On Bukowski…

I actually think Bukowski was a bit of an over-glorified asshole. I love his work, though. Who doesn’t?

What I don’t love, so much, is the plethora of women out there who are mimicking his style. A few men, too, but so far I’ve mainly noticed it from women. I read their poetry and think “oh, this woman clearly loves Bukowski.” She’s written a piece in his exact voice about rum, sex and whores. Sure enough, her bio includes her fondness for Bukowski.

He’s a great writer – I love the depth of vulnerability in his work. He writes as a tormented soul who has almost given up on life. He’s a drunk; an intelligent scumbag who knows he’s not a good man. And at the same time, he unwittingly (or cleverly) shows a glimmer of beauty and depth. He shows the ‘bluebird in his heart’.

Just seems a shame, really. These women have a personality and depth of their own that they aren’t sharing. Each to their own, I guess. It’s none of my business who they mimic. But if I want to read Bukowski, I’ll read Bukowski.

Here’s one of his I really like.

 

The Crunch
Love is a Dog From Hell – 1977

too much
too little

too fat
too thin
or nobody.

laughter or
tears

haters
lovers

strangers with faces like
the backs of
thumb tacks

armies running through
streets of blood
waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking
virgins.

an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of M. Monroe.

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock

people so tired
mutilated
either by love or no love.

people just are not good to each other
one on one.

the rich are not good to the rich
the poor are not good to the poor.

we are afraid.

our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners.

it hasn’t told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.

or the terror of one person
aching in one place
alone

untouched
unspoken to

watering a plant.

people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.

I suppose they never will be.
I don’t ask them to be.

but sometimes I think about
it.

the beads will swing
the clouds will cloud
and the killer will behead the child
like taking a bite out of an ice cream cone.

too much
too little

too fat
too thin
or nobody

more haters than lovers.

people are not good to each other.
perhaps if they were
our deaths would not be so sad.

meanwhile I look at young girls
stems
flowers of chance.

there must be a way.

surely there must be a way that we have not yet
though of.

who put this brain inside of me?

it cries
it demands
it says that there is a chance.

it will not say
“no.”

The Next Logical Step

Recently, it’s become apparent to me how much alike we all are. The fragility of man. Sometimes, despite having a good life, a good career, and a decent-enough income, it all seems too much. A thought enters my mind that says “Really, what’s the point?”

It’s not abnormal to have these thoughts. In fact, it’s completely ordinary.

You’d be surprised. I’ve heard the same story from people who appear to have to all: 6 figure incomes, doting husbands/wives, and gorgeous kids who’ve achieved great heights. They feel exactly the same way, from time to time, with whole backstories going on in their lives that could be straight out of an episode of Days of Our Lives. Or worse, Jersey Shore.

You get the idea.

The problem is, despite the occasional crappy day being completely normal, it’s equally normal for people to pretend everything is always fantastic. I wonder who started this? Who was the first person was to think “oh look, everyone else is having a wow of a time. I must appear to be doing the same”? This behaviour feeds on itself, leading others to subconsciously ‘up the ante’.

In other words; false pretence breeds false pretence.

Today, I can’t be bothered with false pretence (heck, I can’t be bothered with it any day, really. But today especially so). I don’t feel like I want to talk to other humans, or be in the vicinity of other humans. And as a side note, I’m not ‘depressed’; a term, in my view, thrown around far too easily. It’s just the light and shade of life. Without the shade, how would we ever know the light?

I know, that sounds so terribly cliché… but really, think about it. We wouldn’t!

I am reminded of another time I felt like this. I was in the middle of the outback for a writing job, and needed to come up with 10 travel stories. Feeling overwhelmed, I did not know where to start. My partner, at the time, gave me this simple advice: “Just write a paragraph, Denise”. And so I did. And another, and another. I ended up with a stack of articles that all received positive feedback.

I think back to that story a lot, because it’s a good aphorism for life. “Just write a paragraph, Denise”. It can be said in other ways, like “just take the next logical step”. Or, in the words of the great poet Rumi (my favourite), “as you start to walk out on the way, the way appears”.

That’s all we need ever do. We can still hold onto our big dreams, and be ‘shooting for the stars’, without trying to get there all at once. And sometimes, our goal is to just make it through the day. Just take the next logical step…or write a paragraph…or start to walk out on the way.

Today I shared these thoughts with a good friend who replied:

“I once told my young soul and job searching brother to ‘just do SOMETHING – from there your path will reveal itself’. He, as other youngsters do, got tied up in the idea of self-worth through employment. He was fucking 17/18 at the time…Just do something, I told him, stop worrying about THE thing and do SOMEthing. Life will sort its shit out from there… He did and it did. Sagely shit huh? If only those that look up to me knew that I simply wing it every day!”

And today, a rather crappy day, I won’t offer you any false pretence. Now that the day is almost over (and all humans successfully avoided), all I want to do is have a nice, warm bath and read an embarrassingly wanky book to lift my spirits.

For me, that’s the next logical step.

Cleaning Out the Closet

Today I spent half my day spring (or winter) cleaning my bedroom. Already a fairly neat room, this meant going through cupboards and examining everything with a harsh ‘do I really need this?’ viewpoint. Being a bit of a closet hippy, the reason behind the big clean-up was to shift old non-physical energy, by clearing out physical junk. Perhaps all in my head, but if it works, does it matter if it’s a placebo?

It’s funny the emotion attached to ‘stuff’. An old metalhead t-shirt reminded me of the concert I went to with my brother, one of the most beautiful people I know. It also reminded me of my son, a bit of a metalhead himself, and the times our relationship was in a much simpler flow. At 18 years old we still get along, but he’s grown away from me a little and is busy doing his own thing. Natural for his age – ebbs and flows.

Next I came across an old jewellery box. A necklace from a past lover who spoke promises of tomorrow and “I’ll never let you go”; a reminder of the fleetingness of words and feelings. Old watches, earrings, and brightly coloured bracelets I purchased perhaps 10 years ago, bearing no resemblance to anything I’d ever want to put on my body now. Who was I then? I don’t even know that person.

A huge pile of letters in the bottom drawer never sent. Letters written to others, and to myself. Between the sheets of paper I find the occasional envelope I’ve scribbled on, and surprise myself with the clarity. It seems I can write far more profound insights in two lines on the back of an old Telstra bill, than I can on reams and reams of paper.

As I remove the old clutter, some thoughts gently surface.

I left parts of me behind I didn’t intend to, decades ago. I’ve grown and uncovered new parts of myself, too. Took some massive steps backwards, and massive steps forward. How far did I actually travel, in that great distance of time?

The thought occurs to me that I could have progressed to where I am with a lot more ease, a lot less struggle. I think I’ll move forward like that; with ease. Clearly, my inner closet hippy is on to something with this cleaning idea. I wonder what lessons the bathroom has in store?

Not a Grand Love Story (1/3)

At the ripe old age of 37, I’ve been in love only 3 times.

The first truly made my heart soar. I was 32. Despite him living some distance away, we spoke over the phone regularly, with the usual phone call between 3 and 4 hours long. Never a gap in the conversation, we pondered absurd things like the personality traits of the number 5, and how the cows out the back of my house slept when it was cold; did they huddle in clusters?

I travelled to see him, when I could. Usually with some other excuse, as nothing ‘official’ was happening. We were only in that flirty, pre-relationship stage. He always kissed me on the cheek, though. And if my friends were around he was always nice, but never kissed any of them. I noticed these things.

The last time I went to see him he had meticulously planned our day together, filling it with various activities going to this place and that. At the end of the day, I sat on his lounge to watch a movie with him. What movie, I couldn’t tell you, as I wasn’t remotely interested. I sat first, and to my absolute joy he sat right next to me, despite there being plenty of lounge space. Our legs were touching. Ah, sweet confirmation.

The movie ended, and he walked me out and said goodnight…and hovered. I decided to get this done, and just kiss him. He kissed me back, quite a lot, and although it wasn’t ‘great’ (too much tongue) I described it to a friend later as feeling like ‘home’. This man just felt right to me, always had. I never felt nervous in his presence, or that I had to ‘be’ anything but myself.

We proceeded to text and talk more than ever, and soon almost every thought was consumed by him. Was this love? The thing that I’d always conceded a myth, lumped together with the likes of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? My heart thought so.

We shared a very similar style of humour that just made us bounce of each other like some sort of comedy duo. Every cheeky text I sent was responded to with an even cheekier, funnier text. Our phone calls were better than ever. I was yearning for the next time I’d get to see him, and perhaps get another big, sloppy kiss.

And then I did the unthinkable. I asked if we should perhaps see more of each other. I liked him, he liked me. Why not?

His blissful little bubble of freedom and non-commitment had burst, and he was panic stricken. Yes, he did like me too, but no, he did not want anything that resembled a relationship. He did not think we were heading that way, and since I’d gone and ‘put the hard word on him’, he started to back away so as not to hurt me more.

Suddenly, he all but vanished into thin air.

The parts of my day spent laughing, and checking my phone, were empty. A cold and sudden contrast of nothingness.

I mourned the loss of my first experience of love; unrequited.

I mourned the loss of a high energy, laughter-filled friendship.

I beat myself up for being so foolish, and impatient. Perhaps if I’d have waited, he’d have decided he wanted this, too? I had only made him panic by coming on too strong, rather than letting the whole thing evolve naturally.

So what does a girl do in these situations? She cries of course. Every night, for several months. Buckets of tears, I don’t know how there was anything left of me.

Immersing myself in my love for words, I came across the old adage “it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, of course, but it was the first time I’d truly pondered it. I conceded that I disagreed: the pain when love ends (or doesn’t begin) far outweighs the initial pleasure. At least, it did in this case.

Years passed and I am now friends with the man, and I feel nothing when I look at him beyond that. He’s a nice man, always was. I feel no hurt, no regrets for my impatience, no ‘what ifs’, or burning desires to be in his presence.

Lessons learnt? Nada. Zilch. I still don’t know what the fuck that was all about. Perhaps you could say it should have taught me patience, and while I certainly could do with a little more of that stuff, I don’t think that’s the crux of what I was meant to take from the experience. I did the best I knew at the time, and I still believe when you meet the right person, it’s pretty hard to fuck it up just by being yourself. I am who I am, perfectly imperfect.

Rather than to teach any great lessons, perhaps these things happen just to crack our hearts open, to break down the walls we’ve built against love? Perhaps when we hurt, we grow in ways we never quite see?

I just don’t know, and I don’t mind.

My first love was not a grand love story, but it was a love story, nonetheless.

Wet, Blistered and Tangled.

Imagine the scene. It is early morning in the city on a gloomy, windy day. Country girl (ahem) is standing at the bus stop, one hand holding a large suitcase which seems to continuously want to tip over, the other holding a much needed coffee, laptop bag handle over forearm, and umbrella held in place with right armpit. She is anxiously awaiting the bus, which never comes. Did I mention it had started raining?

She waits another 10 minutes, places coffee on sidewalk so she’ll have a free hand, glaring at it like a naughty puppy “stay!” She texts a city-dwelling friend who knows the ins-and-outs of how these things work. “Bus didn’t come, any idea where else it stops?” With no reply received in the next 45 seconds, she proceeds to search online using her phone, and finds the schedule reads a lot like hieroglyphics. She approaches ‘friendly enough looking’ middle aged man who advises “you’ll have to take the 230 on the avenue”. “Cool, thanks” she replies, and decides to just start walking.

Suddenly aware that ankle socks with Doc Martens are not an appropriate footwear choice for long walks, she wonders how odd she’d look if she took off shoes, sat in the gutter and popped on some Band-Aids. Amazingly well prepared, she does have some wedged in with all the other junk in her suitcase. But vanity prevails, as she doesn’t want to look silly in front of all the clever strangers who appear to know exactly where they are going, and exactly what they are doing.

The wind decides to get stronger, as she juggles her umbrella and phone (currently serving as a GPS) in her right hand, while her left holds the laptop bag and drags the suitcase. The suitcase wheels repeatedly get caught in cracks on the pavement, bringing her to a sudden stop every few minutes, and jarring her whole body. A few choice words unwittingly escape her lips.

Seemingly encouraged by the wind, the rain starts getting stronger. The two forces of nature dance together and decide to travel sideways, stinging her face and rendering her umbrella almost useless. The umbrella which is saving perhaps 4 inches of her body from the rain decides to pop inside out, and at the same time her scarf blows up over her face, and attaches like an octopus. Blinded, she manages to peel if off, and laughs.

Wet, blistered and tangled, she arrives at her destination one hour and twenty minutes late, receiving some strange looks. Perhaps it’s her frizzy hair, wet clothes, or slight limp from the blisters. Navigating the transport system has never been her forte, and never will be. Unlike the city bus schedule, some things are certain.

What Will You Leave Behind?

It wasn’t all that long ago that I wrote an article about finding some bible verses from my mother. She had photocopied and clipped these verses together, their tattered corners showing that they were well-used and well-loved. I wrote about how was nice it was to find something that showed me a little bit more of who she was, on a deeper level.

A few months later, my Aunt sent me a short story written by my Grandfather. He was a quirky, eccentric man, or so I’m told, who died of a heart attack when I was 2yrs old. Not remembering him, I created my own memories, and always imagined we’d be much alike. Especially considering that I’m quite the ‘rainbow sheep’ myself.

First of all, I had no idea he liked to write. My aunt explained that due to his farming work, he couldn’t make much time for it. It was the sort of thing he would have loved to do for a living, if he felt those sorts of options existed. Back then you stuck to what you did, and got on with the daily grind. Times were tough, and exploring career options was not a thought ordinary, hard-working men would entertain. Especially those with families.

The story he wrote is an amazing work of fiction, set in the 30’s just after the depression. I won’t even try and explain the storyline, because I fear I won’t do it justice. But the piece transported me back in time, I could see the surroundings, and I loved the narrative between characters. It was amazing to learn more about this man through his writing, catching a glimpse at the workings of his brain, and adding another piece to his story. Now, he’s not just a quirky man who was sometimes a little odd, but also remarkably creative.

From this, I also discovered that my mother liked to write, although finding any of her work would be much more unlikely. My Aunty told me the stories she wrote were very good, “as if written by a much older lady who wrote fiction for a living”. (I’m not sure why ‘much older’. That’s just the way she described it). I asked my Aunt if she’d be able to find any of her writing.

“The last time she wrote was when you were a baby. I asked your mum about it later and she said she never finished it. A little thing got in her way, and she was rather fond of the little thing, so she didn’t mind.”

These things made me think a little more about the layers of who we are – what I call the ‘pieces of us’ – and how much they’re appreciated by those we leave behind. Have you ever considered the ‘pieces’ that make you unique? Be it music, writing, art or something completely different. What is it that lights up your world?

We all think about what possessions we’ll leave to our loved ones, such as money or property, but not so much about leaving things that show more depth of who we really are. No-one can ever truly know us in our entirety, and it’s these little pieces that bring so much insight, and joy.

What pieces will you leave behind?

The Smallest Thing.

Sometimes the smallest thing just gets stuck in your head, for years and years. One of mine, strangely enough, is a tiny piece of an Oprah show.

The topic was ‘gratitude journalling’, all the rage at the time. One woman got up, almost in tears, voice shaking, and said “what if I can’t think of anything to be grateful for? I tried to keep a gratitude journal, but some days I get up and the only positive thing about my life is the fact that I don’t have a headache.”

As ridiculous as it sounds, my disgust for this woman has never quite subsided. Lady, out of all the amazing things floating around you, every minute of every day, you choose to only see the fact that you don’t have a headache? What an awful choice she was making to live an awful life.

True, perhaps she had some ridiculously terrible experiences. Perhaps she lost many loved ones, was abused and neglected. Perhaps her health was failing, was a chronic insomniac, or she had some injury that left her with daily physical pain. Or perhaps none of these things. I don’t know.

But I do know this: The woman could stand, was alive and breathing. What an amazing thing is it, to exist on a planet where the conditions are exactly right for us not to be crushed by gravity, as well as not fly off into the atmosphere. That the air we breathe is exactly right for us, and the liquid we need to sustain us falls straight out of the friggin’ sky. Of course, if the conditions weren’t exactly right for us, we wouldn’t exist. But still, it just blows my mind.

Not to mention the fact that considering the Earth is billions of years old, the odds of you and I being on this planet at the exact same time are pretty extraordinary. Almost impossible, even. I think we should be walking around high-fiving each other. “You’re here too! How cool, nice to meet you. Did you see how the stuff we need to drink falls out of the sky?”

I also know that this woman could see (I’m fairly confident she was not blind), and could therefore read books, observe nature, and witness the sunset every night. For me, the sunset holds a promise that everything is going to be OK, it’s a new day tomorrow, and a new start. It says “rest now, I’ve got this”. The sunset is an artwork in itself, always slightly different. Sometimes smudgings of pinks and purples, sometimes the deepest orange and fiery red. It’s a huge canvas that is painted every night, and this lady can only think about ‘not having a headache’? What?

I have a gratitude journal of sorts (I actually call it an appreciation journal, because the word ‘gratitude’ now makes me a little queasy, due to its overuse). It contains things like ‘my house!’ ‘my bed!’ ‘that song!’ (I really like exclamation marks!). It can also contain the positive aspects of negative things, like how a relationship breakup can provide an opportunity to get your own life’s framework exactly how you want it, rather than moulding it around another person.

I’m as far from perfect as we all are, and often get lost in crappy thoughts. But the woman on the Oprah show who was only appreciative of ‘not having a headache’ is exactly the sort of person I appreciate not having in my life.

Perhaps I’ll add that to my journal.