Copyright © 1994
by Wayne Klick

Bukowski's Dead: a Requiem

Bukowski's dead.

These are two words I and every other member of the artist/bohemian/poet/weird community have been expecting to hear -- any day now -- for about thirty years. That's how long Buk's been writing about his death. Since the early 60's he told us in book after book of poems that he was on the brink of death. Well, it finally happened. He would probably say, "Big deal."

If you don't know who Charles Bukowski is, then stop reading. I am not going to chronicle the life of this subculture hero for you. I'm speaking to and for the people who know -- and they know who they are. He does too, wherever he is now.

I am reporting the end to Charles Bukowski's life. A story of drunkenness, degradation and cuckoldry. I write not to praise Bukowski but to bury him. This is not an obituary or a written eulogy. Call it a freelance epitaph. Buk would not wish to be praised or eulogized. Remember Barfly? When Mickey Rourke said endurance is more important than Truth? Buk would simply expect us to carry on.

Bukowski's dead.

He didn't die of alcohol poisoning after a long dark night of cheap vodka. He wasn't gunned down by a jealous husband or an angry former lover. He didn't get drunk and crash his BMW after a day at the track. He didn't get drunk and drown in his swimming pool. He didn't fall down a flight of stairs, drunk on his ass, and break his neck. He didn't die of old age either.

We are all disappointed to know this. We never would have expected Charles Bukowski to die in a hospital -- we who have read of when he was thirty-six years old, was treated for a bleeding ulcer with 13 pints of blood, and then stopped at a bar on his way home. No, on Wednesday March 9, 1994, Buk died of pneumonia during treatment for leukemia at the improbable age of 73.

Those who know do not need to read about Bukowski. They know who and what he was. Also, many many people will now write many many words about Bukowski, so my contribution is unnecessary. I am not a Bukowski scholar. We know what he thought of scholars anyway. And, I am only a borderline fan of his poetry. Most of his books contained more filler than the Truth he made us search for. He apparently published every single thing he wrote after he attained cult status, sometime between the Summer of Love and Nixon's resignation. I remember seeing in one book where he actually published his grocery list. But of course Bukowski did this to spite his critics who only inspired him to be more Bukowski.

It was this attitude that made the man what he was: the consummate iconoclast and the consummate bullshitter. He brought the world to his doorstep by telling it to go to hell. We loved him because he conned the world and us right along with it. Yes, I suppose I am eulogizing him a bit. (Sorry Buk.) After all, he influenced me as much as Walt Whitman or Henry Miller; but more with his attitude than with his work. The bum's life he described was not one any human being would wish for, but the fact that he was willing to give it to us so unabashedly let us know that we can live however we see fit, and that all the choices are ours.

I guess I could say that Charles Bukowski helped me learn to not give a fuck, write what I choose to write, and do things the way I choose to do them. And for that, I must praise him. Indeed, Bukowski, like Whitman and Miller, showed me more about how to live than how to write.

Thank you Charles Bukowski. And I hope, wherever you are, that the wine is as good and the women are as easy as they were here. I don't regret having never met you. Your breath was probably bad and your manners worse. You of course will live forever on our bookshelves and in our whisky glasses, and you have got to be laughing your ass off at all the attention. I know you would rather be forgotten than remembered, but there's nothing you or I can do about that now.

Sleep well, my friend.

"It's so easy to be a poet,
so hard to be a man."


Wayne's Writings