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Beautiful devil

Updated: Mar 17

Pablo Picasso, Cat Catching a Bird, April 22, 1939

the mockingbird

the mockingbird had been following the cat

all summer

mocking mocking mocking

teasing and cocksure;

the cat crawled under rockers on porches

tail flashing

and said something angry to the mockingbird

which I didn’t understand.

yesterday the cat walked calmly up the driveway

with the mockingbird alive in its mouth,

wings fanned, beautiful wings fanned and flopping,

feathers parted like a woman’s legs,

and the bird was no longer mocking,

it was asking, it was praying

but the cat

striding down through centuries

would not listen.

I saw it crawl under a yellow car

with the bird

to bargain it to another place.

summer was over.

April, 1971

In Mockingbird Wish Me Luck


przedrzeźniacz latał za kotem

całe lato

przedrzeźniał przedrzeźniał przedrzeźniał

drwiący i napuszony;

kot właził pod bujane fotele na werandach

machał ogonem

i mówił przedrzeźniaczowi z wielką złością

coś czego nie rozumiałem.

wczoraj spokojnie nadszedł po podjeździe

z żywym przedrzeźniaczem w pysku,

z wachlarzem skrzydeł, pięknych skrzydeł rozpostartych w trzepocie,

piór rozłożonych jak kobiece nogi podczas seksu,

a ptak już nie przedrzeźniał,

tylko prosił, tylko błagał,

ale kot

krocząc przez stulecia

nie raczył słuchać.

widziałem jak wlazł pod żółte auto

z ptakiem

żeby go wyprawić okazją w inne miejsce.

lato się skończyło.

Przełożył Michał Kłobukowski

Charles Bukowski, the acclaimed American poet and author, is known for his raw and gritty writing style that delves deep into the human condition. While Bukowski’s poetry is mostly associated with the harsh realities of life, he also has the soft side that found solace in the company of cats.

Throughout his works, Bukowski often expresses a profound affection for cats, portraying them as creatures of comfort and companionship. He sees in them a reflection of his own introverted nature and appreciates their independent and enigmatic personalities. Bukowski's writings about cats not only reveal his attachment for these feline creatures but also offers a glimpse into his own vulnerability and the need for emotional connection.

The tailless, cross-eyed cat came to the door one day, and we let him in. Old pink eyes. Quite a guy. Animals are inspirational. They don’t know how to lie. They are natural forces. TV can make me ill in five minutes, but I can look at an animal for hours and find nothing but grace and glory, life as it should be.

Reprint in Arete 2.1, July/August 1989

From On Cats, HarperCollins, 2015

In Bukowski's poems, short stories, and novels, cats frequently make appearances, sometimes as primary characters, and other times as mere observers of the chaotic world around them. One of his most notable cat-related works is the poem My Cats from his collection Love is a Dog from Hell (1977). In this, Bukowski portrays his cats as silent and understanding companions who offer him help from the turbulence of life. The cats become symbolic figures representing an escape from the harshness of the human world and a source of tranquility in Bukowski's chaotic existence.

My Cats

I know. I know.

they are limited, have different

needs and


but I watch and learn from them.

I like the little they know,

which is so


they complain but never


they walk with a surprising dignity.

they sleep with a direct simplicity that

humans just can't


their eyes are more

beautiful than our eyes.

and they can sleep 20 hours

a day


hesitation or


when I am feeling


all I have to do is

watch my cats

and my



I study these


they are my


In Come on In!

moje koty

wiem, wiem,

są ograniczone, mają inne

potrzeby i


ale patrzę i uczę się od nich

podoba mi się ta ich odrobina wiedzy,



zrzędzą, ale nigdy się nie


chodzą z zastanawiającym dostojeństwem,

śpią ze szczerą prostotą, której

ludzie nie


mają oczy

piękniejsze od naszych.

i umieją spać 20 godzin

na dobę


zahamowań ani

wyrzutów sumienia.

kiedy jestem


muszę tylko

popatrzeć na swoje koty

i zaraz

wraca mi


studiuję te


to dla mnie żywe


Przełożył Michał Kłobukowski

Bukowski's fascination with cats extends beyond their role as pets. He often marvels at their grace, agility, and the mystery that surrounds them. He sees them as free spirits, unbound by societal conventions and expectations, which resonated deeply with his own rebellious nature. Cats embodied a certain sense of freedom that Bukowski longed for, and through his writings, he explored the idea of finding liberation through their presence.

There are no spirits or gods in a cat, don't look for them, Shed. A cat is the picture of the eternal machinery, like the sea. You don't pet the sea because it's pretty, but you pet a cat - why? - ONLY BECAUSE HE'LL LET YOU. And a cat never knows fear - finally - he only winds up into the spring of the sea and the rock, and even in a death-fight he does not think of anything except the majesty of darkness.

Letter to Sheri Martinelli, December 21, 1960

Beerspit Night and Cursing: the Correspondence of Charles Bukowski and Sheri Martinelli, 1960-1967

A cat is only ITSELF. Phot. Olga Szulc

Bukowski's writings about cats also reflect his deep empathy for all creatures marginalized by society. He often wrote about stray cats, portraying them as vulnerable and neglected beings in need of compassion. Bukowski's experiences with poverty and his own struggles made him sensitive to the plight of those outsiders, and his affinity for cats was an extension of his empathy for the downtrodden.

Having a bunch of cats around is good. If you're feeling bad, just look at the cats, you'll feel better, because they know that everything is just as it is. There's nothing to get excited about. They just know. They're saviors.

Tough Guys Write Poetry, an interview with Sean Penn, in Interview, September 1987.

Charles Bukowski (b. Heinrich Karl Bukowski, August 16, 1920, in Andernach, Germany – d. March 9, 1994, in Los Angeles, California) is an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. His most known works are novels Post Office (1971), Factotum (1975), and Ham on Rye (1982). He is also renowned for his poetry collections, including Mockingbird Wish Me Luck (1972), Love Is a Dog from Hell (1977), You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense (1986), The Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992), Come on in! (2006).

Polish translations included in Charles Bukowski o kotach, edited by Abel Debritto, NOIR SUR BLANC, 2017

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