beef tongue

I hadn’t eaten for a couple of days
and was up at this poet’s place
where a woman took care of him.
he was a big bearded ox with a brain twice as large as th
world, and we’d been up all night
listening to tapes, talking, smoking, swallowing pills,
his woman had gone to bed hours ago,
it was 10 a.m.
and the sunlight came on in not knowing that we hadn’t slept
and the next thing
I looked up and he was coming out of the kitchen
saying, “Hey, Bukowski!   Look!”
I couldn’t see it clearly–
at first it looked like a pale yellow boot filled with water
then it looked like a fish without a head
and then it looked like an elephant’s cock,
and then he brought it closer
“Beef tongue!   Beef tongue!”
he held it out arm’s length from his shoulder
right before my face
and it was, and I never images any steer with a tongue that
fat and long,
it was a rape of the brain
they had gone deep into the throat
and hacked it out, and there it was now
and it was yellow and pink and blue and orange
and it was choking
it was gagging all by itself
just another reasonable and sensible atrocity
that intelligent men get used
to.   I was not an intelligent
man.   I made it to the sink and began heaving.
stupid, of course, stupid, it was only dead meat,
no felling now, the pain long since run out the bottom of the
but I continued to vomit, finished, cleaned the sink
and walked back
in.   “sorry,” I said.
“it’s o.k.,” he said, “I forgot about your
then he walked the tongue into the kitchen
and came out and we talked of this and that,
and in about ten minutes
I heard the boiling water and I smelled that tongue cooking,
it was whirling in that bubbling water without mouth or eye
or name, it was this huge tongue going around and around under that lid
and stinking
becoming cooked tongue
becoming a most delicious and flavored meat for the
gut.   but since he was a fine fellow
I asked him to turn it off
I was leaving.

it was cold morning and I shivered in the doorway
but the new air was good
I could feel the legs the heart the lungs
beginning to envision a chance of

we talked about a book of poems he was helping me
gather, then I said, “goodbye, phone, keep in
touch,” and we didn’t shake hands, a thing neither of us
like to do–a lousy paper-thin custom–
and I went up the path and out to my car and started the
thing, and as I warmed it up I sensed him moving into the kitchen
behind that 2 foot square mass of black beard
those blue diamond eyes shining out there
up above that black,
those intelligent happy blue diamond eyes
knowing everything (almost), and he
turning on the flame again
the water beginning to shift and simmer
that tongue moving down in there:
“I have this tremendous I.Q.   it’s all that keeps me
“If I can’t be happy I’m not any

and I, stupid in my machine, turned it out from the
curbing, let it roll through the yellow morning
down these curves those dips
all that green along there.

well, we have gotten by the handshake
and thank Christ he hasn’t invited me for
dinner.    when I got home I thumbed through some
Renoir, Pissarro and Disz
prints.   then I ate a hard-boiled

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: