BUKOWSKI – BY LINDA KING

Bukowski – by Linda King

“Charles Bukowski? Never heard of him,” I said.

“He’s the best poet in L.A.”

I picked up a small poetry mag…Laugh Literary and Man
the Humping Guns…”In disgust with poetry Chicago, with
the dull, dumpling pattycake safe Creeley’s, Olsons, Dickeys,
Merwins, Nemerovs and Merediths…”
I started reading his poem, “The Grand Pricks of the Hob
Nailed Sun”…getting to the line…”God tongues out your
asshole” I asked, “Is this Bukowski guy homosexual?”

“I don’t know…” Just then a yelling and bellowing starts across
the street. Two guys are wrestling. “That’s Charles Bukowski
coming right now…maybe you can ask him.”

The younger guy comes in first and Peter says, “Hey, Neeli,
you’re Hank’s friend. This lady wants to know if he’s homo-
sexual.”

“I don’t suck his cock, ” Neeli answers.

And I’m thinking…these guys…”Be quiet out there,” a black
woman yells from inside, “The reading’s started.” My sister
and I duck behind the blanket into the dark poetry hole…The
Bridge. Bukowski, Neeli and Peter enter with beer and wine.
They get settled on a mattress. Bukowski eyes the legs of a
woman in a mini-skirt. He listens to about three poems, picks
up his beer and walks out.

A couple of weeks later, at the same place. I’m listening to the
flute, trying to be entertained, my nerves crawling for some
action. I finally whisper to Peter. “God, doesn’t anything ever
happen here? Where’s something exciting? Some action?” And
the flute went on calmly, quietly. Peter made a phone call…
“O.K., we’ll be right over.” and he turned to me. “I’m taking
you to Charles Bukowski’s.” I thought to myself…am I ready
for this? Peter drove like a madman, screeching his tires into a
liquor store for a six-pack.

“Look, Peter, why don’t I get my car and follow you?”

“O.K.’ and he squealed his tires back to The Bridge. “I’ll be
right out. Got to get the money.” He ran inside. Through the
window I could see him arguing with the black singer…his woman.

The door and windows of Bukowski’s court were overgrown
with bushes. Bukowski was old…too old. Fat…too fat…and
rather drunk.

“I want to introduce you to…”

“Morona.”

“…to Morona…”

“Come on what’s your name?”

“That’s it. I just want people to know right away I’m Morona
…kind of dumb…so they will know what to expect. They can
never say I didn’t warn them.”

“O.K., Morona sit down.”

Bukowski didn’t say much. He looked at me like I didn’t have
eyes, ears or a soul. We said this and we said that and Bukowski
talked like he’d seen it all, heard it all, done it all. Peter was
laughing and lively and the conversation got around to poetry.

“So you write poetry,” Bukowski said. He and Peter gave
each other a look.

“Yes, I write. I was about to crawl up the walls in that place…
the flute going po. po. pooo. po., the poets read so quiet.
Doesn’t anyone scream in this city. I like to scream mine like
this…” I started a poem.

Peter jumped in front of me yelling, “No, no, not to Charles
Bukowski…not to Charles Bukowski.”

“Why not to Charles Bukowski? I don’t know him,” and I
jumped on the table acting out the madwoman in my poem.
Bukowski reached over and turned up the radio full blast
to drown me out and Peter grabbed me trying to put his
hand over my mouth at the same time screaming obscenitites.
I jumped off the table holding out above the roar.

“Let’s dance…let’s fuck…,” Peter yelled, pushing against me.
“Let’s do the thing…” The poem is finally over.

“It’s a goddamn rhymer…I knew it. Nobody rhymes anymore.”

“Just we morons. I still like nursery rhymes too.”

“That’s right. Your name is Morona. I see.”

The phone rings. It’s Peter’s girl friend. “I’ve got to go,” he
says, “but you’ve got to kiss me first.”

“Peter, come on, leave me alone.” I get up.

“Bukowski, let’s both fuck her.”

“I’m going.” I said.

“Oh no, you’re staying here . . . with Hank.” Peter hurls me
down on the couch into Bukowski’s arms and runs out slam-
ming the door behind him.

Everything gets very quiet. I look at him. He looks at me.
I know I’m not going to have anything to do with him. He
knows he’s not going to have anything to do with me. We
kiss a couple of times. I don’t let him really kiss…just a
touch. Hummm, a touch or two more.

“You’re a tease.”

“Yes, I’m a tease.”

He tries again. A kiss, but not a kiss.

“Little Bo-peep has to go now.”

“Wait…”

Standing up our lips touch again…just a teaser. I slip out the
door feeling like I might have just barely escaped a lion’s cage.

***

I went to four books stores before I found one with Bukowski.
His books had a strange effect on me. I read them through my
company, hiding in the bathroom, all night, later staring at the
walls, wide awake. He made me laugh out loud, he made me
furious, disgusted, indignant, sad. I thought, what is this man;
Does he really think women are like that?…”Well, he’s a good
writer, but he doesn’t know shit about women.”

The next poem I wrote also rhymed (he wasn’t going to tell
me if I could rhyme or not). It was a long, bad poem with
some lines reading . .

come out of that hole, you old Troll
come and frolic
with the little liberated Billies
we’ll put some daisies in your hair

I sent him the poem and asked if I could sculpture his head.

***

It was nine at night when I knocked on his door to take pictures
for the sculpture. I thought we’d talked two or three hours,
before I decided I’d better go home. I walked outside. The sun
was coming up. It was morning. I couldn’t believe so many hours
had passed so fast. I was still sure I’d never get involved with
Charles Bukowski. He was twenty years older. I didn’t like his
negative attitude toward people. And, the drinking, no sane
woman would get involved with him. I went home and dreamed
he was lying on the side of a road dying. The supermarket was
over the hill. If he didn’t get over the embankment to the store
he’d die. Alone he’d die. I saw in the dream a big bridge and
construction just started that he and I were to build, but he
had to have food first.

When I told him the dream he said, “Maybe it’s because I
haven’t eaten for four or five days. I’ve been drinking.”

“You’d better get to the store.” I said.

***

Over the clay I fell in-love with his head…or my head. I teased
him, looking into his eyes, long looks, pretending I was only
looking with a sculptress’ eye. I knew I was getting him hot
and I’d say, professionally…

“Now, turn your head a little more to the left.”

Every new day he came for a sitting it was hotter and hotter
until finally he was reaching over the space between us,
backing me up against the stove, the refigerator for long
kisses, great Kisses. He was losing weight, on the breath
chasers, in new shirts. I kept having to take clay off the face
as the pounds disappeared. Every-day he’d go home and
write back a love letter, great long hot letters making me
forget he was too old for me, that my mother wouldn’t ap-
prove, that he drank.

And I found myself stating my terms, “I’ll never get mixed up
with a man again who doesn’t like to eat pussy..uh..huh…never
again. If a man doesn’t like it…he doesn’t like it. There’s no
way.” And one day when the kids were outside, the sculpture
still unfinished (it took months), he locked the doors and
carried me into the bedroom, kicking and screaming…”No
we can’t…” and proved to me he did like it. He sent me the
poem, “I have eaten your cunt like a peach,” which I read in
the middle of the night and turned on fire. I called him up
and masturbated listening to his voice on the phone and still
I said…”No, he’s too old for me. I can’t. It’s crazy.”
Godomighty, I loved his humor, the look in his eyes, his
sardonic comments and he kissed like…well, like great.

“Do you want to come to a party tonight?” he asked me.
“It’s a collating party.”

“A copulating party? I’d love to. No really, what did you
say? Co…what?”

“Putting the magazine together, that’s collating.”

“Oh, sure. Who’s going to be there?”

“A bunch of half-assed poets,…myself.”

“Poets, look, I’m scared. I’m from the country. I don’t know
how to talk.”

“You don’t have to talk. Just be there.”

“Now if it was a copulating…”

“It will be you and me…after…..,”

my little girl ran in breaking up another long kiss. The steam
was blowing out of both of us like a pressure cooker and I
didn’t know if I wanted to be alone with him. All this time,
all these days and weeks of sculpturing I’d been protected by
my sister dropping in, my little girl, my son coming home from
school. This time we’d be alone…really alone.

That night I dreamed Bukowski showed me something he
didn’t show many people – his closet full of stuffed animals.
Toy bears, elephants, wolves that had never been touched.
I thought how sad no one had ever played with them. The
same night I dreamed that my handsome actor friend, whom
I’d also been thinking about, had cancer of his poetry, two
thirds of the paper was eaten away.

***

His bedroom was stacks of books, poems, newspapers,
old letters. The mattress was like a rocky road. I jumped
up from the bed screaming…”You came inside! Jesus
Christ, man, I told you I don’t take birth control…”

“Look, I haven’t been with a woman in four years. I was
too hot. It just happened. What do I do?”

“Do? You’re fifty years old…you’re supposed to know
things. Any eighteen year old would know what to do…by
jesus christ…you’d better decide on a name. I’m pregnant
for sure with that shot.”

“…the first time.”

“How about Clyde K. Bukowski?”

Later. “I guess the only thing that saved me was probably all
your sperm were pickled with alcohol.”

***

Bukowski was a mass of sensitivies, egotism, uncertainties,
confidence…humor, talent. The first month I was with him
the unknown enemy was coming out of the walls. He had a
knife taped behind the door. He jumped up five times a night
facing murderers. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t sleep…and
shadows spoke. Spirits stood around the bed watching us.
Death walked down the sidewalk every night.

One night we lay in bed having a conversation with the light.
It went on for yes, off for no. Each off and on was carefully
answered after the question. We both got spooked. We’d
lay in the mornings when the kids were gone and he’d say,
“Let’s just lay here until they come and get us.”

***

“O.K.” Days would pass fast…always too fast. When the
fights started we fought like tigers. God, did we ever fight.
Bukowski jumped up and ended everything, walked out and
we’d call each other all night, hanging up after having our say.
I accused him of picking fights to get drunk. And he’d call at
two, three, four, five with raving madman, drunk, poetic
speeches about women, souls, love and hate. Crazy beautiful
lines. What word power. I was impressed in the middle of
my worst rage.

In the middle of the night he’d return the sculptured head and
I’d find it on my doorstep in the morning. He’d come again
and leave a letter…”I hate you with all the hate there is in the
world.” We split forty…fifty times in a year. Each one final
for both of us. Each one the last. I was a tease and a flirt and
when he was drinking, I was the whore, looking for other
men, turning on for everyone, at the races, at the restaurant,
at the park.

“You and Jane are the whores of the century!”…better than
that…only Bukowski can say it like he says it with all the em-
phasis and words and lines. He’d slam down the reciever.
I’d lay on the bed boiling until I thought of an answer. Dial
his number…normandie 1…

“Bukowski, don’t hang up until you hear this…I just want
you to know there is one thing worse than a whore. It is a
bore…and you’re boring me.” Slam. I took my phone off
the hook so he couldn’t call back.

Hard on the nerves? Yes, but knowing I was never going
back to him. It was all over this time…made it not so bad.
It was drama. It was life. We’d make up with mad crazy
passionate lovemaking both of us knowing we couldn’t make
it together. Both saying, “Let’s enjoy this one last time…”

Laying by Bukowski on the bed I’d feel a heat or rays of
some kind coming from the center of him. It would move
into me and warm me in a way I’d never been warmed.
Sometimes it was so strong I’d put my hand over that area
and test it to make sure it was real. The same vibes would
enter my hand.

***

Bukowski is a person who changes. He listens to what you
say. He reacts to how you feel, immediately. From day to
day he comes back with a new approach, a different way
to get to me. He read my moods like an open book and
usually knew immediately what was passing through my
mind, even if he was at his place, I at mine. Countless times
he’d call and say, “What’s wrong?”…just as something was
wrong. He’d say, “What happened at three o’clock…some-
thing happened at three o’clock.” Usually he was right, an
old boyfriend had called or I’d gotten angry at something
he’d said yesterday.

***

His sensitivities were too raw and he’d dull them with alcohol.
His body didn’t like the drunks anymore than I did. I’d think
he was being unfair. Our two tempers would explode like
shooting geysers and we’d roar down our emotional roller
coaster with one more fight…one more split up. I to my
freedom, he to a woman who really cared or back to where
he had it all solved. I refused to be his nurse through his
hangovers. I’d jump in my car, go up the coast, go to Utah…
go anywhere, until the day I go mad enough to rent a U-haul
and move three states away….to really end it for the last
time…”the mad…ass, son of a bitch.”

After four months, three or four hundred dollars in phone calls,
a new woman for him, a one night stand for me, I’m back in
town to make a new start. How did he get back in my bed?
Marvelous, two weeks straight of love…two, three times a day.
We couldn’t get enough of each other. I felt like rolling all over
him…in every direction. Soak up those feelings.

It’s not because he’s a great poet. He is, I know that. It is all
that magic on the sheets, in the afternoon, in the morning…at
midnight, the real poetry. We’ve only split once this month.

Small Press Review – May, 1973

Linda King

One Response to BUKOWSKI – BY LINDA KING

  1. Alexis Rhone Fancher says:

    Fabulous writing. Yet another glimpse of the master.

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