THE ALIENS by Charles Bukowski
you may not believe it
but there are people
who go through life with
very little friction of distress.
they dress well, sleep well.
they are contented with their family
life.
they are undisturbed
and often feel
very good.
and when they die
it is an easy death, usually in their
sleep.

you may not believe
it
but such people do
exist.

but i am not one of
them.
oh no, I am not one of them,
I am not even near
to being
one of
them.
but they
are there

and I am
here.

Those that live normal suburban lives are aliens to Bukowski. He cannot understand them and he cannot understand their lives. The Aliens are much like me: they eat well (sometimes I eat too well) they sleep well (sometimes I oversleep) and they dress well (all my clothes fit). This is a life Bukowski never had, never even say until his final years. Even then, once his writing had garnered a cult following among drunks and the counter-culture snobs, he was still a bum: he just wore nicer clothes, drank better booze, slept with better looking women. Bukowski's entire life was spent in poverty: not only economic poverty (of which he experienced much) but poverty of joy, poverty of the spirit. He was a man who decided that he hated people so much that he would rather drink himself to death alone in a Los Angeles roominghouse than go to the bar down the street. And this poem conveys this irreparble disconnect between Bukowski and people like me: I will never be "there", where Bukowski is. Even if I trade my uniform for rags and take up drinking wine coolers from gas stations i will never be "there". And perhaps this is why I love Bukowksi: he takes us to places that we not only won't go, but we also can't go. The prostitutes, the five day drunks, the disregard for any rule of institution or life he could find: this is the world in which Bukowksi existed. Some called him the freest man that ever lived, and it's hard to argue with them. But he will forever be "there", and I will forever be "here".

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Red Mercedes by Charles Bukowski

naturally, we are all caught in
downmoods, it’s a matter of
chemical imbalance
and an existence
which, at times,
seems to forbid
any real chance at
happiness.
I was in a downmood
when this rich pig
along with his blank
inamorata
in this red Mercedes
cut
in front of me
at racetrack parking.
it clicked inside of me
in a flash:
I’m going to pull that fucker
out of his car and
kick his
ass!
I followed him
into Valet parking
parked behind him
and jumped from my
car
ran up to his
door
and yanked at
it.
it was
locked.
the
windows were
up.
I rapped on the window
on his
side:
“open up! I’m gonna
bust your
ass!”
he just sat there
looking straight
ahead.
his woman did
likewise.
they wouldn’t look at me.
he was 30 years
younger
but I knew I could
take him
he was soft and
pampered.
I beat on the window
with my
fist:
“come on out, shithead,
or I’m going to start
breaking
glass!”
he gave a small nod
to his
woman.
I saw her reach
into the glove
compartment
open it
and slip him the
.32.
I saw him hold it
down low
and snap off the
safety.
I walked off
toward the
clubhouse, it looked
like a damned good
card
that
day.
all I had to do
was
be there.

Bukowski never was one for people. One of my favorite quotes from him is his answer to the question "Do you hate people?". His quick response was "I don't hate them... I just feel better when they're not around." Certainly this quote fits contextually with the poem "Red Mercedes". While Bukowski does not use higher language or artful symbolism in his poetry, he still manages to provide the reader with an emotional response that stems from the raw experience and intimacy of his work, not from the parallel syntax or any other number of literary techniques. In "Red Mercedes", Bukowski offers the reader a glimpse into his interactions with other people: in this case, a rich man and his mistress. Bukowski loved the horse track, especially in his later years (he couldn't really afford it in his earlier years). The horse track has always been seen as a place for addicts to gather, a place where alcohol and money flow freely in a whirlwind of chance and, more often than not, dissapointment. This is the kind of establishment that best suits the man that is Charles Bukowski; a bum at heart (even when his writing became popular), he spent many hours and many poems on the ugly beauty of the horse track. On his way to a race, he encounters a presumably rich man in a red mercedes, who cuts him off. Knowing Bukowski we should not be surprised when this sends him into a fit of rage, seeing as he's probably drunk. But what's more important than the rich man and his red Mercedes is what Bukowski says about downmoods. Chemical imbalance or depression, whatever one wishes to call it, is an accepted trail of life to Bukowski. But this experience with the "rich pig" who is "soft and pampered" is the key to Bukowski's shedding his downmood: the gun that could have taken his life is a slap in the face to the enraged Bukowski: he leaves the interaction thinking that it "looked like a damn good card that day" (the horses could be lucky) and that "all [he] had to do was be there." Bukowski's threatening experience had given him a new, if temporary, positive outlook on life. He had shed his downmood.

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it's funny, isn't it? #2
when we were kids
laying around the lawn
on our
bellies
we often talked
about
how
we'd like to
die
and
we all agreed on the
same
thing;
we'd all like to die
fucking
(although
none of us had
done any
fucking)
and now
that we are hardly
kids
any longer
we think more
about
how
not to
die
and
although
we're
ready
most of us
would
prefer to
do it
alone
under the
sheets
now that
most of
us
have fucked
our lives
away.
-- Charles Bukowski
Charles Bukowski was not a happy man. He lived a life rife with struggling, struggling that would come to define his literary career. Charles Bukowski was born Heinrich Karl Bukowski to an American serviceman and a promiscuous German woman on August 16, 1920 in Andernach, Germany. While he insisted he was born out of wedlock, records indicate Charles was born one month after his parent’s marriage. As a child growing up in Germany and then Baltimore, Bukowski was stricken with terrible boils that covered his body, ruining his face and self-esteem. To compliment this terrible disorder, Charles’ father was often both physically and mentally abusive. He was an ugly boy who grew into an uglier man. When he was introduced to alcohol at the age of approximately 14, Bukowski wrote that “This [alcohol] is going to help me for a long time.” What most view as chronic alcoholism, Bukowski viewed as the only method through which he could survive this terribly unfair and painful existence. Before and after his writing was recognized Charles Bukowski was known as a near-urchin who frequented whore-houses and spent weeks at a time speechlessly drunk. His gravestone reads “don’t try”.
I include all this information because without this knowledge it is impossible to understand Bukowski’s work completely. His poems, without context, do not contain the full literary smack in the face that they do when one imagines Bukowski typing them at 5 AM, drunk and alone in the concrete expanse of Los Angeles.
The poem I have chosen for this entry, “isn’t it funny? #2”, is not meant to be read literally. While Bukowski certainly had an abrasive childhood, I believe it is fair to say that young Heinrich and his friends never laid on the lawn and wondered whether they would die “fucking”. Bukowski writes many pieces about his childhood and few of them bear any sort of truthfulness. The image of young boys laying childishly about a lawn giggling about sex and how they want to die in its act is not an unbelievable notion, but here still is not the nugget of truth we are trying to extract.
In this poem, Bukowski reflects on the life that he has chosen. As children and teenagers, young boys dream of living their lives in the “fast lane”. They dream of being able to control and exploit and conquer the virginal world, of becoming the master of the life that lay before them. While they may not dream specifically in the fashion that Bukowski depicts, this sentiment of opportunity and ability is common among young men. But as these hopeful and confident young men grow, the world loses its shimmer. They have all the women they want, they drink all the booze they can drink, they win all the cards games, and they are tired of the endless run around. It looks empty to the old men, no longer an attractive young girl winking at them, but rather a tired old maid. All these old men want is to sleep, to pass quietly away from this tired and grey life that they have desperately taken all they can from.
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16-bit Intel 8088 chip

with an Apple Macintosh
you can't run Radio Shack programs
in its disc drive.
nor can a Commodore 64
drive read a file
you have created on an
IBM Personal Computer.
both Kaypro and Osborne computers use
the CP/M operating system
but can't read each other's
handwriting
for they format (write
on) discs in different
ways.
the Tandy 2000 runs MS-DOS but
can't use most programs produced for
the IBM Personal Computer
unless certain
bits and bytes are
altered
but the wind still blows over
Savannah
and in the Spring
the turkey buzzard struts and
flounces before his
hens.
-Charles Bukowski
Even the drunkard knows the ultimate power of nature. Even Bukowski after a five day drunk knew that, in the end, it is nature that triumphs, albeit not in a fantastic and breathtaking fashion: the triumph of nature is a gradual victory. Just as iron forged by man corrodes molecule by molecule so do the accomplishments of man fade brick by brick, computer chip by computer chip. It is easy to imagine what the computer at which I currently sit will look like in 300 years: ten feet underground, a mess of half corroded plastics and metals, the only testament to the existence of a digital portal for thought and action into a fantasy realm where emails and information fly past each other at speeds and scales unimaginable to most of humanity. But in 300 years the turkey buzzard, with his repulsive gobble and horrific face, will still court the fresh crop of hens to find a new mate. The wind will still blow over Savannah, no matter if Savannah still exists as more than a few stones by the sea. All of these things which we modern humans pride ourselves upon: Iphone, Mercedes, MacBook Air: they are more transient than the most infinitesimal creature of the forest floor. In the time of Bukowski it was the Intel chip, the IBM processor, the floppy drive: if we still exist 50 years from now, it will be some other plastic and glass toy, some other distraction from our imminent departure from this existence.
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