Look, I’m 49 years old. I know Charles Bukowski was an asshole — a drunk and a bastard and a pig. I don’t even like poetry, and I spent long enough years living the life before I figured out that squalor isn’t romantic, it’s just squalor. I’ve long since grown out of needing to have heroes, and long since learned more than enough about the writerly heroes of my youth to be completely disabused of the notion that they were anything but human. Deeply flawed and weak and broken humans just like rest of us.

Every time Charles Bukowski comes up on the internet, though, at least the internet I hang out in, where people at least know who the fuck he was, comments invariably turn to the phenomenon of the young, dumb, drunk anti-bro who LOVES BUK and WANTS TO BE LIKE HIM because BOOZE UNLEASHES HIS CREATIVE POWER and STUFF. There’s nothing wrong with that, even if it can annoy, though. Most of them will grow out of it once they realize that a) the booze doesn’t make you a poet unless you’re a poet already or b) being a poet doesn’t fix your life when you break it with booze. There are people who dislike things because the… enthusiasm of other people who like those same things can get on their nerves — The Big Lebowski fans being a good example — but I do try not to be one of them.

So, like I said, I’m nearly 50, and I still occasionally read or hear something new-to-me or long-forgotten by old Charlie B that just sends chills coursing down my scarred-up old spine, like this poem I’m about to paste down below.

So, calm your shit down for second. Take a breath. Forget about the latest Twitter timeline top-up or Buzzfeed bullshit product placement. Rest your goddamned internet-shattered mind for a minute, and then just read this like you’re navigating the rock-strewn rapids of a river.

The Shoelace

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
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
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
light switch broken, mattress like a
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
sears roebuck;
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
your friends;
there’s always that and worse;
leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains,
50 cent avocados
and purple

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 80.

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
enters a

so be careful
when you
bend over.

Goddamn it, I do love that. I don’t know if it’s good poetry or not — like I said, I’m not a ‘poetry guy’, whatever that means — but I feel that in my half-century-old bones.

So if you do too, cut those young drunk wannabes some slack. They’ll figure it out, probably, and with luck, before it’s too late.

Booze Glorious Booze, Thoughts That, If Not Deep, Are At Least Wide
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