Ordinary Madness / Gewöhnlicher Wahnsinn / Loucura Comum / Locura Ordinaria

There are degrees of madness, and the madder you are the more obvious it will be to other people.

Most of my life I have hidden my madness within myself but it is there.

For instance, some person will be speaking to me of this or that and while this person is boring me with their stale generalities, I will imagine this person with his or her head resting on the block of the guillotine, or I will imagine them in a huge frying pan, frying away, as they look at me with their frightened eyes.

In actual situations such as these, I would most probably attempt a rescue, but while they are speaking to me I can’t help but imagining them thus.

Or, in a milder mood, I might envision them on a bicycle riding swiftly away from me. I simply have problems with human beings. Animals, I love. They do not lie and seldom attempt to attack you. At times they may be crafty but this is allowable. Why?

Most of my young and middle-aged life was spent in tiny rooms, huddled there, staring at the walls, the torn shades, the knobs on dresser drawers.

I was aware of the female and desired her but I didn’t want to jump through all the hoops to get her.

I was aware of money, but again, like with the female, I didn’t want to do the things needed to get it.

All I wanted was enough for a room and for something to drink. I drank alone, usually on the bed, with all the shades pulled.

In all the cities, I checked out the libraries. Book after book. Few books said anything to me. They were mostly dust in my mouth, sand in my mind.

None of it related to me or how I felt: where I was-nowhere-what I had-nothing-and what I wanted-nothing.

The books of the centuries only compounded the mystery of having a name, a body, walking around, talking, doing things.

Nobody seemed stuck with my particular madness.

In some of the bars I became violent, there were alley fights, many of which I lost. But I wasn’t fighting anybody in particular, I wasn’t angry, I just couldn’t understand people, what they were, what they did, how they looked.

I was in and out of jail; I was evicted from my rooms. I slept on park benches, in graveyards. I was confused but I wasn’t unhappy. I wasn’t vicious. I just couldn’t make anything out of what there was.

My violence was against the obvious trap, I was screaming and they didn’t understand. And even in the most violent fights I would look at my opponent and think, why is he angry? He wants to kill me. Then I’d have to throw punches to get the beast off me.

People have no sense of humor; they are so fucking serious about themselves.

Somewhere along the way, and I have no idea where it came from, I got to thinking, maybe I should be a writer. Maybe I can put down the words that I haven’t read, maybe by doing that I can get this tiger off my back.

And so I started and decades rolled by without much luck. Now I was a mad writer. More rooms, more cities. I sunk lower and lower.

Freezing one time in Atlanta in a tar paper shack, living on one dollar and a quarter a week. No plumbing, no light, no heat. I sat freezing in my California shirt. One morning I found a small pencil stub and I began writing poems in the margins of old newspapers on the floor.

Finally, at the age of 40, my first book appeared a small chapbook of poems, Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail. The package of books had arrived in the mail and I opened the package and here were the little chapbooks.

They spilled on the sidewalk, all the little books and I knelt down among them, I was on my knees and I picked up a Flower Fist and I kissed it.

That was 30 years ago. I’m still writing. In the first four months this year I have written 250 poems.

I still feel the madness rushing through me, but I still haven’t gotten the word down the way I want it, the tiger is still on my back.

I will die with that son-of-a-bitch on my back but I’ve given him a fight.

And if there is anybody out there who feels crazy enough to want to become a writer, I say go ahead, spit in the eye of the sun, hit those keys, its the best madness going, the centuries need help, the species cry for light and gamble and laughter.

Give it to them. There are enough words for all of us.

Charles Bukowski

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