Wednesday Book Review: Horse poems for men

Sounds like a great big oxymoron, right? Wrong. This week, HN book critic Erin McCabe checks out Charles Bukowski’s poetry collection The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses.

From Erin:

I have made a grievous omission in my book reviews in two regards:

1.  poetry

2.  men

Therefore, this week, after enduring months of my husband’s pestering, I checked out Charles Bukowski’s poetry collection The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses.

It sounds great, right?  I mean, that is an awesome title.  And Bukowski does write about horses in poems like ice for the eagles.


I keep remembering the horses

under the moon

I keep remembering feeding the horses


white oblongs of sugar

more like ice,

and they had heads like


bald heads that could bite

and did not.


The horses were more real than

my father

more real than God

and they could have stepped on my

feet but they didn’t


I was almost 5

but I have not forgotten it yet;

o my god they were strong and good

those red tongues slobbering out of their souls.


He also writes about wine and cats and love, all in the same simple, straightforward style.  This is not the kind of poetry that makes you feel like you are missing something when you read it. In other words, if Bukowski were a horse, he would be uncomplicated.

But here’s the thing about Bukowski:  He would also be the world’s messiest gelding.  If you are a woman and you read his poems, I am pretty sure you’ll be offended, the same way I am offended when my resident messy gelding poops in his water bucket and pees by the door and rolls in something gross before he heads off to break a water pipe or mount the nearest mare.  That’s right:  Bukowski is crass (his defenders say he is brutally honest).  When he isn’t writing about betting on the ponies, he’s writing about drinking and smoking and fighting and having sex, thrown in with some lines about being a writer and hating working for “the man.”  He comes across as extremely misogynistic unless you happen to read his poems to his late love, Jane. There are at least five in this collection and they are his best poems, if you ask me.  In his poem for Jane, he writes poignantly about her death:


225 days under grass

and you know more than I.


they have long taken your blood,

you are a dry stick in a basket.


is this how it works?


in this room

the hours of love

still make shadows.


when you left

you took almost



I kneel in the nights

before tigers

that will not let me be


what you were

will not happen again.


the tigers have found me

and I do not care.


That’s good stuff.  However, if you are a HorseGirl and there is a male person in your life, he will probably like Bukowski for the other stuff—the alcohol, the cigarettes, the betting at the track.  But this is your opportunity to begin your very subtle Horse indoctriNation.  Next step: a day at the races!

Just don’t be mad at me if you end up with an entire bookshelf in your house devoted to Bukowski.

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