Father's Day with Bukowski

In a belated celebration of Father's Day,  I decided to share some poetry by one of my favorite feel-good poets, Charles Bukowski. Clearly, he had a complicated relationship with his father, but I think deep down he loved his old man, which is why I included the poem "one for the old boy".

My Father

was a truly amazing man
he pretended to be
even though we lived on beans and mush and weenies
when we sat down to eat, he said,
"not everybody can eat like this."

and because he wanted to be rich or because he actually
thought he was rich
he always voted Republican
and he voted for Hoover against Roosevelt
and he lost
and then he voted for Alf Landon against Roosevelt
and he lost again
saying, "I don't know what this world is coming to,
now we've got that god damned Red in there again
and the Russians will be in our backyard next!"

I think it was my father who made me decide to
become a bum.
I decided that if a man like that wants to be rich
then I want to be poor.

and I became a bum.
I lived on nickles and dimes and in cheap rooms and
on park benches.
I thought maybe the bums knew something.

but I found out that most of the bums wanted to be
rich too.
they had just failed at that.

so caught between my father and the bums
I had no place to go
and I went there fast and slow.
never voted Republican
never voted.

buried him
like an oddity of the earth
like a hundred thousand oddities
like millions of other oddities,


Throwing Away the Alarm Clock

my father always said, "early to bed and
early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy 
and wise."

it was lights out at 8 p.m. in our house
and we were up at dawn to the smell of
coffee, frying bacon and scrambled 

my father followed this general routine
for a lifetime and died young, broke, 
and, I think, not too

taking note, I rejected his advice and it
became, for me, late to bed and late
to rise.

now, I'm not saying that I've conquered
the world but I've avoided
numberless early traffic jams, bypassed some
common pitfalls
and have met some strange, wonderful

one of whom 
myself—someone my father


one for the old boy

he was just a 
a dirty white
with pale blue eyes

I won't bore you with his
just to say
he had much bad luck
and was a good old
and he died
like people die
like elephants die
like rats die
like flowers die
like water evaporates and
the wind stops blowing

the lungs gave out
last Monday.
now he's in the rose garden
and I've heard a
stirring march
playing for him
inside of me
which I know
not many
but some of you
would like to