"Charles Bukowski? Never heard of him," I said.
"He's the best poet in L.A."
I picked up a small poetry mag...Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns..."In disgust with poetry Chicago, with the dull, dumpling pattycake safe Creeley's, Olsons, Dickeys, Merwins, Nemerovs and Merediths..." I started reading his poem, "The Grand Pricks of the Hob Nailed Sun"...getting to the line..."God tongues out your asshole" I asked, "Is this Bukowski guy homosexual?"
"I don't know..." Just then a yelling and bellowing starts across the street. Two guys are wrestling. "That's Charles Bukowski coming right now...maybe you can ask him."
The younger guy comes in first and Peter says, "Hey, Neeli, you're Hank's friend. This lady wants to know if he's homosexual."
"I don't suck his cock, " Neeli answers.
And I'm thinking...these guys..."Be quiet out there," a black woman yells from inside, "The reading's started." My sister and I duck behind the blanket into the dark poetry hole...The Bridge. Bukowski, Neeli and Peter enter with beer and wine. They get settled on a mattress. Bukowski eyes the legs of a woman in a mini-skirt. He listens to about three poems, picks up his beer and walks out.
A couple of weeks later, at the same place. I'm listening to the flute, trying to be entertained, my nerves crawling for some action. I finally whisper to Peter. "God, doesn't anything ever happen here? Where's something exciting? Some action?" And the flute went on calmly, quietly. Peter made a phone call... "O.K., we'll be right over." and he turned to me. "I'm taking you to Charles Bukowski's." I thought to myself...am I ready for this? Peter drove like a madman, screeching his tires into a liquor store for a six-pack.
"Look, Peter, why don't I get my car and follow you?"
"O.K.' and he squealed his tires back to The Bridge. "I'll be right out. Got to get the money." He ran inside. Through the window I could see him arguing with the black singer...his woman.
The door and windows of Bukowski's court were overgrown with bushes. Bukowski was old...too old. Fat...too fat...and rather drunk.
"I want to introduce you to..."
"Come on what's your name?"
"That's it. I just want people to know right away I'm Morona ...kind of dumb...so they will know what to expect. They can never say I didn't warn them."
"O.K., Morona sit down."
Bukowski didn't say much. He looked at me like I didn't have eyes, ears or a soul. We said this and we said that and Bukowski talked like he'd seen it all, heard it all, done it all. Peter was laughing and lively and the conversation got around to poetry.
"So you write poetry," Bukowski said. He and Peter gave each other a look.
"Yes, I write. I was about to crawl up the walls in that place... the flute going po. po. pooo. po., the poets read so quiet. Doesn't anyone scream in this city. I like to scream mine like this..." I started a poem.
Peter jumped in front of me yelling, "No, no, not to Charles Bukowski...not to Charles Bukowski."
"Why not to Charles Bukowski? I don't know him," and I jumped on the table acting out the madwoman in my poem. Bukowski reached over and turned up the radio full blast to drown me out and Peter grabbed me trying to put his hand over my mouth at the same time screaming obscenitites. I jumped off the table holding out above the roar.
"Let's dance...let's fuck...," Peter yelled, pushing against me. "Let's do the thing..." The poem is finally over.
"It's a goddamn rhymer...I knew it. Nobody rhymes anymore."
"Just we morons. I still like nursery rhymes too."
"That's right. Your name is Morona. I see."
The phone rings. It's Peter's girl friend. "I've got to go," he says, "but you've got to kiss me first."
"Peter, come on, leave me alone." I get up.
"Bukowski, let's both fuck her."
"I'm going." I said.
"Oh no, you're staying here . . . with Hank." Peter hurls me down on the couch into Bukowski's arms and runs out slamming the door behind him.
Everything gets very quiet. I look at him. He looks at me. I know I'm not going to have anything to do with him. He knows he's not going to have anything to do with me. We kiss a couple of times. I don't let him really kiss...just a touch. Hummm, a touch or two more.
"You're a tease."
"Yes, I'm a tease."
He tries again. A kiss, but not a kiss.
"Little Bo-peep has to go now."
Standing up our lips touch again...just a teaser. I slip out the door feeling like I might have just barely escaped a lion's cage.
I went to four books stores before I found one with Bukowski. His books had a strange effect on me. I read them through my company, hiding in the bathroom, all night, later staring at the walls, wide awake. He made me laugh out loud, he made me furious, disgusted, indignant, sad. I thought, what is this man; Does he really think women are like that?..."Well, he's a good writer, but he doesn't know shit about women."
The next poem I wrote also rhymed (he wasn't going to tell me if I could rhyme or not). It was a long, bad poem with some lines reading . .
come out of that hole, you old Troll
come and frolic
with the little liberated Billies
we'll put some daisies in your hair
I sent him the poem and asked if I could sculpture his head.
It was nine at night when I knocked on his door to take pictures for the sculpture. I thought we'd talked two or three hours, before I decided I'd better go home. I walked outside. The sun was coming up. It was morning. I couldn't believe so many hours had passed so fast. I was still sure I'd never get involved with Charles Bukowski. He was twenty years older. I didn't like his negative attitude toward people. And, the drinking, no sane woman would get involved with him. I went home and dreamed he was lying on the side of a road dying. The supermarket was over the hill. If he didn't get over the embankment to the store he'd die. Alone he'd die. I saw in the dream a big bridge and construction just started that he and I were to build, but he had to have food first.
When I told him the dream he said, "Maybe it's because I haven't eaten for four or five days. I've been drinking."
"You'd better get to the store." I said.
Over the clay I fell in love with his head...or my head. I teased him, looking into his eyes, long looks, pretending I was only looking with a sculptress' eye. I knew I was getting him hot and I'd say, professionally...
"Now, turn your head a little more to the left."
Every new day he came for a sitting it was hotter and hotter until finally he was reaching over the space between us, backing me up against the stove, the refigerator for long kisses, great Kisses. He was losing weight, on the breath chasers, in new shirts. I kept having to take clay off the face as the pounds disappeared. Every day he'd go home and write back a love letter, great long hot letters making me forget he was too old for me, that my mother wouldn't approve, that he drank.
And I found myself stating my terms, "I'll never get mixed up with a man again who doesn't like to eat pussy..uh..huh...never again. If a man doesn't like it...he doesn't like it. There's no way." And one day when the kids were outside, the sculpture still unfinished (it took months), he locked the doors and carried me into the bedroom, kicking and screaming..."No we can't..." and proved to me he did like it. He sent me the poem, "I have eaten your cunt like a peach," which I read in the middle of the night and turned on fire. I called him up and masturbated listening to his voice on the phone and still I said..."No, he's too old for me. I can't. It's crazy." Godomighty, I loved his humor, the look in his eyes, his sardonic comments and he kissed like...well, like great.
"Do you want to come to a party tonight?" he asked me. "It's a collating party."
"A copulating party? I'd love to. No really, what did you say? Co...what?"
"Putting the magazine together, that's collating."
"Oh, sure. Who's going to be there?"
"A bunch of half-assed poets,...myself."
"Poets, look, I'm scared. I'm from the country. I don't know how to talk."
"You don't have to talk. Just be there."
"Now if it was a copulating..."
"It will be you and me...after.....,"
my little girl ran in breaking up another long kiss. The steam was blowing out of both of us like a pressure cooker and I didn't know if I wanted to be alone with him. All this time, all these days and weeks of sculpturing I'd been protected by my sister dropping in, my little girl, my son coming home from school. This time we'd be alone...really alone.
That night I dreamed Bukowski showed me something he didn't show many people - his closet full of stuffed animals. Toy bears, elephants, wolves that had never been touched. I thought how sad no one had ever played with them. The same night I dreamed that my handsome actor friend, whom I'd also been thinking about, had cancer of his poetry, two thirds of the paper was eaten away.
His bedroom was stacks of books, poems, newspapers, old letters. The mattress was like a rocky road. I jumped up from the bed screaming..."You came inside! Jesus Christ, man, I told you I don't take birth control..."
"Look, I haven't been with a woman in four years. I was too hot. It just happened. What do I do?"
"Do? You're fifty years old...you're supposed to know things. Any eighteen year old would know what to do...by jesus christ...you'd better decide on a name. I'm pregnant for sure with that shot."
"...the first time."
"How about Clyde K. Bukowski?"
Later. "I guess the only thing that saved me was probably all your sperm were pickled with alcohol."
Bukowski was a mass of sensitivies, egotism, uncertainties, confidence...humor, talent. The first month I was with him the unknown enemy was coming out of the walls. He had a knife taped behind the door. He jumped up five times a night facing murderers. He couldn't sleep. He couldn't sleep...and shadows spoke. Spirits stood around the bed watching us. Death walked down the sidewalk every night.
One night we lay in bed having a conversation with the light. It went on for yes, off for no. Each off and on was carefully answered after the question. We both got spooked. We'd lay in the mornings when the kids were gone and he'd say, "Let's just lay here until they come and get us."
"O.K." Days would pass fast...always too fast. When the fights started we fought like tigers. God, did we ever fight. Bukowski jumped up and ended everything, walked out and we'd call each other all night, hanging up after having our say. I accused him of picking fights to get drunk. And he'd call at two, three, four, five with raving madman, drunk, poetic speeches about women, souls, love and hate. Crazy beautiful lines. What word power. I was impressed in the middle of my worst rage.
In the middle of the night he'd return the sculptured head and I'd find it on my doorstep in the morning. He'd come again and leave a letter..."I hate you with all the hate there is in the world." We split forty...fifty times in a year. Each one final for both of us. Each one the last. I was a tease and a flirt and when he was drinking, I was the whore, looking for other men, turning on for everyone, at the races, at the restaurant, at the park.
"You and Jane are the whores of the century!"...better than that...only Bukowski can say it like he says it with all the emphasis and words and lines. He'd slam down the reciever. I'd lay on the bed boiling until I thought of an answer. Dial his number...normandie 1...
"Bukowski, don't hang up until you hear this...I just want you to know there is one thing worse than a whore. It is a bore...and you're boring me." Slam. I took my phone off the hook so he couldn't call back.
Hard on the nerves? Yes, but knowing I was never going back to him. It was all over this time...made it not so bad. It was drama. It was life. We'd make up with mad crazy passionate lovemaking both of us knowing we couldn't make it together. Both saying, "Let's enjoy this one last time..."
Laying by Bukowski on the bed I'd feel a heat or rays of some kind coming from the center of him. It would move into me and warm me in a way I'd never been warmed. Sometimes it was so strong I'd put my hand over that area and test it to make sure it was real. The same vibes would enter my hand.
Bukowski is a person who changes. He listens to what you say. He reacts to how you feel, immediately. From day to day he comes back with a new approach, a different way to get to me. He read my moods like an open book and usually knew immediately what was passing through my mind, even if he was at his place, I at mine. Countless times he'd call and say, "What's wrong?"...just as something was wrong. He'd say, "What happened at three o'clock...something happened at three o'clock." Usually he was right, an old boyfriend had called or I'd gotten angry at something he'd said yesterday.
His sensitivities were too raw and he'd dull them with alcohol. His body didn't like the drunks anymore than I did. I'd think he was being unfair. Our two tempers would explode like shooting geysers and we'd roar down our emotional roller coaster with one more fight...one more split up. I to my freedom, he to a woman who really cared or back to where he had it all solved. I refused to be his nurse through his hangovers. I'd jump in my car, go up the coast, go to Utah... go anywhere, until the day I go mad enough to rent a U-haul and move three states away....to really end it for the last time..."the mad...ass, son of a bitch."
After four months, three or four hundred dollars in phone calls, a new woman for him, a one night stand for me, I'm back in town to make a new start. How did he get back in my bed? Marvelous, two weeks straight of love...two, three times a day. We couldn't get enough of each other. I felt like rolling all over him...in every direction. Soak up those feelings.
It's not because he's a great poet. He is, I know that. It is all that magic on the sheets, in the afternoon, in the morning...at midnight, the real poetry. We've only split once this month.
Small Press Review - May, 1973