The Unbearable Banishment: My oldest friend

Monday, March 8, 2010

My oldest friend

As the years peel away, your tastes change. Authors, musicians, artists, etc. fall in and out of favor. But there's always that one defining body of work that stays with you. That helped shape you and continues to provide nourishment.

When I was 22 and in the Coast Guard, my brother gave me a book by Charles Bukowski. Bukowski is not a great writer. His output isn't very literary. You won't find him being taught in the universities. But all of these decades later, his stuff still speaks to me on a very visceral level. I actually got a chill when I read these again. As though I was reading them for the first time. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

Here are a few samples from that book my brother gave me, Mockingbird Wish Me Luck, when Bukowski was, in my opinion, at the peak of his powers.

* * *


style is the answer to everything —
a fresh way to approach a dull or a
dangerous thing.
to do a dull thing with style
is preferable to doing a dangerous thing
without it.

Joan of Arch had style
John the Baptist
Garcia Lorca.

style is the difference,
a way of doing
a way of being done.

6 herons standing quietly in a pool of water
or you walking out the bathroom naked
without seeing

* * *

and the moon and the stars
and the world:

long walks at
night —
that's what's good
for the
peeking into windows
watching tired
trying to fight
their beer-maddened
* * *

Bukowski wrote this one for his daughter when she was about 8. Same age as my daughter, who's upstairs sleeping as I type these words.


majestic, magic
my little girl is
on the carpet —
out the door
picking a
flower, ha!,
an old man,
emerges from his
and she looks at me
but only sees
ha!, and I become
quick with the world
and love right back
just like I was meant
to do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bukowski may not be very literary, but he is very real. The blunt force trauma of his words hits hard...

March 8, 2010 at 10:21 PM  
Anonymous nursemyra said...

He's my hero (I just block out the drinking problem)

March 9, 2010 at 3:32 AM  
Blogger mapstew said...

As if I didn't have enough books to be goin' on with!

(Thanks!) :¬)

March 9, 2010 at 5:26 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: His realism is at the heart of his appeal. I don't do simile very well.

Nurse: He is his own favorite target but there's a lot of misogyny in his work. It's a hell of a ride if you can see past it.

Map: Start with Mockingbird and then a collection of short stories called Hot Water Music. You'll thank me later.

March 9, 2010 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger savannah said...

i haven't thought about bukowski in ages, but i have to agree with daisy blunt force trauma sums him up perfectly! right now i'm back reading neruda and rumi. next month is poetry month by the way. i printed the poster for over my desk. a poem a day for a month looms large or poem in a pocket day - take y'alls pick! xoxox

March 9, 2010 at 8:22 AM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it... as Bananarama once said.

March 10, 2010 at 10:47 AM  

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