by Charles Bukowski

Born like this
Into this
As the chalk faces smile
As Mrs. Death laughs
As the elevators break
As political landscapes dissolve
As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
As the oily fish spit out their oily prey
As the sun is masked
We are
Born like this
Into this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this
Because of this
Fooled by this
Used by this
Pissed on by this
Made crazy and sick by this
Made violent
Made inhuman
By this
The heart is blackened
The fingers reach for the throat
The gun
The knife
The bomb
The fingers reach toward an unresponsive god
The fingers reach for the bottle
The pill
The powder
We are born into this sorrowful deadliness
We are born into a government 60 years in debt
That soon will be unable to even pay the interest on that debt
And the banks will burn
Money will be useless
There will be open and unpunished murder in the streets
It will be guns and roving mobs
Land will be useless
Food will become a diminishing return
Nuclear power will be taken over by the many
Explosions will continually shake the earth
Radiated robot men will stalk each other
The rich and the chosen will watch from space platforms
Dante’s Inferno will be made to look like a children’s playground
The sun will not be seen and it will always be night
Trees will die
All vegetation will die
Radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men
The sea will be poisoned
The lakes and rivers will vanish
Rain will be the new gold
The rotting bodies of men and animals will stink in the dark wind
The last few survivors will be overtaken by new and hideous diseases
And the space platforms will be destroyed by attrition
The petering out of supplies
The natural effect of general decay
And there will be the most beautiful silence never heard
Born out of that.
The sun still hidden there
Awaiting the next chapter.

Charles Bukowski (1920 – 1994) was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Bukowski’s writing was heavily influenced by the geography and atmosphere of his home city of Los Angeles, and is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. A prolific author, Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories, and six novels, eventually having over 60 books in print. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife.” (Annotated biography of CHarles Bukowski courtesy of

Editor’s Note: Today’s post was by request. If you have a request of your own please post it as a comment here.

Last week Nathan W. left a comment requesting Charles Bukowski be featured on the Saturday Poetry Series. After deciding to feature him today I came across a link on facebook noting that Skylight Books in Los Angeles is having a birthday tribute to Charles Bukowski today, on what would have been Bukowski’s 90th birthday. I love random acts of fate.

This particular poem is wonderful because it shows a keen foresight and understanding of the modern human condition on Bukowski’s part, while simultaneously possessing an insight into the cyclical nature of man. What Bukowski was experiencing in his time is equally true today.

Want to read more by and about Charles Bukowski?
Beat Museum

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Managing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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  1. Lezlie says:

    Cynical Poetry Weekend! Next weekend – puppies and rhymes.

  2. raulclement says:

    If you haven’t seen the documentary about Bukowski, Born Into This, I highly recommend it. Obviously it takes its title from this poem.

  3. Nathan W. says:

    Love love love the quote you used at the top. How great.

    Here’s a clip from the movie raulclement recommends, of Bukowski reading the subject poem:

    Fantastic. Thank you.

  4. maya elashi says:

    what a prophet … i’d like to see Time Mag’s editor write a (peace) that ‘id render him (her (?), doubtful) a laureate of anything …

  5. Thank you so much for posting this amazing poem. I can’t stop re-reading it.

  6. Rod Severson says:

    This poem is the cook book of the Globalist ; New world Order …
    Or so it seems to me…

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