Reading Mindfully: Charles Bukowski’s “Bluebird”

Reading Mindfully: Charles Bukowski’s “Bluebird”

Image: Georges Braque, A Bird Passing Through a Cloud, 1957, Maeght Foundation, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, [Fair Use] via WikiArt.org

Each month, we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to think about your perceptions and reactions to the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Please grab a friend or colleague to read, share and discuss – and send us your thoughts.

Charles Bukowski was a renowned and prolific poet, short story writer and novelist who struggled throughout his lifetime with alcoholism and depression. Drawing on his experience growing up and living in Los Angeles, his work paints a portrait of downtrodden urban life and masculinity in America. In the San Francisco Review of Books, Stephen Kessler wrote, “Bukowski writes with no apologies from the frayed edge of society.”

As you read his poem “Bluebird,” published in 1992, consider these questions:

  • Is there a situation in your own life where you’ve put on a tough exterior?
  • Why do we keep our vulnerabilities hidden from the world?
  • Do you think it’s harder for men to share their inner lives than women?

Bluebird

By Charles Bukowski

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 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?

Listen to actor Harry Dean Stanton read “Bluebird” below:

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Maredith Sheridan

Maredith Sheridan

maredith.sheridan@thatcanbeme.org

Maredith is the Communications and Marketing Manager of That Can Be Me, Inc., facilitator of Books@Work.