Either peace or happiness,
let it enfold you

when I was a young man
I felt these things were
dumb, unsophisticated.
I had bad blood, a twisted
mind, a precarious

I was hard as granite, I
leered at the sun.
I trusted no man and
especially no woman.

I was living a hell in
small rooms, I broke
things, smashed things,

walked through glass,

I challenged everything,
was continually being
evicted, jailed, in and
out of fights, in and out
of my mind.
women were something
to screw and rail
at, I had no male

I changed jobs and
cities, I hated holidays,
babies, history,
newspapers, museums,
marriage, movies,
spiders, garbagemen,
english accents,spain,
france,italy,walnuts and
the color orange.

Algebra angred me,
opera sickened me,
charlie chaplin was a
fake and flowers were for

Peace and happiness to me
were signs of inferiority,
tenants of the weak
and addled mind.

But as I went on with
my alley fights,
my suicidal years,
my passage through
any number of
women-it gradually
began to occur to
me that I wasn't different

from the others, I was the same,

they were all fulsome
with hatred, glossed over with petty
grievances, the men I fought in
alleys had hearts of stone.
everybody was nudging,
inching, cheating for
some insignificant
advantage, the lie was the
weapon and theplot was
empty, darkness was the

Cautiously, I allowed
myself to feel good
at times. I found moments of
peace in cheap
rooms just staring at the
knobs of some
dresser or listening to the
rain in thedark.

the less I needed
the better I felt.

Maybe the other life had worn me

I no longer found
glamour in topping somebody
in conversation.
or in mounting the
body of some poor
drunken female
whose life had
slipped away into

I could never accept
life as it was,
i could never gobble
down all its
poisons but there were parts,
tenuous magic parts
open for the

I re formulated
I don't know when,
date, time, all
that but the change
occurred. Something in me
relaxed, smoothed

I no longer had to
prove that I was a
man, I didn't have to prove

I began to see things:
coffee cups lined up
behind a counter in a
cafe. Or a dog walking along
a sidewalk. Or the way the mouse
on my dresser top
stopped there
with its body,
its ears, its nose,
it was fixed, a bit of life
caught within itself
and its eyes looked
at me and they were

Then- it was

I began to feel good,
I began to feel good
in the worst situations
and there were plenty
of those. Like say, the boss
behind his desk,
he is going to have
to fire me. I've missed too many
days. He is dressed in a
suit, necktie, glasses,
he says, 'I am going
to have to let you go'

'it's all right' I tell

He must do what he
must do, he has a
wife, a house, children,
expenses, most probably
a girlfriend.

I am sorry for him
he is caught.

I walk onto the blazing
the whole day is
mine temporarily,

(the whole world is at the
throat of the world,
everybody feels angry,
short-changed, cheated,
everybody is despondent,

I welcomed shots of
peace, tattered shards of

I embraced that stuff
like the hottest number,
like high heels, breasts,

(don't get me wrong,
there is such a thing as cockeyed optimism
that overlooks all
basic problems just for
the sake of
itself- this is a shield and a

The knife got near my
throat again,

I almost turned on the
gas again
but when the good
moments arrived

I didn't fight them off
like an alley
I let them take me,
I luxuriated in them,
I made them welcome
I even looked into
the mirror
once having thought
myself to be

I now liked what
I saw, almost
handsome, yes,
a bit ripped and
scares, lumps,
odd turns,
but all in all,
not too bad,
almost handsome,
better at least than
some of those movie
star faces
like the cheeks of
a baby's

and finally I discovered
real feelings of
like lately,
like this morning,
as I was leaving,
for the track,
i saw my wife in bed,
just the
shape of
her head there
(not forgetting
centuries of the living
and the dead and
the dying,
the pyramids,
Mozart dead
but his music still
there in the
room, weeds growing,
the earth turning,
the tote board waiting for

I saw the shape of my
wife's head,
she so still,
I ached for her life,
just being there
under the

I kissed her in the
got down the stairway,
got outside,
got into my marvelous
car, fixed the seatbelt,
backed out the

Feeling warm to
the fingertips,
down to my
foot on the gas
I entered the world
once more,
drove down the
hill past the houses
full and empty
of people,

I saw the mailman,
honked, he waved
back at me.                    

Charles Bukowski

August 26, 2021