Charles Bukowski’s BLUEBIRD

Charles Bukowski – 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?

The first time I read Bukoswki’s beautiful poem I did weep.  I had read a couple of his novels and I was shocked that he was capable of the kind of universality and vulnerability that are on display here, as opposed to the vulgarity, self-centeredness, and hopelessness prevalent in those novels.  This poem has been a source of encouragement to me many times over the years, especially when I step back to recognize that a man as famously sleazy as Bukowski used poetry to such honest and inspiring effect.

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