2 Poems by Charles Bukowski: “Bluebird” & “The Great Escape”

the bluebird by Charles Bukowski
from The Last Night of the Earth Poems

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 book sales 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 still 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?

I asked some friends which poems they thought my community college students should read, and one of my former students, Kurt Braget, a poet himself, suggested Bukoski’s “Bluebird.” There’s a number of versions on YouTube; I liked this one which shows images of the poet during his life and features his voice reading the poem. Thanks, Kurt, for the suggestion. I agree that it’s a powerful poem that my students should read.

I’ve often taught his poems, “My Father” and “The Great Escape,” so I’m adding them here also. I found “The Great Escape” on Garrison Keillor’s The Writers Almanac Website.

the great escape

by Charles Bukowski

<!– (from Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way) –>

TUESDAY, 15 JULY 2003
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: “the great escape,” by Charles Bukowski from Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way (Ecco Press).

the great escape

listen, he said, you ever seen a bunch of crabs in a
bucket?
no, I told him.
well, what happens is that now and then one crab
will climb up on top of the others
and begin to climb toward the top of the bucket,
then, just as he’s about to escape
another crab grabs him and pulls him back
down.
really? I asked.
really, he said, and this job is just like that, none
of the others want anybody to get out of
here. that’s just the way it is
in the postal service!
I believe you, I said.

just then the supervisor walked up and said,
you fellows were talking.
there is no talking allowed on this
job.

I had been there for eleven and one-half
years.

I got up off my stool and climbed right up the
supervisor
and then I reached up and pulled myself right
out of there.

it was so easy it was unbelievable.
but none of the others followed me.

and after that, whenever I had crab legs
I thought about that place.
I must have thought about that place
maybe 5 or 6 times

before I switched to lobster.


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8 thoughts on “2 Poems by Charles Bukowski: “Bluebird” & “The Great Escape”

  1. Thanks Ardin! Glad you enjoyed them. I love listening to Bukowski read that poem while being able to read along. I love hearing poets read their own work–even better when it’s a live reading!

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