1) Oh Bukowski!
Oh Bukowski, you grouchy old man
I hope you flashed somewhere towards the end
how much many of us flawed humanity appreciated you,
your writing a sharp consolation that we are not alone
in our curmudgeon's compassion;
for all your wild drunken passion and ordinary madnesses
you saw the beauty in the sordid and ugly was the norm,
the ugly need love too, maybe
you'd even have seen something worthwhile in me,
tho probably not as you're always cursing fags and I don't give a shit
about who you liked anyway.
No high fashion front-row seat or movie-stars' flash bulb
glare for you, "Bar Fly" didn't do it for you, an old man's Hollywood wet dream,
women fighting over you, man beating on man, eternally,
the sad history of the race, blood, blood, more blood,
wisdom from craziness, you don't want to go to India
or save whales, you just want to drink, fuck and write
like the Taoist poet drunk under the bridge
and go unnoticed on the street with the rest of us broken humans.
Still you shine, you shine like neon art
deep in my dark heart when the night closes in,
to be finally left in peace, thankfully, to read you in bed
before I pass out from the fatigue of living.
Oh Bukowski, you grouchy old man
here are seven poems for you, you wouldn't like 'em
but I couldn't give a fuck.
2) From Buddha to Bukowski.
The human condition means suffering,
life can be a pain in the ass,
so say all the wise men
from Buddha to Bukowski,
Camus to Cormac McCarthy, Kafka to Kerouac:
youth wanes, beauty fades, intelligence gets jaded,
friends let you down and unfulfilled desire burns the soul to ashes:
responsibility is a burden, better to drink or drug oneself to oblivion,
this sure makes it tough for the idealist and hopeful young!
Many a good book tells me this, especially grumpy old Bukowski,
cynic, curmudgeon, misanthrope, he would've been pissed at me too,
and in return I would've wanted to kick his ass
as I can't handle drunks, even enlightened ones,
but I'm sure we would've agreed with another fairy fag like me,
Quentin Crisp who lisped, "Other people are a mistake." (Including great writers.)
One true friend would be enough, otherwise each of us is alone
on an overcrowded teeming screaming planet
waiting for those few exhilarating moments
that makes this Hell worth slogging through:
the touch of the loved one, standing naked under a full moon
with the music of the spheres as backdrop, an epiphany
as to the mystique of existence, for all the pain of human betrayal
and restlessness of desires burning, burning,
one high moment can keep me going.
Tired of the bullshit artists, if I see Buddha on the road
I'll run in the opposite direction...
3) The Death Card.
In the early '90s after I'd finished my grand movie project, "Virgin Beasts",
and felt the future smiling upon me, steady as she goes,
a rock-star mate asked me to accompany him
to a Tarot card reading from someone he said was famously good.
I wasn't interested, I didn't believe in it, but said, "What the Hell?"
We met her at a cafe, a fat frumpy hippie woman
with Christmas tinsel in her hair and cryptic smile on her chubby face,
she did a quick reading for Mark, cards outspread on the table,
and told him he better give up drugs or
he would soon be dead or crippled young;
he should've taken her advice as soon, on stage, singing and jumping about,
he OD'd on ecstasy and had to be carried off on an unhinged door,
his back contorted, his spinal fluid leaking out his ass.
She cast her eyes upon me and asked if I wanted a reading.
I replied I wasn't interested, I didn't believe in it.
She kept insisting, I kept refusing,
she didn't want money, we didn't even buy her a coffee.
She said, "What are you afraid of?" I said, "Nothing."
but kept thinking of the Death Card. She said, "You're afraid
of getting the Death Card?" She cut the pack and encouraged me
to choose just one, just one card, "There's nothing to be afraid of!"
"What the Hell?" I hovered over the cards splayed in her hand,
this one, no, that one, no... my third try I lifted one from the end of the pack
and on flipping it over, yelled:
it was the fucking Death Card! Did she swap decks on me?
just to fuck with my unbelieving soul, a deck full of Death Cards?
"It's nothing to be afraid of, you're not going to die...
it just means a big change is coming, your life will take another path."
With her cryptic smile she disappeared into the dust of time
and within the year my life was radically upended,
the big fuck-over descended upon me and I went from hopeful movie-star
to Public Enemy Number 7; framed for armed robbery
I wore handcuffs instead of a cell-phone at my ear, pitching movie deals,
instead of a brief-case full of contracts and paparazzi chasing me it was the pigs.
Now I wear a back-pack and trekking boots and wander
the highways of the world, a deadbeat dharma bum,
footloose and care-free.
4) My Chinese Grandmother.
When I was a teenager I got quite a shock
when my mother presented to me my real grandmother,
a half-Chinese woman, with chinky eyes,
whose father was a full-blooded Chinaman, so my mother confessed,
with great embarrassment.
In the '30s, during the Great Depression, when he was a two-up larrikin,
my grandfather had thrown her out and taken on another woman,
Alice, a cruel step-mother who beat my mom
and made her scrub the floor till her knuckles were raw
but I always thought she was my sweet old nanna = wrong!
She was an interloper, my real granny, half-Chinese,
was found on the other side of a conveyor-belt
at a shoe-factory, after many years separation.
They stared at each other and the older woman said,
"Don't I know you? Oh, oh, oh... you're my long lost daughter!"
My mother took her home and when I came for dinner
she proudly introduced us to each other, "Here's your grandson."
All I could say, as a truculent teenager, was,
"Don't expect respect or love, you abandoned us
and you don't know me!" She winced
and frowned and, like all Chinese, remained stoic
and didn't say a thing, kept her distance
and never visited again. How ignorant an 18 year old boy could be
in 1968, uncaring about the travails of women and race and difference;
still and all, in later years, I was happy to disclaim,
"I'm one eighth Chinese, proud bearer of an ancient wise culture's DNA."
5) 21st Century Hippies.
I can't help but be bemused
by the many young people who come to India
and, fresh off the plane, must rush
to the costume shop and dress up like Hippies did
back in the '60s: the men with beards and their hair in a knot
on top of their heads, the women with dreadlocks made artfully
at some hair-dressing salon, all of them in embroidered shirts
and ludicrous pyjamas that hang baggy to the crotch
and make them look as if they've shat their pants.
They parade about as if they've invented this "fashion", hippie chic,
and, like us forerunners of the '60s, maybe they're looking for a new tribalism
or communal way of living, getting back to basics,
rejecting the techno affluent materialism of the 21st Century
for awhile, while their holiday lasts. But they all have ATM cards
and are forever tapping away at Smart phones oblivious
to the real world and real people around them, the arrogant, disaffected
young who look straight through old curmudgeons like me, thank nogod,
they're looking for a guru to point the way,
to spout platitudes like "let me never imagine I am something,
let me never forget I am nothing" while he pastes his cheesy smiling face all over town,
and the crowd chant, "More, more, tell us more..." (bullshit)
They disturb my peace with their endless chattering over who
has the right line and can stand on their head without farting.
I smile and think of all those saints who died out
in the '70s, whose charisma got me high before celebrity and TV fucked it up ,
and the Babas with whom I smoked chillums way up in the Himalayan fastnesses
and got very, very stoned, who didn't want anything from me.
According to the philosophy many enthusiasts chase when they come to India,
all is Illusion, Maya, a dancing temptress pulling the wool over our eyes
as we get lost in a passing parade of game-playing fools,
including, in the final analysis, the saints and babas, yogis and gurus,
cynics and curmudgeons and especially the neo-hippies in their dread-locks
and baggie pyjamas that make them look like
they've done a huge shit in their pants.
6) High in the Himalayas.
Few are the chances to grab life
by the throat and squeeze for all it's worth
so weighed down can we be by work and troubles,
bills and distractions, family love and little time off to just let go.
For me it's India and the Himalayas that provide the escape,
the adventure and freedom from the rat-race, to relax and exhilarate,
to know I'm alive, conscious of philosophy, science, history and culture.
I've explored the Himalayas high and low,
there's always something new around the bend, such as a tiny white sephulcre
with a photo of a youth inside or a statue
of a favorite Hindu god, a memorial to those who died going over the edge,
there are many of these small white sacred markers along the winding road,
for life is tenuous and driving is reckless when one will only be born again anyway;
a sacred tree in a tiny village atop the world
where we stop for chai and an omellette with the village children watching in wonder;
a cave under a waterfall dedicated to Lord Siva where we get wet seeking a blessing;
a temple like a fairy-land palace perched atop a pyramid peak
that seems incongruous in the middle of a wilderness.
This time we cruised on a rare perfect tarmac road built by the army
for miles along mountain ridges till we came to an old British cantonment
named Lansdowne, home of the Garwhal Rifles and a regiment of Gurkhas.
We visited two old churches, Catholic St.Johns and Protestant St.Mary's
and in a guided tour were shown photos a hundred years old
of soldiers and their brides, Betty Foot in her wedding dress,
and next to St. Mary's was the 'hearse house', where the bodies lay,
waiting for their final rites and I felt the ghosts
drifting about, dolorous as the moss-covered trees,
they've returned to the scene of happier times, the soldiers on leave
and smiling with their brides optimistic it was all ahead of them.
As we cruised back, night set in, the snow-caps shone radiant
under the starlight and I had yet another of my Indian epiphanies,
how marvelous it was to be alive, how miraculous
given my extreme adventures and wayward deviance. I thought of all my friends
who died and cried, they didn't get to experience as much as I
of this magical universe, the exultation of these mountains,
the quickening of consciousness. It was Siva Ratri, night of the Lord of the Void,
a storm blew in, we froze as we zoomed backin to Shangri-la below,
lightning exploded and lit up the mountains like some fantastic natural light-show,
thunder boomed as if Siva himself danced and shook his hand-drum.
Fuckkkkkk!!! for all the misery and hard slog of modern life
I can still get very high in the Himalayan mountains.
7) With the Beat.
Just when I thought I was abandoned
and nobody interested in my art,
just another failure who couldn't even sell his ass,
I got an e-mail from the gallery where I had my last show
asking me, "What are your plans for 2014? Please consider us..."
I got a bit of a shock but went to his next show,
photos from ASIO files, "Persons of Interest" to the Auz spy agency.
It was quite a scene, lots of lefties and concerned citizens,
one of whom remarked to me, "How come your photo is not here?"
"Why should it be?" "You have quite a reputation!" News to me...
I got bored and was about to leave when the gallery guy rushed over
and gushed, "You must do another show here. I want what you've got
in my gallery. More of that spoken word jazz."
Again I was nonplussed, his enthusiasm was overwhelming,
after a year of ignoring my pleas for inclusion, suddenly I'm 'IN' again.
He kept on about it, much to the surprise of my friends and I.
I remained polite as ever and said I had a hot idea brewing for a show and he enthused,
"Come and see me, we'll talk..." I did, we talked and shook hands and now I'm trapped,
I've committed myself for September, at least 30 works of ink on paper,
done with a zen brush's swift revelation plus
a seven night marathon of readings from my biographical prose to bongos
and guitar and candlelight, the title of the show, "With the Beat, Not Beaten."
What have I got myself into? I thrive on performing monologues
amidst my art, the small stage my forte, the back-alley nightclub my launching pad.
It's the long lead-up to the event that gives me the shits,
doing the publicity, wondering if anyone will come, if any thing will sell.
Why the fuck do I bother? As if my ego still needs stroking, my potential
fleshing out, my confused ambition fulfilled. The quiet life
of laying about, meditative and undisturbed, was what I thought had claimed me.
I suppose there's time enough for that when I'm dead.
The beat goes on.