Trappings of Masculinity

The poems of author Charles Bukowski drudge through the mundane aspects of everyday life; but there is a bittersweet candidness to his observations that pull at the universal human condition, and that’s what continues to arrest readers today.

In this poem, Bukowski animates his vulnerability as a timid bluebird, one that he keeps behind his well-worn trappings of masculinity. He drowns the bird in whiskey and suppresses it with cigarette smoke, but it flits around inside of him nevertheless. The bluebird yearns to be seen candidly, but Bukowski is too inhibited to let it fly free. Bukowski’s self-conscious sensitivity is one of his most notable characteristics, softening the machismo so often found in his writing.

There’s a bluebird in my heart that

wants to get out

but I’m too tough for him,

I say,

stay down, do you want to mess

me up?

you want to screw up the


you want to blow my book sales in



‘Bluebird.’ The Last Night of the Earth Poems. Ecco, 1992.


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Feature image: Ariana Prestes On Unsplash, Creative Commons.