“Corny Stuff”

One of my favourite pieces of writing by Charles Bukowski comes from his correspondence with Sheri Martinelli.

It’s a short account of his haemorrhoidectomy and it’s quintessential Buk.

It goes:


the month of March is over. I went into the hospital on the 2nd., was sliced on the 3rd., and there was a bit of horror and disbelief—locked in with the whining crowd. and their T.V. sets and many of them with imagined ills, only wanting the great Mother because society has cut their balls off and they have lost touch with the undiscovered and important gods. no souls—just mouths, bodies pewking the misery of the sell-out. the bit of pain from the knives was nothing compared to being locked-in with them! at least on the job, you know that in a dozen hours you will be walking down the street alone—4 a.m.—with the last of the moon sinking into your skin and bones, the quiet air giving you no con-game… you slowly fill again, you go home. the mirror is hell, but that’s where you came from. but there’s always that stirring inch LEFT! that something you held all the way through. a seed. a lucky charm. love. guts. spinach. you name it. you know it. but in a hospital—that’s it. they’ve got you—(the docs and the nurses and the patients)—to talk to, fondle, slice, arrg. but I found me a little Mexican mop-up girl—all eyes and sadness, we had some laughs, corny stuff, I’d say, “Hey sweetie, you come to mop my white socks again?” “do they need it?” “oh yeah, once lightly!” and the little wench mopped my socks again! laughing. I always seem to meet these little Mexican girls working at dirty jobs, for nothing. beautifully real and easy. “If I could get out of this bed I’d chase you all around the room!” “why don’t you try it, you might catch me!” silly stuff, I guess. she’s 25 years younger than I am. old horny goat, Buk. but a lift. sure. she brought me a new pair of stockings when I left, threw them on my chest. “here! for your big stinky feet!” I didn’t have the guts to ask for her whereabouts when she wasn’t working.

Note: the Mexican mop-up girl he talks about is around 75 years old today—if she is still around somewhere.

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I wonder…

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Did she get the experimental jab?

Where does she live?

Does she remember Buk?

Does she have kids?

What is her go to ice cream flavor?

When was the last time she smiled and why?

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speaking of favourites…

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I like to prowl ordinary places
and taste the people—
from a distance.
I don’t want them too near
because that’s when attrition
starts.
but in supermarkets
laundromats
cafes
street corners
bus stops
eating places
drug stores
I can look at their bodies
and their faces
and their clothing—
watch the way they walk
or stand
or what they are doing.
I’m like an x-ray machine
I like them like that:
on view.
I imagine the best things
about them.
I imagine them brave and crazy
I imagine them beautiful.

I like to prowl the ordinary places.
I feel sorry for us all or glad for us
all
caught alive together
and awkward in that way.

there’s nothing better than the joke
of us
the seriousness of us
the dullness of us
buying stockings and carrots and gum
and magazines
buying birth control
candy
hair spray
and toilet paper.

we should build a great bonfire
we should congratulate ourselves on our
endurance

we stand in long lines
we walk about
we wait.

I like to prowl ordinary places
the people explain themselves to me
and I to them

a woman at 3:35pm
weighing purple grapes on a scale
looking at that scale very
seriously
she is dressed in a simple green dress
with a pattern of white flowers
she takes the grapes
puts them carefully into a white paper
bag

that’s lightning enough

the generals and the doctors may kill us
but we have
won.

59 Cents a Pound

Attention Quarantined

You become what you agree to attend to.

And your freedom turns on it.

Literally.

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Effort of attention is … the essential phenomenon of will.

William James

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The way Social Media can in effect anti-socialize us and Smart technologies dumb us down is the way that our capacity for discerning attention is under great threat in the Black Hole Glut of the Attention (=Distraction) Economy.

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And it all happens when we have no distinct idea about who we actually are and what we actually stand for.

Absent clarity of intent and intuitive self-reliance we’re bound to forfeit our agency and to defer to what (ever) is being curated for us.

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Free will then is not exempt from causes and conditions but is rather the flexible coordination of attention, intention and emotion in skillful action. That’s what it means to be free from a psychological and phenomenological perspective.

Evan Thompson

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Which reminds me of a profound poem by A. R. Ammons—which arrested my attention the very first time I read it:

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ATTENTION

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Down by the bay I

kept in mind

at once

the tips of all the rushleaves

and so

came to know

balance’s cost and true:

somewhere though in the whole field

is the one

tip

I will someday lose out of mind

and fall through.

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Bukowski on the Technocracy

auto-generated sonnets (by courtesy of GPT-3 say) all but vindicate Charles Bukowski. when in regards to art and the creative process he wrote:

AS THE SPIRIT WANES THE FORM APPEARS.

yes.

and no:

machines will never be able to emulate the intuitive intelligence of an artist. approximate: yes. but to replicate? no way.

machines may only (impeccably) embody the empty and formulaic aspects of the human. the mind. as it were. without the heart.

which is plenty meager.

Buk’s Finest Lines

One of the most touching and inspiring figures of the 20th century is a writer who is considered to be and indeed is popular for being one of the rawest and most apathetic writers of the 20th century.

Even today, still too few and not too many truly appreciate the sensitivity and delicate sensibility that he actually possessed and embodied and expressed. But this is just the way it is and has always been: the more honest and transparent a person gets, inevitably: the more others will relate to this person as they relate to life in general—which is to say: the more they’ll project their own confusions and petty frustrations onto this person.

We still have difficulty with ‘’gambling‘’ (i.e. taking chances) and contending with the truthful and the real. No wonder ‘’everybody is always angry about the truth / even though they claim to / believe in it.’’

At any rate: here are a few of the finest lines by Charles Bukowski I’ve encountered so far. In fact, I’ve put together a little collection that you can download >>here<< if you are interested in more.

and down in the water / the fish cry / and all the water / is their tears.

Christ should have laughed on the cross, / it would have petrified his killers

we must bring / our own light / to the / darkness.

the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them

the bite of reality doesn’t kill, / it only clears the mind.

We need knock nothing down. It’s time we begin picking up. saving what is left. what is worth saving.

nothing’s equal […] the balance is in the differences

if you are telling the truth it’s done without preaching

Everybody thinking that they alone know the angle. Dumb lost egos. I’m one of those.

this is the price we now pay: we can’t go / back, we can’t go forward and we hang helpless, nailed to a / world / of our own / making.

my love grows sadder, my life grows realer.

how we said / no, no, no, no, / to the most beautiful / YES / ever uttered: // life / itself.

The human race exaggerates everything: its heroes, its enemies, its importance.

each evening bent like the point of a thumb tack / that will no longer stick / in / each kiss a hope of returning to the first kiss / each fuck the same / each person nailed against diminishing / returns / we are slaves to hopes that have run to / garbage / as old age / arrives on schedule.

I don’t know why people think effort and energy / have anything to do with / creation.

look Mike, no man is / invincible / someday / you’ll be sent mad by / eyes like a child’s crayon / drawing.

she speaks of love / then breaks each man / to her will / shark-mouthed / grubby interior / we see it too late: / after the cock gets swallowed / the heart follows

Everybody imagined themselves special, privileged, exempt.

take a writer away from his typewriter / and all you have left / is / the sickness / which started him / typing / in the / beginning.

every person, I suppose, has / their eccentricities / but in an effort to be / normal / in the world’s / eye / they overcome them / and therefore / destroy their / special calling.

it / takes / a lot of // desperation // dissatisfaction // and disillusion // to / write //a / few / good / poems.

and the years move slow and the years / move fast and the years move / past.

you were / nature’s / idiot, / not proving but / being / proved. / not a man but a / plan / unfolding, / not thrusting but / being / pierced.

they become unalive / because they are unable to / pause / undo themselves / unkink / unsee / unlearn / roll clear.

People waited all their lives. They waited to live, they waited to die. They waited in line to buy toilet paper. They waited in line for money. And if they didn’t have any money they waited in longer lines. You waited to go to sleep and then you waited to awaken. You waited to get married and you waited to get divorced. Your waited for it to rain, you waited for it to stop. You waited to eat and then you waited to eat again.

People who solved things usually had lots of persistence and some good luck. If you persisted long enough, the good luck usually came. Most people couldn’t wait on the luck, though, so they quit.

When love burns to the ground do not be ashamed of your grief, or even your madness or bitterness.

When you go up fast, you usually come down that way.

only time poetry gets any good is when it forgets its holiness.

there is nothing to declare here, / just a waiting. / each faces it alone.

we are destroyed by expecting / more than there is

for want of something to do / we keep slaying our small dragons / as the big one waits.

lay down and wait until it charges then you / must get / up / face it get / it before it gets / you

Any time you pay somebody to tell you what to do you are going to be a loser. And this includes your psychiatrist, your psychologist, your broker, your workshop teacher and your etc. There is nothing that teaches your more than regrouping after failure and moving on. Yet most people are stricken with fear. They fear failure so much that they fail. They are too conditioned, too used to being told what to do. It begins with the family, runs through school and goes into the business world.

We move toward the mirage, our lives wasted like everybody else’s.

There are thousands of traps in life and most of us fall into many of them. The idea though, is to stay out of as many of them as possible. Doing so helps you remain as alive as you might until you die.

Most of them speak what they have been taught, not what they have learned. And what they lack most are two things: gamble and humor.

You have to know when to duck and when to swing and how to say ’’no.’’

If I’ve learned anything through the years it’s that people don’t change very much.

Even if you feel like it, even if you mean it, when you get into moralizing you are begging off. Always stay beyond good and evil, just photograph the action and leave the reader on his own.

Leaving this will not be a horrible thing. Yet I’m glad, somehow, that I threw my few words into the air: confetti, celebrating nothing.

They have no idea where it comes from. It comes from pain, damnation and impossibility. The blow to the soul of the gut. It comes from getting burned and seared and slugged. It comes from being too alive in the middle of death.

Life keeps nipping you at the balls to let you know where it’s at. It’s painful but it might be worth it. The whole scheme operates on a system of balances. Too much pain and travail can take you out too. The gods give those they favor the proper dosages.

It’s better to fail your way than to succeed their way.

It’s day by day with me and all I want to do is play it loose and free.

I always figure if a writer is bored with his work / the reader is going to be / bored too. // and I don’t believe in / perfection, I believe in keeping the / bowels loose

to endure is only / meaningful / if you come out / with / something / at the other / end. / but to endure / simply in order to / endure / is the unfortunate / plight / of millions.

seagulls / are mad angels / trying to tell us something.

don’t feel sorry for me. / I am a competent, / satisfied human being. // be sorry for the others / who / fidget / complain // who / constantly / rearrange their / lives / like / furniture. // juggling mates / and / attitudes // their / confusion is / constant // and it will / touch / whoever they / deal with. // beware of them: / one of their / key words is / ’’love.’’ // and beware those who / only take / instructions from their / God // for they have / failed completely to / live their own / lives.

magic persists with / or without us / no matter how / we may try to / destroy it

I never stop women when they / want to / leave. / I figure if they are dumb enough / to leave me / they don’t deserve / me.

the most terrible thing about life / is finding it gone.

Those constipated minds that seek / larger meaning / will be dispatched with the other / garbage. / back off. / if there is light / it will find / you.