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Reflections of a working writer and reader



A Poem by Charles Bukowski

thoughts on being 71

having worn life like a red
I have reached here,
sitting in slippers and shorts while
listening to
time for a good cigar.
I note the wedding ring on one of
my fingers as I light

it’s better now, death is closer,
I no longer have to look for it,
no longer have to challenge
it, taunt it, play with it.
it’s right here with me
like a pet cat or a wall

I’ve had a good run.
I can toss it in without regret.

odd, though, I feel no different
than I did at 35 or 47 or 62:
I am only truly conscious of my
age when I look into a
baleful eyes, grinning
stupid mouth.

it’s nice, my friend, the
lightning flashes about
I’ve washed up on the golden
everything here is miracle,
a hard miracle,
as was what

but there’s nothing worse than
some old guy
talking about what he

well, yes, there is:
a bunch of old guys talking about

I stay away from them.
and you stay away from me.

that space is all we’ll ever really
any of

Poem: “thoughts on being 71,” by Charles Bukowski from Open All Night: New Poems (Black Sparrow Press).

7 Responses to “A Poem by Charles Bukowski”

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    I’ve steered clear of Bukowski – his reputation has done him no favours as far as I’m concerned – and so I think this is the only poem by him I have ever read and I have to say it is not bad at all. Assuming he was 71 when he wrote it it may well be that he has softened with age but I appreciate his thoughts here very much.

    jb says: Reputations are earned, or at least parts of them are. I think he enjoyed being a wild man, but he could also write and some of the novels, particularly, have passages of heart-rending prose.
    It’s an interesting subject that you broach. I wonder how many people have deprived themselves of Gatsby because of the author’s reputation?

  2. Rethabile says:

    I met Bukowski’s poems before meeting the character behind them. He writes well, is all I can say. And I do not mind what he did when he wasn’t at his desk.

    jb says: Hi Rethabile. I also manage to separate the artist from the man most of the time. Bukowski’s not a problem for me either.

  3. Anna Marano says:

    I am discovering Bukowski, and… I can certainly say I have a literary crush on him. When I read, I want to meet the man behind the words, and Bukowski is one who talks clear about whom and what he is. I don’t think his reputation was a big problem for him, but his being truthful to life was. He had the courage to explore those inner and hidden places of the human soul, those scary places a writer has to deal with constantly. He made art out of crap. More than his reputation his readers should consider the extraordinary effort Bukowski underwent to in his creative process. Yet, if “bad reputation” is synonym for poetry, I welcome it.

    Rethable says in his post that Bukowski “writes well.” This comment is very naive. One who can neal a poem with an opening like “having worn life like a red/ flower,” is much more than a “good writer.” These two lines alone have the power of a whole poem. Of course, words may be for some only a set of sounds. Again, many can be good writers, but only a few are good poets.

    jb says: Thanks, Anna. It’s good to have your opinion. But I don’t think there’s much to argue about here. Only a difference in the way different people express themselves in their admiration of the poem.

  4. Rethabile says:

    ‘Rethable says in his post that Bukowski “writes well.” This comment is very naive. One who can neal a poem with an opening like “having worn life like a red/ flower,” is much more than a “good writer.”’

    I agree with John that we all appreciate the poem in our own ways. You call my comment naïve for the adverb I use. But I think the degree to which one appreciates poetry is personal, and as a result the adverb need be, too.

    The fact that the opening lines are in themselves a poem is your opinion, and the fact that such lines can only be written by great poets (as opposed to good ones) is your opinion as well. Do you not agree?

  5. Eternity Bands says:

    I do truly love this poem. It given to me from my father right before he passed away. So for this I have a special attachment to it.

    I see in his eyes that I hope I feel the same way when I reach 71. I hope that I can also look back with no regret.

  6. Gowns says:

    That’s a really awesome poem. Loved reading it and enjoyed every bit of it. Appreciate your effort. Keep it up. Cheers.

  7. Rachel Fox says:

    This poem really made me laugh near the end. Very charming.