‘It’s Ours’ by Charles Bukowski

It’s Ours

there is always that space there
just before they get to us
that space
that fine relaxer
the breather
while say
flopping on a bed
thinking of nothing
or say
pouring a glass of water from the
spigot
while entranced by
nothing

that
gentle pure
space

it’s worth

centuries of
existence

say

just to scratch your neck
while looking out the window at
a bare branch

that space
there
before they get to us
ensures
that
when they do
they won’t
get it all

ever.

Pieces of you

If your mouth were a cave

I would crawl into it,

and find my way to the cranial staircase.

I would reach for every message —

every signal sent — and read each one earnestly.

If your thoughts were an ocean

I would dive into it,

and let the tides carry me wherever.

If your body were a mountain

I would ascend it,

and gather from the scree the pieces of you that were lost over the years.

I would tackle your crags and your slopes

until I reached your peak, holding your fragile fragments in my cupped hands.

If my body were a diary

I would open my pages for you

so you could write down all the things that you cannot tell me.

Snuggling Up to Self-Doubt

If someone were to ask me, “why do you write?” I’d have to respond with something along the lines of, “Well, why do you eat?”

Writing is something that I have to do. Or, rather, it’s something that I feel is essential to my well-being, and to the well-being of others: If I don’t eat, I’ll eventually kick the bucket. If I don’t write, I’ll eventually kick someone, or at least become quite difficult to be around.

So, I write short stories, I write short scripts, I write feature-length screenplays, I write copy for ads, and I’ve just written a novel. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some of those short scripts turned into short films, and one of those feature screenplays made into a feature film. Next on the list is finding a publisher for that novel.

But then there’s that voice that whispers in your ear every time you’re revising what you’ve just written, or perusing the manuscript you’ve spent months, maybe a year, maybe years labouring over. That voice sounds the same to us all, and we call it Self-Doubt.

I mean, how do you know if your writing’s good or not before you share it with the world? Before you share that latest blog post, before you direct people to your latest short story, before you approach agents politely begging them to read your damn manuscript! The simple answer is: you don’t.

Not really.

For most writers I’ve spoken to or read about, Self-Doubt has always been by their side, breathing down their neck as they type away. Bukowski lamented that “the bad writers tend to have the self-confidence, while the good ones tend to have selfdoubt.” Zadie Smith says that when it comes to the writer’s work, satisfaction will never arrive, no matter how long they’re willing to wait out in the cold for it. And Virginia Woolf opined that the writer “could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”

However, I think you do know when you’ve made something as good as you feel you can possibly make it. That’s the best you can hope for. But Self-Doubt is something that tends to be there. Like it or lump it, it’s there, and it’s going to be there, like your partner’s morning breath.

For me, Self-Doubt will be a morning fog that will never fully clear. Confidence does grow as you develop your writing skills, as you read more books, study more writers, and write, write and write. You become more assured of your own work when you’ve finally found your style, when you can finally say “this is how I write.”

But Self-Doubt isn’t planning on walking out on you. It’s not going to disappear, apart from the few times it needs to wander off and badger the other writer a few blocks from your place. So, if you’re waiting for it to leave, stop waiting. Grab a blanket, and grab Self-Doubt. You’re a couple — try make an effort to get along.

And don’t forget to snuggle every now and then.

Until next time . . . I will be in the bar, with my head on the bar.

Kite

 

It comes on slowly, gently at first.

Afters years and years, after fears

And arrears and tears.

 

It comes on slowly.

And on a day like any other,

The wind arrives.

 

And the kite is airborne.

The Closest We’ve Been

 

We were, the two of us, parked on a rock each, looking

out at Galway Bay on a mild August night.

Drunk and merry, drunk and pensive,

but in those few hours happy. Strolled along,

or staggered, after winning a score on the slots

(or was it fifty?) and our girlfriends were left behind

to talk about us.

 

It was his way when he’d had a few –

“forget about them,” he’d say, and he’d wrap his arm

around my shoulder and we were brothers.

We sat there looking out at the lights passing

slowly, slowly along the horizon. The two of

us reminiscing like we were old men.

School was a recent memory.

 

Before we knew it the sea had surrounded us,

and we were islands, stranded together

but content and conversational, still.

We’d accepted our fate — now we were separate

from their land, kings of our own.

No laws here, just sedentary positions

and good feeling.

 

No religion or creed, no drugs, no speed.

Here there were no politics, and no need

for foreign embassies. No protests,

no austerity. We governed with grace, our land

in awe of the sea. “I wonder where they are,”

I said. “Who cares?” was his response.

And truly, who did?

 

But it wasn’t long before they beckoned us home,

like mothers spoiling the fun when children

are given the key to the day.

And so we tried to tackle our Everest, the blood

still thinned, and soon to be adorning our shins:

the jagged rocks didn’t take kindly to the abandoning

of our land.

 

Now I look down and see these memories on my skin,

and wonder where the shoes I borrowed from my

brother washed up. These scars are stories —

We shared beds and bathtubs, parents and plates,

days and nights. And so it was Fate who determined

that it wasn’t only shoes that drifted

out to sea.

 

In the Supermarket

In the supermarket

I purchased a pound of laughter

when the checkout girl hollered

over the PA for a price-check on

“asshole customers”

 

In the supermarket

I purchased a kilo of Schadenfreude

when I witnessed asshole customer

fall over as he complained to the

checkout girl

 

In the supermarket

I purchased a tub of anxiety

when I noticed standing on the frozen

foods aisle the lunatic I’d partied with two

nights earlier

 

In the supermarket

I purchased two tins of dejection

when I reached into my pocket

and found that all I had to spend was

seventeen bucks

 

In the supermarket

I purchased a punnet of pessimism

when I thought about the jobs

I’d recently applied for online

and in-store

 

In the supermarket

I purchased a five gallon barrel of regret

when I remembered my father’s eyes

the last time we spoke

in person

 

In the supermarket

I purchased three packs of empathy

when I witnessed the bawling kid

being pulled along by his

drug-fuelled mother

 

In the supermarket

I purchased a bag of loneliness

as I considered the apartment

and the town that I needed

to escape

 

In the supermarket

I stole two Mars bars, a bag of mixed nuts, a 500ml bottle of Coke and a pack of condoms.