The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps

The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps

by Charles Bukowski

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This collection of previously unpublished poems offers the author's take on squabbling neighbours, off-kilter lovers, would-be hangers-on, and the loneliness of a man afflicted with acute powers of observation. The tone is gritty and amusing, spiralling out towards a cock-eyed wisdom.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061875854
Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
Publication date: 03/17/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 360
Sales rank: 76,206
File size: 809 KB

About the Author

Charles Bukowski is one of America’s best-known contemporary writers of poetry and prose and, many would claim, its most influential and imitated poet. He was born in 1920 in Andernach, Germany, to an American soldier father and a German mother, and brought to the United States at the age of two. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived there for over fifty years. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp.

Abel Debritto, a former Fulbright scholar and current Marie Curie fellow, works in the digital humanities. He is the author of Charles Bukowski, King of the Underground, and the editor of the Bukowski collections On WritingOn Cats, and On Love.

Date of Birth:

August 16, 1920

Date of Death:

March 9, 1994

Place of Birth:

Andernach, Germany

Place of Death:

San Pedro, California


Los Angeles City College, 2 years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

one writer's funeral

there was a rock-and-mud slide
on the Pacific Coast Highway and we had to take a
detour and they directed us up into the Malibu hills
and traffic was slow and it was hot, and then
we were lost.
but I spotted a hearse and said, "there's the
hearse, we'll follow it," and my woman said
"that's not the hearse," and I said, "yes, that's the

the hearse took a left and I followed
it as it went up
a narrow dirt road and then pulled over and I
thought, "he's lost too." there was a truck and a man
selling strawberries parked there
and I pulled over
and asked
where the church was and he gave me directions and
my woman told the strawberry man, "we'll buy some
strawberries on the way back." then I swung
onto the road and the hearse started up again
and we continued to drive along
until we reached that

we were going
to the funeral of a great man
the crowd was very sparse: the
family, a couple of old screenwriter friends,
two or three others, we
spoke to the family and to the wife of the deceased
and then we went in and the service began and the
priest wasn't so good but one of the great man's
sons gave a fine eulogy, and then it was over

and we were outside again, in our car,
following the hearse again, back down the steep
passing thestrawberry truck again and my
woman said, "let's not stop for strawberries,"
and as we continued to the graveyard, I thought,
Fante, you were one of the best writers ever
and this is one sad day.
finally we were at the graveside, the priest
said a few words and then it was over.
I walked up to the widow who sat very pale and
beautiful and quite alone on a folding metal chair.
"Hank," she said, "it's hard," and I tried in vain
to say something that might comfort her.

we walked away then, leaving her there, and
I felt terrible.

I got a friend to drive my girlfriend back to
town while I drove to the racetrack, made it
just in time for the first race, got my bet
down as the mutuel clerk looked at me in wonder and
said, "Jesus Christ, how come you're wearing a


do not bother the beagle lying there
away from grass and flowers and paths,
dreaming dogdreams, or perhaps dreaming
nothing, as men do awake;
yes, leave him be, in that simple juxtaposition,
out of the maelstrom, lucifugous as a bat,
searching bat-inward
for a state of grace.

it's good. we'll not ransom our fate
or his for door knobs or rasps.
the east wind whirls the blinds,
our beagle snuffles in his sleep as
outside, outside,
hedges break, the night torn mad
with footsteps.

our beagle spreads a paw,
the lamp burns warm
bathed in the life of his

a smile to remember

we had goldfish and they circled around and around
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, "be happy, Henry!"
and she was right: it's better to be happy if you
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn't
understand what was attacking him from within.

my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: "Henry, smile!
why don't you ever smile?"

and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw.

one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother

where was Jane?

one of the first actors to play Tarzan was living at the
Motion Picture Home.
he'd been there for years waiting to die.
he spent much of his time
running in and out of the wards
into the cafeteria and out into the yard where he'd yell,
he never spoke to anyone or said anything else, it was always just
everybody liked him: the old actors, the retired directors,
the ancient script writers, the aged cameramen, the prop men,
      stunt men, the old
actresses, all of whom were also there
waiting to die; they enjoyed his verve,
his antics, he was harmless and he took them back to the time
      when they
were still in the business.

then the doctors in authority decided that Tarzan was possibly
and one day he was shipped off to a mental institution.
he vanished as suddenly as if he'd been eaten by a
and the other patients were outraged, they instituted legal
to have him returned at once but
it took some months.

when Tarzan returned he was changed.
he would not leave his room.
he just sat by the window as if he had
his old role
and the other patients missed
his antics, his verve, and

they too felt somehow defeated and
they complained about the change in Tarzan
doped and drugged in his room
and they knew he would soon die like that
and then he did
and then he was back in that other jungle
(to where we will all someday retire)
unleashing the joyful primal call they could no longer

there were some small notices in the
and the paint continued to chip from the hospital
many plants died, there was an unfortunate
a growing lack of trust and
hope, and
a pervasive sadness:
it wasn't so much Tarzan's death the others mourned,
it was the cold, willful attitude of the
young and powerful doctors
despite the wishes of the
helpless old.

and finally they knew the truth
while sitting in their rooms
that it wasn't only the attitude of the doctors
they had to fear,
and that as silly as all those Tarzan films had been,
and as much as they would miss their own lost
that all that was much kinder than the final vigil
they would now have to sit and patiently endure

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