The Landlord At The Door



The Landlord At The Door

It’s not because of charcoal scarred into
the carpet, after hurling a hookah, sparks and all,
down a flight of stairs. It’s not because
local drunks know the two-car garage doubles
as an open bar. No noteworthy crime was ever
reflected in that bathroom mirror. Not one
vagabond has danced these floors with
the filth of brothels on her boots. There are no
squatter’s here; everyone’s accounted for.
It’s not that anything is wrong with any of the
appliances: The dishwasher isn’t kicked in;
the microwave isn’t caked with blood;
the sinks are not clogged with hair, condoms
and cigarette butts. It’s got nothing to do with
garbage bags full of body parts. Nothing

ever goes wrong. Yes, of course, we’d
love to have you in—It’s just these cockroaches,
see? And the exterminators are here
to take care of it. We’re making sure
the whole place gets wiped out.

by Ryan Dowling

Bukowski Had A Heart?



there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my booksales in
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do

by Charles Bukwoski (1920-1994)

Check out this excellent recitation by actor Harry Dean Stanton Here.


Paralipsis is a rhetorical device by which a writer emphasizes or draws attention to something by either denying it or refusing to talk about it.

Throughout this poem, the speaker suggests that he’s a tough guy: he drinks and smokes, he doesn’t weep and he doesn’t like the idea that this bluebird could “mess me up.” The bluebird, then, becomes a symbol for the speaker’s inner sensitivity, which he conceals with a tough exterior. The speaker insists he’s “too tough” to expose the bluebird in his heart and is very careful about not letting people see it. However, the more the speaker denies and conceals the bluebird, the more he ultimately talks about it and reveals it to the reader. Also, notice how toward the end of the poem the speaker seems on the brink of telling us his secret: “and it’s nice enough to make a man weep.” Only, he backs out of the confession at the last second: “but I don’t weep.” This adds a final punch to the paralipsis element of the poem since it continues to play with revelation and concealment.


The Constraints of Time

The Constraints of Time

At birth, I clocked in with your heart.
I wound you up and let your cymbals bang.
Little monkey, run! off! Your ticker
isn’t long. Be sure to take your
time. Be sure you’re never
late! You have a meeting at six
and a mission at eight—lunch at eleven
at Ellen Estates. By noon,
may I remind you, the day
isn’t halfway behind you.
At two is the dentist, at three the repair man,
at four is that agent from Central L.A.
The dog wants to be walked, the kids
want to be played with. But the post offices,
the banks: they close by five
and you have nine month’s worth
of overdue fines. I’m telling you,
I am waving my three hands
from the walls, from the towers,
from your cell phone and computer;
I’m with you everywhere you go,
eating up pasts and spitting out futures.
I’m even strapped to your wrist,
always crying, “It’s time, it’s time!”
If you could just manage
a little nap, you could stop this
madness. As sure as tock follows
tick, you could forget I exist,
if only for a little while.

by Ryan Dowling

Emily Dickinson’s Gun


“My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –”

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
In Corners – till a Day
The Owner passed – identified –
And carried Me away –

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe –
And every time I speak for Him –
The Mountains straight reply –

And I do smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through –

And when at Night – Our good Day done –
I guard My Master’s Head –
‘Tis better than the Eider-Duck’s
Deep Pillow – to have shared –

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –
None stir the second time –
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –
Or an emphatic Thumb –

Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die –

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


Personification is the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing. In this poem, Dickinson personifies a gun. Observe the different ways Dickinson uses personification. Here are only a few of them:

The speaker of the poem (the “Loaded Gun”) reveals an intense relationship with its master (“The Owner”). Notice how Dickinson resists saying that the master sleeps with a gun under his pillow; instead, the gun says, “I guard My Master’s head.” Later on she suggests that the gun itself can kill anyone who poses a threat to its master: “To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –/ None stir the second time.” And in the final two lines, “For I have but the power to kill,/ Without – the power to die –“ Dickinson shows that the gun is capable of existential thought (in short, thinking about the “human” condition). Notice too how the final line, in turn, reveals the gun’s only non-human quality, which is also the source of its anxiety: it cannot die.