total madness

all right, people, I know that you are tired of hearing
it
but how about this one last time for me?
all those tiny rooms in all of those cities,
going from one city to another
from one cheap room to another
terrified and sickened of what people had to do
and kept doing,
it was the same any place and every place,
thousands and thousands of miles
looking out the window of the Greyhound,
listening to them talk, looking at them,
their heads, their ears, the way they walked.
these were strangers from elsewhere,
they were parallel perpendiculars,
they drove the blade through my gut,
even the seeming lovely girls,
the guile of eye, the lilt and magic of
given body
where only an overpayment toward the
mirage,
life’s tick of continuance of the same
ultimate nonsense of the
centuries.
with religion, government, family,
Christmas, New Years, new cars,
new buffets of clowns in the
entertainment industry to keep us
numbed and damned,
with Shakespeare adored, with
Christ adored, with the hoary
grandmother always on the
doorstep
demanding love
from the empty tomb of her
sucked-out
soul.

I went from room to room
from city to city,
hiding, looking, waiting…
for what?
for nothing but the
irresponsible and negative
reversal
of at least
not being
them.

I loved those old rooms,
the worn rugs,
the walk down the hall
to the bathroom,
even the rats and the
mice and the roaches
seemed comrades,
although I sometimes
spoke to those
bastards:
“you don’t have to
pay rent.”

and along the way
I somehow discovered
the classical composers,
even Bach hooked on
God
could send these simple
fulsome sounds of
laughter and gamble
on through.

I had a record player.
and rather than eat
I used what funds I had
for cheap wine and
record albums.
and I rolled cigarettes,
smoked, drank,
listened to the music
in the dark.
I remember one particular
night
when Wagner really began
to lift the ceiling off of
my room
I got up
out of bed
joy-stricken,
I stood there and lifted
both arms toward the
ceiling
and I caught the look of
myself in the dresser
mirror
and there was nothing
of me,
a skeleton of a man,
down from 200 pounds to
130,
cheeks sucked in to where
I could run my tongue through
and touch both sides of
my head,
I saw this death skull
looking at me
and it was so
ridiculous and so lovely
that I started laughing
and the thing in the mirror
started laughing back
and it got
funnier and funnier
and I lifted my arms
higher toward the
ceiling
and Wagner was with
all of us.

and about those old
rooms,
I was lucky,
I had these old landladies,
well, they had paintings of
Christ along the stairways,
all that
but they were rather nice
in spite of that.

“Mr. Chinaski, your rent is
over due, are you all
right?”

“oh, yes, thank you.”

“I hear your music playing
all the time, night and day,
you sit in your room night
and day with all the shades
pulled down…
are you all right?”

“I’m a writer.”

“a writer?”

“yes, I just sent something off
to the New Yorker.
I’m sure I’ll be hearing from
them any day now.”

somehow, you tell people
you are a writer
they will put up with all
sorts of
abuses,
especially if you are
in your early
twenties.
later on, it’s hard
sell
like I was to
find out.

but being in those
small rooms in all of
those cities with all
of those landladies
and Brahms
and Sebelius
and Shostokovich
and Eric Coats
and Sir Edward Elgar
and the Chopin Etudes
and Barodin
Hayden,
Handel,
Mousorgsky,
etc. etc. and hardly
that
etc.

now, somehow, after
living through decades of
those rooms
and half-assed barren
jobs
and waste- basketing
virtually 20 or 30
pounds of rejected
manuscripts
I still return to a
small room
up here,
to recount to you
once more
the wondrousness of
my madness
then.

the difference being
now
that my writing hasn’t
changed that much,
only my luck
has.

and I’m working on
20 or 30 more pounds
of manuscript
before I kick it
in,
before you kick it
in,
before we kick it
in,
being young,
being just that
against the centuries,
Christ hanging,
Joan of Arc burning,
Van Gogh trying to haggle
paints out of his
brother,
the bulls of Spain dying
and dying,
Harry Truman saying
Yea to the Atom Bomb,
it was those rooms,
it was the selfishness
of me toward me,
I loved most those knobs
on the dresser.

in the half drunken light of
some 4 a.m.
a shrunken man upon the
shelf of nowhere,
letting the lovely girls go
to the dim bulls,
I was young enough to
remain young
forever,
I was ready to die
when the Madi Gra
exploded,
I will die now,
complete as I was
then,
celebrating with
Wagner,
the eyeless roaches
singing in the dream,
Death backing off
in a dim New Orleans
room, say,
mixing with the rodents,
sometimes everything
that is in you
blazes beyond the
concepts and the
realities,
and you get up and
pour a glass of
cheap red wine
and drink it
straight off
and afterwards
standing there
you are neither
young or
old,
there is just the feel
of your elbows and
your feet and the toes
upon your feet
and in the mirror
the slanting and
changing light from a
passing car
and the walls that
hold you in and
out,
and nothing much
more
and nothing much
less,
you settle upon the
knobs upon the
dresser
drawer, you
decide that the
secret is
there,
then pour another
glassful to
celebrate that,
good as anything,
or
at least better than
anything
else.

rooms of
glory.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1991
Source
Original manuscript