Reading Charles Bukowski
I love the way in his poems he tattles on neighbors
like Eddie (aka Igloo), who shot
his own dog with an arrow,
and the woman whose husband
shot himself with a gun, who swayed
her backside while Bukowski, as a boy,
walked beside her, lusting,
and the priest who vowed poverty
who Charles caught buying a pricey ice-cream cone
during the grip of the Great Depression.
After a night of Dewar’s, over black coffee
and Marlboro smoke, my mother talked about
Mr. Fogel from the fish market.
He felt up Mrs. Cohen, topped her,
my mother called it, for extra herring.
As if proof of her sin, stray cats
followed her home. Rheumy eyes
widening. Mother told me the woman
across the road stood naked
in the window after midnight,
and about the husbands
who climbed her fire escape.
I poured Mother’s words over my Sugar Frosted Flakes,
heard them snap, crackle, and pop.
The dark crust can hold a gleam
like a candlelit still life. Slice
through the crust to the grainy
richness of the innards. Held
in the mouth, the soft density
dissolves slowly, tricking the mind
into believing you are eating more
than you really are, like the miracle
of Christ multiplying
loaves of bread to feed the hungry.
When my father bit into pumpernickel,
his jaws clenched, the veins in his temple
swelled and you heard each chew
from across the room
which told the story of his hunger
in Russia as a boy, hiding
in the forest from the Cossacks.
Father took slice after slice, and watched
over our plates for leftovers.
About the Poet
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s novel, Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004), was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. She has published essays in NYT (Lives) and Newsweek. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in many literary magazines such as A Thin Slice of Anxiety, After the Pause, BoomerLitMag, Brief Wilderness, Brushfire, The Courtship of Winds, and Wrath-Bearing Tree. Her poetry has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and she won the Branden Memorial Literary Award from Negative Capability. Spry Magazine nominated her poem for the Best of the Net. She currently teach writing at UCLA Extension.