Three poems inspired by lines from Charles Bukowski’s poem, “The Laughing Heart.” Click on the link to watch the entire poem read by Tom Waits.
“The Laughing Heart” read by Tom Waits
“…you are marvelous. the gods wait to delight in you…”
you really are, you know.
marvelous in the most marvelous
sense of the word, provoking
marvel with every breath, every
scripted and unscripted display
of charm. the gods wait
for the delight you will bring
to their stuffy boardroom,
the lilac perfume that will overwhelm
their mothball-scented sweaters
and remind them of youth and spring,
while you just go on being
nothing less than marvelous.
“…be on the watch. the gods will offer you chances. know them. take them…”
chances live everywhere.
everywhere. climb trees
to see them. look under
rocks. lie on your back,
wait for clouds to spell
them out for you. turn on
the radio, write down
every 11th word, then string
them all together to
know your chances.
and then when you have
watched, listened, found,
touched, known your chances,
take them. stuff your pockets,
fill the trunk of your car, cram
box after box, and take them
everywhere you go. everywhere.
III. Your Life
“…your life is your life. Know it while you have it…”
— Charles Bukowski
it is yours, and yours alone.
touch it, taste it, feel it, know it.
love it even as you fear it,
and let love steer it everywhere
you’re too scared to go alone.
know it while you have it.
take it out every day for inspection.
study the bumps and the creases,
learn the colors, the flavors. then
close your eyes and make yourself
remember the details so that when
you can no longer see, you will
still know it, you can still live it.
you will not have it as long as you
think you will, but you will be wise
if you know life, especially the one
that is yours, while you have it
and while it has you.
Kennedy’s assassination, 9/11,
The Challenger—you know exactly
where you were, what you wore
when devastation left its handprints
in the cement of your memory.
The first day of school, your first kiss,
your child’s birth—those balloons
of joy will stay inflated forever.
What you must dedicate yourself
to remembering are other moments,
delicate moments pivotal in the story of you.
Remember, for instance, where you stood
when the ache of loneliness introduced itself,
when disappointment first shook your hand.
Recall the plunge of your heart
the first time “sorry” was not good enough,
the first time you snared yourself in a lie.
Remember the loss of equilibrium
when your parents became people
with feelings and flaws.
Go back to the first secret you cradled,
the first kindness delivered in anonymity,
the first hand you led out of fear.
Remember the rhythm of your footsteps
the first time you walked away,
the silence the first time you didn’t.
Conjure the smooth stone you became
the first time you trusted yourself,
the first time you heard your voice
speak words that came only from you.