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For SPOKEN‘s Bukowski night, mistress of ceremonies Mandy Beaumont asked me to write a letter to the dirty old poet. Last week, before the gig, I shared his poem Bluebird. In reading Bukowski last week, I came to appreciate his honesty the most. So here’s my — hopefully — honest response to Bluebird.

To the dearest and dirtiest
after Bukowski’s “bluebird” 

how do you keep your aviary neat?
nobody sees the pretty bluebird
that sits so still in your dark;
does the stink not ring out?
is that what the whiskey is for?
are you trying to smoke out the bird?

is there shit on the floor of your heart?
how do you keep your aviary clean?
you’re too tough for this;
that smart bird sits tight,
that bluebird that wants to get out.
you say, do you want me to mess up?

how do you keep your bluebird down?
when you let him escape
for an hour or two
and then tuck him back in?
his eyes can’t adjust
and he pecks
at your words.
all those husks
must go somewhere.

so how do you keep your aviary clean?
there’s a mangy galah
in the pit of my gut, and I try
to be tough — but he’s
learnt to talk back,
and he parrots
everything that I say
to myself.

how do you keep it
from eating you
inside out? my bird pecks
at words I cast off
and craps right in my blood.
I say, stay in there, I won’t
let you out; I’m not going
to let anyone see. do you want
to blow my book plans?
But his squawk
is loud enough to rupture;
I let him out
when nobody’s home.

how do you keep your bluebird
so blue?
I would dip mine in paint —
maybe cardinal red;
I’d rather have your bluebird
or a robin instead.
he’s the chip forged
on my shoulder,
but, hell, he’s mine —
claws and all —
and he might share his seeds.
that’s a nice enough thing
to pretend to believe.
I scrape out the debris
and pick out words
to rejig
till he sings
a little. and we sit there
together like
that.

how do you keep
that aviary clean,
mr B?