There are so many quotes I could draw from that would be emblematic of the character of Charles Bukowski, the larger-than-life poet, novelist, alcoholic, and “grim prophet of love.”
But today, on the day he would have turned 92, I choose “two nights before my 72nd birthday.” Written exactly two decades ago, shortly before his death of leukemia, the poem calmly, almost ambivalently, reflects on aging and death. Bukowski seems drained of all the lingering angst from his difficult childhood, only amazed at the fact he’s lasted this long and grateful for his glass of cabernet and the warm night. It’s pleasant to think of him admiring life’s simplicities, not really wanting or regretting, merely enjoying what would be his second-to-last birthday.
That night, I think, a secret bluebird gave a little whistle somewhere.
sitting here on a boiling hot night while
drinking a bottle of cabernet sauvignon
after winning $232 at the track.
there’s not much I can tell you except
if it weren’t for my bad right leg
I don’t feel much different than I did
30 or 40 years ago (except that
now I have more money and should be able
to afford a decent
I drive better automobiles and have
stopped carrying a
I am still looking for a hero, a role model,
but can’t find one.
I am no more tolerant of Humanity
than I ever was.
I am not bored with myself and find
that I am the only one I can
turn to in time of
I’ve been ready to die for decades and
I’ve been practicing, polishing up
for that end
but it’s very
and I can think of little but
this fine cabernet,
that’s gift enough for me.
sometimes I can’t
believe I’ve come this far,
this has to be some kind of goddamned
just another old guy
blinking at the forces,
smiling a little,
as the cities tremble and the left
Happy Birthday Bukowski.