Even Chatterton Took Rat Poison And Left The Rest Of Us In Peace

the old beatnik poet came by again
with his paintings and poems
carrying them in a newspaper sack.
he’d been to the racetrack and lost.

“I looked for you,” he said.
“I was in the clubhouse,” I told him.
“what the hell were you doing in the
clubhouse?” he asked.
“it’s air-conditioned.   I don’t like
my ass to sweat,” I answered.

I opened some beer while waiting for
the wine to get cold.
he was better than most but he did
talk LOUD.

“Jesus, baby, hold it down,” I

he was from Brooklyn and he was
very good at expressing conditions
that didn’t suit him.

“you keep writing the same old stuff,”
he told me, “you’re getting soft.”

“I think I might move out of here,”
I said.   “I think I’ll move to Malibu.”
“hey, man,” he said, “I used to know you
when you lived in a tiny room and talked
to the rats and the roaches and you
masturbated while they watched.   you
were writing great stuff then…”
“thank you, my man,” I answered.

we drank a while and then he started
showing me his paintings.

“not bad, baby,” I said.

“now I’m gonna read you some of my poems
man…” he stated.
“hey, wait a minute,” I said, “I mean,
shit, let’s just drink…”
“no, no, I’m gonna read you my poems,”
he said.

he had sheets in his hand and he

his poems were the same too.
I wrote about the racetrack and about
women and getting drunk and
he wrote about
the Poet
the desperate and the mad and the
unrecognized Poet.
who really did say it
got it down
but nobody cared
the editors and publishers were
sucks and assholes
they couldn’t tell talent from
Creeley was shit
Ferlinghetti was shit
Bukowski was shit
Ginsberg sat in coffee houses and
was a shit
and the moon shone down upon the
mad poet
while the editors and publishers
fucked teeney-boppers
on top of their desks
and nobody cared.
but they’d find out about him
(the Poet)
after he died.
it didn’t matter.
the cocky moon knew
and the drag queen knew
the drag queen in room eleven
back at the Viking hotel,
the drag queen with the soul
of an angel
she knew
and the streams and the stars knew

the old beatnik poet got into another
poem.   I had written blurbs for some
of his small press books.   it didn’t
help.   the books didn’t sell.
he got good when he got away from the
drag queens and the moon and the Poet.
his problem was that he was stuck with
the same subject matter
just like I was.
I even liked him if I didn’t have to
see him too often but then I felt that
way about many people.

we drank on and on and I kept telling him
to lower his voice, he had some volume;
I only got that way when I was trying to
tell a woman something that I knew she would
never understand…

anyhow, the old beatnik poet and
drank on and on
we drank everything in the place
and there had been plenty.

I told him he could use the
and he was soon asleep and
he snored loud

those street poets were rough
sons of bitches.
I too had been on the streets for
but instead of gaining grace and
I had only gathered terror and fear
and neurosis.

as I listened to him snore
I heard a sound that I knew too
well from living with too many drunks:
he was going to vomit and vomit

I got up and placed a wastebasket
by his head.

“what’s up?”   what’s zat?” he asked.
“when you puke, let it go in here,”
I told him.
“aw right, aw right…” he answered.
15 minutes later he was at

he was a taco and bean man, a pizza
man, he liked hot dogs… it came
out, plenty of it, and the port wine
and the beer and the double vodka
between the 5th and 6th races when
he noticed the one with the long legs
standing at the bar
with the long slit cut into her long
skirt, right side, leg sheathing

it came, plenty of it…

and in the morning he was up at
7:10 a.m.
walking the rug
talking to himself
and I said, “Jesus Christ, man,
I usually sleep until noon…
what’s wrong with you?”
“nothing wrong with me, man,”
he answered, “it’s just energy!
besides I usually get up early in
the morning, I got to walk around and
talk to myself or I know I’m gonna kill
“o.k.,” I said, “go take a walk.”
“all right, man,” he said, “I’ll walk
for an hour or an hour and a half so you
can get some sleep.”

he left.   in 15 minutes he was back, he’d
brought my cat in with him and he was
talking to my cat.

“look, man,” I said, “is there anyplace I can
drive you?   is there anyplace you want to go?”
“yeah,” he said, “I’m going to sell my paintings
to this guy at 9 a.m. but it’s too early yet.
I’ll tell ya what?   can ya drive me to Westlake

I told him that there would be no problem.
he had left me 3 of his poems and I had given
him one of my paintings… a whore in long
stockings and high heels stretched on a
couch with her skirt up to her ass.

I did feel that it was good of him to get out,
and that he had been human enough to recognize
it.   then we got into the car and I started
feeling not so good because in a sense I was
dumping him into a park full of bedraggled
misfits and hyenas; I was not a man of broad
understanding, I only wanted the comforts
which I fed upon, but I wanted that.

I let the beatnik poet out at the main park on
Alvarado street while I looked across the street
where I had met this woman in a bar who had given
me seven years of hell.

he got his newspaper sack and stood upon the
curb and then we made our signs and I pulled out,
not my brother’s keeper.

I drove on in, got there and went to

I got up at noon and made ready for the
track.   I got ready to dump the entire
wastebasket into the trash bin when I
noticed that he had mostly missed the
wastebasket.   there were blobs and lumps
of purple brown on the rug.   I was bare-
footed.   I lifted one foot, then the
other.   I pulled the soft, flattened
pieces of vomit off.   the stink wafted
upwards.   I pushed the coffeetable away
and there was more of it.   he had attempted
to wipe it up with an old Racing Form and
a copy of German Playboy I had a short story
in.   and picking up his black brown purple
hotdog pizza mustard relish bean gumbo taco
potato chip hamburg rare with onion I felt
the same thing:   they all knock on my door,
I don’t knock on their doors, never did.

I hope he sells his paintings, I hope his
books sell, I hope he gets to fuck the teeney-
boppers, I hope he gets a big place with German
police dogs and an electrically-wired fence, I
hope the angels arrive for him, for him and all
the others; but it isn’t going to happen:   it’s
a hard marketplace and most of them talk away
what they should write down, and most of those
who get it down for a while can’t keep doing

now I’ve wet two large towels.   I’ve got to
clean up the remainder of the puke.   that ought
to help keep me humble and pure and writing the
same old stuff.

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