What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

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by Charles Bukowski

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This second posthumous collection from Charles Bukowski takes readers deep into the raw, wild vein of writing that extends from the early 70s to the 1990s.

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This second posthumous collection from Charles Bukowski takes readers deep into the raw, wild vein of writing that extends from the early 70s to the 1990s.

Editorial Reviews

Jennifer Schuessler
A literary garden requires ''plenty of manure,'' Bukowski once said to John Martin, and this collection gathers a good deal of tossed-off fertilizer along with the blooms. But it stands in spite of this -- or perhaps because of it? -- as a testament to outward sloth and a fierce, inverted work ethic, a belief in self-help through unending self-attention, a refusal to waste even the smallest table scrap of world or time. ''The word should be like / butter or avocados or / steak or hot biscuits, or onion rings or / whatever is really / needed,'' he writes in ''Christmas Poem to a Man in Jail.'' ''Maybe if we write well enough / and live a little better / life will improve a bit / just out of shame.''
The New York Times Book Review

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1 blue beads and bones

my father and the bum

my father believed in work.
he was proud to have a
sometimes he didn't have a
job and then he was very
he'd be so ashamed that he'd
leave the house in the morning
and then come back in the evening
so the neighbors wouldn't

I liked the man next door:
he just sat in a chair in
his back yard and threw darts
at some circles he had painted
on the side of his garage.
in Los Angeles in 1930
he had a wisdom that
Goethe, Hegel, Kierkegaard,
Nietzsche, Freud,
Jaspers, Heidegger and
Toynbee would find hard
to deny.

legs, hips and behind

we liked the priest because once we saw him buy
an icecream cone
we were 9 years old then and when I went to
my best friend's house his mother was usually
drinking with his father
they left the screen door open and listened
to music on the radio
his mother sometimes had her dress pulled
high and her legs excited me
made me nervous and afraid but excited
by those black polished shoes and those nylons—
even though she had buck teeth and a
very plain face.

when we were ten his father shot and
killed himself with a bullet through
the head
but my best friend and his mother went on
living in that house
and I used to seehis mother going
up the hill to the market with her
shopping bag and I'd walk along beside
quite conscious of her legs and her
hips and her behind
the way they all moved together
and she always spoke nicely to me
and her son and I went to church and
confession together
and the priest lived in a cottage
behind the church
and a fat kind lady was always there
with him
when we went to visit
and everything seemed warm and
comfortable then in
because I didn't know
that there was a worldwide
and that madness and sorrow and fear were
almost everywhere.


his name was Eddie and he had a
big white dog
with a curly tail
a huskie
like one of those that pulled sleighs
up near the north pole
Igloo he called him
and Eddie had a bow and arrow
and every week or two
he'd send an arrow
into the dog's side
then run into his mother's house
through the yelping
saying that Igloo had fallen on
the arrow.
that dog took quite a few arrows and
managed to
but I saw what really happened and didn't
like Eddie very much.
so when I broke Eddie's leg
in a sandlot football game
that was my way of getting even
for Igloo.

his parents threatened to sue my
claiming I did it on purpose because
that's what Eddie
told them.

well, nobody had any money anyhow
and when Eddie's father got a job
in San Diego
they moved away and left the
we took him in.

Igloo turned out to be rather dumb
did not respond to very much
had no life or joy in him
just stuck out his tongue
slept most of the time
when he wasn't eating
and although he wiped his ass
up and down the lawn after
he usually had a large fragrant smear of
under his tail

when he was run over by an
icecream truck
3 or 4 months later
and died in a stream of scarlet
I didn't feel more than the
usual amount of grief
and loss
and I was still glad that I
had managed to
break Eddie's leg.

the mice

my father caught the baby mice
they were still alive and he
flung them into the flaming
one by one.
the flames leaped out
and I wanted to throw my father
in there
but my being 10 years old
made that

"o.k., they're dead," he told me,
"I killed the bastards!"

"you didn't have to do that,"
I said.

"do you want them running
all over the house?
they leave droppings, they
bring disease!
what would you do with

"I'd make pets out of

what the bell's wrong with
you anyhow?"

the flame in the incinerator
was dying down.
it was all too late.
it was over.

my father had won

my garden

in the sun and in the rain
and in the day and in the night

pain is a flower
pain is flowers

blooming all the time.

legs and white thighs

the 3 of us were somewhere
between 9 and 10 years old
and we would gather in the bushes
alongside the driveway about 9:30
p.m. and look under the shade
and through the curtains at Mrs. Curson's
crossed legs—always
one foot wiggling, such a fine
thin ankle!
and she usually had her skirt
above the knee
(actually above the knee!)
and then above the garter that
held the hose sometimes we could see
a glimpse of her white thigh.
how we looked and breathed and
dreamed about those perfect
white thighs!
suddenly Mr. Curson would
get up from his chair to
let the dog out and
we'd start running through strange yards
climbing 5 foot lattice fences,
falling, getting up, running for
finally getting brave again and
stopping at some hamburger stand
for a coke.
I'm sure that Mrs. Curson never
realized what her legs and white
thighs did for us

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What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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