold, dark hearts
until one day
the lava explodes
into the sky
and wandering meteors
If I were doing my Laundry I’d wash my dirty Iran
I’d throw in my United States, and pour on the Ivory Soap,
scrub up Africa, put all the birds and elephants back in
I’d wash the Amazon river and clean the oily Carib & Gulf of Mexico,
Rub that smog off the North Pole, wipe up all the pipelines in Alaska,
Rub a dub dub for Rocky Flats and Los Alamos, Flush that sparkly
Cesium out of Love Canal
Rinse down the Acid Rain over the Parthenon & Sphinx, Drain the Sludge
out of the Mediterranean basin & make it azure again,
Put some blueing back into the sky over the Rhine, bleach the little
Clouds so snow return white as snow,
Cleanse the Hudson Thames & Neckar, Drain the Suds out of Lake Erie
Then I’d throw big Asia in one giant Load & wash out the blood &
Dump the whole mess of Russia and China in the wringer, squeeze out
the tattletail Gray of U.S. Central American police state,
& put the planet in the drier & let it sit 20 minutes or an
Aeon till it came out clean
In this exquisite world
full of beautiful things
where gratitude for the gorgeous
sings in every image,
window, painting, lovesong,
and permeates the
dreams and desires of
all who enlist themselves
among the unworthy
And yet when I’ve scratched the surface
in my short years
on this earth,
the ones where I actually paid attention
and I can count on one hand,
I’ve seen the true beauty
that shines from
the most stunning people
isn’t their smiles
or cheery dispositions
but their willingness to
struggle with the pain that
eats them alive,
haunts them in all their deep places,
torments them at night
while the whole world is peaceful
and they’re told they should be too.
I’ve met so many humans
who are shaped by these experiences
instead of pretending
that life is all roses
and smiling when pain
trickles in all of their nooks and crannies,
a shadow sewn to the soul.
And maybe because
the hardships life has gifted me with
or those I’ve seen in others
have been constant companions
forcing life forward,
forging new paths
I never knew existed
or was too frightened to travel,
I hold hands with the anguish,
(not actually embracing it altogether)
But know, and love,
and digging within
with those excruciating questions
that don’t want to be answered
and hide when I seek them,
I can sit with the suffering
as have these beautiful people I know
who know that there can only
ever be light,
if there is darkness.
Take off the white gloves
and the bullshit pretentions
that force you to smile
even though you want to
scream and run around like a banshee
clawing at your ecru walls
that shine like desperation
and siphon out the soul
you traded for all this
I want to stare into those eyes,
when the contacts have been removed,
to see all the way
into the spirit of you
your pure desires
cowering in the corner,
afraid to be noticed
make a sound,
lest you have to turn a mirror
and look truly
at who you are
independent of the kids
irrespective of the spouse
free of the job
unaffiliated from all the mind-numbing pursuits
you’re told will make you happy
I want to reach past your ribs
and nestle in your heart
to know what glorious purpose burdens you
to what you choose to do with this one
to worship god or goddess
with all the talents and passion
that were bestowed upon you?
What makes you passionate?
What god exists in your world?
Do you think we all see the same color of sky?
If god doesn’t exist,
how are we to explain orgasms and John Coltrane?
What is to be done about peace in the middle east?
(I personally think we need to put mushrooms in the groundwater,
because you can’t help but love your neighbor after)
What is your art?
What do you yearn for?
How can I help you achieve it?
Do you feel the same nostalgia
about burritos and nuclear power plants
that I do? Why not?
What sounds make your toes curl
and the hair stand up
on the back of your neck?
for me, it’s the ocean
or my daughter crying
Why aren’t there such things as UFOs?
I hope we’re not the most intelligent
beings in the universe
What sounds or words break your heart?
Can it ever be fixed?
Did you remember it’s red, almost purple
and throbbing, contorting,
bursting, and teeming
to make you alive?
Not polite and beige,
smiling and calm,
The way we pretend
life is supposed to be
as we chit chat over lattes
about our children’s teachers
and birthday parties.