Charles Bukowski wrote poems
describing dive bars and public libraries
the way his predecessors
celebrated candle lit apses and graves,
those hallowed niches
where a man,
especially one down on his dime finds
the stark necessities,
a little conversation followed by quiet.
We don’t revere those places in quite the same way anymore,
preferences more certain, more profane.
Today I sat at the bar,
offering to share a few words about
weather and luck
with a man beside me, his bandaged paw
wrapped around a tall boy.
The television burned bright,
weekend forecast stealing his attention.
At the library,
they issue headphones to children,
pushing Baudelaire to storage, clearing room for computers.
Yesterday, I read a news story, back page.
They’re razing another of man’s grottoes.
I went down to mourn
there was already new fucking housing in its place though.
Suppose only horse tracks
are safe from our appetite for change.
Copyright 2015 by Erick Mertz
About This Poem
Living in Portland, Oregon, I am confronted by the myriad of signs of so-called progress. Driving my 6-month old son around on sunny days, I’m in awe at how rapidly a landscape can change when there are nouveau development dollars backing the bulldozer. We talk till we’re blue about how mankind is devastating the natural world, yet I see a similar havoc wrecked on our man made environments. They’re knocking down the old gnarly carpet and neon bars for mixed use, overpriced condos, yoga studios and Thai food. There is a particular sort of man that needs a dollar pint to endure. When I think about the sea change, I often think what Charles Bukowski would say if his bar were suddenly razed for a knitting studio. He’d be fuck all pissed.
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