15+ Best Charles Bukowski Poems You Should Read

Henry Charles Bukowski was one of the most famous of the American poets of his time. He is known for the imagery and graphic language of his poetry. With his unfiltered style and raw honesty, profound Charles Bukowski poems will help you develop resilience by exploring his views about life, friendship, nature, love, writing, and so much more.

If you’re searching for famous poems of all time that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of Pablo Neruda’s best poems, Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poems, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poems.

Most Famous Charles Bukowski Poems

A Smile To Remember

we had goldfish and they circled around and around
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, ‘be happy Henry!’
and she was right: it’s better to be happy if you
can
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week while
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn’t
understand what was attacking him from within.

my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: ‘Henry, smile!
why don’t you ever smile?’

and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw

one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother
smiled

Bluebird

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

Alone With Everybody

the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
much
and nobody finds the
one
but keep
looking
crawling in and out
of beds.
flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than
flesh.

there’s no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular
fate.

nobody ever finds
the one.

the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill

nothing else
fills.

And The Moon And The Stars And The World

Long walks at night–
that’s what good for the soul:
peeking into windows
watching tired housewives
trying to fight off
their beer-maddened husbands.

Beasts Bounding Through Time

Van Gogh writing his brother for paints
Hemingway testing his shotgun
Celine going broke as a doctor of medicine
the impossibility of being human
Villon expelled from Paris for being a thief
Faulkner drunk in the gutters of his town
the impossibility of being human
Burroughs killing his wife with a gun
Mailer stabbing his
the impossibility of being human
Maupassant going mad in a rowboat
Dostoyevsky lined up against a wall to be shot
Crane off the back of a boat into the propeller
the impossibility
Sylvia with her head in the oven like a baked potato
Harry Crosby leaping into that Black Sun
Lorca murdered in the road by Spanish troops
the impossibility
Artaud sitting on a madhouse bench
Chatterton drinking rat poison
Shakespeare a plagiarist
Beethoven with a horn stuck into his head against deafness
the impossibility the impossibility
Nietzsche gone totally mad
the impossibility of being human
all too human
this breathing
in and out
out and in
these punks
these cowards
these champions
these mad dogs of glory
moving this little bit of light toward us

For The Foxes

Don’t feel sorry for me.
I am a competent,
satisfied human being.

be sorry for the others
who
fidget
complain

who
constantly
rearrange their
lives
like
furniture.

juggl ing mates
and
attitudes

their
confusi on is
constant

and it will
touch
whoever they
deal with.

beware of them:
one of their
key words is
‘love.’

and beware those who
only take
instructions from their
God

for they have
failed completely to live their own
lives.

don’t feel sorry for me
because I am alone

for even
at the most terrible
moments
humor
is my
companion.

I am a dog walking
backwards

I am a broken
banjo

I am a telephone wire
strung up in
Toledo, Ohio

I am a man
eating a meal
this night
in the month of
September.

put your sympathy
aside.
they say
water held up
Christ:
to come
through
you better be
nearly as
lucky.

Writing

often it is the only
thing
between you and
impossibility.
no drink,
no woman’s love,
no wealth
can
match it.
nothing can save
you
except
writing.
it keeps the walls
from
failing.
the hordes from
closing in.
it blasts the
darkness.
writing is the
ultimate
psychiatrist,
the kindliest
god of all the
gods.
writing stalks
death.
it knows no
quit.
and writing
laughs
at itself,
at pain.
it is the last
expectation,
the last
explanation.
that’s
what it
is.
from blank gun silencer

My Cats

I know. I know.
they are limited, have different
needs and
concerns.

but I watch and learn from them.
I like the little they know,
which is so
much.

they complain but never
worry,
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can’t
understand.

their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
a day
without
hesitation or
remorse.

when I am feeling
low
all I have to do is
watch my cats
and my
courage
returns.

I study these
creatures.

they are my
teachers.

No help for that

There is a place in the heart that
will never be filled

a space

and even during the
best moments
and
the greatest times
times

we will know it

we will know it
more than
ever

there is a place in the heart that
will never be filled
and

we will wait
and
wait

in that space.

The Japanese Wife

O lord, he said, Japanese women,
real women, they have not forgotten,
bowing and smiling
closing the wounds men have made;
but American women will kill you like they
tear a lampshade,
American women care less than a dime,
they’ve gotten derailed,
they’re too nervous to make good:
always scowling, belly-aching,
disillusioned, overwrought;
but oh lord, say, the Japanese women:
there was this one,
I came home and the door was locked
and when I broke in she broke out the bread knife
and chased me under the bed
and her sister came
and they kept me under that bed for two days,
and when I came out, at last,
she didn’t mention attorneys,
just said, you will never wrong me again,
and I didn’t; but she died on me,
and dying, said, you can wrong me now,
and I did,
but you know, I felt worse then
than when she was living;
there was no voice, no knife,
nothing but little Japanese prints on the wall,
all those tiny people sitting by red rivers
with flying green birds,
and I took them down and put them face down
in a drawer with my shirts,
and it was the first time I realized
that she was dead, even though I buried her;
and some day I’ll take them all out again,
all the tan-faced little people
sitting happily by their bridges and huts
and mountains—
but not right now,
not just yet.

Trollius And Trellises

of course, I may die in the next ten minutes
and I’m ready for that
but what I’m really worried about is
that my editor-publisher might retire
even though he is ten years younger than
I.
it was just 25 years ago (I was at that ripe
old age of 45)
when we began our unholy alliance to
test the literary waters,
neither of us being much
known.

I think we had some luck and still have some
of same
yet
the odds are pretty fair
that he will opt for warm and pleasant
afternoons
in the garden
long before I.

writing is its own intoxication
while publishing and editing,
attempting to collect bills
carries its own
attrition
which also includes dealing with the
petty bitchings and demands
of many
so-called genius darlings who are
not.

I won’t blame him for getting
out
and hope he sends me photos of his
Rose Lane, his
Gardenia Avenue.

will I have to seek other
promulgators?
that fellow in the Russian
fur hat?
or that beast in the East
with all that hair
in his ears, with those wet and
greasy lips?

or will my editor-publisher
upon exiting for that world of Trollius and
trellis
hand over the
machinery
of his former trade to a
cousin, a
daughter or
some Poundian from Big
Sur?

or will he just pass the legacy on
to the
Shipping Clerk
who will rise like
Lazarus,
fingering new-found
importance?

one can imagine terrible
things:
“Mr. Chinaski, all your work
must now be submitted in
Rondo form
and
typed
triple-spaced on rice
paper."

power corrupts,
life aborts
and all you
have left
is a
bunch of
warts.

“no, no, Mr. Chinaski:
Rondo form!"

“hey, man," I’ll ask,
“haven’t you heard of
the thirties?"

“the thirties? what’s
that?"

my present editor-publisher
and I
at times
did discuss the thirties,
the Depression
and
some of the little tricks it
taught us—
like how to endure on almost
nothing
and move forward
anyhow.

well, John, if it happens enjoy your
divertissement to
plant husbandry,
cultivate and aerate
between
bushes, water only in the
early morning, spread
shredding to discourage
weed growth
and
as I do in my writing:
use plenty of
manure.

and thank you
for locating me there at
5124 DeLongpre Avenue
somewhere between
alcoholism and
madness.

together we
laid down the gauntlet
and there are takers
even at this late date
still to be
found
as the fire sings
through the
trees.

Hell Is A Lonely Place

he was 65, his wife was 66, had
Alzheimer’s disease.

he had cancer of the
mouth.
there were
operations, radiation
treatments
which decayed the bones in his
jaw
which then had to be
wired.

daily he put his wife in
rubber diapers
like a
baby.

unable to drive in his
condition
he had to take a taxi to
the medical
center,
had difficulty speaking,
had to
write the directions
down.

on his last visit
they informed him
there would be another
operation: a bit more
left
cheek and a bit more
tongue.

when he returned
he changed his wife’s
diapers
put on the tv
dinners, watched the
evening news
then went to the bedroom, got the
gun, put it to her
temple, fired.

she fell to the
left, he sat upon the
couch
put the gun into his
mouth, pulled the
trigger.

the shots didn’t arouse
the neighbors.

later
the burning tv dinners
did.

somebody arrived, pushed
the door open, saw
it.

soon
the police arrived and
went through their
routine, found
some items:

a closed savings
account and
a checkbook with a
balance of
$1.14
suicide, they
deduced.

in three weeks
there were two
new tenants:
a computer engineer
named
Ross
and his wife
Anatana
who studied
ballet.

they looked like another
upwardly mobile
pair.

Consummation Of Grief

I even hear the mountains
the way they laugh
up and down their blue sides
and down in the water
the fish cry
and the water
is their tears.
I listen to the water
on nights I drink away
and the sadness becomes so great
I hear it in my clock
it becomes knobs upon my dresser
it becomes paper on the floor
it becomes a shoehorn
a laundry ticket
it becomes
cigarette smoke
climbing a chapel of dark vines. . .
it matters little
very little love is not so bad
or very little life
what counts
is waiting on walls
I was born for this
I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead.

air and light and time and space

‘- you know, I’ve either had a family, a job, something
has always been in the
way
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have a place and
the time to
create.’
no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
or
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
welfare,
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your
body blown
away,
you’re going to create blind
crippled
demented,
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquakes, bombardment,
flood and fire.
baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses
for.

So You Want To Be A Writer

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

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