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.”]