You Don’t Know What Love Is (an evening with Charles Bukowski)

You don’t know what love is Bukowski said
I’m 51 years old look at me
I’m in love with this young broad
I got it bad but she’s hung up too
so it’s all right man that’s the way it should be
I get in their blood and they can’t get me out
They try everything to get away from me
but they all come back in the end
They all came back to me except
the one I planted
I cried over that one
but I cried easy in those days
Don’t let me get onto the hard stuff man
I get mean then
I could sit here and drink beer
with you hippies all night
I could drink ten quarts of this beer
and nothing it’s like water
But let me get onto the hard stuff
and I’ll start throwing people out windows
I’ll throw anybody out the window
I’ve done it
But you don’t know what love is
You don’t know because you’ve never
been in love it’s that simple
I got this young broad see she’s beautiful
She calls me Bukowski
Bukowski she says in this little voice
and I say What
But you don’t know what love is
I’m telling you what it is
but you aren’t listening
There isn’t one of you in this room
would recognize love if it stepped up
and buggered you in the ass
I used to think poetry readings were a copout
Look I’m 51 years old and I’ve been around
I know they’re a copout
but I said to myself Bukowski
starving is even more of a copout
So there you are and nothing is like it should be
That fellow what’s his name Galway Kinnell
I saw his picture in a magazine
He has a handsome mug on him
but he’s a teacher
Christ can you imagine
But then you’re teachers too
here I am insulting you already
No I haven’t heard of him
or him either
They’re all termites
Maybe it’s ego I don’t read much anymore
but these people who build
reputations on five or six books
termites
Bukowski she says
Why do you listen to classical music all day
Can’t you hear her saying that
Bukowski why do you listen to classical music all day
That surprises you doesn’t it
You wouldn’t think a crude bastard like me
could listen to classical music all day
Brahms Rachmaninoff Bartok Telemann
Shit I couldn’t write up here
Too quiet up here too many trees
I like the city that’s the place for me
I put on my classical music each morning
and sit down in front of my typewriter
I light a cigar and I smoke it like this see
and I say Bukowski you’re a lucky man
Bukowski you’ve gone through it all
and you’re a lucky man
and the blue smoke drifts across the table
and I look out the window onto Delongpre Avenue
and I see people walking up and down the sidewalk
and I puff on the cigar like this
and then I lay the cigar in the ashtray like this
and take a deep breath
and I begin to write
Bukowski this is the life I say
it’s good to be poor it’s good to have hemorrhoids
it’s good to be in love
But you don’t know what it’s like
You don’t know what it’s like to be in love
If you could see her you’d know what I mean
She thought I’d come up here and get laid
She just knew it
She told me she knew it
Shit I’m 51 years old and she’s 25
and we’re in love and she’s jealous
Jesus it’s beautiful
she said she’d claw my eyes out if I came up here and got laid
Now that’s love for you
What do any of you know about it
Let me tell you something
I’ve met men in jail who had more style
than the people who hang around colleges
and go to poetry readings
They’re bloodsuckers who come to see
if the poet’s socks are dirty
or if he smells under the arms
Believe me I won’t disappoint em
But I want you to remember this
there’s only one poet in this room tonight
only one poet in this town tonight
maybe only one real poet in this country tonight
and that’s me
What do any of you know about life
What do any of you know about anything
Which of you here has been fired from a job
or else has beaten up your broad
or else has been beaten up by your broad
I was fired from Sears and Roebuck five times
They’d fire me then hire me back again
I was a stockboy for them when I was 35
and then got canned for stealing cookies
I know what’s it like I’ve been there
I’m 51 years old now and I’m in love
This little broad she says
Bukowski
and I say What and she says
I think you’re full of shit
and I say baby you understand me
She’s the only broad in the world
man or woman
I’d take that from
But you don’t know what love is
They all came back to me in the end too
every one of em came  back
except that one I told you about
the one I planted
We were together seven years
We used to drink a lot
I see a couple of types in this room but
I don’t see any poets
I’m not suprised
You have to have been in love to write poetry
and you don’t know what it is like to be in love
that’s your trouble
Give me some of that stuff
That’s right no ice good
That’s good that’s just fine
So let’s get this show on the road
I know what I said but I’ll have just one
That tastes good
Okay then let’s go let’s get this over with
only afterwards don’t anyone stand close
to an open window

– Raymond Carver

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About handshedown

Keighley Perkins is a Cardiff-based poet whose influences include Anis Mojgani, Selima Hill and Richard Brautigan. Her work has previously been published in "Acumen", "Elbow Room", "Erbacce", "Fire", "Northwind" and "Obsessed with Pipework". She can also be found online on Twitter at @handshedown. View all posts by handshedown

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