Appears (in an edited form, as "schoolyards of forever") in The Night Torn Mad With Footsteps and The Pleasures of the Damned

Charles Bukowski
the schoolyard of forever

the schoolyard was a horror show: the bullies, the dragons, the

the beatings against the wire fence
the eyes of our mates watching
glad that they were not the victims
we were beaten well and good
and afterwards
taunted all the way home to our homes of hell
full of more beatings

in the schoolyard the bullies ruled well, and in the restrooms
at the water fountains they owned us and disowned us
but in our way we held
never begged for mercy
we took it straight on
we were trained within that horror
a horror that would later hold us in good stead
and that came around
as we grew in several ways with time
the bullies gradually began to deflate, lose power

grammar school
Jr. high
high school
we grew like odd plants
gathering nourishment
as then the bullies tried to befriend us
we turned them away

where a sun of wildness and power arrived
the bullies melted entirely
we became and they un-became

there were new bullies
the professors
who had to be taught something beyond Kant
we glowed madly
it was grand and easy
the coeds dismayed at our gamble
but we looked beyond them
to a larger fight out there

but when we arrived out there
it was back against the fence again:
new bullies
deeply entrenched
almost but not quite worthy
they kept us under for decades
we had to begin all over again
on the streets
and in small rooms of madness
it lasted and lasted like that
but our training within horror endured us
and after so very long
we outed
oblique to their tantamounts
we found the tunnel at the end of the light

it was a small minority victory
no song of braggadocio
we knew we had won very little against very little
that the changing of the clock and the illusions beat everybody
we clashed against the odds just for the simple sweetness of it

even now we can still see the janitor with his broom
in his pinstripes and sleeping face
we can still see the little girls in their curls
their hair so carefully washed and shining

and the faces of the teachers
fall and folded

the bells of recess
the gravel on the baseball diamond
the volleyball net
the sun always up and out
spilling over us like the juice of a giant tangerine

and Herbie Ashcroft
his fists coming against us
as we were trapped against the steel fence
as we heard the sounds of automobiles passing but not stopping
as the world went about doing what it did
we asked for no mercy

and we returned the next day and the next and the next
the little girls so magic as they sat so upright in their seats
in a room of blackboards and chalk we began badly
but always with a disdain for occurence

which is still embedded
through the ringi-ng of new bells and ways
stuck with that
fixed with that:
a grammar school world
even with Herbie Ashcroft dead

©Linda Lee Bukowski - used with permission