Welcome to a poetic Thursday on Robert Frost’s Banjo! I need to thank our own Visiting Poet, Nancy Krygowski, for suggesting today’s poem—& thanks indeed, Nancy, because it is a very good one.
I’ve long admired Charles Bukowski’s work, & especially read & absorbed his poetry a lot when I was living in San Francisco in the 1990s. Bukowski was an anti-aesthete & an anti-poet of the first order, & that has always appealed to me—in fact, coincidentally with Nancy’s recommendation, I’ve found myself lately with my teeth even more on edge than usual when encountering anything that struck me as poetical or esthetical, & this poem really did my soul good.
On a personal note, I have an odd Bukowski anecdote that some may find amusing. Back in my San Francisco days, several of us planned a Bukowski night at the local beanery, Java Supreme on Guerrero, home at the time to lots of music & poetry—I can’t remember the exact occasion; it’s possible it was when he died in ‘94, tho I think it may have been a year or so later. Any hoot, as coincidence would have it, I was also scheduled for a root canal during the afternoon. I showed up for the root canal fully expected to be fully inflated with nitrous oxide to transport me thru the procedure—but the orthodontist’s assistant discovered, too late to do me any good, that the nitrous tank was in fact empty. So I told them to forge ahead, & a few hours later, I was reading Bukowski in an even more altered state than I would have been in had I had the nitrous oxide—& this without the benefit of any mind-altering chemicals except Novocaine &, to be blunt, pain.
This has always struck me as appropriate to the occasion. As an added feature, I’ve found a YouTube video of Tom Waits reading “The Laughing Heart.” Enjoy!
The Laughing Heart
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight