nothing but a scarf

long ago, oh ever so long ago, when I was just beginning to
write
I was into the short story
and there was one little magazine which printed
fair works.
there was a lady editor and she sent me
encouraging rejections.
I read her monthly magazine in the public
library.

I noticed that she featured one fellow
in the lead story each
month.
it pissed me because I thought that I could
write better than this
fellow.
his work was facile and bright but it had no
edge, no
madness.
you could tell that he never rubbed with
life, he just
glided over it.

next thing I knew, this ice skater of a writer was
famous.

and he had begun as only a copy boy
on one of the big New York
magazines.

how the hell do you get one of those
jobs?

then he was appearing in some of the best
ladies magazines
and in some of the snob
journals.

then out came a little volume, a
novelette, and he was truly
famous.

it was a bit about upper society and it was
delightful and charming and just a bit
naughty.

Hollywood made a movie about
it.

and the writer bounced about the Hollywood
parties.
I saw his photos again and again:
a little elf-man with huge
eyeglasses.
and he always wore a large
scarf.

but soon he went back to New York and the
New York parties.

he made every in party that there was and
some that weren’t very
in.

he stopped writing altogether and just went
to the parties.

he drank himself into oblivion almost
every night.

his once slim frame more than doubled in
size.
his face fattened and he no longer looked
like the young boy with the quick and dirty
quips but more like an
old frog thing that just croaked out
inanities.

the scarf was still there but his hats were
too large and slid down around his
head
and most of what you could see was this
downward-twisted
lurid
grin.

the young ladies like to drag him about,
one on each arm
and they’d ask people,
“hey, you know who this
is?”

“no.”

“well, it’s ——
——.”

“oh no.”

drinking as he did, of course, he didn’t live
to an old age.

so
he died
and was quickly
forgotten

until somebody found what they claimed was his
diary

and then all the famous people in
New York got
worried

and they should have been because when it was
published
out came the dirty gossip
on many of
them.

but I still maintain that he never did know how to
write, just what and
when and
who.

slim, thin
stuff.

ever so long ago, when I was just beginning to
write–
dropping the magazine to the floor
after reading one of his
stories and thinking,
Jesus Christ, if this is what they
want.
I might as well write for
the rats and the roaches
and the air and for
myself.

which, of course, I did, for
decades. no longer looked
like the young boy with the quick and dirty
quips but more like an
old frog thing that just croaked out
inanities.

the scarf was still there but his hats were
too large and slid down around his
head
and most of what you could see was this
downward-twisted
lurid
grin.

the young ladies like to drag him about,
one on each arm
and they’d ask people,
“hey, you know who this
is?”

“no.”

“well, it’s ——
——.”

“oh no.”

drinking as he did, of course, he didn’t live
to an old age.

so
he died
and was quickly
forgotten

until somebody found what they claimed was his
diary

and then all the famous people in
New York got
worried

and they should have been because when it was
published
out came the dirty gossip
on many of
them.

but I still maintain that he never did know how to
write, just what and
when and
who.

slim, thin
stuff.

ever so long ago, when I was just beginning to
write–
dropping the magazine to the floor
after reading one of his
stories and thinking,
Jesus Christ, if this is what they
want.
I might as well write for
the rats and the roaches
and the air and for
myself.

which, of course, I did, for
decades.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1989
Source
Original manuscript