Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Charles Bukowski / The Shoelace

Charles Bukowski
The Shoelace
by Charles Bukowski


a woman, a
tire that’s flat, a
disease, a
desire: fears in front of you,
fears that hold so still
you can study them
like pieces on a
chessboard…
it’s not the large things that
send a man to the
madhouse. death he’s ready for, or
murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood…
no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies
that send a man to the
madhouse…
not the death of his love
but a shoelace that snaps
with no time left …
The dread of life
is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer
and which are always there -
license plates or taxes
or expired driver’s license,
or hiring or firing,
doing it or having it done to you, or
roaches or flies or a
broken hook on a
screen, or out of gas
or too much gas,
the sink’s stopped-up, the landlord’s drunk,
the president doesn’t care and the governor’s
crazy.
light switch broken, mattress like a
porcupine;
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
sears roebuck;
and the phone bill’s up and the market’s
down
and the toilet chain is
broken,
and the light has burned out -
the hall light, the front light, the back light,
the inner light; it’s
darker than hell
and twice as
expensive.
then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re
your friends;
there’s always that and worse;
leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains,
50 cent avocados
and purple
liverwurst.

or making it
as a waitress at norm’s on the split shift,
or as an emptier of
bedpans,
or as a carwash or a busboy
or a stealer of old lady’s purses
leaving them screaming on the sidewalks
with broken arms at the age of 80.

suddenly
2 red lights in your rear view mirror
and blood in your
underwear;
toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold
tooth,
and china and russia and america, and
long hair and short hair and no
hair, and beards and no
faces, and plenty of zigzag but no
pot, except maybe one to piss in
and the other one around your
gut.

with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
thing
enters a
madhouse.

so be careful
when you
bend over.










Monday, November 18, 2013

Charles Bukowski / The great lover



the great lover
by Charles Bukowski


I mean, at that place in east Hollywood
I was so often with the hardest numbers
in town
I don’t speak as a misogynist
I had other people ask me,
“what the hell are you doing, anyhow?”

these were floozies, killers, blanks

they had bodies, hair, eyes, legs
parts
but, say, take one of them, it was like
sitting there with a shark dressed in a
dress, high heels, smoking, drinking,
pilling

the nights went into days and the days
went into nights
and we babbled on through, sometimes
bedding down, badly.

through the drink, the uppers, the
downers, I got myself to imagine
things–say, that this one was the
golden girl of the golden heart and
the golden way of laughter and love
and hope

in the dim smokey light the long hair
looked better than it was, the legs
more shapely, the conversation not as
bare, not as vicious

I fooled myself pretty well. I even
got myself to thinking that I loved
one of them, the worst one

I mean, why the hell be negative?
accept

we drank, drugged, stayed in the
center of the rug, through sunset,
sunrise, played Scrabble for 8
or ten hours

each time I went in to piss she
stole the letters she needed
she was a survivor, the
bitch

after one marathon session
of 52 hours of whatever we
were doing
she said, “let’s drive to
Vegas and get married?”

“what?” I asked.

“let’s drive to Vegas and
get married before we
change our minds!”

“but suppose we get married,
then what?”

“then you can have it any
time you want it.” she told
me

I went in to take a piss
to let her steal the letters
she needed

but when I came out I opened
a new bottle of wine
and spoke no more of the
subject

she didn’t come around as
much after that
but there were others,
about the same
sometimes there were
more than one
they’d come in two’s
the word got out that
there was an old sucker
in the back court, free
booze and he wasn’t overly
sexually demanding,
although at times something
would overtake me and I
would grab a body and throw
in a sweaty horse copulation,
mostly, I guess, to see if
I could still do it

and I confused the mailman
there was an old couch on
the porch and many a morning
as he came by I’d be sitting
there with, say, two of them
we’d be sitting there with our
beer cans, smoking and
laughing

one day he found me alone

“pardon me,” he said, “but can
I ask you something?”

“sure”

“well, I don’t think you’re
rich…”

“no, I’m broke.”

“Listen, he said, “I’ve been around
the world.”

“yeah?”

“and I’ve never seen a man with
as many women as you.
there’s always a different one.
or a different pair…”

“yeah?”

“how do you do it?
I mean, pardon me, but you’re kind
of old and you’re not exactly a
Cassanova, you know?”

“I could be ugly, even.”

he shifted his letters from one hand to the
other.

“I mean, how do you do it?”

“availability,” I told him.

“what do you mean?”

“I mean, women like a guy who is always
around.”

“uh,” he said, then walked off to continue his
rounds

his praise didn’t help me
what he saw wasn’t as good as he thought
even with them there were unholy periods of
drab senselessness,
and worse

I walked back into my place
the phone was ringing

I knew that it would be a female
voice

from “Third Lung Review” – 1992




Read also
Biography of Charles Bukowski





Friday, November 15, 2013

Alice Walker / Women



WOMEN

by Alice Walker

They were women then
My mama’s generation
Husky of voice—stout of
Step
With fists as well as
Hands
How they battered down
Doors
And ironed
Starched white
Shirts
How they led
Armies
Headragged generals
Across mined
Fields
Booby-trapped
Ditches
To discover books
Desks
A place for us
How they knew what we
Must know
Without knowing a page
Of it
Themselves.




Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Denise Levertov / Magic



MAGIC
by Denise Levertov
BIOGRAPHY

for Jon

The brass or bronze cup, stroked at the rim, 
round and round, begins 
to hum, 
             the hum slowly 
buzzes more loudly, and rapidly now 
becomes 
             the clang of the bell of the 
             deep world, unshaken, sounding 
             crescendo out of its wide mouth 
                                                one note, 
             continuous, 
                                 gong 
             of the universe, neither beginning nor ending, 
but heard 
only those times we take 
the cup and stroke 
the rim, 
diminuendo, 
only seeming 
to cease when we cease 
to listen… 
Poems 1972-1982
New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2001




Saturday, November 9, 2013

Li Po / A Mountain Revelry

A Mountain Revelry

by Li Po
To wash and rinse our souls of their age-old sorrows,
We drained a hundred jugs of wine.
A splendid night it was . . . .
In the clear moonlight we were loath to go to bed,
But at last drunkenness overtook us;
And we laid ourselves down on the empty mountain,
The earth for pillow, and the great heaven for coverlet. 




Read also

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Li Po / A Song Of Changgan

Li Po

A Song of Changgan


My hair had hardly covered my forehead.
I was picking flowers, paying by my door,
When you, my lover, on a bamboo horse,
Came trotting in circles and throwing green plums.
We lived near together on a lane in Ch'ang-kan,
Both of us young and happy-hearted.

...At fourteen I became your wife,
So bashful that I dared not smile,
And I lowered my head toward a dark corner
And would not turn to your thousand calls;
But at fifteen I straightened my brows and laughed,
Learning that no dust could ever seal our love,
That even unto death I would await you by my post
And would never lose heart in the tower of silent watching.

...Then when I was sixteen, you left on a long journey
Through the Gorges of Ch'u-t'ang, of rock and whirling water.
And then came the Fifth-month, more than I could bear,
And I tried to hear the monkeys in your lofty far-off sky.
Your footprints by our door, where I had watched you go,
Were hidden, every one of them, under green moss,
Hidden under moss too deep to sweep away.
And the first autumn wind added fallen leaves.
And now, in the Eighth-month, yellowing butterflies
Hover, two by two, in our west-garden grasses
And, because of all this, my heart is breaking
And I fear for my bright cheeks, lest they fade.

...Oh, at last, when you return through the three Pa districts,
Send me a message home ahead!
And I will come and meet you and will never mind the distance,
All the way to Chang-feng Sha. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tang Dynasty Poets



Tang Dynasty Poets


Two poets of the golden age of Chinese Poetry appeared on a set of of Poets and Philosopher stamps issued in 1983.  The first is Li Bai (also known as Li Po) born in 701, who had what is described as a "hard living life" which means he liked a drink or two;  any poetry collection of the Tang Dynasty will contain many of his poems.

The painting is a modern one created by Liu Lingcang (1906-1989) who was apprenticed at 14 and and as a young man went to Beijing alone living off the sale of his paintings to follow the masters of his chosen art.  He himself became a great scholar of painting history and painting theories and in in his 70 year art career he spent 40 teaching those skills. It is interesting to see the scroll painting he made of Li Bai which expands the view of the poet and appeared as "Landscape of Tang Poetry"


Next is Du Fu (also known as Tu Fu) 712-770 who is known in China as the "Poet Sage".  But let the words of these poets tell their own story.  They share a page in my copy of Soame Jenyns's (who was keeper of Oriental Antiques in the British Museum) second collection of translations of Poems of the T'ang Dynasty, you will see why he has done this.

"Sending Off A Friend" by Li Po

Looking north of the city you see the line of blue hills,
Sparkling water flows past the eastern gate.
Here we part once for all;
A solitary waterweed drifts off into the distance.
When I think of the wandering clouds you will come back into my thoughts
Sunset will bring with it memories of you.
We part now with a wave of the hand; as we turn our horses they neigh farewell.

"With the width of Heaven between us thinking of Li Po" by Du Fu

A chill wind springs up from the horizon,
What are your thoughts now I wonder?
When will the wild geese arrive?
Rivers and lakes are big with autumn floods
Your literary compositions are a foe to your success,
The ghouls are gleeful when people (like you) pass by
I fear your path corresponds to that of the "aggrieved spirit".
Throw a poem to him in the Mi-lo River.

Legend has it that Li Po died in a most poetic way by falling from his boat when he tried to embrace the moon in the Yangtze River.  The 'aggrieved spirit' reference in the poem Jenyns says is an allusion to Ch'ü Yüan, who committed ritual suicide by holding a rock and wading into  a river, today celebrated by the dragon boat racing festival.

An entry to Virdian Postcard's Sunday Stamps celebration of National Poetry Month.




Read also





Friday, November 1, 2013

Amy Gerstler / Two Poems


TWO POEMS

by Amy Gerstler

Bon Courage

Why are the woods so alluring? A forest appears
to a young girl one morning as she combs
the dreams out of   her hair. The trees rustle
and whisper, shimmer and hiss. The forest
opens and closes, a door loose on its hinges,
banging in a strong wind. Everything in the dim
kitchen: the basin, the jug, the skillet, the churn,
snickers scornfully. In this way a maiden
is driven toward the dangers of a forest,
but the forest is our subject, not this young girl.


She’s glad to lie down with trees towering all around.
A certain euphoria sets in. She feels molecular,
bedeviled, senses someone gently pulling her hair,
tingles with kisses she won’t receive for years.
Three felled trees, a sort of chorus, narrate
her thoughts, or rather channel theirs through her,
or rather subject her to their peculiar verbal
restlessness ...    our deepening need for non-being intones
the largest and most decayed tree, mid-sentence.
I’m not one of you squeaks the shattered sapling,
blackened by lightning. Their words become metallic
spangles shivering the air. Will I forget the way home?
the third blurts. Why do I feel like I’m hiding in a giant’s nostril?
the oldest prone pine wants to know. Are we being   freed

from matter? the sapling asks. Insects are well-intentioned,
offers the third tree, by way of consolation. Will it grow

impossible to think a thought through to its end? gasps the sapling,
adding in a panicky voice, I’m becoming spongy! The girl
feels her hands attach to some distant body. She rises
to leave, relieved these trees are not talking about her.
Source: Poetry (March 2013).

Hoffnung

He fancies his chances are good with her,
unaware that in the years since the war

she has come to prefer women whose cunts
taste like mustard. To pin one’s hopes on

a bark-colored moth, its wings crinkled
like crepe paper, a moth affixed high

on the kitchen wall, frozen for days where
it will likely die in noble clinging mode

just under the cobwebby heating vent,
is to confirm your need for more friends

and a greater daily quota of sunlight.
To raise C.’s hopes that T. can stop

drinking and then to liken those
hopes to fields of undulating grain,

alfalfa perhaps, is to wish C. hip deep
in acres of unscythed denial. The blind

typist hopes she’ll be hired tonight without
her disability becoming an issue. L. said he felt

hope’s rhizomes race throughout his body,
radiating in all directions, like some incipient

disease he’d been fighting since childhood.
Hope, he said, it’s as insidious as bitterness.

If mother earth only knew how much we
loved one another she would creak, shudder,

and split like a macheted melon, releasing
the fiery ball of molten hope at her core.
Source: Poetry (March 2013).


Read also
BIOGRAPHY OF AMY GERSTLER