the alter boy

he had velvet eyes and much trouble with Paul Goodman
and his gang,
meanwhile he wrote to Pound to illustrate wherein Ezra
had erred in certain passages from the Cantos;
at 24, the poet-critic, the Kenyon Review darling, well,
one of the Kenyon Review darlings, one of the Partisan
Review darlings, he dissertated with Tate, visited
John Crowe Random,
had insomnia, starkly burned, lectured at Princeton,
had problems with intellectuals and wives,
began losing a mental step here and there
and, of course, he was Jewish,
the first great promise was beginning to develop a tie
under the eye
and he knew less of women than any highschool boy,
he wrote Laughlin of New Directions
about the state of his game and his manhood;
he soon began drinking more, taking sleeping pills
and dexies
and like anybody else
he started getting older,
took to living in small rooms
and like always
rooted for the Giants,
began to fatten in face and body,
preferred the early photographers of himself
the alter boy appearance long gone
he ran off from a photographic appointment
to sit in the stands and root for the

he stopped writing.
known as a genius to his peers
his books never sold
some say because he was too good;
others said the other.

his criticism was brilliant in its
rancor and decisiveness;
he was more of a bitch than a
his poetry was more fawning and
as a critic he was a good surgeon,
as a poet he was stalled in a stale,
pale whimsy.
at any rate
he stopped writing each.

somehow they did get a photo.
one of the last photos of him:
sitting on a bench in Washington Square
hewn into an oblong glance of

he died at 44
of a heart attack,
having drank at the same bar as
Dylan Thomas,
the latest boys
seeking that same
flash of light

spondees and insights of the
grievous breath.

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