vegas

there was a frozen tree that I wanted to paint
but the shells came down
and in Vegas looking across at a green sunshade
at 3:30 in the morning,
I died without nails, without a copy of the Atlantic Monthly,
the windows screamed like doves moaning the bombing of Milan
and I went out to live with the rats
but the lights were too bright
and I thought maybe I'd better go back and sit in a
poetry class:

             a marvelous description of a gazelle
             is hell;
             the cross sits like a fly on my window,
             my mother’s breath stirs small leaves
             in my mind;

and I hitch-hiked back to L.A. through hangover clouds
and I pulled a letter from my pocket and read it
and the truckdriver said, what’s that?
and I said, there's some gal up North who used to
sleep with Pound, she's trying to tell me that H.D.
was our greatest scribe; well, Hilda gave us a few pink
Grecian gods in with the chinaware, but after reading her
I still have 140 icicles hanging from my bones.


I'm not going all the way to L.A., the truckdriver said.


it's all right, I said, the calla lilies nod to our minds
and someday we’ll all go home
together.


in fact, he said, this is as far
as we go.
so I let him have it; old withered whore of time
your breasts taste the sour cream of dreaming . . .
he let me out
in the middle of the desert;
to die is to die is to die,


old phonographs in cellars,
joe di maggio,
magazines in with the onions . . .


an old Ford picked me up
45 minutes later
and, this time,
I kept my mouth
shut.

"vegas" from Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems 1955-1973 by Charles Bukowski. Copyright © 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1974 by Charles Bukowski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. 
 
Source: Burning in Water Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems 1955-1973 (Black Sparrow Press, 1996)
More Poems by Charles Bukowski