self-inflicted

he kept talking about Steinbeck and Thomas Wolfe and he
wrote like a cross between the two of them
and I lived in a hotel on Figueroa street
close to the bars
and he lived further into the city in a small room
and we both wanted to be writers
and we’d meet at the public library, sit on the stone
benches and talk about it.
he showed me his short stories and he wrote well, he
wrote better than I, there was a calmness and a
generousness to his work that mine did not have.
my lines were jagged, harsh, self-inflicted, I carried
about this smutty involucre.

I didn’t show him my work, he was more impressed with
my drinking prowess and my anti-wordly attitudes.

after talking a bit we would go to Clifton’s
generally for our only meal of the day or maybe of
two days
yet
we were in great health.
we lost jobs, found jobs, lost jobs.
mostly we didn’t work, we always envisioned ourselves
to soon be getting regular checks from
the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly and
Harper’s.

we often ran with a gang of young men who didn’t envision
themselves to be anything
but they had a gallant charm outside the law
and we drank with them and fought with them and
had a hell of a wild good time.

then just like that he joined the Marine Corps.
“I want to prove something to myself,” was what he told
me.

he did: right after boot camp the war came and in 3 months
he was dead.
and I told myself that some day I would write a novel and
would dedicate it to him.

I have now written 5 novels.

you know, you were right, Robert Baun, when you once
said, “Bukowski, about half of you is
bullshit.”

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