by Priscilla Barton
Bukowski wrote a poem called "The Mockingbird." It's been described as "the animal at war with its own kind or with another species, or with the forces of nature." He always insisted that his lines be true to his own speech. A critic once described his work as "the spoken word nailed to paper." In this instance, Bukowski "found" the poem in his own driveway.
the mockingbird had been following the cat
mocking mocking mocking
teasing and cocksure;
the cat crawled under rockers on porches
and said something angry to the mockingbird
which I didn't understand.
yesterday the cat walked calmly up the driveway
with the mockingbird alive in its mouth,
wings fanned, beautiful wings fanned and flopping,
feathers parted like a woman's legs
and the bird was no longer mocking,
it was asking, it was praying
but the cat
striding down through centuries
would not listen.
I saw it crawl under a yellow car
with the bird
to bargain it to another place.
summer was over.
I believe most artists are blessed/cursed with a second and third sight. Their senses are often on overload. Many turn to drugs and alcohol to dull that awareness. A few have been taken over and fried by their own highly charged circuitry. Others are able to harness that energy, and flick the "off" switch for their own survival. Creativity has its price. It can bring the greatest joy to the artist, but the cost can sometimes be too steep for those not strong enough to keep the process in perspective. My process is to allow the poetry to "come for me." Inspiration will often trigger this process. I find that inspiration in music, and the words of other poets. Sometimes, it will come for me while I'm standing in line at the bank, which is why I always carry a pad and pencil.
There will be times when life hands you a poem. I work with the mentally ill, and one of my patients believed there was a river running through her body. This poem "came for me" while observing her illness:
When A Woman Is A River
When questioned, she said there was a river
that ran through her - a blue river beneath
pale skin, branching off into fingers that
pointed to shorelines.
She told them, those who kept asking,
that the stones at this river's bottom
had been washed smooth, and weighed
heavy inside her.
She raised her hands above her head,
and asked them, those who offered help,
if they could save her from the drowning.
She showed them, those who needed proof,
the nature of whitewater eyes, and held herself
still at the elbows.
And when they filled her veins, those who
knew currents, with more rivers, she drifted
to the bottom and touched the smoothness
Peace to all.