LIFE, DEATH, LOVE, ART

this one had long blond hair
smoked a pipe
claimed he looked like
Lord Byron.
he was quite intellectual
and all the girls loved him
for a while.

he always had a new girl
some young fawning thing.

I knew him when things were
going very badly for me
in every possible way.
he found something amusing
about my
suicidal and drunken
ways.

he poked around in the
editorial field.
he always seemed relaxed
always in control.
he lived in an expensive
arty place with
beautiful rugs
and always
the new girl
at his flat
on one of those rugs
listening
with admiration
as he spoke.

I’ll admit
I tried to get
the attention
of all of his girls
but they hardly ever
glanced.
of course,
when I examined myself
later
at various times
I noticed say
a shoe untied,
a couple of buttons missing
from my shirt.
I noticed my scuffed
shoes, yellow
teeth.

of course,
I didn’t expect them to
go to bed with me.
I just wanted a look, a
smile.
but
I didn’t get that.
it were as if I weren’t
in the room
at all.
and this didn’t happen
with one of his
girls,
it happened with all
of his girls.

so I began to examine
him
to find out
what he had.

first, he was very
scrubbed.
spotless.
his clothing was
fresh, clean.
his shoes
of the latest style
and new.
he sat
quite erect.
and he didn’t
drink
he sipped
at his drinks.

but it must have been
his conversation that
got to them.
I noticed that he
usually spoke of and
used the words:
Life, Death, Love, Art.
he went on
and on
talking about
Life, Death, Love, Art.

and he used
certain names:
Shelley
Keats
Byron
Oscar Wilde
George Bernard Shaw
Chopin
George Sand
H.G. Wells
Debussy
Socrates
Santayana
and all
the other people who
didn’t
interest me.

one night I decided to
get out of there and
leave him with
all his girls.

2 or 3 months went
by, no, it was more like
a year and a half:
I was sitting
in my cheesebox room
closer to suicide than
salvation when
my landlady
knocked on the door:
“somebody wants you
on my telephone. how’d
they get
my number?”
“hell, Clara,” I told
her, “I don’t know your
number.   how about a
glass of wine?”

I went down and
picked up the phone
it was Lord Byron
he was drunk.

“hey, Lord,” I asked,
“how’d ya get this
number?”

“never mind… do come
quickly…. I’ve been
drinking for weeks… I
think I’m going to kill
myself!   hurry, please…”

I got his new address
jumped into my
12 year old car
and drove on
out.

he had evidently
moved down
from the hills.
he was just off
Fountain
near the
Hollywood Police
Station.

I parked and
got out.

I found him in
a small back room
behind a
screen door.
there wasn’t even
a bed
in there.

he was on a
cot.
and he was
out.

I shook him:
“hey, Byron,
wake up!”

he stirred.
a lock of blond hair
fell down from his
forehead:
“oh, Hank, hello…”

“got anything to
drink?” I asked.

“yes, there is some
good scotch.  do
pour us some…”

I found the fifth
almost full,
poured two drinks.

he said, “just put
mine
on the table.”

I drank mine and
poured myself
another.

“Charles,” he asked,
“have you ever thought of
suicide?”

“yeah.”

just then
the screen door opened
and a new one
came in

long
red-brown hair
lanky legs
clear
pure eyes.

“get out of here,”
she told me.

“what do you mean?”
I asked.

“I mean, you’ve done
this
to him!
I know your type!”

“listen, I just got
here…”

she looked at
him:   “Nelson, are you
all right?”

“Sybl,” he said.

Sybl went to the cot
sat
on the edge of it
bent
over him
her long hair
falling
across his face…
“Nelson, are you
all right?”

I stared at
her legs
her buttocks.

I finished my
drink

I left

driving
right by the
Hollywood Police
Station

and that was
20 years
ago

haven’t seen
him
since.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1982
Source
Original manuscript