Remembering Richard Brautigan

Richard Brautigan is best known for his novella, Trout Fishing in AmericaI like his poems. He is said to have bridged the gap between the beatniks and the hippies.

This Saturday (January 29th) would be his 89th birthday if he were still with us. Sadly, he took his own life with a handgun in 1984. He was 49 years old.

Brautigan’s poems are terse, highly conceptual (some of his abstract metaphors border on synesthesia), and often marked by his famously quirky gallows humor.

His unconventional verses resonate with me, but not with everyone. Here are a few. Decide for yourself:

The Mortuary Bush

Mr. William Lewis is an undertaker
and he hasn’t been feeling very good
lately because not enough people are
dying.

Mr. Lewis is buying a new house
and a new car and many appliances
on the installment plan and he needs
all the money he can get.

Mr. Lewis has headaches and can’t
sleep at night and his wife says,
“Bill, what’s wrong?” and he says,
“Oh, nothing, honey,” but at night
he can’t sleep.

He lies awake in bed and wishes
that more people would die.

— Richard Brautigan

Romeo and Juliet

If you will die for me,
I will die for you

and our graves will
be like two lovers washing
their clothes together
in a Laundromat.

If you will bring the soap,
I will bring the bleach.

— Richard Brautigan

The Donner Party

Forsaken, fucking in the cold,
eating each other, lost, runny noses,
complaining all the time like so
many people that we know.

— Richard Brautigan

15 Stories in One Poem

I hate to bother you,
but I just dropped
a baby out the window

and it fell 15 stories
and splattered against
the sidewalk.

May I borrow a mop?

— Richard Brautigan

A Cigarette Butt

A cigarette butt is not a pretty
thing.
It is not like the towering trees,
the green meadows, or the for-
est flowers.
It is not like a gentle fawn, a
singing bird, or a hopping
rabbit.
But these are all gone now,
And in the forest’s place is a
Blackened world of charred trees
and rotting flesh—
The remnants of another forrest
fire
A cigarette but is not a pretty
thing.

— Richard Brautigan

Critical Can Opener

There is something wrong
with this poem. Can you find it?

— Richard Brautigan

15%

She tries to get things out of men
that she can’t get because she’s not
15% prettier.

— Richard Brautigan

Waiting Potatoes

Potatoes await like edible shadows
under the ground. They wait in
their darkness for the light of
the soup.

— Richard Brautigan

Cannibal Carpenter

He wants to build you a house
out of your own bones, but
that’s where you’re living
any way!
The next time he calls
you answer the telephone with the
sound of your grandmother being
born. It was a twenty-three-hour
labor in 1894. He hangs
up.

— Richard Brautigan

San Francisco

This poem was found written on a paper bag by Richard Brautigan in a laundromat in San Francisco. The author is unknown.

By accident, you put
Your money in my
Machine (#4)
By accident, I put
My money in another
Machine (#6)
On purpose, I put
Your clothes in the
Empty machine full
Of water and no
Clothes
It was lonely.

 

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One response

  1. All great. My favorite Brautigan is In Watermelon Sugar. I guess it’s a novel, but hauntingly poetic.

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