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For Bukowski on his 95th Birthday
by Bunkong Tuon

The punch clock rings like a tumor
as he steps into the late afternoon light.
The boarded-up windows hang like terrible
hangovers while plastic bags, soda cans,
cardboard boxes litter the sidewalks.
Mick Jagger screams I Can’t Get No
Satisfaction from someone’s broken window.
Chevrolets parked along broken fences
and graffiti walls. Teenagers watch him
trudge by. Heads down, parents exhausted
from their 9-to-5’s at factories and hospitals.
The little children stop running and screaming,
stare at this man in his sweat-stained shirt,
fascinated momentarily with his acned face,
then return to their hide-and-seek game.
He crosses the street. A car screeches
to a stop. The driver sticks her head out
the window cursing, one hand pressing
the steering wheel, the other holding up
a middle finger. But the man ignores her,
turns a corner, and disappears into a boarding
house. In his one-room apartment he pours
cheap red wine into a dirty glass, turns
on his radio with guts, then sits down
at the desk. A Remington typewriter hums,
purrs, and sings along to Beethoven’s Ninth
Symphony. He pushes his index fingers,
one stroke at a time, his breath
measured, heart simmers, home at last.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bunkong Tuon teaches writing and literature in the English Department at Union College, in Schenectady, New York. His recent publications include poems in Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, Más Tequila Review, Misfit, and Patterson Literary Review. Gruel, his first full-length collection (which features other poems about Bukowski), was published recently by NYQ Books.

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: On Sunday, August 16, 2015 — Charles Bukowski’s 95th birthday — the San Pedro International Film Festival will host a celebration of the author’s life and writing. For more information, visit spiffest.org.