"the tiny summer creatures are flying
all around here now and
I have nothing to
now all around here
tiny summer creatures fly.
I usually blow smoke at them
and at the lamp bulb
and watch the smoke curl in the air
and sometimes think of things
death and white glue.
the summer creatures bite at night
when I am asleep
and in the morning I have bumps on my
which are delightful to scratch.
my love is upstairs watching a comedy on
down here I am drinking wine
and my love considers this
a betrayal of our love, but
you and I know what a betrayal of love really
I crush some of the tiny summer creatures
some find the white glue
but I leave a few of them
so that I am able to scratch myself in the
the summer creatures are so strange
I feel that they know me--
one falls into my glass
I watch him flick and kick about
and then I
drink him down.
I hope that comedy is good
upstairs. I have my own show going on down
--from death and white glue--Charles Bukowski--
Two months ago, I tried to meditate. I was having one of those days where the trees don't even stand upright and the editor rejects your essay and the burning in your belly is such a fire you cannot breathe. As many deep and transcendental moments as I've had over the years with meditation--I haven't ever picked it up as a regular practice like some people I know. This is a regret of mine. It helps to ground me. I thought of this, and sat down in the middle of my kitchen floor, the whole house sleeping. The day had been warm--one of those last gulps of summer before fall and winter have their way. Kids ran in and out the back door for hours, their muddy footprints proved their presence everywhere I looked, and one fat black fly swung in lazy circles through the house.
I lit a candelabra--felt like the woman in a poem. I sat before it and tried to find the ribbon of my breath. I stared at the flame until I saw crosses there--"Christ is the light and the way", from my old Catholic school rang in my ears, and I thought about how I would squint at the candles during mass, as a little girl, so that I could see Jesus for myself. But I was just trying to see myself on this November night. Just trying to be in my body--not my head--not even my heart. It wasn't going well. Thoughts kept coming--my mind (monkey-mind in Buddhist thought) chattered endlessly--I couldn't keep count of my breath or get into the moment. I tried to remember the mantras Natalie Goldberg had chanted during our morning mediation in New Mexico, but couldn't get there. I wanted to get up off of the mud streaked wooden floor and go to bed--forget it. Then, that giant black fly, who had probably been alive since March, plunged into the lit center candle and doused the flame, instantly dead.
I laughed and tears welled up in my eyes. The Universe had decided to give me a moment. I blew out the candles and sat in the darkness--suddenly aware of how to breathe--suddenly aware of my center. Not two weeks later, I came across this Bukowski poem and realized the Universe was offering me a reminder. Whenever I read "death and glue", I'm back on my kitchen floor with a sacrificial fly showing me the word, the line, the way.
Charles Bukowski has been called a god, a louse, a hack, a sexist pig, a drunk, a visionary, a poet, a gift. Maybe he is all of these things. He died in 1994, but still has whole volumes of poetry coming out even now. He was prodigious--he published over forty-five books of poetry and prose writing...All outside of the "accepted" literary world. He's someone whose work I'm not supposed to love. I'm "supposed to" give credit to all of the poets who are in the literary canon and have won the big awards. I should be writing about some maligned feminist woman writer I adore--and trust me, these women who have changed my life are countless for me. But, there's something about Bukowski I connect with anyway...however different his views are from my own. It's just like how I fell in love with Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye even though many scholars note how much of a misogynist he is at times. I wasn't the women Holden interacted with--I was him. I'm not the people Charles Bukowski discusses in his poetry--but old Chuck himself. What can I say...
Maybe nothing. Maybe I'll stay silent now and follow my breath...I'm sorting through my own madness for the word, the line, the way and if Charles Bukowski wants to show me a path through--so be it. I'll follow his thoughts anywhere.