POTD: “The History Of One Tough Mother****” by Charles Bukowski

A punch in the face
A punch in the face

Bukowski owns the internet, everyone knows this.  How and why this is so can sometimes be an interesting conversation.  The venerable Dr. Andrew Shotts used to say it was somewhat of a cult of personality deal, and somewhat from the fact Bukowski has some lines that jump off the page and punch you in the face.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been punched in the face, like … for real, in a nonverbal Clockwork Orange kind of way, but a feeling of gratitude is not the usual response.  Yet that’s exactly what happens with Bukowski.  He assaults you as if you’re a prop in the V-8 commercial of your own life.  You can’t hit back, of course, but even if you could you wouldn’t want to.  Instead you just say, “Thanks! I needed that.”

My first experience with Hank, my brother likes to call him Hank, wasn’t on a printed page.  I think I was 12 or thirteen when I first saw Barfly, and being drawn to the beauty of darker things in my youth, I fell in love immediately.  Admittedly, the movie is only semi-autobiographical, but still …  Plus, Mickey Rourke gave one helluva performance.  I still don’t know if my brother has seen this move or not, but I’m sure he’s read quite a bit more of Hank’s works than I have.  This seems a little odd since I’m the English major dude and he’s the engineer, but I always went in more for the British stuff.  Even told him today that I should be doing a poem from the UK since it’s #NationalPoetryDay and all.  But, I did ask him to make a request for the POTD, and his first response was this gem below.  Enjoy:


The History of One tough Mother****

he came to the door one night wet thin beaten and
a white cross-eyed tailless cat
I took him in and fed him and he stayed
grew to trust me until a friend drove up the driveway
and ran him over
I took what was left to a vet who said,”not much
chance…give him these pills…his backbone
is crushed, but is was crushed before and somehow
mended, if he lives he’ll never walk, look at
these x-rays, he’s been shot, look here, the pellets
are still there…also, he once had a tail, somebody
cut it off…”
I took the cat back, it was a hot summer, one of the
hottest in decades, I put him on the bathroom
floor, gave him water and pills, he wouldn’t eat, he
wouldn’t touch the water, I dipped my finger into it
and wet his mouth and I talked to him, I didn’t go any-
where, I put in a lot of bathroom time and talked to
him and gently touched him and he looked back at
me with those pale blue crossed eyes and as the days went
by he made his first move
dragging himself forward by his front legs
(the rear ones wouldn’t work)
he made it to the litter box
crawled over and in,
it was like the trumpet of possible victory
blowing in that bathroom and into the city, I
related to that cat-I’d had it bad, not that
bad but bad enough
one morning he got up, stood up, fell back down and
just looked at me.
“you can make it,” I said to him.
he kept trying, getting up falling down, finally
he walked a few steps, he was like a drunk, the
rear legs just didn’t want to do it and he fell again, rested,
then got up.
you know the rest: now he’s better than ever, cross-eyed
almost toothless, but the grace is back, and that look in
his eyes never left…
and now sometimes I’m interviewed, they want to hear about
life and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed,
shot, runover de-tailed cat and I say,”look, look
at this!”
but they don’t understand, they say something like,”you
say you’ve been influenced by Celine?”
“no,” I hold the cat up,”by what happens, by
things like this, by this, by this!”
I shake the cat, hold him up in
the smoky and drunken light, he’s relaxed he knows…
it’s then that the interviews end
although I am proud sometimes when I see the pictures
later and there I am and there is the cat and we are photo-
graphed together.
he too knows it’s bullshit but that somehow it all helps.

by  Charles Bukowski


Special thanks to AllPoetry for having this one on line.


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