Real Ghosts

Forget about that cartoon

friendly ghost and forget

about that wisp-of-fog

that looked surprisingly

like Lucky, your first dog.

And forget about those

specter-detectors the

comic books tried to sell

you when you were 13.

An honest ghost-  

detective once stated

that he’d spent three

decades and tons of

money exhaustively

searching for evidence

of even one example

of ghostly activity but

could verify none.

And like the rare honest

politician, he found that

telling the truth was the

quickest way to end a

career. But there are

real ghosts. I see them

nearly everywhere now:

the library, mall, the fast-

food spot down the street.

Most would say they’re

just as flesh-substantial

as you or me, though

their clothes tend to

be frayed and ratty,

but not always. These ghosts

either mutter to themselves

or say nothing at all. Their

faces often resemble those

crumpled road maps we’d

shove in our glove compartments

back in the 80s. And like those

maps, their faces never took

them where they needed to be.

Sometimes they look hard at

those living ones who can only see

through or past them, and then these

ghosts ask themselves if anything or

anyone else is real. To tell you

the truth, I’m starting to wonder

if I’m becoming a ghost myself;

it seems like they’re the only ones

who can see me these days. Like

I’m becoming increasingly

insubstantial to the living as

the years stagger on. Even now,

as I type this, I could swear I see

my fingers pass halfway into the

keyboard. And I doubt this poem

will be felt by anyone of living blood

–or anyone who could make me

real again.

 

— Fyodor Bukowski, author of MAIL-ORDER ANNIE (A Story of Passion and Compassion) : Click on this.

Why Most Contemporary Writers Suck

There’s more than one reason why my pen name is an amalgamation of the names of a couple of dead writers. Put simply, dead writers do it better…in most cases anyway. OK, I’ll explain: in our totalitarian, viciously-contemporary anti-culture, living writers simply can’t tell the truth, not the whole sad bag-of-kittens truth anyway–not if they want to stay employed, earn enough to feed the strays, and maybe even enough to treat themselves to a lap dance now and then.

But before you go and assume that these are mere bitter words spewed out after sucking sour grapes, allow me to elaborate. Under my “real” name, I’ve won second place in two university writing contests, earned an advanced English degree, and a bunch of literary mags (print and online) have picked up my stories and poems over the years, a few of them are even deemed “prestigious” by those who like to deem things. Not exactly the best creds, but not the worst either.

So why am I complaining? It’s because I’ve learned the hard way that to tell the truth and stay employed, a writer today has to use a pen name. Blame it on “PC’ culture or the insanely-delusional and pablum-preferring masses; but whatever the ultimate causes, the effect is clear: IF you write the truth about people or yourself today, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up experiencing the plight of homeless cats first hand.

The masses of people have always been delusional, vicious, and hypocritical; but at least sometimes they allowed their writers and social critics to tell the truth, if only because subconsciously they wanted to hear the truth. In the 19th Century, Fyodor Dostoyevsky may have been put in front of a firing squad, but he was reprieved at the last minute by the Tsar. And his fellow Russians loved him in his own lifetime for revealing their collective hypocrisy, insanity, and occasional flashes of humanity.

In the 20th Century, Charles Bukowski may have been put in front of the post office employee review board for his brutally honest “underground” newspaper columns, but in the end they let him keep his slave job. And now the poetry and fiction sections of every good book store hold his many titles, to the undying horror and envy of most MFA instructor-authors, and to the credit of his fearless publisher John Martin and the free market.

Anyway, most writers today suck for the same reason that Seinfeld said that comedy is being killed by political correctness: those who tell it like it is these days are all-too-often marginalized and/or castigated. It’s an extreme expression of kill-the-messenger syndrome. After all, it’s easier to kill a messenger than to deal with the ugliness of unvarnished reality.

But I’m not killed so easily. Believe me, many have tried, in one way or another. So I think I’ll just keep telling it like it is and how I think it ought to be. And if truth can be likened to a bag of unwanted kittens that many would like to see drowned, I think I’ll just untie that bag and let those kittens run free.