nobody but you

Over the weekend I finished reading Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way, a book of poems by Charles Bukowski.

One of the last poems in the book, nobody but you, serves as a punctuation mark and a pep talk from the late author to all human beings.

After reading it, I imagined Bukowski, an avid horse racing bettor, standing up in the grandstand at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

I pictured him holding a microphone and shouting the words of the poem to the people around him and the crowd below.

He would say: “OK listen up, this is what I have to say. I’m only gonna say it once.”

And in a rough voice he would recite his poem:

nobody but you

nobody can save you but
yourself.
you will be put again and again
into nearly impossible
situations.
they will attempt again and again
through subterfuge, guise and
force
to make you submit, quit and/or die quietly
inside.

nobody can save you but
yourself
and it will be easy enough to fail
so very easily
but don’t, don’t, don’t.
just watch them.
listen to them.
do you want to be like that?
a faceless, mindless, heartless
being?
do you want to experience
death before death?

nobody can save you but
yourself
and you’re worth saving.
it’s a war not easily won
but if anything is worth winning then
this is it.

think about it.
think about saving your self.

your spiritual self.
your gut self.
your singing magical self and
your beautiful self.
save it.
don’t join the dead-in-spirit.

maintain your self
with humor and grace
and finally
if necessary
wager your life as you struggle,
damn the odds, damn
the price.

only you can save your
self.

do it! do it!

then you’ll know exactly what
I am talking about.

Bukowski, Charles. Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way. New York: Ecco (An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), 2003.

After receiving thunderous applause, Bukowski would say, “That’s it. Enough poetry for today. I need to go make an exacta bet—six and four in the fifth.”

He would drop the microphone and head toward the betting windows, getting lost in the crowd of other patrons. It’s a fitting image since the man is gone but his words remain with us.

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