Two Poems by Bukowski: Words for the Long Journey

Our family is graduating my youngest son from High School as a home schooler (where did those years go?), and I was trying to find words to say that fit what I wanted to tell him about going out in the world. Then as if by some fortunate flow of the universe I drifted to a place where these poems popped out of sand like bright shells. They are just about perfect.

Some parts of them make me nervous, the parts about loss and isolation (especially knowing what kinds of choices Bukowski made/ he had his own demons to fight) but sometimes we hang on to things that kill us inside for no good reason. Sometimes things are worth hanging on to. Fortunately, those are often pretty clear. You have to make choices in life. It is better to make the choices than to let life make them for you.

Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Roll the Dice

if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
way. this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or
4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the
worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the
and the nights will flame with

do it, do it, do it.
do it.

all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter,
it’s the only good fight
there is.

This entry was posted in Check this out, Family, make your own world, mindworks, my life, Other peoples words, philosophy, poetry, Teaching and Learning, thinking in words and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Two Poems by Bukowski: Words for the Long Journey

  1. Ardin Lalui says:

    I love your sentiment.
    “You have to make choices in life. It is better to make the choices than to let life make them for you.”
    Best of luck to your son. He’s embarking on the only good fight there is!

  2. Ardin Lalui says:

    55 Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
    56 The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
    57 And you are stay’d for. There, my blessing with thee!
    58 And these few precepts in thy memory
    59 See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
    60 Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
    61 Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
    62 Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
    63 Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
    64 But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
    65 Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged courage. Beware
    66 Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
    67 Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
    68 Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
    69 Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
    70 Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
    71 But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy,
    72 For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
    73 And they in France of the best rank and station
    74 Or of a most select and generous chief in that.
    75 Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
    76 For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
    77 And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
    78 This above all: to thine ownself be true,
    79 And it must follow, as the night the day,
    80 Thou canst not then be false to any man.
    81 Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

  3. Ardin Lalui says:

    my girlfriend insisted on this!

  4. randomyriad says:

    It is a great passage. I love Hamlet in all its many reincarnations. I just watched “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” for the third time. My favorite Polonius was Bill Murrey in the movie with Ethan Hawke as Hamlet.
    The part about borrowing and lending is definitely a good one for anybody these days, but, my son is still living in my house so it wasn’t so much farewell and is already very good with money.

  5. Jane says:

    What a beautiful tribute! My favorite line? “the gods wait to delight in you”

    Congratulations to your son! And to you! Homeschooling is such an amazing journey.

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