Bluebird

Today is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. So what has this to do with Charles Bukowski?

When I was a young teenager, in the early 80s, I worked in a small health food sandwich shop in Redondo Beach California. The Dew Drop Inn was owned by Linda Beighle the girlfriend of Charles Bukowski. Behind the refrigerator was a large collection of records, mostly reggae, some African, and a smattering of other things including: George Winston, Grace Jones, Judy Garland, and Koerner Ray and Glover.

I loved the Koerner Ray and Glover album: The Return of Koerner Ray and Glover. It was my first exposure to folk music. I forget the occasion, but one day, perhaps a birthday, Linda gifted it to me. I still have it, and still listen to it. One of the songs is the Leadbelly song Titanic. The Pete Seeger song The Titanic which mentions the band playing Nearer My God to Thee is perhaps a more accurate telling, but the Koerner Ray and Glover song is my bridge from the Titanic to Hank.

When I decided to put up a poem a day for National Poetry Month I knew I wanted to include Hank. I also knew that I didn’t want to post one of his more sensational poems. It just seems too easy to mention Bukowski and drinking, or Bukowski and Sex. Hank has a certain reputation, and I’m not saying that it isn’t deserved, only it’s not a complete picture.

I remember being witness to moments of great tenderness between Linda and Hank. Hank was always encouraging of creativity, and of living. In two of the books that he gave me are inscriptions that I often turn to:

and

Bluebird

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

Charles Bukowski

2 thoughts on “Bluebird

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