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Page 184

My name is Dean. For many years I lied to myself
about my writing, just as all poedicts and writards do.
I told my wife, sure, I write a poem now and again,
but it's just for the fun of it. OK, sometimes words
intoxicate me -- so what? Can't a guy get high
with his pals a few times without you all over him
like flies on Bukowski?

I began to write every day, sometimes two, three,
four poems a day. I'd be late to work because
I had to finish a sonnet, late getting home
because I'd walk past the house for blocks
(unraveling a sestina). The kids would cry,
"Where's Daddy? DADDeeee, we're late for school!"

Some nights I'd stay up writing until my wife,
God bless her, would drag me to bed, and --
it shames me to tell you this -- sometimes
I'd get savage, trying to wrap up a villanelle
at 4 a.m. -- I'd yell (waking the kids), "You sadistic,
illiterate bitch, l-e-a-v-e m-e ALONE!"

Well, after I lost my job, my wife, my children,
my health, my house and (when the rejection slips started
to pile up) my self-respect, one day I squatted
in my tar-paper shack, my hand trembling over
my last scrap of toilet paper, as I thought, "Just
one more sheet of poetry, then I'll stop
for good. Just one" and I put my pen
to the flimsy sheet (only a little soiled) and

went completely blank -- sat there for an hour,
unmoving. Then I got up (bumping my head
on the tar paper ceiling), broke my Bic and tossed it
into a smelly puddle in the alley, and knew
I would never write again.

Besides, I needed that toilet paper.

Note: "Poedict" – my coinage for poet-addict, though it could refer to Poe's diction or edict. I know I had something equally cogent in mind when I coined "writards", but I can't recall what. I'll leave it in. It'll come to me. I'm sure I wasn't aiming at a pun on "retards". I've heard that the late Charles Bukowski kept himself fairly clean, but in his poems and stories, he represents himself, often enough, as drunk and down and dirty enough to attract swarms of flies – and calls himself a barfly. (A movie about him was called "Barfly", which suggests one who lies in his barf, and in this case perhaps lies about lying in his barf to magnify his scruffy self-mythologizing.) Appropriate to introduce Bukowski so soon after Lifshin, since both have been tremendously popular and well-published and prolific as twentieth century poets go. (Do we go?)

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