"Electricitree" by Elaine Thomas  copyright 2000
Everybody Wants to Be Bukowski
 

My friend J was just fired
from her job teaching philosophy
at a small Catholic university
for not wearing her mortarboard,
for defending the rights of prostitutes,
for drinking Cuervo in the beds of pickup
trucks in the shadow of the Alamo,
for kicking out the jams, for taking
young guitar players and old professors
as lovers.

I tried to tell her months ago, once
you join the tweed brigade and hang
letters from your ass, that's it --
no more scromping in the dirt,
no more rockabilly stomp,
no more flights to Amsterdam,
Huntsville, Toronto, New York,
no more busking in the subway,
no more lean taut dreameyed
poet boys, no more manufactured
grief.

Everybody wants to be
Bukowski, but nobody wants
to pay for the poetry. We all
want to be drunken heroes,
call ourselves angels and saints
and scoundrels, but we want it
delivered to our doors, no muss,
no fuss, no pain, no blood,
no damage.

It doesn't work like that.
It never has.

You can't be Byron without
Augusta and the clubfoot;

can't be Yeats without the fairies
swarming like mosquitoes;

can't be Wilde without treacherous
boys and the Black Maria;

can't be Burroughs without shooting
junk and your wife in the head;

can't be Ginsberg without the boobyhatch,
or Vonnegut without Dresden on fire,
or Hemingway without the War,
or Fitzgerald without Zelda screaming,
or Sexton without screaming
yourself;

and you can't be Bukowski
and teach philosophy
at small Catholic universities,

and you can't teach philosophy
at small Catholic universities
and be Bukowski.

It doesn't work like that.
It never has.
 

Copyright 2000  John Nettles


 
 

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