22 fiery Charles Bukowski lines from his poetry collection: "What matters most is how well you walk through the fire."

Written by Cole Schafer

I pick up Charles Bukowski anytime I feel like I’m doing too much with my writing: getting overly expressive, reaching for flowery language, etc.

Bukowski’s writing reminds us that great writing 1). doesn’t have to be complicated and that it 2). begins and ends with the single sentence.

He could write a fiery sentence, and with using words that a man of little education could recognize –– this, for me, will forever be a sign of literary genius.

*Charles Bukowski is typing now*

  1. In the sun and in the rain, in the day and in the night, pain is a flower, pain is flowers, blooming all the time.
  2. All people start to come apart finally and there it is: just empty ashtrays in a room or wisps of hair on a comb in the dissolving moonlight.
  3. I held my head in all its tender precious agony and we drank together.
  4. When things get bad enough, the kitten will kill the lion.
  5. Death comes slowly like ants to a fallen fig.
  6. My typewriter at this hour would scream like a raped bear.
  7. It is hard to find a man whose poems don’t finally disappoint you.
  8. She’s more dangerous than all the armies of all time.
  9. Forget my brother, I am my own keeper.
  10. There is loneliness in this world so great that you can see it in the slow movement of a clock’s hand.
  11. Hell crawls through the window without a sound, enters my room, takes off his hat and sits down on the couch across from me.
  12. The red moon whirls, a mouse runs along the windowsill changing colors, I am alone in torn levis and a white sweatshirt –– she’s with her man now in the shadow of that wall and as he enters her I draw upon my cigarette.
  13. It’s moving the sun as you put your shoes on for the last time without knowing it.
  14. And I hear the sound of high heels biting into the pavement outside.
  15. Born to sever fingers on the edge of tuna cans.
  16. Wive's heads are battered against kitchen walls by unemployed butchers.
  17. Upstairs a man pukes his entire stomach into a wastebasket.
  18. They can heal with their touch, they can kill what they touch and I am dying but not dead yet.
  19. She was standing in front of the Bran Flakes and the Wheaties, skirt about 3 inches above the knee and tight-fitting. She had on a see-through blouse with a very brief brassiere. She had slim ankles, flat brown shoes and eyes like a startled doe. She smelled of cheery blossoms and French perfume.
  20. Her dog’s eyes were more lovely than those of any woman I have ever known.
  21. Shaving is something like seeing yourself in a movie.
  22. Precious grenades inside my skull.

By Cole Schafer (but mostly Charles Bukowski).

P.S. For more hard-hitting lines from Charles Bukowski, peruse this massive curation I’ve been compiling for a couple of years now.