One Poem at a Time -6-

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.


quiet clean girls in gingham dresses…

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
another arrives
worse then her predecessor.

I see so many men with quiet clean girls in
gingham dresses
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.”]


Filed under Poetry Month 2010

3 responses to “One Poem at a Time -6-

  1. Lucia

    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
    and believes
    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
    and beautiful
    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

  2. Julie von Zerneck

    You rock, Lilly!!!!

    And one of my most fav poets of all time!

  3. Oh, Lilly, thank you for this.

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