Charles Bukowski – Skip Rhudy

Skip Rhudy

aviation, travel, books

The first thing I ever read by Buk (as he was called by his crazed fans) was his book Factotum. There are some scenes in Factotum that I alluded to in One Punk Summer. Also influential in OPS was the basic idea of the factotum: One who does any and all things to earn a buck. Not a living — a buck. I’ve read some other novels by Buk but nothing that came close to the power and humor of Factotum. But I stumbled across a book by Buk put out by a press calling itself The Cosmic Aeroplane. The book was titled poems written before jumping out of an 8 story window. It looks to have been printed in 1975. I don’t remember when I acquired it but it was about the time I was translating Wolfgang Hilbig’s Die Weiber into English, maybe 1989 to 1990. My copy is tatty and yellowed. One of the poems stood out from all the rest.


listen, I went to get a haircut, it was a perfectly good day
until they brought it to me, I mean I sat waiting my turn in the
chair and I found a magazine — the usual thing: women with their
breasts hanging out, etc., and then I turned the page and here
were some photos of orientals in the field, there was this big
bastard with the sword–the caption said he had a very good
swing, plenty of power and the picture showed him getting ready
with the sword, and you saw an oriental kneeling there with his
eyes closed, then–ZIP!–he was kneeling there without a head
and you could see the cleave of the neck clean, not yet even
spurting blood, the separation having been so astonishingly
swift, and more photos of beheadings, and then a photo of these
heads lolling in the weeds without bodies, and the sun shining on them.
and the heads looking still almost alive as if they hadn’t
accepted the death–and then the barber said

and I walked over to the chair and my head was still on
and his head said to my head,
how do you want it?
and I said, medium.

and he seemed like a nice sensible fellow
and it seemed nice to be near nice sensible fellows
and I wanted to ask him about the heads
but I thought it would upset him
or maybe even give him ideas
or he might say something that wouldn’t help at
so I kept quiet.

I listened to him cut my hair
and he began talking about his baby
and I tried to concentrate on his
baby, it seemed very sane and logical
but I still kept thinking about the

when he finished the cutting
he turned me in the chair so I could look into the
mirror. my head was still on.

fine, I told him, and I got out of the chair, paid, and
gave him a good tip.

I walked outside and a woman walked by and she had her
head on and all the people driving cars had their heads

I should have concentrated on the breasts, I thought,
it’s so much better, all that hanging out, or the big cans,
the magic and beautiful legs, sex was a fine thing
after all, but my day was spoiled, it would take a night’s sleep
anyway, to get rid of the heads. it was terrible to be a human
being: there was so much going

I saw my head in a plateglass window
I saw the reflection
and my head had a cigarette in it
my head looked tired and sad
it was a not smiling with its new

it disappeared
and I walked on
past the houses full of furniture and the cats and
dogs and people
and they were lucky and I threw the cigarette
into the curbing
saw it burning on the asphalt
red and white, tender spit of smoke,
and I decided that the sun
felt good.