Compromise City (for Charles Bukowski)

no courage in some Certainties, or what pass for Certainties
soft fun to be found there, the safety and
unslaughtered yearnings denied
beauty framed is beauty amputated
in Certainty, it’s easy to quote the Buddha
outside it, the quotes come harder, truer
Bukowski looks down to the Buddha on his desk
and they speak to one another, and Bukowski transcribes
the conversation
punched down for the ages
I know him (Bukowski) and he knows me and typed words
are shibboleths
his capacity, in every direction, is amplified
because I know him. I would never have sat at his feet
to marvel at vomit, because unlike them
I know he knows that vomit holds no meaning
and he knows I know this
so I get on with it, him in the middle distance, not looking
he there in the afternoon sun
in his paper California

here in Compromise City, on this planet
night miscreants have sprayed ‘GOULS’
spelled thus with panache, reassuring me
the night still crawls with goblins, real live goblins
out in the fresh blackened air

those nights transcribed – not for you or me
but because words are a rope, his bulk dangling
by one hand
nights that will bludgeon away like sharpened spades
him dangling, typing, landing in the form
landing in the word
born in the word

his lionface sunlit, the music unending
as night rears up for me, smacking claws like tacks
upon a straggling wildebeest

I’ve German blood too, old king kraut
dogs’ blood, and the third eye of dogs
do you seen this, with
Mahler in vapour trails at your hammer
in these nights, the Buddha no swollen warm red thing
but what waits in that box, like a wind-up dancer
(the ones our girl cousins and grandmothers kept
on dressers, a clockwork magic, the sadness of womanhood)
in that box, my Buddha in these nights is a
Prussian Officer, creak the box lid and see
his pistol launched into the face of the dark
held brighter and smaller than a keepsake
his weight, in exact units of danger, is that of a statue
and he moves at the same deadly speed
but he does not cry and there are no known photos
of wondrous phenomena, no Catholic widows
chewing for lunacy on wet flowers and rosary beads
no newspapermen with cigarettes and hats and flashes
he holds his pose, the cold pistol
cut from the same stone as his hand
drowned in the night, upright,
my Buddha from that box, in me

no courage in all those Certainties, the easy sell-out
no glory in courage, but you who put it well enough
to show: the image of a man
is the one who can laugh with a mouthful of blood
when laughter comes, though the blood is refreshed
lively, on tap
they didn’t kill you, lion king alone
they will not
kill
me.

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