Confession: Charles Bukowski and a simple joy in the world's saddest poem

Charles Bukowski (credit to Youtube/Hans Ostrom)

Charles Bukowski (credit to Youtube/Hans Ostrom)

If there is one I thing I miss as an adult it is the simplistic joy of reading a poem.

I've always appreciated the way prose can inspire a simple feeling or a cascade of complex emotions.

When I was younger I considered myself a poet. I read poems and thought I understood them. There a was a static meaning, an easy to decipher message within all of them and I tried to emulate that when I wrote my own poems. Soon, like all teenage poets, I realized that I wasn't very good. 

My words were too straight forward and my rhyme schemes too simplistic. There was no substance to my prose. So when I wrote my first poem I expected it to sound deep and well thought out. But it wasn't and in the end none of them were. 

My academic background before journalism was in English literature. My education has taught me that poetry's beauty comes through the careful unpacking of the imagery and language used by the author. Multiple meanings or interpretations can be devised from one text and there was nothing more enjoyable than analyzing a poem to find the kernel of knowledge hidden within.  

But I still miss the direct way I used to interpret poetry and as the saying goes, sometimes life's simple pleasures are the best. 

In the writings of Charles Bukowski I've found that simple joy again. Please listen to him reading his poem Confession to understand what I mean. 

Ignoring the music that accompanies the video I still consider this poem to be one of the saddest I've ever read. 

The message of the poem makes that clear. The fear of death and hurting the ones we care about are feelings that all of us have felt. The implicit recognition that the narrator has been unable to grapple with his feelings until the moment of his death also makes this poem sad.

But it is the word choice that makes this poem so effective. In fact it is the word choice of Bukowski that makes his poems so enjoyable for me. 

His words are direct and often violent and sexual. It's what made him unpopular among some critics but beloved in the underground publications that made him famous. He pushed boundaries and most importantly his poems were easy to understand. 

They dealt with pain and suffering that only an alcoholic and violent man could have imagined. 

The simplicity of the poem is what makes it complex and for me, one of my favourite poems. 

Please find below the full text of Charles Bukowski's Confession:

waiting for death
like a cat
that will jump on the
bed

I am so very sorry for
my wife

she will see this
stiff
white
body
shake it once, then
maybe
again

"Hank!"

Hank won't
answer.

it's not my death that
worries me, it's my wife
left with this
pile of
nothing.

I want to
let her know
though
that all the nights
sleeping
beside her

even the useless
arguments
were things
ever splendid

and the hard
words
I ever feared to
say
can now be
said:

I love
you.