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Charles Bukowski + Mary Oliver



New Neighbors


Bored with the Bs, Charles Bukowski

bopped down a few shelves to

visit Mary Oliver, wedged himself

between her Handbook and the 

New and Selected, like a bro

at a bar on Saturday night. 

“I want to drink wine with

 the assassins,” he said

by way of introduction.

Dreaming of kale’s

puckered sleeve, Mary

expressed no interest in the con-

versation. Such silence.

But there he remained,

more than a week.

Anyone seeking his fix of

Bukowski would not

have thought to 

look among the

gannets and the whelks

and the poppies—or

at Blackwater Pond.

“I would kill an elephant

with a bowie knife,”

he announced. Dorothy

Parker re-applied her

lipstick, red matte

since you ask,

and smiled in

his direction: “Wild and fickle

and fierce is he!”

Misfiled yet again,

Meghan O’Rourke

sought an escape, or

at least a return to

alphabetical order. 

“It’s warmer this August

than it has been for decades,”

she declared, only to hear

“I’ve been bombed out of

better places than this.”

But Aimee Nezhukumatathil

leaned over to yell,

“I know you are dangerous.

I see it in your shiny teeth,”

which caught Mary’s attention.

She sensed a shadow— 

and wait,      is someone


the Guidebook’s shoulder. 

Who’s there?

O, a turnip-hearted skunk cabbage,

No wonder. 

“In the past couple decades, 

we had a long-standing rule of 

keeping Charles Bukowski 

behind the register,” 

the bookseller said.


Origin story: Someone had put Bukowski’s Storm for the Living and the Dead in the middle of the Mary Oliver books at the local Barnes & Noble, and I thought it was a funny poetry in-joke. After taking a photo, I decided to write a poem that brought together the two wildly popular and wildly different authors along with some of their shelf mates.

“The kale’s puckered sleeve,” and “turnip-hearted skunk cabbage” are phrases from Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems: Volume One; “Such Silence,” “Gannets,” “Whelks,” “Poppies,” and “At Blackwater Pond” are titles of poems. “Such Silence” actually comes from Oliver’s Blue Horses, not the New and Selected.

The Bukowski verses are from Storm for the Living and the Dead. Meghan O’Rourke’s quote is from her collection Sun in Days, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s is from Oceanic. The Dorothy Parker line can be found in Enough Rope: A Book of Light Verse. The bookseller’s words belong to Annie Metcalf, who was quoted in a 2017 article in Electric Lit.


Head over to author Tanita S. Davis's site for the Poetry Friday roundup on August 26th.

August, Versified


For everyone participating in the Sealey Challenge, how's it going? I am behind! But I am reading poetry every day, which has been grand. Use the hashtag #TheSealeyChallenge to find recommendations on Twitter and Instagram.

I had really looked forward to catching up with the work of Kamilah Aisha Moon, and I was not disappointed at all! Her book Starshine & Clay was poignant, heartbreaking, beautifully crafted. Knowing that Moon had passed away in 2021 made finishing this library copy hard because I wanted to stay in the poet's company. I'll buy my own Starshine & Clay (Four Way Books, 2017), as well as an earlier work, She Has a Name (Four Way, 2013). One of Moon's "literary North Stars," as she wrote in Mentor and Muse, was Lucille Clifton, so I want to go back to her work as well. Here's a good place to shout out Clifton's Generations, a spare & lyrical memoir recently reissued by New York Review Books; I read it earlier this year.

Other highlights so far were Claude McKay's Harlem Shadows (Modern Library, Centenary Edition, 2022) and Harryette Mullen's Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California Press, 2002).

My current book is Jane Hirshfield's Ledger (Knopf, 2020). The Poetry Foundation says, "In recent decades, Hirshfield has become increasingly known as a poet working at the intersection of poetry, the sciences, and the crisis of the biosphere," and I know that Ledger will appeal to many of my Poetry Friday peeps. So far my favorite poem is "Today, Another Universe," which you can read on Maria Popova's site, The Marginalian.


The Poetry Friday roundup takes place at the blog Leap of Dave on August 19th.

Photo by ST: Kimchi the cat with a new stack of books for #TheSealeyChallenge