Charles Bukowski Poem “Captain Goodwine”

Captain Goodwine, by Charles Bukowski

one goes from being a poet
to being an entertainer.
I read my stuff in Florida once
and the professor there
told me, “you realize you’re
an entertainer now, don’t


I began to
feel bad about that remark
because when the crowd
comes to be entertained by
then you become somehow


and so, in another time,
starting from Los Angeles
we took to the air and
the flight captain intro-
duced himself as
“Captain Goodwine,”
and thousands of miles
later I found myself trans-
ferred to a small 2-engine
plane and we took off and
the stewardess put a drink
in my hand
took my money and then
hollered, “drink up,
we’re landing!”
we landed
took off again and she put
another drink in my hand,
took my money and then
hollered, “drink up,
we’re landing!”
the 3rd time I ordered
2 drinks
although we only landed
once more.


I read twice that night in Arkansas
and ended up in a home with
clean rugs, a serving bar, a fireplace
and professors who spoke about budgets
and Fulbright Scholarships, and where
the wives of the professors
sat very quietly without speaking.


they were all waiting for me
the entertainer
who had flown in with Captain
Goodwine to
entertain them to make a move on
someone’s wife to break the windows
to piss on the rug to play the
fool to make them feel superior
to make them feel hip and liberated.
if I would only stick a cigarette
up the cat’s ass!
if I would only take the
willing co-ed
who was doing a term paper on


but I got up and went to my
poet’s bedroom
closed the door
took off my clothes
went to bed and
went to sleep
entertaining myself
the best way
I knew


charles bukowski what matters most is how well you walk through the fire

The Charles Bukowski poem “memory” appears in the collection What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire. Click on the image for more information.


Charles Bukowski, like many writers, returned to familiar themes through the life of his writing. He often wrote of his distaste for the literary life. He didn’t much appreciate being a spectacle, but it was hard to say no to the money promoters would offer for a few hours spent reading his work.

So he had to interact with the wider literary world whether he liked it or not, if he wanted to stay out of the post office and various factory jobs he once counted on for his income.

As awful as the experience of giving a reading might have been for him, replete with nerves that caused him to vomit beforehand (see video, from The Bukowski Tapes below) more often than not, it was an offer he couldn’t easily refuse.

He wrote of resenting giving readings in a number of his books, but perhaps most especially in the novel Women. Here is one such scene:

“You don’t want to get too bombed,” said Joe. “You really start slurring your words.”

“They don’t give a damn. They just want me on the cross.”

“$500 for an hour’s work?” asked Dudley. “You call that a cross?”


“You’re some Christ!”

Watch Charles Bukowski reading his poetry in the video below. It is taken from a TV documentary on Bukowski, which you can watch here.



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