in San Francisco the landlady, 80, helped me drag the green
Victrola up the stairway and I played Beethoven’s 5th
until they beat on the walls.
there was a large bucket in the center of the room
filled with beer and winebottles;
so, it might have been the d.t.’s, one afternoon
I heard a sound something like a bell
only the bell was humming instead of ringing,
and then a golden light appeared in the corner of the room
up near the ceiling
and through the sound and light
shone the face of a woman, worn but beautiful,
and she looked down at me
and then a man’s face appeared by hers,
the light became stronger and the man said:
we, the artists, are proud of you!
then the woman said: the poor boy is frightened,
and I was, and then it went away.
I got up, dressed, and went to the bar
wondering who the artists were and why they should be
proud of me. there were some live ones in the bar
and I got some free drinks, set my pants on fire with
the ashes from my corncob pipe, broke a glass deliberately,
was not rousted, met a man who claimed he was William
Saroyan, and we drank until a woman came in and
pulled him out by the ear and I thought, no, that can’t be
William, and another guy came in and said: man, you talk
tough, well, listen, I just got out for assault and
battery, so don’t mess with me! we went outside the
bar, he was a good boy, he knew how to duke, and it went
along fairly even, then they stopped it and we went
back in and drank another couple of hours. I walked
back up to my place, put on Beethoven’s 5th and
when they beat on the walls I beat
I keep thinking of myself young, then, the way I was,
and I can hardly believe it but I don’t mind it.
I hope the artists are still proud of me
but they never came back
the war came running in and next I knew
I was in New Orleans
walking into a bar drunk
after falling down in the mud on a rainy night.
I saw one man stab another and I walked over and
put a nickle in the juke box.
it was a beginning. San
Francisco and New Orleans were two of my
favorite towns.
Other works by Charles Bukowski...