“8 Count”, Charles Bukowski

“from my bed
I watch
3 birds
on a telephone
one flies
one is left,
it too
is gone.
my typewriter is
and I am
reduced to bird
just thought I’d
let you

Charles Bukowski


I find Bukowski’s poems very honest. They never seem like they are trying too hard or concealing some hidden meaning like other poetry. They say what they mean and have no quips with it.

This poem seems to be addressing whoever is causing Bukowski’s writer’s block, and Bukowski is clearly not happy with them. They have killed off all of his ideas, leaving his typewriter tombstone-still. The only thing left for him to do is look out the window at the birds sitting on the telephone line and watch them fly away.

One of the patterns that really seems to highlight Bukowski’s irritation with the cause of his writer’s block is the emphasis on Bukowski’s solitude. Any numbers that are over one in the poem, such as 8 in the title and the 3 birds sitting on the wire, are left as single digits. All other reference to number, such as “one” or “I” is written out. This shows that any numbers greater than one are not very important.

One oddity of the poem is its title. Why is the poem called 8 count when there are only 3 birds? Snooping around on google I found two options. First is the biblical interpretation of the number eight, which stands for ressurection, which I doubt is the interpretation Bukowski was aiming for because he was an athiest. The other option is dance. Dances are usually counted in eight beats, which would insinuate that this poem is a song for a dance.

But why all this irony? The entire poem is about writer’s block. If he has writers block, why is he writing this poem, and why is he connotating that it is a song?

Perhaps he’s trying to get across that sometimes you don’t need to feel inspired by some great piece of wisdom to write poetry. Poetry is made up of everyday occurances and feelings. They don’t need to be grand and high and mighty to be great, they just need to have some sort of essence of humanity within them.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bebitacomida on March 13, 2009 at 4:04 am

    I thought that your comment about the numbers was very interesting. It seemed to suggest that he likes solitude no? If no other numbers other than one are important, he must like only to be alone.


  2. Posted by D W on March 15, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Bukowski just seems to be in a sour mood, and it shows quite clearly in this poem. Something about his obtuseness makes me laugh – its so sincere and unapologetically cranky.


  3. Posted by yellowsun2117 on March 16, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I like your idea of relating the 8 count to a dance. Maybe he’s saying that writing poetry is like dancing, or maybe his partner has left him which is why he has writers’ block.


  4. Posted by Poem'n'song on February 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Well if he ment it to a song or not, now it is: http://www.youtube.com/user/iLaurock?feature=mhum#p/a/u/0/gghOVwxKHOs


  5. Not counting the period following the name “fucker,” (which breaks the flow) and indicates the outsider to whom the poem is addressed. The poem contains 8 pauses, indicated by the insertion of a period or comma which govern its spoken rhythm.


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