Monday, 2 February 2015

Bukowski - betting on the muse

Do you believe in fate; do you believe you structure your own destiny by what you put out from your mind?  I’ve got to tell you, these last couple of months, my life has gone wham, bang, big change buddy!  There I was withering away safe in a secure, dead end job; paying down a mortgage; stealing time from other people to give it to my writing; wishing I had the legitimate freedom and luxury of a remote lake or mountain cabin retreat where I would go to read and write and dream and contemplate and meditate and pray (a hobby writer’s desire).  Do you think I’m going to tell you that this has a self-actualisation ending to it?  Afraid not, the journey has started, the current situation is uncertain, nervous, and the ending is far off in the distance.  But I’m drawn back to the very first words I wrote in my diary on New Year’s day last year (2014), I wrote, “I said this would be a ‘water-shed’ year; Linda asked what it meant – she had not heard the term before and doubted its existence, so I googled it, ‘a point where a river diverges; a defining time or moment in the course of events – you either go this way, or that way’.”  That is what I wrote, not knowing the events that were to occur.  But the water-shed did happen, in October, one week after I came back from a holiday in the UK – I broke my leg; slipped on wet grass while walking the dog (it was those boat shoes!); argued with my daughter (no communication; fucking stress); sat around the house with my busted leg, staying up late drinking cheap wine; carried the habit over to my return to work; got picked for a drug and alcohol test; blew a reading of .01 and lost my job (zero alcohol tolerance)!
So I’m in a bad place and I got a woman with an even lower opinion of me now than she had before and stressing me to get back into getting money any way I can.  Times like these the only solace is Bukowski and the Bible.  Charles Bukowski’s writing hits the mark when you’re down and you feel like you’re just another little prick struggling to make a go of it.  I’m thinking somehow my blog might be staying on Bukowski for some time into the near future – here’s one I like that encourages me to look towards my writing, find solace, never kill the desire in my heart, in my gut.  It’s called, betting on the muse, which is also the title of one of Bukowski’s poetry collections, Black Sparrow Press.  I’ve got a weathered second hand copy with an inscription in the front cover, “Ashlee Laing, Thurs, 11th June,1998, Sydney”.  I wonder what was momentous in Ashlee Laing’s life on 11th June 1998.  Was it a ‘water-shed’ moment?  But hey, thanks for giving up the book Ashlee.

betting on the muse
Charles Bukowski (1921 – 1994)
Jimmy Foxx died an alcoholic
in a skidrow hotel
Beau Jack ended up shining
just where he
there are dozens, hundreds
more, maybe
thousands more
being an athlete grown old
is one of the cruellest of
to be replaced by others,
to no longer hear the
cheers and the
to no longer be
just to be an old man
like other old
to almost not believe it
to check the scrapbook
with the yellowing
there you are,
there you are,
there you are,
the crowd has other
the crowd never
never grows
but the crowd often
now the telephone
doesn’t ring,
the young girls are
the party is
this is why I chose
to be a
if you’re worth just
you can keep your
hustle going
until the last minute
of the last
you can keep
getting better instead
of worse,
you can still keep
hitting them over the
through darkness, war,
good and bad
you keep it going,
hitting them out,
the flashing lightening
of the
beating life at life,
and death too late to
truly win
For all of his crude, life in the raw poetry, one thing I do admire about Bukowski is how he remains true to his passion to write, to the desire within himself to be a writer.  How many of us have the courage to forsake everything and pursue our dreams.  That’s what I get from betting on the muse – you might be lured by brief, external physical fame, but it’s the inner spirit (expression of spirit in writing) that you can keep burning through to always.
My poem for this post makes me go back and think how we do spend life engaged in the work that does not truly hold our passion.  So I’ve lost my day job!  But in all honesty, I could never really put my soul into it, and I was never to be a success.  My wife said, “what are you going to do now”?  I said, “I’ve got plenty of things to do; I will never get them all done in my lifetime, don’t worry about me ever saying I’m bored”!  She says, “yeah, but none of that stuff is productive”!  So I stand at the ‘watershed’ moment and I wonder, will I be a selfish bastard, or will I be a sacrificial lamb? – baah!
I wrote Art and the Factory Locker after I took a secure job from working as a contractor at that time in 2008 when the world economic crisis hit us.  I felt grateful but disappointed.
2010.  Sometimes I wonder how I ended up here, living out my last work days in what was once a rough-neck manufacturing plant. There are reminders of the past all around me, both alive and ghostly. One of the old boys, grown into a short-assed barrel, stops me and says, “hey Joe, what am I doing?” as he acts out a charade, thrusting his pelvis in and out; “fucking nothing!” and he continues on, laughing to himself, down to the winding bench.
Art and the Factory Locker.
Enter the concrete gloom
of the staff change room,
metal locker rows
with tight fitting doors
on angry latches
screech open,
the one they gave me
and I wonder who it was
had possession before.
A girlie pin-up poster
taped on the inside,
torn and faded.
I leave it there,
it must date back
to the 50’s.
The woman poses
side on,
in a bathroom scene
holding a towel, modestly
to her front,
leaving her legs
and backside exposed,
wearing bathroom slippers,
high heeled,
heavy lower torso,
hair permed,
in a bee-hive style
popular for the period.
I don’t find the pose attractive,
but I leave it,
out of respect
for my predecessor’s taste,
then, still I wonder
if the actual woman
posing for the poster
ever imagined
she would survive so long
on the back of a locker door
in a men’s change room,
probably not.
                                 J. O. White


  1. Joe, I like Art and the Factory Locker. I can relate to it. It also brings back a memory with respect to a job I was doing at the Sydney Opera House back in Aug 2007 but cannot comment on further in this domain.

  2. A fellow Mobi? Thanks. At the time I thought the 'factory' would be the last assignment - but it wasn't - funny how fate works out. Watch this space, I'm trying to find time to do what I love - but this new assignment is in the way.