the letters of John Steinbeck

I dreamt I was freezing and when I woke up and found out
I wasn’t freezing I somehow shit the bed.
I had been working on the travel book that night and
hadn’t done much good and they were taking my horses
away, moving them to Del Mar.
I’d have time to be writer now.    I’d wake up in the
morning and there the machine would be looking at me,
it would look like a tarantula; not so–it would look
like a black frog with fifty-one warts.

you figure Camus got it because he let somebody else
drive the car.   I don’t like anybody else driving the
car, I don’t even like to drive it myself.   well,
after I cleaned the shit off I put on my yellow
walking shorts and drove to the track.   I parked and
went in.
the first one I saw was my biographer.   I saw him
from the side and ducked.   he was cleanly-dressed,
smoked a pipe and had a drink in his hand.
last time over at my place he gave me two books:
Scott and Ernest and the letters of John Steinbeck.
I read those when I shit.   I always read when I shit
and the worse the book the better the bowel movement.

then after the first race my doctor sat down beside me.
he looked like he had just gotten out of surgery and
hadn’t washed very well.   he stayed until after the
8th race, talking, drinking beer and eating hot dogs.
then he started in about my liver:   “you drink so god
damned much I want to take a poke at your liver. you
come see me now.”   “all right,” I said, “Tuesday after-

I remembered his receptionist.   last time I had been there
the toilet had overflowed and she had got down on the floor
on her knees to wipe it up and her dress had pulled up
high above her thighs.   I had stood there and watched,
telling her that Man’s two greatest inventions had been
the atom bomb and plumbing.

then my doctor was gone and my biographer was gone too
and I was $97 ahead.
down at Del Mar they have that short stretch and they
come wailing off that last curve, and the water from the
fountains tastes like piss.

if my liver was gone it was gone; something always went
first and then the remainder followed.   some parade.
it wasn’t true, though, it depended upon the part.
I knew some people without minds who were blossoms of

I lost the last race and drove on in lucky enough to
get some Shostokovitch on the radio
and when you figure 6:30 p.m. on an AM radio
that’s drawing a king to ace, queen, jack, ten…

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