a place to relax

to be a young fool and poor and ugly
doesn’t make the walls look so good,
so many evenings, examining walls
with nothing to drink
nothing to smoke
nothing to eat
(we drank my paychecks fast).
she always knew when to leave.
she put me through her college–
she gave me my masters and my p.h.d.,
and she always came back,
she wanted a place to relax
somewhere to hang her clothes,
she claimed I was very funny,
I made her laugh
but I was not trying to be
she had beautiful legs and she was
intelligent but she just didn’t care,
and all my fury and all my humour and
all my madness only entertained
her:   I was performing for her
like some puppet in some hell of my own.
a few times when she left I had enough
cheap wine and enough cigarettes
to listen to the radio and look at the
walls and get drunk enough to get away
from her.
but she always came back to try me
I do remember her especially.
other better women have made me feel as
as those evenings
taking that two mile walk home from work
turning up the alley
looking up at the window
and finding the shades dark.
she taught me the agony of the damned and
the useless.
one wants good weather, good luck, good
for me it was a long chance in a big field,
the time was cold and the longshot didn’t
come in.
I buried her five years after I met her,
seldom seeing her in the last three.
there were only four at the grave:
the priest
her landlady
her son and myself.
it didn’t matter:
all those walks up the alley
hoping for a light behind the shade.
all those dozens of men who had fucked her
were not there
and one of the men who had loved her
was:   “My crazy stockroom boy from the
department store,” she called me.

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript