the last generation

it was much easier to be one in the twenties, there were
only 3 or 4 literary magazines and if you got into them
4 or 5 times you could end up in Gertie’s parlor
you could possibly meet Picasso for a glass of wine, or
maybe only Miro.

and yes, if you sent your stuff postmarked from Paris
chances of publications became much better
most writers bottomed their manuscripts with the
word “Paris” and the date.

and with a patron there was time to
write, eat, drink and take drives to Italy and sometimes
Greece.
it was good to be photoed with others of your kind
it was good to look tidy, enigmatic and thin.
photos taken on the beach were great.

and yes, you could write letters to the 15 or 20
others
bitching about this and that.

you might get a letter from Ezra or from Hem; Ezra liked
to give directions and Hem liked to practice his writing
in his letters when he couldn’t do the other.

it was a romantic grand game then, full of the fury of
discovery.

now

now there are so many of us, hundreds of literary magazines,
hundreds of presses, thousands of titles.

who is to survive all of this mulch?
it’s almost improper to ask.

I go back, I read the books about the lives of the boys
and girls of the twenties.

if they were the Lost Generation, what would you call us?
sitting here among the warheads with our electric-touch
typewriters!

the Last Generation?

I’d rather Lost than Last but as I read these books about
them
I feel a gentleness and genorousity

as I read of the suicide of Harry Crosby in his hotel room
with his whore
that seems as real to me as the faucet dripping now
in my bathroom sink.

I like to read about them: Joyce blind and prowling the
bookstores like a tarantula, they said.
Dos Passos with his clipped newscasts using pink type-
writer ribbon.
D.H. horny and pissed-off, H.D. being smart enough to use
her initials which seemed much more literary than Hilda
Dolittle.

G.B. Shaw, long established, as noble and
dumb as royalty, flesh and brain turning to marble. A
bore.

Huxley promenading his brain with great glee, arguing
with Lawrence that it wasn’t in the belly and the balls,
that the glory was in the skull.

and that hick Sinclair Lewis coming to light.

meanwhile
the revolution being over the Russians were liberated and
dying.
Gorky with nothing to fight for, sitting in a room trying
to find phrases praising the government
many others broken in victory.

now

now there are so many of us
but we should be grateful, for in a hundred years
if the world is destroyed, think, how much
there will be left of all of this:
nobody really able to fail or to succeed– just
diminished and flattered by
numerical superiority
we will all be catacombed and filed
all right…

if you still have doubts of those other golden
times
there were other curious creatures: Richard
Aldington, Teddy Dreiser, F. Scott, Hart Crane, Wyndham Lewis,
Black Sun Press.

but to me, the twenties centered mostly on Hemingway
coming out of the war and beginning to type.

it was all so simple, all so deliciously clear

now

there are so many of us.

Ernie, you had no idea how good it has been
four decades later when you blew you brains into
the orange juice

although
I grant you
that was not your best work.


Editor’s note: several lines in this poem were difficult to transcribe from the original manuscript. Despite my best attempts, I may have made a couple of mistakes. Please write to admin@charlesbukowski.org with corrections, if you identify any errors.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1981
Source
Original manuscript