"Don't Try". Charles Bukowski
Friendly advice to a lot of young men.
Go to Tibet.
Ride a camel.
Read the Bible.
Dye your shoes blue.
Grow a Beard.
Circle the world in a paper canoe.
Subscribe to “The Saturday Evening Post.”
Chew on the left side of your mouth only.
Marry a woman with one leg and shave with a straight razor.
And carve your name in her arm.
Brush your teeth with gasoline.
Sleep all day and climb trees at night.
Be a monk and drink buckshot and beer.
Hold your head under water and play the violin.
Do a belly dance before pink candles.
Kill your dog.
Run for Mayor.
Live in a barrel.
Break your head with a hatchet.
Plant tulips in the rain.
But don’t write poetry.
with one punch, at the age of 16 and 1/2,
I knocked out my father,
a cruel shiny bastard with bad breath,
and I didn't go home for some time, only now and then
to try to get a dollar from
it was 1937 in Los Angeles and it was a hell of a
I ran with these older guys
but for them it was the same:
mostly breathing gasps of hard air
and robbing gas stations that didn't have any
money, and a few lucky among us
worked part-time as Western Union messenger
we slept in rented rooms that weren't rented
and we drank ale and wine
with the shades down
being quiet quiet
and then awakening the whole building
with a fistfight
breaking mirrors and chairs and lamps
and then running down the stairway
just before the police arrived
some of us soldiers of the future
running through the empty starving streets and alleys of
and all of us
getting together later
in Pete's room
a small cube of space under a stairway, there we were,
packed in there
without anything to drink,
while the rich pawed away at their many
choices and the young girls let
the same girls who spit at our shadows as we
it was a hell of a
3 of us under that stairway
were killed in World War II.
another one is now manager of a mattress
me? I'm 30 years older,
the town is 4 or 5 times as big
but just as rotten
and the girls still spit on my
shadow, another war is building for another
reason, and I can hardly get a job now
for the same reason I couldn't then:
I don't know anything, I can't do
sex? well, just the old ones knock on my door after
midnight. I can't sleep and they see the lights and are
the old ones. their husbands no longer want them,
their children are gone, and if they show me enough good
leg (the legs go last)
I go to bed with
so the old women bring me love and I smoke their cigarettes
talk talk talk
and then we go to bed again and
I bring them love
and they feel good and
until the sun comes
up, then we
it's a hell of a Paris.
too much too little
strangers with faces like
the backs of
armies running through
streets of blood
bayoneting and fucking
an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of M. Monroe.
there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement
of the hands of a clock
people so tired
either by love or no love.
people just are not good to each other
one on one.
the rich are not good to the rich
the poor are not good to the poor.
we are afraid.
our educational system tells us
that we can all be
it hasn't told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.
or the terror of one person
aching in one place
watering a plant.
A woman, a
tire that’s flat, 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, horror
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
rickets or crickets or mice or termites 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
light switch broken, mattress like a
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
and the phone bill’s up and the market’s
and the toilet chain is
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
Then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re
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
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
2 red lights in your rear view mirror
and blood in your
toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold
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
with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
thing enters a
so be careful
Born like this
As the chalk faces smile
As Mrs. Death laughs
As the elevators break
As political landscapes dissolve
As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
As the oily fish spit out their oily prey
As the sun is masked
Born like this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this
Because of this
Fooled by this
Used by this
Pissed on by this
Made crazy and sick by this
The heart is blackened
The fingers reach for the throat
The fingers reach toward an unresponsive god
The fingers reach for the bottle
We are born into this sorrowful deadliness
We are born into a government 60 years in debt
That soon will be unable to even pay the interest on that debt
And the banks will burn
Money will be useless
There will be open and unpunished murder in the streets
It will be guns and roving mobs
Land will be useless
Food will become a diminishing return
Nuclear power will be taken over by the many
Explosions will continually shake the earth
Radiated robot men will stalk each other
The rich and the chosen will watch from space platforms
Dante’s Inferno will be made to look like a children’s playground
The sun will not be seen and it will always be night
Trees will die
All vegetation will die
Radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men
The sea will be poisoned
The lakes and rivers will vanish
Rain will be the new gold
The rotting bodies of men and animals will stink in the dark wind
The last few survivors will be overtaken by new and hideous diseases
And the space platforms will be destroyed by attrition
The petering out of supplies
The natural effect of general decay
And there will be the most beautiful silence never heard
Born out of that.
The sun still hidden there
Awaiting the next chapter.