Sunday, August 26, 2007

John Tripp to Charles Bukowski

I rather like this John Tripp poem which takes the form of a letter to Charles Bukowski, cult writer, and regular contributor to Welsh counterculture poetry mag second aeon. It appeared in a book entitled the inheritance file (1973) which collected Tripp's poems about other writers. As well as Bukowski there are poems concerning Proust, Celine, Scott Fitzgerald and many others.

letter to a poet

Dear Bukowski
I have read about your ball of woe
out there in sunny black
California. Those slim assassins
who knock you up for a lift
outdrunk and outsmoked
by your own wisdom, put to bed
sick, by you with a pillow and a blanket.

I have seen your scream to Dante
and it's all accurate,
the octaves of calamity are explored
up to the last whimper.
Over here we have granite proof
of waste in the military boneyards,
those cold blocks of stone in every hamlet.
(They still haven't had enough.)

The churches are full of coloured rags
and battle pennants. I want
to puke. The people listen to the new
high priests, vomiting from a box.
They are moving up to heaven on the long
instalment plan. I think it's too late
for Dante to come back and steer us
away from the pit with sweet reason.

What passes now as logic
has no reference to me, either. We are all
crouched for a thunderclap in the west.
Young poets whistle in the tunnel
to keep their spirits up, and the editors
wait patiently for a breeze of change.
In my own small land we are haggling
to a showdown with dignity.

Don't quit yet. Mend your shoelaces,
chase the last mice from under your bed,
take your old-time kerosene burner,
candles, 22 cans of Campbell's soup
and your 80-year-old uncle in Andernach
down to Mexico, or Morocco
or even Wales - some place smaller
then your big fist of land.

Take a drink, Charles, lay the pain
and cut the butting worm. Under the conditions
of your particular sun, the valorous heart
will continue to function
and demolish the unspeakable terror.
Your saints, poets, madmen and fools
attempt each day to clean up the game,
piecing together those shreds of honour.