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Monthly Archives: November 2008

river1

Don’t you know the world is just God’s beach-ball?

Who are we to take ourselves so seriously?

Like the tiny pebble

who thinks the river won’t flow

without it.


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adult-anxious-man

I am a coiled spring, pressed all the way down, coils wrapped tight.

I am potential energy. I am almost. I am not here. I am nowhere.

Don’t try to find me. I am not even a molecule. I don’t obey your laws,

of physics, of science. I will outsmart you. I will outrun you.

I am not here.

Why this incessant need to grasp? And how can I explain how I feel?

If I could paint the picture, I would. It’s a look on my face, an absence,

a loss. I spend hours trying to find where I’ve gone, wrestling with it,

letting go, and letting go, and letting go.

But of what? What I hold onto is fake, fantasy, fabricated.

The sounds of the BART whisper through my apartment.

Somewhere, someone is headed where they intend to go.

The sounds are gone.

I’m still right here.

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Dinosauria, We

by Charles Bukowski

Born like this
Into this
As the chalk faces smile
As Mrs. Death laughs
As the elevators break
As political landscapes dissolve
As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
As the oily fish spit out their oily prey
As the sun is masked
We are
Born like this
Into this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this
Castrated
Debauched
Disinherited
Because of this
Fooled by this
Used by this
Pissed on by this
Made crazy and sick by this
Made violent
Made inhuman
By this
The heart is blackened
The fingers reach for the throat
The gun
The knife
The bomb
The fingers reach toward an unresponsive god
The fingers reach for the bottle
The pill
The powder
We are born into this sorrowful deadliness
We are born into a government 60 years in debt
That soon will be unable to even pay the interest on that debt
And the banks will burn
Money will be useless
There will be open and unpunished murder in the streets
It will be guns and roving mobs
Land will be useless
Food will become a diminishing return
Nuclear power will be taken over by the many
Explosions will continually shake the earth
Radiated robot men will stalk each other
The rich and the chosen will watch from space platforms
Dante’s Inferno will be made to look like a children’s playground
The sun will not be seen and it will always be night
Trees will die
All vegetation will die
Radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men
The sea will be poisoned
The lakes and rivers will vanish
Rain will be the new gold
The rotting bodies of men and animals will stink in the dark wind
The last few survivors will be overtaken by new and hideous diseases
And the space platforms will be destroyed by attrition
The petering out of supplies
The natural effect of general decay
And there will be the most beautiful silence never heard
Born out of that.
The sun still hidden there
Awaiting the next chapter.

I remember the first day I was introduced to Bukowski. It was a Friday, some years ago, and I was sitting at a desk with Jack Grapes. Jack was introduced to some of my writing at the UCLA Book Fair, and he became somewhat of a mentor to me. We would meet every Friday at his house in Beverly Hills to discuss and revise works I was in the middle of, or just sit and talk about authors we liked or disliked. He had just finished doing a review of Bukowski in a literary journal called ONTHEBUS. He pulled it out and I remember seeing a picture of Charles in that review.  There was something so intriguing to me about his face, marred with craters and scars. Jack tried to impress upon me the brilliance of this man, that he was the first in a long, long time to write true poetry. I read some of his stuff, and was, for the most part, unimpressed. Then the day came when my father informed me of a documentary, “Born Into This,” about Charles. It was only playing at a small independent theater in Beverly Hills and he took me on a weeknight to go see it. It was that night that I began to have a true respect and appreciation for Bukowski. I remember very clearly the exact scene when it happened. Bukowski, as a kid, had a terrible condition which lead to debilitating acne and awful and painful sores on his face. He was teased constantly at school, always made fun of, called “ugly,” hid from, ostracized, outcasted. On top of that, son of an angry German father, he was beaten on a nightly basis with whatever objects were handy at the time, while his mother watched and did nothing. Scarred from the beatings and scarred from his illness he walked around in isolation from the world and looking for a way, any way, out of his own skin. One day, on the bus, he was sitting in his seat as he usually did, and on walked a man. This man’s face was absolutely mangled. He must have had some sort of flesh eating disease. His eyes were mangled, his nose and mouth almost blended together into one piece, marks all over his cheeks, truly deformed. Everybody on the bus was scared of this man. Nobody would let him sit next to them. Charles sat there and stared at him in awe. The man walked past, to the back of the bus, and sat down. Charles, quietly, to himself, thought, “Wow…. What a beautiful, beautiful man.”

It was that very moment that I fell in love with his work; that very moment, his poems took on a whole different meaning. I understood him. I related to him. In a true poet’s fashion, he finds beauty in suffering. What an amazing moment. That was one of the most powerful scenes, most powerful moments I had ever witnessed. There were lifetimes beneath that walk to the back of the bus; a poem in itself. I remember taking my friends to see the movie, and telling them to watch for that scene, that when they see it, they’ll be blown away, as I was. But no, quite the contrary, they were confused, and wondered why I cared so much about that scene. It made me feel alone, being so viscerally affected by a moment that to others goes completely unnoticed. It seems to be quite common in my life actually; something I’ve gotten rather used to. I know what it feels like to walk on a bus as a kid and feel unwanted. I know what it feels like to hide and sit in the back, to know that your face is the topic of all thoughts in your immediate surroundings. And, conversely, I know what it feels like to be the one sitting there, to be Bukowski, and to find beauty in the strangest, most unlikely moments.

After that, all of his poems made sense to me. I went out and bought What Matters Most is How You Walk Through the Fire and Slouching Toward Nirvana and Love is a Dog From Hell and The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain. And Jack was right, he was so right. It is real poetry, a beautiful voice in a beast of a man. And it felt so good to understand him, but more importantly, to be understood. And I only wish I had the balls to write as much as he did, to live that life, to sit at a desk and create, to make art, to risk, to make oneself completely and utterly vulnerable to the viewer, to find my voice and use it. It takes strength. But was he strong? Is it really a courageous life that he led? A postal worker by day and blackout drinker/poet by night. Did he ever face who he truly was? Was he ever able to look in the mirror and see more than craters and scars? Who knows, and these are not questions for me to answer. Nonetheless, he was one of the only poets ever to become famous long before he died. He set records for submissions to literary journals. He pressed on despite rejection letter after rejection letter. He knew what he was. He was a poet. He was a writer. He never ran from that. He embraced it. He lived it. He taught himself how to love. He found beauty. And that’s more than many can say. And now, late at night, in the moments of myself, I get out of my bed, walk slowly to the bookshelf, grab a book of his, open to a poem, and think to myself, “Wow…. What a beautiful, beautiful man.”

Bluebird

By Charles Bukowski

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

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I try to sit down and write complicated classical prose or intricate spoken word performance pieces. I stare at the blank page and nothing comes out. I put on Bjork and listen to the poetry in her songs, and I’m reminded of how simple a poem is. “It’s not meant to be a strife. It’s not meant to be a struggle uphill,” she sings. And I wonder if she sits down on a nightly basis like I do and tries to write. Or maybe songs flow from her like they used to flow from me. I would write poems in the middle of English class in high school. But those poems came from such a negative place. I need to find that place that I can go to when I need to write, but I have to find it from the positive sources around me. And that’s hard. But I won’t accept that art is only yielded from pain, and I do have some proof otherwise.

My writing began and stemmed from a cold and dark place. But it’s warmer now. And when I try to lean into a poem or a prose piece I somehow struggle to draw from the sources around me. Do I need cold tiled floors, sharp metal objects and gowns and rubber gloves? But “it’s not meant to be a strife. It’s not meant to be a struggle uphill.” And I’m filled with gratitude. I will learn how to write a gratitude poem and a thank you poem and a poem letting go. I think that’s what it is. I think I’m just afraid to let go. I’m afraid to let my old self finally slip out of my fingers. I’m still trying to save him. I’m still wiping his tears and kissing his cheeks and trying to tell him it’s okay. I still try to assure him that it will be over soon, to just hold on a little while longer, to stop crying, to stop fighting, to stop cursing God. I’m afraid of the fact that it is too late to save him. And now I’m left with an empty canvas and a new paintbrush.

My father tells me that it’s the going, not the getting there, that’s good. It’s the going, not the getting there, that’s good. And for now I am going to trust him. And for now I can believe him. It’s the journey, he says, not the destination. It’s the path. So here I am, on the path, just taking steps, one at a time. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, doing my dance to celebrate making it through another year. And here I stand, 25 years old, starting all over, again and again. And I guess I have to be glad that I get to start over. But there’s that part of me still—and I wonder if it will ever go away—that desperately wants yesterday’s pain to return. There’s a boy in me screaming. And I am the man who must ignore him. I have to take his letters and throw them in the fire. I have to drown his screaming with beautiful choruses singing, “it’s not meant to be a strife, it’s not meant to be a struggle uphill.” I have to let go. And these journal entries are my way of sewing together a quilt strong enough to wrap myself in this moment. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. See me dance? Watch my feet now, light on my toes. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. Just like that. Just like that.