Sunday, April 27, 2008

BillyBlog's Favorite Poems, #4 ("we ain't got no money, honey, but we got rain" by Charles Bukowski)

It is difficult to pinpoint one Charles Bukowski poem for this project. Not only because he wrote so many great poems, but because I have featured Bukowski poems on BillyBlog before, like “The Mockingbird,” which I would say is my favorite and “Dinosauria, We," which runs a close second.

So I settled on a poem whose title I evoke when a) it’s raining and/or b) money is tight. It’s one of the longer Bukowski poems (the audio at the end runs to eight minutes), but it’s one I recall often. So, pull up a chair and take a look and/or listen. This poem does what good poems do: it transports you to another time, and another place. Anyone who has lived through a long rain in Los Angeles can probably relate. There's an audio link at the end, as well:

we ain’t got no money, honey, but we got rain

call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it
used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the 
depression era.
there wasn't any money but there was
plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or
a day,
it would RAIN for 7 days and 7
and in Los Angeles the storm drains
weren't built to carry off taht much
and the rain came down THICK and 
MEAN and
and you HEARD it banging against
the roofs and into the ground
waterfalls of it came down
from roofs
and there was HAIL
exploding smashing into things
and the rain 
just wouldn't
and all the roofs leaked-
cooking pots
were placed all about;
they dripped loudly
and had to be emptied
again and
the rain came up over the street curbings,
across the lawns, climbed up the steps and
entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels,
and the rain often came up through the 
toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling,
and all the old cars stood in the streets,
cars that had problems starting on a 
sunny day,
and the jobless men stood
looking out the windows
at the old machines dying
like living things
out there.
the jobless men,
failures in a failing time
were imprisoned in their houses with their
wives and children
and their
the pets refused to go out
and left their waste in 
strange places.
the jobless men went mad 
confined with
their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments
as notices of foreclosure
fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans,
bread without butter; fried
eggs, boiled eggs, poached
eggs; peanut butter
sandwiches, and an invisible 
in every pot.
my father, never a good man
at best, beat my mother
when it rained
as I threw myself
between them,
the legs, the knees, the
until they
"I'll kill you," I screamed
at him. "You hit her again
and I'll kill you!"
"Get that son-of-a-bitching
kid out of here!"
"no, Henry, you stay with
your mother!"
all the households were under 
siege but I believe that ours
held more terror than the
and at night
as we attempted to sleep
the rains still came down
and it was in bed
in the dark
watching the moon against 
the scarred window
so bravely
holding out 
most of the rain,
I thought of Noah and the
and I thought, it has come
we all thought
and then, at once, it would 
and it always seemed to 
around 5 or 6 a.m.,
peaceful then,
but not an exact silence
because things continued to
and there was no smog then
and by 8 a.m.
there was a
blazing yellow sunlight,
Van Gogh yellow-
crazy, blinding!
and then
the roof drains
relieved of the rush of 
began to expand in the warmth:
and everybody got up and looked outside
and there were all the lawns
still soaked
greener than green will ever
and there were birds
on the lawn
CHIRPING like mad,
they hadn't eaten decently 
for 7 days and 7 nights
and they were weary of 
they waited as the worms
rose to the top,
half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them 
and gobbled them
down;there were
blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to
drive the sparrows off
but the sparrows,
maddened with hunger,
smaller and quicker,
got their
the men stood on their porches
smoking cigarettes,
now knowing
they'd have to go out
to look for that job
that probably wasn't 
there, to start that car 
that probably wouldn't
and the once beautiful
stood in their bathrooms
combing their hair,
applying makeup,
trying to put their world back
together again,
trying to forget that
awful sadness that
gripped them,
wondering what they could
fix for 
and on the radio
we were told that
school was now
there I was
on the way to school,
massive puddles in the 
the sun like a new
my parents back in that
I arrived at my classroom
on time.
Mrs. Sorenson greeted us
with, "we won't have our
usual recess, the grounds 
are too wet."
"AW!" most of the boys 
"but we are going to do
something special at
recess," she went on,
"and it will be
well, we all wondered
what that would
and the two hour wait
seemed a long time
as Mrs. Sorenson
went about
teaching her
I looked at the little
girls, they looked so 
pretty and clean and
they sat still and
and their hair was 
in the California
then the recess bells rang 
and we all waited for the 
then Mrs. Sorenson told 
"now, what we are going to
do is we are going to tell
each other what we did 
during the rainstorm!
we'll begin in the front row
and go right around!
now, Michael, you're 
first!. . ."
well, we all began to tell
our stories, Michael began
and it went on and on,
and soon we realized that
we were all lying, not
exactly lying but mostly
lying and some of the boys
began to snicker and some 
of the girls began to give
them dirty looks and
Mrs. Sorenson said,
"all right! I demand a
modicum of silence
I am interested in what
you did
during the rainstorm
even if you
so we had to tell our 
stories and they were
one girl said that
when the rainbow first
she saw God's face
at the end of it.
only she didn't say
which end.
one boy said he stuck
his fishing pole
out the window
and caught a little
and fed it to his
almost everybody told
a lie.
the truth was just
too awful and
embarrassing to 
then the bell rang
and recess was 
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very
and tomorrow the grounds 
will be dry
and we will put them
to use
most of the boys
and the little girls 
sat very straight and
looking so pretty and 
clean and
their hair beautiful in a sunshine that 
the world might never see 

If you made it this far, you may want to hear Buk reading it, too:

we ain't got no money, honey, but we got rain (m4a) - Charles Bukowski

Previous Favorite Poems for National Poetry Month:

#5 - "Garbage" by A.R. Ammons
#6 - "Rock and Hawk" by Robinson Jeffers
#7 - "Nostalgia" by Billy Collins
#8 - "A Piece of the Storm" by Mark Strand
#9A - "The Colonel" by Carolyn Forché and
#9B - "may i feel said he" by e.e.cummings

#10 - "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" by Galway Kinnell
#11 - "Symposium" by Paul Muldoon
#12 - "Poem for the Class of..." by Max Eberts
#13 - "Boss of the Food" by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
#14 - "Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath
#15 - "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop
#16 - "Buddhist Barbie" by Denise Duhamel
#17 - "One Train May Hide Another" by Kenneth Koch
#18 - "Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!) by Frank O'Hara (with Audio)
#19 - "Crumbs" by Hal Sirowitz (Audio Added)
#20 - "This Is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams
#21 - "They Feed They Lion" by Philip Levine
#22 - "Looking at Kilauea" by Garret Hongo
#23 - "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell (Audio Added)
#24 - A Handful of Richard Brautigan
#25 - "A Buddha in the Woodpile" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
#26 - "Separation" by W.S. Merwin
#27 - "The Flea" by John Donne
#28 - Poem Twenty from Pablo Neruda's Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
#29 - "Magpie's Song" by Gary Snyder
#30 - "Eunoia" by Christian Bok

No comments: