Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski , was a Los Angeles, California poet and novelist often mistakenly associated with Beat Generation writers because of alleged similarities of style and attitude. Bukowski's writing was heavily influenced by the geography and atmosphere of his home city of Los Angeles. He wrote more than fifty books and countless smaller pieces. He is often mentioned as an influence by contemporary authors and his style is frequently imitated.
Found 114 thoughts of Charles Bukowski

Oh Yes

there are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it's too late
and there's nothing worse
too late.

Charles Bukowski

8 Count

from my bed
I watch
3 birds
on a telephone
one flies
one is left,
it too
is gone.
my typewriter is
and I am
reduced to bird
just thought I'd
let you

Charles Bukowski


I sit here on the 2nd floor
hunched over in yellow
still pretending to be
a writer.
some damned gall,
at 71,
my brain cells eaten
away by
rows of books
behind me,
I scratch my thinning
and search for the
for decades now
I have infuriated the
the critics,
the university
they all will soon have
their time to
"terribly overrated..."
"an aberration..."
my hands sink into the
of my
it's the same old
that scraped me
off the streets and
park benches,
the same simple
I learned in those
cheap rooms,
I can't let
sitting here
on this 2nd floor
hunched over in yellow
still pretending to be
a writer.
the gods smile down,
the gods smile down,
the gods smile down.
Black Sparrow "New Year's Greeting" 1992

Charles Bukowski

Something For The Touts, The Nuns, The Grocery Clerks, And You . . .

we have everything and we have nothing
and some men do it in churches
and some men do it by tearing butterflies
in half
and some men do it in Palm Springs
laying it into butterblondes
with Cadillac souls
Cadillacs and butterflies
nothing and everything,
the face melting down to the last puff
in a cellar in Corpus Christi.
there's something for the touts, the nuns,
the grocery clerks and you . . .
something at 8 a.m., something in the library
something in the river,
everything and nothing.
in the slaughterhouse it comes running along
the ceiling on a hook, and you swing it --
and then you've got it, $200 worth of dead
meat, its bones against your bones
something and nothing.
it's always early enough to die and
it's always too late,
and the drill of blood in the basin white
it tells you nothing at all
and the gravediggers playing poker over
5 a.m. coffee, waiting for the grass
to dismiss the frost . . .
they tell you nothing at all.

we have everything and we have nothing --
days with glass edges and the impossible stink
of river moss -- worse than shit;
checkerboard days of moves and countermoves,
fagged interest, with as much sense in defeat as
in victory; slow days like mules
humping it slagged and sullen and sun-glazed
up a road where a madman sits waiting among
bluejays and wrens netted in and sucked a flakey
good days too of wine and shouting, fights
in alleys, fat legs of women striving around
your bowels buried in moans,
the signs in bullrings like diamonds hollering
Mother Capri, violets coming out of the ground
telling you to forget the dead armies and the loves
that robbed you.
days when children say funny and brilliant things
like savages trying to send you a message through
their bodies while their bodies are still
alive enough to transmit and feel and run up
and down without locks and paychecks and
ideals and possessions and beetle-like
days when you can cry all day long in
a green room with the door locked, days
when you can laugh at the breadman
because his legs are too long, days
of looking at hedges . . .

and nothing, and nothing, the days of
the bosses, yellow men
with bad breath and big feet, men
who look like frogs, hyenas, men who walk
as if melody had never been invented, men
who think it is intelligent to hire and fire and
profit, men with expensive wives they possess
like 60 acres of ground to be drilled
or shown-off or to be walled away from
the incompetent, men who'd kill you
because they're crazy and justify it because
it's the law, men who stand in front of
windows 30 feet wide and see nothing,
men with luxury yachts who can sail around
the world and yet never get out of their vest
pockets, men like snails, men like eels, men
like slugs, and not as good . . .
and nothing, getting your last paycheck
at a harbor, at a factory, at a hospital, at an
aircraft plant, at a penny arcade, at a
barbershop, at a job you didn't want
income tax, sickness, servility, broken
arms, broken heads -- all the stuffing
come out like an old pillow.

we have everything and we have nothing.
some do it well enough for a while and
then give way. fame gets them or disgust
or age or lack of proper diet or ink
across the eyes or children in college
or new cars or broken backs while skiing
in Switzerland or new politics or new wives
or just natural change and decay --
the man you knew yesterday hooking
for ten rounds or drinking for three days and
three nights by the Sawtooth mountains now
just something under a sheet or a cross
or a stone or under an easy delusion,
or packing a bible or a golf bag or a
briefcase: how they go, how they go! -- all
the ones you thought would never go.

days like this. like your day today.
maybe the rain on the window trying to
get through to you. what do you see today?
what is it? where are you? the best
days are sometimes the first, sometimes
the middle and even sometimes the last.
the vacant lots are not bad, churches in
Europe on postcards are not bad. people in
wax museums frozen into their best sterility
are not bad, horrible but not bad. the
cannon, think of the cannon, and toast for
breakfast the coffee hot enough you
know your tongue is still there, three
geraniums outside a window, trying to be
red and trying to be pink and trying to be
geraniums, no wonder sometimes the women
cry, no wonder the mules don't want
to go up the hill. are you in a hotel room
in Detroit looking for a cigarette? one more
good day. a little bit of it. and as
the nurses come out of the building after
their shift, having had enough, eight nurses
with different names and different places
to go -- walking across the lawn, some of them
want cocoa and a paper, some of them want a
hot bath, some of them want a man, some
of them are hardly thinking at all. enough
and not enough. arcs and pilgrims, oranges
gutters, ferns, antibodies, boxes of
tissue paper.

in the most decent sometimes sun
there is the softsmoke feeling from urns
and the canned sound of old battleplanes
and if you go inside and run your finger
along the window ledge you'll find
dirt, maybe even earth.
and if you look out the window
there will be the day, and as you
get older you'll keep looking
keep looking
sucking your tongue in a little
ah ah no no maybe

some do it naturally
some obscenely

Charles Bukowski

A Man

George was lying in his trailer, flat on his back, watching a small portable T.V. His
dinner dishes were undone, his breakfast dishes were undone, he needed a shave, and ash
from his rolled cigarettes dropped onto his undershirt. Some of the ash was still burning.
Sometimes the burning ash missed the undershirt and hit his skin, then he cursed, brushing
it away. There was a knock on the trailer door. He got slowly to his feet and answered the
door. It was Constance. She had a fifth of unopened whiskey in a bag.
"George, I left that son of a bitch, I couldn't stand that son of a bitch
"Sit down."
George opened the fifth, got two glasses, filled each a third with whiskey, two thirds
with water. He sat down on the bed with Constance. She took a cigarette out of her purse
and lit it. She was drunk and her hands trembled.
"I took his damn money too. I took his damn money and split while he was at work.
You don't know how I've suffered with that son of a bitch." "
Lemme have a smoke," said George. She handed it to him and as she leaned near,
George put his arm around her, pulled her over and kissed her.
"You son of a bitch," she said, "I missed you."
"I miss those good legs of yours , Connie. I've really missed those good
"You still like 'em?"
"I get hot just looking."
"I could never make it with a college guy," said Connie. "They're too
soft, they're milktoast. And he kept his house clean. George , it was like having a maid.
He did it all. The place was spotless. You could eat beef stew right off the crapper. He
was antisceptic, that's what he was."
"Drink up, you'll feel better."
"And he couldn't make love."
"You mean he couldn't get it up?"
"Oh he got it up, he got it up all the time. But he didn't know how to make a
woman happy, you know. He didn't know what to do. All that money, all that education, he
was useless."
"I wish I had a college education."
"You don't need one. You have everything you need, George."
"I'm just a flunkey. All the shit jobs."
"I said you have everything you need, George. You know how to make a woman
"Yes. And you know what else? His mother came around! His mother! Two or three
times a week. And she'd sit there looking at me, pretending to like me but all the time
she was treating me like I was a whore. Like I was a big bad whore stealing her son away
from her! Her precious Wallace! Christ! What a mess!" "He claimed he loved me.
And I'd say, 'Look at my pussy, Walter!' And he wouldn't look at my pussy. He said, 'I
don't want to look at that thing.' That thing! That's what he called it! You're not afraid
of my pussy, are you, George?"
"It's never bit me yet." "But you've bit it, you've nibbled it, haven't
you George?"
"I suppose I have."
"And you've licked it , sucked it?"
"I suppose so."
"You know damn well, George, what you've done."
"How much money did you get?"
"Six hundred dollars."
"I don't like people who rob other people, Connie."
"That's why you're a fucking dishwasher. You're honest. But he's such an ass,
George. And he can afford the money, and I've earned it... him and his mother and his
love, his mother-love, his clean l;ittle wash bowls and toilets and disposal bags and
breath chasers and after shave lotions and his little hard-ons and his precious
love-making. All for himself, you understand, all for himself! You know what a woman
wants, George."
"Thanks for the whiskey, Connie. Lemme have another cigarette."
George filled them up again. "I missed your legs, Connie. I've really missed those
legs. I like the way you wear those high heels. They drive me crazy. These modern women
don't know what they're missing. The high heel shapes the calf, the thigh, the ass; it
puts rythm into the walk. It really turns me on!"
"You talk like a poet, George. Sometimes you talk like that. You are one hell of a
"You know what I'd really like to do?"
"I'd like to whip you with my belt on the legs, the ass, the thighs. I'd like to
make you quiver and cry and then when you're quivering and crying I'd slam it into you
pure love."
"I don't want that, George. You've never talked like that to me before. You've
always done right with me."
"Pull your dress up higher."
"Pull your dress up higher, I want to see more of your legs."
"You like my legs, don't you, George?"
"Let the light shine on them!"
Constance hiked her dress.
"God christ shit," said George.
"You like my legs?"
"I love your legs!" Then george reached across the bed and slapped Constance
hard across the face. Her cigarette flipped out of her mouth.
"what'd you do that for?"
"You fucked Walter! You fucked Walter!"
"So what the hell?"
"So pull your dress up higher!"
"Do what I say!" George slapped again, harder. Constance hiked her skirt.
"Just up to the panties!" shouted George. "I don't quite want to see the
"Christ, george, what's gone wrong with you?"
"You fucked Walter!"
"George, I swear, you've gone crazy. I want to leave. Let me out of here,
"Don't move or I'll kill you!"
"You'd kill me?"
"I swear it!" George got up and poured himself a shot of straight whiskey,
drank it, and sat down next to Constance. He took the cigarette and held it against her
wrist. She screamed. HE held it there, firmly, then pulled it away.
"I'm a man , baby, understand that?"
"I know you're a man , George."
"Here, look at my muscles!" george sat up and flexed both of his arms.
"Beautiful, eh ,baby? Look at that muscle! Feel it! Feel it!"
Constance felt one of the arms, then the other.
"Yes, you have a beautiful body, George."
"I'm a man. I'm a dishwasher but I'm a man, a real man."
"I know it, George." "I'm not the milkshit you left."
"I know it."
"And I can sing, too. You ought to hear my voice."
Constance sat there. George began to sing. He sang "Old man River." Then he
sang "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen." He sang "The St. Louis
Blues." He sasng "God Bless America," stopping several times and laughing.
Then he sat down next to Constance. He said, "Connie, you have beautiful legs."
He asked for another cigarette. He smoked it, drank two more drinks, then put his head
down on Connie's legs, against the stockings, in her lap, and he said, "Connie, I
guess I'm no good, I guess I'm crazy, I'm sorry I hit you, I'm sorry I burned you with
that cigarette."
Constance sat there. She ran her fingers through George's hair, stroking him, soothing
him. Soon he was asleep. She waited a while longer. Then she lifted his head and placed it
on the pillow, lifted his legs and straightened them out on the bed. She stood up, walked
to the fifth, poured a jolt of good whiskey in to her glass, added a touch of water and
drank it sown. She walked to the trailer door, pulled it open, stepped out, closed it. She
walked through the backyard, opened the fence gate, walked up the alley under the one
o'clock moon. The sky was clear of clouds. The same skyful of clouds was up there. She got
out on the boulevard and walked east and reached the entrance of The Blue Mirror. She
walked in, and there was Walter sitting alone and drunk at the end of the bar. She walked
up and sat down next to him. "Missed me, baby?" she asked. Walter looked up. He
recognized her. He didn't answer. He looked at the bartender and the bartender walked
toward them They all knew eachother.

Charles Bukowski

The Worst And The Best

in the hospitals and jails
it's the worst
in madhouses
it's the worst
in penthouses
it's the worst
in skid row flophouses
it's the worst
at poetry readings
at rock concerts
at benefits for the disabled
it's the worst
at funerals
at weddings
it's the worst
at parades
at skating rinks
at sexual orgies
it's the worst
at midnight
at 3 a.m.
at 5:45 p.m.
it's the worst
falling through the sky
firing squads
that's the best
thinking of India
looking at popcorn stands
watching the bull get the matador
that's the best
boxed lightbulbs
an old dog scratching
peanuts in a celluloid bag
that's the best
spraying roaches
a clean pair of stockings
natural guts defeating natural talent
that's the best
in front of firing squads
throwing crusts to seagulls
slicing tomatoes
that's the best
rugs with cigarette burns
cracks in sidewalks
waitresses still sane
that's the best

my hands dead
my heart dead
adagio of rocks
the world ablaze
that's the best
for me.

Charles Bukowski

The House

They are building a house
half a block down
and I sit up here
with the shades down
listening to the sounds,
the hammers pounding in nails,
thack thack thack thack,
and then I hear birds,
and thack thack thack,
and I go to bed,
I pull the covers to my throat;
they have been building this house
for a month, and soon it will have
its people...sleeping, eating,
loving, moving around,
but somehow
it is not right,
there seems a madness,
men walk on top with nails
in their mouths
and I read about Castro and Cuba,
and at night I walk by
and the ribs of the house show
and inside I can see cats walking
the way cats walk,
and then a boy rides by on a bicycle
and still the house is not done
and in the morning the men
will be back
walking around on the house
with their hammers,
and it seems people should not build houses
it seems people should not get married
it seems people should stop working
and sit in small rooms
on 2nd floors
under electric lights without shades;
it seems there is a lot to forget
and a lot not to do,
and in drugstores, markets, bars,
the people are tired, they do not want
to move, and I stand there at night
and look through this house and the
house does not want to be built;
through its sides I can see the purple hills
and the first lights of evening,
and it is cold
and I button my coat
and I stand there looking through the house
and the cats stop and look at me
until I am embarrased
and move North up the sidewalk
where I will buy
cigarettes and beer
and return to my room.
from "All's Normal Here" - 1985

Charles Bukowski

Out Of The Arm Of One Love...

out of the arm of one love
and into the arms of another
I have been saved from dying on the cross
by a lady who smokes pot
writes songs and stories
and is much kinder than the last,
much much kinder,
and the sex is just as good or better.
it isn't pleasant to be put on the cross and left there,
it is much more pleasant to forget a love which didn't
as all love
doesn't work ...
it is much more pleasant to make love
along the shore in Del Mar
in room 42, and afterwards
sitting up in bed
drinking good wine, talking and touching
listening to the waves ...

I have died too many times
believing and waiting, waiting
in a room
staring at a cracked ceiling
wating for the phone, a letter, a knock, a sound ...
going wild inside
while she danced with strangers in nightclubs ...
out of the arms of one love
and into the arms of another
it's not pleasant to die on the cross,
it is much more pleasant to hear your name whispered in
the dark.

Charles Bukowski


she was hot, she was so hot
I didn't want anybody else to have her,
and if I didn't get home on time
she'd be gone, and I couldn't bear that-
I'd go mad. . .
it was foolish I know, childish,
but I was caught in it, I was caught.
I delivered all the mail
and then Henderson put me on the night pickup run
in an old army truck,
the damn thing began to heat halfway through the run
and the night went on
me thinking about my hot Miriam
and jumping in and out of the truck
filling mailsacks
the engine continuing to heat up
the temperature needle was at the top
like Miriam.
leaped in and out
3 more pickups and into the station
I'd be, my car
waiting to get me to Miriam who sat on my blue couch
with scotch on the rocks
crossing her legs and swinging her ankles
like she did,
2 more stops. . .
the truck stalled at a traffic light, it was hell
kicking it over
again. . .
I had to be home by 8,8 was the deadline for Miriam.
I made the last pickup and the truck stalled at a signal
1/2 block from the station. . .
it wouldn't start, it couldn't start. . .
I locked the doors, pulled the key and ran down to the
station. . .
I threw the keys down. . .signed out. . .
your goddamned truck is stalled at the signal,
I shouted,
Pico and Western. . .
. . .I ran down the hall,put the key into the door,
opened it. . .her drinking glass was there, and a note:

sun of a bitch:
I waited until 5 after ate
you don't love me
you sun of a bitch
somebody will love me
I been wateing all day


I poured a drink and let the water run into the tub
there were 5,000 bars in town
and I'd make 25 of them
looking for Miriam
her purple teddy bear held the note
as he leaned against a pillow
I gave the bear a drink, myself a drink
and got into the hot

Charles Bukowski

And The Moon And The Stars And The World

Long walks at night--
that's what good for the soul:
peeking into windows
watching tired housewives
trying to fight off
their beer-maddened husbands.

Charles Bukowski

Be Kind

we are always asked
to understand the other person's
no matter how
foolish or
one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
especially if they are
but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
because they have
out of focus,
they have refused to
not their fault?
whose fault?
I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their
age is no crime
but the shame
of a deliberately
among so many

Charles Bukowski


waiting for death
like a cat
that will jump on the

I am so very sorry for
my wife

she will see this
shake it once, then


Hank won't

it's not my death that
worries me, it's my wife
left with this
pile of

I want to
let her know
that all the nights
beside her

even the useless
were things
ever splendid

and the hard
I ever feared to
can now be

I love

Charles Bukowski

Cut While Shaving

It's never quite right, he said, the way people look,
the way the music sounds, the way the words are
It's never quite right, he said, all the things we are
taught, all the loves we chase, all the deaths we
die, all the lives we live,
they are never quite right,
they are hardly close to right,
these lives we live
one after the other,
piled there as history,
the waste of the species,
the crushing of the light and the way,
it's not quite right,
it's hardly right at all
he said.

don't I know it? I

I walked away from the mirror.
it was morning, it was afternoon, it was

nothing changed
it was locked in place.
something flashed, something broke, something

I walked down the stairway and
into it.

Charles Bukowski

Here I Am ...

drunk again at 3 a.m. at the end of my 2nd bottle
of wine, I have typed from a dozen to 15 pages of
an old man
maddened for the flesh of young girls in this
dwindling twilight
liver gone
kidneys going
pancrea pooped
top-floor blood pressure
while all the fear of the wasted years
laughs between my toes
no woman will live with me
no Florence Nightingale to watch the
Johnny Carson show with
if I have a stroke I will lay here for six
days, my three cats hungrily ripping the flesh
from my elbows, wrists, head
the radio playing classical music ...
I promised myself never to write old man poems
but this one's funny, you see, excusable, be-
cause I've long gone past using myself and there's
still more left
here at 3 a.m. I am going to take this sheet from
the typer
pour another glass and
make love to the fresh new whiteness
maybe get lucky
first for
for you.
from "All's Normal Here" - 1985

Charles Bukowski

Jane Icin (For Jane - In Turkish)

cimen altinda gecen 225 gunden sonra benden daha cok sey biliyor olmalisin.
kanini emip bitireli epey oldu, artik bir sepetteki kuru bir cubuksun.
bu isler boyle mi oluyor?
bu odada hala ask saatlerinin golgeleri var.
birakip gittiginde asagi yukari herseyi alip gittin.
geceleri beni ben olmaya koymayan kaplanlarin onunde diz cokuyorum.
senin sen olman asla bir daha olmayacak.
kaplanlar beni buldular ama artik umurumda bile degil.
translated by somebody

Charles Bukowski

Rain Or Shine

the vultures at the zoo
(all three of the)
sit very quietly in their
caged tree
and below
on the ground
are chunks of rotten meat.
the vultures are over-full.
our taxes have fed them

we move on to the next
a man is in there
sitting on the ground
his own shit.
i recognize him as
our former mailman.
his favorite expression
had been:
"have a beautiful day."

that day i did.

Charles Bukowski

Some People

some people never go crazy.
me, sometimes I'll lie down behind the couch
for 3 or 4 days.
they'll find me there.
it's Cherub, they'll say, and
they pour wine down my throat
rub my chest
sprinkle me with oils.
then, I'll rise with a roar,
rant, rage -
curse them and the universe
as I send them scattering over the
I'll feel much better,
sit down to toast and eggs,
hum a little tune,
suddenly become as lovable as a
overfed whale.
some people never go crazy.
what truly horrible lives
they must lead.

Charles Bukowski

What Can We Do?

at their best, there is gentleness in Humanity.
some understanding and, at times, acts of
but all in all it is a mass, a glob that doesn't
have too much.
it is like a large animal deep in sleep and
almost nothing can awaken it.
when activated it's best at brutality,
selfishness, unjust judgments, murder.
what can we do with it, this Humanity?
avoid the thing as much as possible.
treat it as you would anything poisonous, vicious
and mindless.
but be careful. it has enacted laws to protect
itself from you.
it can kill you without cause.
and to escape it you must be subtle.
few escape.
it's up to you to figure a plan.
I have met nobody who has escaped.
I have met some of the great and
famous but they have not escaped
for they are only great and famous within
I have not escaped
but I have not failed in trying again and
before my death I hope to obtain my
from blank gun silencer - 1994

Charles Bukowski

The Poetry Reading

at high noon
at a small college near the beach
the sweat running down my arms
a spot of sweat on the table
I flatten it with my finger
blood money blood money
my god they must think I love this like the others
but it's for bread and beer and rent
blood money
I'm tense lousy feel bad
poor people I'm failing I'm failing
a woman gets up
walks out
slams the door
a dirty poem
somebody told me not to read dirty poems
it's too late.
my eyes can't see some lines
I read it
desperate trembling
they can't hear my voice
and I say,
I quit, that's it, I'm
and later in my room
there's scotch and beer:
the blood of a coward.
this then
will be my destiny:
scrabbling for pennies in tiny dark halls
reading poems I have long since beome tired
and I used to think
that men who drove buses
or cleaned out latrines
or murdered men in alleys were

Charles Bukowski

The Most Beautiful Woman In Town

Cass was the youngest and most beautiful of 5 sisters. Cass was the most beautiful girl
in town. 1/2 Indian with a supple and strange body, a snake-like and fiery body with eyes
to go with it. Cass was fluid moving fire. She was like a spirit stuck into a form that
would not hold her. Her hair was black and long and silken and whirled about as did her
body. Her spirit was either very high or very low. There was no in between for Cass. Some
said she was crazy. The dull ones said that. The dull ones would never understand Cass. To
the men she was simply a sex machine and they didn't care whether she was crazy or not.
And Cass danced and flirted, kissed the men, but except for an instance or two, when it
came time to make it with Cass, Cass had somehow slipped away, eluded the men.
Her sisters accused her of misusing her beauty, of not using her mind enough, but Cass
had mind and spirit; she painted, she danced, she sang, she made things of clay, and when
people were hurt either in the spirit or the flesh, Cass felt a deep grieving for them.
Her mind was simply different; her mind was simply not practical. Her sisters were jealous
of her because she attracted their men, and they were angry because they felt she didn't
make the best use of them. She had a habit of being kind to the uglier ones; the so-called
handsome men revolted her- "No guts," she said, "no zap. They are riding on
their perfect little earlobes and well- shaped nostrils...all surface and no
insides..." She had a temper that came close to insanity, she had a temper that some
call insanity. Her father had died of alcohol and her mother had run off leaving the
girls alone. The girls went to a relative who placed them in a convent. The convent had
been an unhappy place, more for Cass than the sisters. The girls were jealous of Cass and
Cass fought most of them. She had razor marks all along her left arm from defending
herself in two fights. There was also a permanent scar along the left cheek but the scar
rather than lessening her beauty only seemed to highlight it. I met her at the West End
Bar several nights after her release from the convent. Being youngest, she was the last of
the sisters to be released. She simply came in and sat next to me. I was probably the
ugliest man in town and this might have had something to do with it.
"Drink?" I asked.
"Sure, why not?"
I don't suppose there was anything unusual in our conversation that night, it was
simply in the feeling Cass gave. She had chosen me and it was as simple as that. No
pressure. She liked her drinks and had a great number of them. She didn't seem quite of
age but they served he anyhow. Perhaps she had forged i.d., I don't know. Anyhow, each
time she came back from the restroom and sat down next to me, I did feel some pride. She
was not only the most beautiful woman in town but also one of the most beautiful I had
ever seen. I placed my arm about her waist and kissed her once.
"Do you think I'm pretty?" she asked.
"Yes, of course, but there's something else... there's more than your
"People are always accusing me of being pretty. Do you really think I'm
"Pretty isn't the word, it hardly does you fair."
Cass reached into her handbag. I thought she was reaching for her handkerchief. She
came out with a long hatpin. Before I could stop her she had run this long hatpin through
her nose, sideways, just above the nostrils. I felt disgust and horror. She looked at me
and laughed, "Now do you think me pretty? What do you think now, man?" I pulled
the hatpin out and held my handkerchief over the bleeding. Several people, including the
bartender, had seen the act. The bartender came down:
"Look," he said to Cass, "you act up again and you're out. We don't need
your dramatics here."
"Oh, fuck you, man!" she said.
"Better keep her straight," the bartender said to me.
"She'll be all right," I said.
"It's my nose, I can do what I want with my nose."
"No," I said, "it hurts me."
"You mean it hurts you when I stick a pin in my nose?"
"Yes, it does, I mean it."
"All right, I won't do it again. Cheer up."
She kissed me, rather grinning through the kiss and holding the handkerchief to her
nose. We left for my place at closing time. I had some beer and we sat there talking. It
was then that I got the perception of her as a person full of kindness and caring. She
gave herself away without knowing it. At the same time she would leap back into areas of
wildness and incoherence. Schitzi. A beautiful and spiritual schitzi. Perhaps some man,
something, would ruin her forever. I hoped that it wouldn't be me. We went to bed and
after I turned out the lights Cass asked me,
"When do you want it? Now or in the morning?"
"In the morning," I said and turned my back.
In the morning I got up and made a couple of coffees, brought her one in bed. She
"You're the first man who has turned it down at night."
"It's o.k.," I said, "we needn't do it at all."
"No, wait, I want to now. Let me freshen up a bit."
Cass went into the bathroom. She came out shortly, looking quite wonderful, her long
black hair glistening, her eyes and lips glistening, her glistening... She displayed her
body calmly, as a good thing. She got under the sheet.
"Come on, lover man."
I got in. She kissed with abandon but without haste. I let my hands run over her body,
through her hair. I mounted. It was hot, and tight. I began to stroke slowly, wanting to
make it last. Her eyes looked directly into mine.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"What the hell difference does it make?" she asked.
I laughed and went on ahead. Afterwards she dressed and I drove her back to the bar but
she was difficult to forget. I wasn't working and I slept until 2 p.m. then got up and
read the paper. I was in the bathtub when she came in with a large leaf- an elephant ear.
"I knew you'd be in the bathtub," she said, "so I brought you something
to cover that thing with, nature boy."
She threw the elephant leaf down on me in the bathtub.
"How did you know I'd be in the tub?"
"I knew."
Almost every day Cass arrived when I was in the tub. The times were different but she
seldom missed, and there was the elephant leaf. And then we'd make love. One or two nights
she phoned and I had to bail her out of jail for drunkenness and fighting.
"These sons of bitches," she said, "just because they buy you a few
drinks they think they can get into your pants."
"Once you accept a drink you create your own trouble."
"I thought they were interested in me, not just my body."
"I'm interested in you and your body. I doubt, though, that most men can see
beyond your body."
I left town for 6 months, bummed around, came back. I had never forgotten Cass, but
we'd had some type of argument and I felt like moving anyhow, and when I got back i
figured she'd be gone, but I had been sitting in the West End Bar about 30 minutes when
she walked in and sat down next to me.
"Well, bastard, I see you've come back."
I ordered her a drink. Then I looked at her. She had on a high- necked dress. I had
never seen her in one of those. And under each eye, driven in, were 2 pins with glass
heads. All you could see were the heads of the pins, but the pins were driven down into
her face.
"God damn you, still trying to destroy your beauty, eh?"
"No, it's the fad, you fool."
"You're crazy."
"I've missed you," she said.
"Is there anybody else?"
"No there isn't anybody else. Just you. But I'm hustling. It costs ten bucks. But
you get it free."
"Pull those pins out."
"No, it's the fad."
"It's making me very unhappy."
"Are you sure?"
"Hell yes, I'm sure."
Cass slowly pulled the pins out and put them back in her purse.
"Why do you haggle your beauty?" I asked. "Why don't you just live with
"Because people think it's all I have. Beauty is nothing, beauty won't stay. You
don't know how lucky you are to be ugly, because if people like you you know it's for
something else."
"O.k.," I said, "I'm lucky."
"I don't mean you're ugly. People just think you're ugly. You have a fascinating
We had another drink.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Nothing. I can't get on to anything. No interest."
"Me neither. If you were a woman you could hustle."
"I don't think I could ever make contact with that many strangers, it's
"You're right, it's wearing, everything is wearing."
We left together. People still stared at Cass on the streets. She was a beautiful
woman, perhaps more beautiful than ever. We made it to my place and I opened a bottle of
wine and we talked. With Cass and I, it always came easy. She talked a while and I would
listen and then i would talk. Our conversation simply went along without strain. We seemed
to discover secrets together. When we discovered a good one Cass would laugh that laugh-
only the way she could. It was like joy out of fire. Through the talking we kissed and
moved closer together. We became quite heated and decided to go to bed. It was then that
Cass took off her high -necked dress and I saw it- the ugly jagged scar across her throat.
It was large and thick.
"God damn you, woman," I said from the bed, "god damn you, what have you
"I tried it with a broken bottle one night. Don't you like me any more? Am I still
I pulled her down on the bed and kissed her. She pushed away and laughed, "Some
men pay me ten and I undress and they don't want to do it. I keep the ten. It's very
"Yes," I said, "I can't stop laughing... Cass, bitch, I love you...stop
destroying yourself; you're the most alive woman I've ever met."
We kissed again. Cass was crying without sound. I could feel the tears. The long black
hair lay beside me like a flag of death. We enjoined and made slow and somber and
wonderful love. In the morning Cass was up making breakfast. She seemed quite calm and
happy. She was singing. I stayed in bed and enjoyed her happiness. Finally she came over
and shook me,
"Up, bastard! Throw some cold water on your face and pecker and come enjoy the
I drove her to the beach that day. It was a weekday and not yet summer so things were
splendidly deserted. Beach bums in rags slept on the lawns above the sand. Others sat on
stone benches sharing a lone bottle. The gulls whirled about, mindless yet distracted. Old
ladies in their 70's and 80's sat on the benches and discussed selling real estate left
behind by husbands long ago killed by the pace and stupidity of survival. For it all,
there was peace in the air and we walked about and stretched on the lawns and didn't say
much. It simply felt good being together. I bought a couple of sandwiches, some chips and
drinks and we sat on the sand eating. Then I held Cass and we slept together about an
hour. It was somehow better than lovemaking. There was flowing together without tension.
When we awakened we drove back to my place and I cooked a dinner. After dinner I suggested
to Cass that we shack together. She waited a long time, looking at me, then she slowly
said, "No." I drove her back to the bar, bought her a drink and walked out. I
found a job as a parker in a factory the next day and the rest of the week went to
working. I was too tired to get about much but that Friday night I did get to the West End
Bar. I sat and waited for Cass. Hours went by . After I was fairly drunk the bartender
said to me, "I'm sorry about your girlfriend."
"What is it?" I asked.
"I'm sorry, didn't you know?"
"Suicide. She was buried yesterday."
"Buried?" I asked. It seemed as though she would walk through the doorway at
any moment. How could she be gone?
"Her sisters buried her."
"A suicide? Mind telling me how?"
"She cut her throat."
"I see. Give me another drink."
I drank until closing time. Cass was the most beautiful of 5 sisters, the most
beautiful in town. I managed to drive to my place and I kept thinking, I should have
insisted she stay with me instead of accepting that "no." Everything about her
had indicated that she had cared. I simply had been too offhand about it, lazy, too
unconcerned. I deserved my death and hers. I was a dog. No, why blame the dogs? I got up
and found a bottle of wine and drank from it heavily. Cass the most beautiful girl in town
was dead at 20. Outside somebody honked their automobile horn. They were very loud and
persistent. I sat the bottle down and screamed out: "GOD DAMN YOU, YOU SON OF A BITCH
,SHUT UP!" The night kept coming and there was nothing I could do.

Charles Bukowski

We Ain't Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain

call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the
depression era.
there wasn't any money but there was
plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or
a day,
it would RAIN for 7 days and 7
and in Los Angeles the storm drains
weren't built to carry off taht much
and the rain came down THICK and
MEAN and
and you HEARD it banging against
the roofs and into the ground
waterfalls of it came down
from roofs
and there was HAIL
exploding smashing into things
and the rain
just wouldn't
and all the roofs leaked-
cooking pots
were placed all about;
they dripped loudly
and had to be emptied
again and
the rain came up over the street curbings,
across the lawns, climbed up the steps and
entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels,
and the rain often came up through the
toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling,
and all the old cars stood in the streets,
cars that had problems starting on a
sunny day,
and the jobless men stood
looking out the windows
at the old machines dying
like living things out there.
the jobless men,
failures in a failing time
were imprisoned in their houses with their
wives and children
and their
the pets refused to go out
and left their waste in
strange places.
the jobless men went mad
confined with
their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments
as notices of foreclosure
fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans,
bread without butter;fried
eggs, boiled eggs, poached
eggs; peanut butter
sandwiches, and an invisible
chicken in every pot.
my father, never a good man
at best, beat my mother
when it rained
as I threw myself
between them,
the legs, the knees, the
until they
"I'll kill you," I screamed
at him. "You hit her again
and I'll kill you!"
"Get that son-of-a-bitching
kid out of here!"
"no, Henry, you stay with
your mother!"
all the households were under
seige but I believe that ours
held more terror than the
and at night
as we attempted to sleep
the rains still came down
and it was in bed
in the dark
watching the moon against
the scarred window
so bravely
holding out
most of the rain,
I thought of Noah and the
and I thought, it has come
we all thought
and then, at once, it would
and it always seemed to
around 5 or 6 a.m.,
peaceful then,
but not an exact silence
because things continued to

and there was no smog then
and by 8 a.m.
there was a
blazing yellow sunlight,
Van Gogh yellow-
crazy, blinding!
and then
the roof drains
relieved of the rush of
began to expand in the warmth:
and everybody got up and looked outside
and there were all the lawns
still soaked
greener than green will ever
and there were birds
on the lawn
CHIRPING like mad,
they hadn't eaten decently
for 7 days and 7 nights
and they were weary of
they waited as the worms
rose to the top,
half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them
and gobbled them
down;there were
blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to
drive the sparrows off
but the sparrows,
maddened with hunger,
smaller and quicker,
got their
the men stood on their porches
smoking cigarettes,
now knowing
they'd have to go out
to look for that job
that probably wasn't
there, to start that car
that probably wouldn't
and the once beautiful
stood in their bathrooms
combing their hair,
applying makeup,
trying to put their world back
together again,
trying to forget that
awful sadness that
gripped them,
wondering what they could
fix for
and on the radio
we were told that
school was now
there I was
on the way to school,
massive puddles in the
the sun like a new
my parents back in that
I arrived at my classroom
on time.
Mrs. Sorenson greeted us
with, "we won't have our
usual recess, the grounds
are too wet."
"AW!" most of the boys
"but we are going to do
something special at
recess," she went on,
"and it will be
well, we all wondered
what that would
and the two hour wait
seemed a long time
as Mrs.Sorenson
went about
teaching her
I looked at the little
girls, they looked so
pretty and clean and
they sat still and
and their hair was
in the California
the the recess bells rang
and we all waited for the
then Mrs. Sorenson told us:
"now, what we are going to
do is we are going to tell
each other what we did
during the rainstorm!
we'll begin in the front row
and go right around!
now, Michael, you're first!. . ."
well, we all began to tell
our stories, Michael began
and it went on and on,
and soon we realized that
we were all lying, not
exactly lying but mostly
lying and some of the boys
began to snicker and some
of the girls began to give
them dirty looks and
Mrs.Sorenson said,
"all right! I demand a
modicum of silence
I am interested in what
you did
during the rainstorm
even if you
so we had to tell our
stories and they were
one girl said that
when the rainbow first
she saw God's face
at the end of it.
only she didn't say which end.
one boy said he stuck
his fishing pole
out the window
and caught a little
and fed it to his
almost everybody told
a lie.
the truth was just
too awful and
embarassing to tell.
then the bell rang
and recess was
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very
and tomorrow the grounds
will be dry
and we will put them
to use
most of the boys
and the little girls
sat very straight and
looking so pretty and
clean and
their hair beautiful in a sunshine that
the world might never see

Charles Bukowski


at the track today,
Father's Day,
each paid admission was
entitled to a wallet
and each contained a
little surprise.
most of the men seemed
between 30 and 55,
going to fat,
many of them in walking
they had gone stale in
flattened out....
in fact, damn it, they
aren't even worth writing
why am I doing
these don't even
deserve a death bed,
these little walking
only there are so
many of
in the urinals,
in the food lines,
they have managed to
in a most limited
but when you see
so many of them
like that,
there and not there,
breathing, farting,
waiting for a thunder
that will not arrive,
waiting for the charging
white horse of
waiting for the lovely
female that is not
waiting to WIN,
waiting for the great
dream to
engulf them
but they do nothing,
they clomp in their
gnaw at hot dogs
dog style,
gulping at the
they complain about
blame the jocks,
drink green
the parking lot is
jammed with their
unpaid for
the jocks mount
again for another
the men press
toward the betting
fathers and non-fathers
Monday is waiting
for them,
this is the last
big lark.
and the horses are
it is shocking how
beautiful they
at that time,
at that place,
their life shines
miracles happen,
even in
I decide to stay for
one more

from Transit magazine, 1994

Charles Bukowski

Like A Flower In The Rain

I cut the middle fingernail of the middle
right hand
real short
and I began rubbing along her cunt
as she sat upright in bed
spreading lotion over her arms
and breasts
after bathing.
then she lit a cigarette:
"don't let this put you off,"
an smoked and continued to rub
the lotion on.
I continued to rub the cunt.
"You want an apple?" I asked.
"sure, she said, "you got one?"
but I got to her-
she began to twist
then she rolled on her side,
she was getting wet and open
like a flower in the rain.
then she rolled on her stomach
and her most beautiful ass
looked up at me
and I reached under and got the
cunt again.
she reached around and got my
cock, she rolled and twisted,
I mounted
my face falling into the mass
of red hair that overflowed
from her head
and my flattened cock entered
into the miracle.
later we joked about the lotion
and the cigarette and the apple.
then I went out and got some chicken
and shrimp and french fries and buns
and mashed potatoes and gravy and
cole slaw,and we ate.she told me
how good she felt and I told her
how good I felt and we
ate the chicken and the shrimp and the
french fries and the buns and the
mashed potatoes and the gravy and
the cole slaw too.

Charles Bukowski

Cows In Art Class

good weather
is like
good women-
it doesn't always happen
and when it does
it doesn't
always last.
man is
more stable:
if he's bad
there's more chance
he'll stay that way,
or if he's good
he might hang
but a woman
is changed
the moon
the absence or
presence of sun
or good times.
a woman must be nursed
into subsistence
by love
where a man can become
by being hated.
I am drinking tonight in Spangler's Bar
and I remember the cows
I once painted in Art class
and they looked good
they looked better than anything
in here. I am drinking in Spangler's Bar
wondering which to love and which
to hate, but the rules are gone:
I love and hate only
they stand outside me
like an orange dropped from the table
and rolling away; it's what I've got to
kill myself or
love myself?
which is the treason?
where's the information
coming from? broken glass:
I wouldn't wipe my ass with 'em
yet, it's getting
darker, see?
(we drink here and speak to
each other and
seem knowing.)
buy the cow with the biggest
buy the cow with the biggest
present arms.
the bartender slides me a beer
it runs down the bar
like an Olympic sprinter
and the pair of pliers that is my hand
stops it, lifts it,
golden piss of dull temptation,
I drink and
stand there
the weather bad for cows
but my brush is ready
to stroke up
the green grass straw eye
sadness takes me all over
and I drink the beer straight down
order a shot
to give me the guts and the love to
from "poems written before jumping out of an 8 story window" - 1966

Charles Bukowski

A Challenge To The Dark

shot in the eye
shot in the brain
shot in the ass
shot like a flower in the dance

amazing how death wins hands down
amazing how much credence is given to idiot forms of life

amazing how laughter has been drowned out
amazing how viciousness is such a constant

I must soon declare my own war on their war
I must hold to my last piece of ground
I must protect the small space I have made that has allowed me life

my life not their death
my death not their death...

Charles Bukowski
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