poem for a stand up guy, in beer

I could not listen for the scraping retort.
The Cackling; Hooting; the explosive Guffaw, Ears burning, pricked by stitching, Even the word \’Nipple\’ Arousing raw heights of inanity, Spittled lips puckered Wetly in rows, front and back, The spotlight trained on tired, spotted flesh, Sticking at the armpits, Small beer, short shrift, Arrivists in cashmere Sweaters, Hanging on each word. Finally, it is not the metal taste of fear which saws and stings – the spoon, the knife, the fork – It is the copper ringing, the dread of the seasoned familiar, The strings, The posies, The lantern jaw of the wooden marionette in the Shadow of a beard, The singing of the crowd, The flaccid chatter, The monkey, the organ, the grind.

I tossed out the above poem, listening to it rattle through my skull, between a supermarket trip and charging electricity to my key. Milo had been shrieking since 7 AM. There was no respite from his teething. Whingeing. He headbutted me twice, I think. He may have unplugged a tooth.

The last of the loosely presentable.

I was thinking on \’Hostage\’, recorded live at Redondo Beach in April, 1980; Jon\’s Trotskyite cronies in Echo Park, 1972, too consumed with politicking to peer over their noses long enough to register discomfit.

From a grandiose brownstone, to a pier on Venice Beach.

I don\’t know if you are familiar with \’Hostage\’. It is all but insufferable. Charles Bukowski, it is alleged, detested public performance. The routine humiliation.

There is no sense in stepping in a prize stallion\’s shoes, it is remarked, unless one is prepared to break from the stalls at a gallop. Of course. Charles Bukowski studied form.

The odds, the skinny, shortfalls in rent.

Despite all this, he could not stomach the notion of pandering to the crowd. There is more joy, perhaps, in trudging pavements in the snow. I have tried that too. I have written of it in private correspondence.

Coming home from the night shift with one\’s arms three inches longer. Fingers torn and bloody from mail sacks fresh off the 3 AM flight. Falling straight into bed knowing Christmas is in the bag.

Well. The postman brings good news. A Trust here in Glasgow has agreed to finance a good part of my tuition fees. I am relieved. Ecstatic. That they have backed my horse before it is dragged off to the knacker\’s yard, that I have composed my mouth in one last gasp.

Allen Ginsberg famously courted the crowd. It was a good gig, while it lasted.

Such as it is, I am of a mind to visit a home recorded reading from New Orleans, Louisiana – of all places – from 1970, forty years and many ailing dogs ago.

Of course. I have not arrived. Not quite yet, I am not so addled, though the Merlot is back on the menu. The beer tucked away in our fridge.

It is a nod, to the living at least. As much a public nicety as I am capable of. CHARLES BUKOWSKI: HAMMER AND LEASH from \”King Of Poets\” CD (Chinaski Records) 1997 (US / Germany)


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