“the tragedy of the leaves” Charles Bukowski Poem

The Charles Bukowski poem “the tragedy of the leaves” is the first poem appearing in the collection Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame. I’ve always been a fan of Bukowski’s early poetry, with books like The Roominghouse Madrigals, Mockingbird Wish Me Luck and Burning in Water… being among some of my favorite collections.

So here is a favorite poem in a favorite Charles Bukowski poetry book.

the tragedy of the leaves, by Charles Bukowski

I awakened to dryness and the ferns were dead,

the potted plants yellow as corn;

my woman was gone

and the empty bottles like bled corpses

surrounded me with their uselessness;

the sun was still good, though,

and my landlady’s note cracked in fine and

undemanding yellowness; what was needed now

was a good comedian, ancient style, a jester

with jokes upon absurd pain; pain is absurd

because it exists, nothing more;

I shaved carefully with an old razor

the man who had once been young and

said to have genius; but

that’s the tragedy of the leaves,

the dead ferns, the dead plants;

and I walked into a dark hall

where the landlady stood

execrating and final,

sending me to hell,

waving her fat, sweaty arms

and screaming

screaming for rent

because the world had failed us


Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame, Charles Bukowski

The poem “the tragedy of the leaves” is in the Charles Bukowski poetry collection Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame. Click the image for more information.




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  2. Didn’t this poem first appear
    in It Catches My Heart in its Hand (1963) ??
    I believe it was the opening poem in
    the Loujon Press (new orleans).
    The BSP reprinted the poem.

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