I’ve always loved the fierce masculine candor of Bukowski. Loved his hilarious and profane stories. Even at his most revolting there is this underlying sense of fairness; an empathetic, drinks-on-the-house salute to the bums of the world. He is an insanely gifted poet. In turns a misogynist and hopeless romantic.
This poem is for all those who’ve read a little bit of Bukowski, thought they had him pegged and stopped reading too soon: they think he’s the ultimate he-man-woman-hater. But no he-man-woman-hater could have written this poem.
all I’ve ever known are whores, ex-prostitutes,
madwomen. I see men with quiet,
gentle women — I see them in the supermarkets,
I see them walking down the streets together,
I see them in their apartments: people at
peace, living together. I know that their
peace is only partial, but there is
peace, often hours and days of peace.
all I’ve ever known are pill freaks, alcoholics,
whores, ex-prostitutes, madwomen.
when one leaves
worse then her predecessor.
I see so many men with quiet clean girls in
girls with faces that are not wolverine or
“don’t ever bring a whore around,” I tell my
few friends, “I’ll fall in love with her.”
“you couldn’t stand a good woman, Bukowski.”
I need a good woman. I need a good woman
more than I need this typewriter, more than
I need my automobile, more than I need
Mozart; I need a good woman so badly that I
can taste her in the air, I can feel her
at my fingertips, I can see sidewalks built
for her feet to walk upon,
I can see pillows for her head,
I can feel my waiting laughter,
I can see her petting a cat,
I can see her sleeping,
I can see her slippers on the floor.
I know that she exists
but where is she upon this earth
as the whores keep finding me?
[Listen to an audio clip of Robert Hass reading “The Apple Trees at Olema.”]
3 responses to “One Poem at a Time -6-”
Yes! Exactly! His tenderness amidst the rest is what makes him great. I love this one, too, also from Love is a Dog From Hell:
“One for old snaggle-tooth”
I know a woman
who keeps buying puzzles
pieces that finally fit
into some order.
she works it out
she solves all her
lives down by the sea
puts sugar out for the ants
in a better world.
her hair is white
she seldom combs it
her teeth are snaggled
and she wears loose shapeless
coveralls over a body most
women would wish they had.
for many years she irritated me
with what I considered her
like soaking eggshells in water
(to feed the plants so that
they’d get calcium).
but finally when I think of her
and compare it to other lives
more dazzling, original
I realize that she has hurt fewer
people than anybody I know
(and by hurt I simply mean hurt).
she has had some terrible times,
times when maybe I should have
helped her more
for she is the mother of my only
and we were once great lovers,
but she has come through
like I said
she has hurt fewer people than
anybody I know,
and if you look at it like that,
she has created a better world.
she has won.
Frances, this poem is for
You rock, Lilly!!!!
And one of my most fav poets of all time!
Oh, Lilly, thank you for this.