Existence

I huddled in front of this cheesebox of numbers
poking in small cards
addressed to non-existent
lives
while the whole town is drunk
and fucks in the street and sings
with the birds
I stand under a small electric light
and send messages to a dead Garcia,
and I am old enough to die,
and I stand before this wooden cage
and feed its voiceless insides,
this is my job, my rent, my whore, my shoes,
the sickening task of leeching the color from eyes;
master, damn you, you’ve found me a sweet lock,
my mouth puckering to a mewking cry,
my hands shriveling across my lonely
red-spotted sunless chest;
with these elements I could die on any rug
you have ready, not the street, Sir Sam,
the street is so hard, at least
give me the walls I have paid a life for,
and when the Hawk comes down
I will meet him halfway,
we will embrace where the wallpaper tears,
where the rain came in
where the heater said so steadily    steady
and then
was shut off;
I stand before wood and numbers,
I stand before a graveyard of eyes and mouths
of heads hollowed out for shadows,
and shadows enter    and sit
like mice    and look out at me

I put in cards with secret numbers,
listening to toilets flush;
agents cut the wires and test my heartbeat,
listen for sanity
or cheer    or love, and finding none,
satisfied, they leave;
flick, flick, flick, I stand before the wood
and my soul faints on a floor crawling with bugs
and beyond the wood is a window
with sounds, grass, walking, towers, dogs,
but here I stand and here I stay,
sending cards noted with my own ending;
and I am sick with caring:   go out, everything,
and send fire.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1963
This poem appeared in the following books: