“The Soul Is A Battered Thing That You’d Pass On At An Estate Sale”

(from the lost notebooks of Charles Bukowski, circa 1949)

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Not old enough to be old. Not young enough to be young. It gets grayer around these parts all the time. Still scaring the ladies away on a nightly basis. Not listless enough to be well read. Make myself a sardine sandwich and call it an afternoon. The gods are not on my side today. I escape to get groceries and beer. I find reprieve and refuse in a garbage truck’s shade, open a beer in a window by the sea, and fall awake to stare at gulls and sailboats and people walking their dogs. Weddings in the air. Peanut shells and cigarette butts on the horizon. The scum of waves leaving the sand peeled and skidded with the things people throw away. The gods are off to other things. They don’t waste time on vermin like me. Show my teeth, make a little useless noise, and then it’s on to beer in the afternoon, maybe the track or a floorshow. I’m not considered a great man in any circles. I don’t pretend at it. Small children do not smile at me. The sky’s flush with scarlet terror that cracks the clouds like the varicose veins of a used-up stripper who’s putting off retirement one gin drink at a time. I blink and moan a little under my beer breath. The whore upstairs is crying again. She’ll be down here any minute with a bottle of the cheap stuff, a ripped blouse, a broken shoe, lipstick on her snaggletooth, and a sob story about a tow-truck driver that’ll drown all my sorrows out. It’s not hell around here or anything. I used to survive on mealy apples and butter sandwiches. I had a girl once too. She bought me daffodils for the windowsill, and I made up stories to make her nightmares disappear. But she left me for a trombone player with a few gold teeth and a shiny Buick Super. The blood’s fresh on the skyline, and from here, in this dingy place where I currently am doing my living from, I can still guess a little at the things I’m made for. Perhaps the car won’t start in the morning. And the light in the kitchen will finally stop flickering to life. And I will write a damn poem that’s worth a damn to somebody else. And amber bottles sweating grimy dew will curse disabled ponies through the shattering of another botched dawn. But in the meantime I’ve got five flights of booze in me, enough to face the night and the horror and the ambulance sirens and the clogged-up sink and the trashcans below a burnt-out streetlight in an alley behind a dirty bar where I might nod off for the night, drunk and subtly dying, with a few cigarettes and a blazer of whisky in my coat pocket, and therefore a chance.

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