Bukowski Had A Heart?

 

Bluebird

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
you.
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
he’s
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
works?
you want to blow my booksales in
Europe?
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
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

by Charles Bukwoski (1920-1994)

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

Paralipsis

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.

 

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