The Roominghouse Madrigals is a selection of poetry from Charles Bukowski's early work. It shows a slightly softer side to the beloved barfly.
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The Roominghouse Madrigals
Early Selected Poems 1946-1966
22,000 Dollars in 3 Months
night has come like something crawling
up the bannister, sticking out its tongue
of fire, and I remember the
missionaries up to their knees in muck
retreating across the beautiful blue river
and the machine gun slugs flicking spots of
fountain and Jones drunk on the shore
saying shit shit these Indians
where'd they get the fire power?
and I went in to see Maria
and she said, do you think they'll attack,
do you think they'll come across the river?
afraid to die? I asked her, and she said
and I went to the medicine cabinet
and poured a tall glassful, and I said
we've made 22,000 dollars in 3 months building roads
for Jones and you have to die a little
to make it that fast Do you think the communists
started this? she asked, do you think it's the communists?
and I said, will you stop being a neurotic bitch.
these small countries rise because they are getting
their pockets filled from both sides and she
looked at me with that beautiful schoolgirl idiocy
and she walked out, it was getting dark but I let her go,
you've got to know when to let a woman go if you want to
and if you don't want to keep her you let her go anyhow,
so it's always a process of letting go, one way or the other,
so I sat there and put the drink down and made another
and I thought, whoever thought an engineering course at Old Miss
would bring you where the lamps swing slowly
in the green of some far night?
and Jones came in with his arm around her blue waist
and she had been drinking too, and I walked up and said,
man and wife? and that made her angry for if a woman can't
get you by the nuts and squeeze, she's done,
and I poured another tall one, and
I said, you 2 may not realize it
but we're not going to get out of here alive.
we drank the rest of the night.
you could hear, if you were real still,
the water coming down between the god trees,
and the roads we had built
you could hear animals crossing them
and the Indians, savage fools with some savage cross to bear.
and finally there was the last look in the mirror
as the drunken lovers hugged
and I walked out and lifted a piece of straw
from the roof of the hut
then snapped the lighter, and I
watched the flames crawl, like hungry mice
up the thin brown stalks, it was slow but it was
a real, and then not real, something like an opera,
and then I walked down toward the machine gun sounds,
the same river, and the moon looked across at me
and in the path I saw a small snake, just a small one,
looked like a rattler, but it couldn't be a rattler,
and it was scared seeing me, and I grabbed it behind the neck
before it could coil and I held it then
its little body curled around my wrist
like a finger of love and all the trees looked with eyes
and I put my mouth to its mouth
and love was lightning and remembrance,
dead communists, dead fascists, dead democrats, dead gods and
back in what was left of the hut Jones
had his dead black arm around her dead blue waist.
Early Selected Poems 1946-1966. Copyright © by Charles Bukowski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Charles Bukowski is one of America’s best-known contemporary writers of poetry and prose and, many would claim, its most influential and imitated poet. He was born in 1920 in Andernach, Germany, to an American soldier father and a German mother, and brought to the United States at the age of two. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived there for over fifty years. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp.
- Date of Birth:
- August 16, 1920
- Date of Death:
- March 9, 1994
- Place of Birth:
- Andernach, Germany
- Place of Death:
- San Pedro, California
- Los Angeles City College, 2 years
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If you haven't read any of his early poetry then this book is the best place to start.