one for the shoeshine man

one for the shoeshine man

the balance is preserved by the snails climbing the
Santa Monica cliffs;
the luck is in walking down Western Avenue
and having the girls in a massage
parlor holler at you, “Hello Sweetie!”
the miracle is having 5 women in love
with you at the age of 55,
and the goodness is that you are only able
to love one of them.
the gift is having a daughter more gentle
than you are, whose laughter is finer
than yours.
the peace comes from driving a
blue 1967 Volks through the streets like a
teenager, radio tuned to The Host Who Loves You
Most, feeling the sun, feeling the solid hum
of the rebuilt motor
as you needle through traffic.
the grace is being able to like rock music,
symphony music, jazz . . .
anything that contains the original energy of
joy.

and the probability that returns
is the deep blue low
yourself flat upon yourself
within the guillotine walls
angry at the sound of the phone
or anybody’s footsteps passing;
but the other probability–
the lilting high that always follows–
makes the girl at the checkstand in the
supermarket look like
Marilyn
like Jackie before they got her Harvard lover
like the girl in high school that we
all followed home.

there is that which helps you believe
in something else besides death:
somebody in a car approaching
on a street too narrow,
and he or she pulls aside to let you
by, or the old fighter Beau Jack
shining shoes
after blowing the entire bankroll
on parties
on women
on parasites,
humming, breathing on the leather,
working the rag
looking up and saying:
“what the hell, I had it for
while. that beats the
other.”

I am bitter sometimes
but the taste has often been
sweet. it’s only that I’ve
feared to say it. it’s like
when you woman says,
“tell me you love me,” and
you can’t.

if you see me grinning from
my blue Volks
running a yellow light
driving straight into the sun
I will be locked in the
arms of a
crazy life
thinking of trapeze artists
of midgets with big cigars
of a Russian winter in the early 40’s
of Chopin with his bag of Polish soil
of an old waitress bringing me an extra
cup of coffee and laughing
as she does so.

the best of you
I like more than you think.
the others don’t count
except that they have fingers and heads
and some of them eyes
and most of them legs
and all of them
good and bad dreams
and way to go.

justice is everywhere and it’s working
and the machine guns and frogs
and the hedges will tell you
so.

Charles Bukowski, Love is a Dog From Hell

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