Good reason that over five feet of bookshelf around here is taken up by the work of Charles Bukowski. More than any other poet the writing of Bukowski calls me back again and again. Of the over forty-five books of poetry, stories, letters, columns and novels that make up the published work, there are holes in my collection that I work slowly at remedying, always hoping that the next turn through a used bookstore will unveil a missing Bukowski. Meanwhile I read and reread his stuff without ever growing tired or less admiring of his easy lines.
Taking another look at the 2006 collection, Come on In!: New Poems, it was a different pair of poems that caught my attention this time. And that’s what I so enjoy about reading Bukowski; you just never know what line or which poem is going to find the perfect fit for the vagaries of the day and mood.
CUT-RATE DRUGSTORE: 4:30 P.M.
this woman at the counter ahead of me
was buying four pairs of panties:
yellow, pink, blue and orange.
the lady at the register kept picking up
the panties and
one, two, three, four.
then she counted them again:
one, two, three, four.
Will there be anything else?
she asked the lady who was buying the
no, that’s it, she answered.
no cigarettes or anything?
no, that’s it.
the woman at the register
rang up the sale
collected the money
looked off into the distance
for a bit
and then she bent under the counter
and got a bag
and put the panties in this bag
one at a time—
first the blue pair, then the yellow,
then the orange, then the pink.
she looked at me next:
how are you doing today?
fair, I said.
is there anything else?
all I want is what you see in front of
I had hemorrhoid ointment
and a box of paper clips.
she rang it up, took my money, made
change, bagged my things, handed them
have a nice day, she did not say.
and you too,
IN THE CLUBHOUSE
he is behind me,
talking to somebody:
“well, I like the 5 horse, he closed well last
time, I like a horse who can close.
but you know, you gotta kinda consider
the 4 and the 12.
the 4 needed his last race and look at
him, he’s reading 40-to-1 now.
the 12’s got a chance too.
and look at the 9, he looks really good,
really got a shine to his skin.
then too, you also gotta consider the 7…”
every now and then I consider murdering
somebody, it just flashes in my mind for a
moment, then I dismiss it and rightfully
I considered murdering the man who
belonged to the voice I heard,
then I worked on dismissing the thought.
and to make sure, I changed my seat,
I moved far down to my left,
I found a seat between a woman wearing a
sun shade and a young man violently
chewing on a mouthful of
then I felt
Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) was born in Germany of a German mother and American father. Except for some cross country roaming in his early years, he lived his whole life in Los Angeles. His poetry focuses on the ordinary life of average people, women, alcohol, writing and the drudgery of low level employment. In an interview he once said: “You have a picture of where you are…Since I was raised in L.A., I’ve always had the geographical and spiritual feeling of being here. I’ve had time to learn this city. I can’t see any other place than L.A.”