Charles Bukowski Uncensored CD

From the Run with the Hunted Session
By Charles Bukowski

Caedmon

Copyright © 2000 Charles Bukowski
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780694524228

And the great white horses come up & lick the frost of the dream

The first thing I remember is being under something. It was a table, I saw a table leg, I saw the legs of the people, and a portion of the tablecloth hanging down. It was dark under there, I liked being under there. It must have been in Germany. I must have been between one and two years old. It was 1922. I felt good under the table. Nobody seemed to know that I was there. There was sunlight upon the rug and on the legs of the people. I liked the sunlight. The legs of the people were not interesting, not like the tablecloth which hung down, not like the table leg, not like the sunlight.

Then there is nothing . . . then a Christmas tree. Candles. Bird ornaments: birds with small berry branches in their beaks. A star. Two large people fighting, screaming. People eating, always people eating. I ate too. My spoon was bent so that if I wanted to eat I had to pick the spoon up with my right hand. If I picked it up with my left hand, the spoon bent away from my mouth. I wanted to pick the spoon up with my left hand.

Two people: one larger with curly hair, a big nose, a big mouth, much eyebrow; the larger person always seeming to be angry, often screaming; the smaller person quiet, round of face, paler, with large eyes. I was afraid of both of them. Sometimes there was a third, a fat one who wore dresses with lace at the throat. She wore a large brooch, and had many warts on her face with little hairs growing out of them. "Emily," they called her. These people didn't seem happy together. Emily was the grandmother, my father's mother. My father's name was "Henry." My mother's name was "Katherine." I never spoke to them by name. I was "Henry, Jr." These people spoke German most of the time and in the beginning I did too.

The first thing I remember my grandmother saying was, "I will bury all of you!" She said this the first time just before we began eating a meal, and she was to say it many times after that, just before we began to eat. Eating seemed very important. We ate mashed potatoes and gravy, especially on Sundays. We also ate roast beef, knockwurst and sauerkraut, green peas, rhubarb, carrots, spinach, string beans, chicken, meatballs and spaghetti, sometimes mixed with ravioli; there were boiled onions, asparagus, and every Sunday there was strawberry shortcake with vanilla ice cream. For breakfasts we had french toast and sausages, or there were hotcakes or waffles with bacon and scrambled eggs on the side. And there was always coffee. But what I remember best is all the mashed potatoes and gravy and my grandmother, Emily, saying, "I will bury all of you!"

She visited us often after we came to America, taking the red trolley in from Pasadena to Los Angeles. We only went to see her occasionally, driving out in the Model-T Ford.

I liked my grandmother's house. It was a small house under an overhanging mass of pepper trees. Emily had all her canaries in different cages. I remember one visit best. That evening she went about covering the cages with white hoods so that the birds could sleep. The people sat in chairs and talked. There was a piano and I sat at the piano and hit the keys and listened to the sounds as the people talked. I liked the sound of the keys best up at one end of the piano where there was hardly any sound at all--the sound the keys made was like chips of ice striking against one another.

"Will you stop that?" my father said loudly.

"Let the boy play the piano," said my grandmother.

My mother smiled.

"That boy," said my grandmother, "when I tried to pick him up out of the cradle to kiss him, he reached up and hit me in the nose!"

They talked some more and I went on playing the piano.

"Why don't you get that thing tuned?" asked my father
--Ham on Rye

ice for the eagles

I keep remembering the horses
under the moon
I keep remembering feeding the horses
sugar
white oblongs of sugar
more like ice,
and they had heads like
eagles
bald heads that could bite and
did not.

The horses were more real than
my father
more real than God
and they could have stepped on my
feet but they didn't
they could have done all kinds of horrors
but they didn't.
I was almost 5
but I have not forgotten yet;
o my god they were strong and good
those red tongues slobbering
out of their souls.

I had begun to dislike my father. He was always angry about something. Wherever we went he got into arguments with people. But he didn't appear to frighten most people; they often just stared at him, calmly, and he became more furious. If we ate out, which was seldom, he always found something wrong with the food and sometimes refused to pay. "There's flyshit in this whipped cream! What the hell kind of a place is this?"

"I'm sorry, sir, you needn't pay. Just leave."

"I'll leave, all right! But I'll be back! I'll burn this god-damned place down!"

Once we were in a drug store and my mother and I were standing to one side while my father yelled at a clerk. Another clerk asked my mother, "Who is that horrible man? Every time he comes in here there's an argument."

"That's my husband," my mother told the clerk.

Yet, I remember another time. He was working as a milkman and made early morning deliveries. One morning he awakened me. "Come on, I want to show you something." I walked outside with him. I was wearing my pajamas and slippers. It was still dark, the moon was still up. We walked to the milk wagon which was horsedrawn. The horse stood very still. "Watch," said my father. He took a sugar cube, put it in his hand and held it out to the horse. The horse ate it out of his palm. "Now you try it . . . " He put a sugar cube in my hand. It was a very large horse. "Get closer! Hold out your hand!" I was afraid the horse would bite my hand off. The head came down; I saw the nostrils; the lips pulled back, I saw the tongue and the teeth, and then the sugar cube was gone. "Here. Try it again . . . " I tried it again. The horse took the sugar cube and waggled his head. "Now," said my father, "I'll take you back inside before the horse shits on you."

I was not allowed to play with other children. "They are bad children," said my father, "their parents are poor." "Yes," agreed my mother. My parents wanted to be rich so they imagined themselves rich.

The first children of my age that I knew were in kindergarten. They seemed very strange, they laughed and talked and seemed happy. I didn't like them. I always felt as if I was going to be sick, to vomit, and the air seemed strangely still and white. We painted with watercolors. We planted radish seeds in a garden and some weeks later we ate them with salt. I liked the lady who taught kindergarten, I liked her better than my parents.

--Ham on Rye

rags, bottles, sacks

as a boy
I remember the sound
of:
"RAGS! BOTTLES! SACKS!"

"RAGS! BOTTLES! SACKS!"
it was during the
Depression
and you could hear the
voice
long before you saw the
old wagon
and the
old tired
swaybacked horse.

then you heard the
hooves:
clop, clop, clop . . .

and then you saw the
horse and the
wagon

and it always seemed
to be
on the hottest summer
day:

"RAGS! BOTTLES! SACKS!"

oh
that horse was so
tired--
white streams of
saliva
drooling
as the bit dug into
the
mouth

he pulled an intolerable
load
of
rags, bottles, sacks

I saw his eyes
large
in agony

his ribs
showing

the giant flies
whirled and landed upon
raw places on his
skin.

sometimes
one of our fathers would
yell:
"Hey! Why don't you
feed that horse, you
bastard!
"

the man's answer was
always the
same:
"RAGS! BOTTLES! SACKS!"

the man was
incredibly
dirty, un-
shaven, wearing a crushed
and stained
fedora

he
sat on top of
a large pile of
sacks

and
now and
then
as the horse seemed to
miss
a step

this man would
lay down
the long whip . . .

the sound was like a
rifle shot

a phalanx of flies would
rise
and the horse would
yank forward
anew

the hooves slipping and
sliding on the hot
asphalt

and then
all we could
see
was the back of the
wagon
and
the massive mound of
rags and bottles
covered with
brown
sacks

and
again
the voice:
"RAGS! BOTTLES! SACKS!"

he was
the first man
I ever wanted to
kill

and
there have been
none
since.



Continues...

Excerpted from Charles Bukowski Uncensored CD by Charles Bukowski Copyright © 2000 by Charles Bukowski. Excerpted by permission.
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