The Weekly Verse: The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

28 October 2015 by Tell us your thoughts
The Weekly Verse: One poem per week.


The Laughing Heart

by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

I love “The Laughing Heart” so profoundly that I have a copy of it framed and displayed prominently in my living room, the way most people might hang a favorite painting or photos of their family and friends. This poem has been my friend, though, and has gotten me through some bad moments. When I came across it for the first time several months ago, it touched me deeply and immediately. “Clubbed into dank submission” is a feeling I can relate to, because I have clinical depression and it has been kicking my ass for the last couple of years. So I deliberately hung this on the wall directly across from my couch, so when I’m lying there limply with a thousand-yard stare, feeling exhausted and loathsome and alone, I inevitably blink and focus in on it. Be on the watch, it reminds me. There is a light somewhere. I think Bukowski knew what it was like to spend a lot of time in the dark, and the optimism and encouragement in this poem strike me as a little unusual for him, which I think is why it gives me a little thrill to read it. I love Bukowski for his grit, for his slouching, down-and-out slant, for the raw quality of the passion and disgust and rage that permeate his writing, and for the threads of elegance that wind their way through, too. Bukowski, like a true poet, was a man of strong feeling, who wrote because he simply had to, and I can feel that urgency here in “The Laughing Heart,” in his urging to be on the watch, to find the light, to crawl out of the dark and take control of your life and commit marvelous acts.

Call me a romantic, but I believe that a poem can change your life, and I believe it because this one is changing mine.


Meghan has noticed that many of her favorite things in life start with the letter B - books, blogging, bacon, bitching, and (craft) beer. She lives in Chicago where she indulges regularly in all of these things. Kurt Vonnegut and David Mitchell are her literary baes. Sometimes she tweets random thoughts as @socomeslove.

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