A Bukowski threnody
to Jane Cooney Baker, died 1-22-62
I will not find you on the street
nor will the phone ring, and each moment will not
let me be in peace.
it is not enough that there are many deaths
and that this is not the first;
it is not enough that I may live many more days,
even perhaps, more years.
it is not enough.
the phone is like a dead animal that will
not speak. and when it speaks again it will
always be the wrong voice now.
I have waited before and you have always walked in through
the door. now you must wait for me.
— Charles Bukowski, in Open All Night
This is the first (I think) of a series of poems that Bukowski wrote to Jane Baker, beginning not long after she died (from complications of chronic heavy drinking) and continuing for decades afterward. Their painful, inebriated relationship is the (fictionalized) subject of the movie Barfly.
This poem seems to me like a near-perfect expression of the most primal experience of separation when a loved one is lost to death: “I can’t reach you.” As Bukowski says, when the phone rings “it will always be the wrong voice now.”