Sunday, November 2, 2008

Under the Bridge to Nowhere

The traces that humans leave, ancient and more recent, attesting to their passage on the planet, never cease to amaze me. While wandering in West Philadelphia not long ago, from a distance I saw a pile of rubbish under a bridge in a run-down part of town. Being curious by nature, I decided to take a closer look. Strewn about in a big chaotic heap were what looked like the entire contents of a home that had been hastily dumped there. Baby pictures and all. Most appalling was the carcass of the family dog lying decayed and twisted on top of the mess, among the ghoulish Halloween colored items.

What on earth had happened here? Had the family been evicted and had nowhere to carry their belongings to? How did they get under that bridge? How had the dog died? This is another place I would have liked to rummage a little deeper in, god only knows what might have been found farther down in the heap... but I didn't feel like lingering there where there had been so much water under the bridge... to nowhere...

A friend who had read quite a number of my attempts at poems over the years once advised me that I should take a look at the poems of Charles Bukowski, because some of my work reminded him of Bukowski. I remember him telling me, "You should really read some Bukowski, he is sort of sick, just like you are... he even wrote a poem about some people stealing the corpse of a woman in order to have sex with it."

Up until that point I'd never come across Bukowski. Sometimes we tend to discover things when we are ready to. Well, I can say now, after having read a good number of Bukowski's books, the man had a genius for illustrating anything and everything he came across in life, no matter how sordid the subject. He was a painter, and he also painted pictures with words, parcimonious depictions of the incidents of his life in magically glowing images. May you rest in peace Mr Bukowski, after all the trials and vomiting in your life, you deserve it.

Just a couple of days ago I saw a documentary on television about the mass extinctions that did in the dinosaurs, and which nearly did in our ancestors too, one caused by lack of oxygen in the atmosphere, the second caused by a large meteorite. I was thinking, it may be time soon for another mass extinction; as it is starting to appear that there are a few too many of us for our own good. In an incredible poem called "Dinosauria, we" Charles Bukowski wrote nearly 20 years ago :

“we are born into this sorrowful deadliness
we are born into a government 60 years in debt
that soon will be unable to even pay the interest on that debt
and the banks will burn
money will be useless
there will be open and unpublished murder in the streets
it will be guns and roving mobs
land will be useless
food will become a diminishing return
nuclear power will be taken over by the many
explosions will continually shake the earth
radiated robot men will stalk each other
the rich and the chosen will watch from space platforms
Dante’s Inferno will be made to look like a children’s playground

the sun will not be seen and it will always be night
trees will die
radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men
the sea will be poisoned
the lakes and rivers will vanish
rain will be the new gold

the rotting bodies of men and animals will stink in the dark wind

the last few survivors will be overtaken by new and hideous diseases

and the space platforms will be destroyed by attrition
the petering out of supplies
the natural effect of general decay

and there will be the most beautiful silence ever heard

born out of that

the sun still hidden there

awaiting the next chapter”


Thank you Bob for introducing me to Bukowski... he was clearly a visionary, but I hope he was wrong about some of these things. And if anyone is actually reading any of this, well, go out and buy a few of Bukowski's books, you won't be disappointed... and if enough of you do, maybe the editor won't be quite so pissed at me for quoting without permission... sorry, but I can't help it, if I was drunk and falling down dead in a bar, my last words to a stranger might be... by Dog, if you do nothing else before you die... read Bukowski

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