A line in "Something For The Touts ..." I never understood (1 Viewer)


Founding member
Can somebody help me with this? What does this mean (the bold text) I never got it:

"we have everything and we have nothing —
days with glass edges and the impossible stink
of river moss — worse than shit;
checkerboard days of moves and countermoves,
fagged interest, with as much sense in defeat as
in victory; slow days like mules
humping it slagged and sullen and sun-glazed
up a road where a madman sits waiting among
bluejays and wrens netted in and sucked a flaky

Google tells me that Bluejays and Wrens are birds, right? "netted in" = caged birds? "Sucked a flaky grey" = means wtf? Smoke? Google shows me some watch when I search for this, but that can hardly be it, or can it? I suspect a slang term or something. Has anybody an idea?

Thanks @ all!
There's no slang there, just poetic imagery. Basically, if you think where you are now sucks, wait until you get where you're going. It's odd wording to be sure.
Thank you all, but the flaky grey part still confuses me. Maybe it was never intended to be understood literally. Or is it possible that something got garbled/cut out through some editing process?

Anyway, thanks, it's clearer for me already.

@ skiroomalum

One of my top 5 poems

Yeah, mine too. Such a masterful command of images, humor, darkness, language. Bukowski at his core, at his best.

As I probably said before somewhere, I always have the impression that I'm almost hearing a symphony (maybe the symphony B. was listening to while writing) while reading Something For The Touts ... there is such a grand rhythm to it.
Bukowski at his core, at his best.
Yet shortly after writing it, he didn't even remember it (as I like to point out repeatedly, since it's kind of amazing).

I'm going to throw my 2 Canadian cents in Fagged and flaky are homosexual references to the soft poetry crowd. Mules are grey. Blue jays are the prettiest but most annoying birds on the planet and wrens are usually women.
The poem could be another about the monotonous and calculating college prof poetry crowd which to endure is like death for the madman Bukowski.

I may be taking poetic license using flaky as gay but I think we both agree flaky generally means not quite right which could be a trait attached to someone gay by previous generations.
Fagged-tired I admit, but I think it has a double meaning since the tern fag at the time was explicit.
Sucked a flaky grey is an odd phrase.
Flaky in the U.S. is a friend or dealer you can't depend on being there when they say they'll be there. In other words, you can't count on them.

"That dude's fucking flaky. Call Adam instead. His shit's better anyway and you don't have to wait an hour at the 7/11."
You helped me already.

It was a misunderstanding on my part. I always read it as THE MADMAN sitting between birds and sucking a flaking grey or something and thought wtf means?

But the netted birds having been sucked dry/dead/a flaky grey makes much more sense as an image.

So thanks a lot.

I think you deserve major cred for reading these poems in English.

That's in fact a huge luxury. I got to read everything by Bukowski twice. First the German translations by Carl Weissner, which got me hooked. Than the original. And boy, did that make a difference :D
I got to read everything by Bukowski twice
I, personally, find it very exhausting, to be entitled to read all of this stuff in both languages.
In fact, most of the new German stuff I only flip through very, I mean VERY lose. But now and then I get requests or questions concerning them, so I have to have them present somehow.
There's new shit coming out in German? I don't even follow it anymore lol. To be more specific: It WAS a luxury to read everything twice. Once I had arrived at the orignals, there was never any need to go back to the translations. In fact I find them unreadable now. As I've probably said before somewhere, Weissners translations (who seems to have been a cool dude and who's efforts to get Bukowski into the German market and therefore making him survive economically as a writer can never be underestimated a second) sound outdated and old-fashioned to me now, like some strange cliche version out of the 70's. Bukowski of course never does.

Btw, is it still the status quo that "Something For The Touts ..." is untranslated as of yet?
There's new shit coming out in German?
David's books: 'Portions', 'Absence' and 'More Notes' have been published in the last few years in German. 'Bell tolls' is in the state of being translated at the moment.

Abel's books: 'On Writing', 'On Cats', 'On Love' have been bought by the publisher KiWi. So they're supposed to come out soon.

Half of 'You get so Alone' hadn't been translated by Weissner back in the days. The missing poems have been published by Maro last year (in a less than poor translation though).

In 2012, fischer published a new edition of the 'Notes' in a translation that Weissner did seven years after the original publication (1970) exclusively for Zweitausendeins (1977). This revised translation by Weissner had been out of print since then. The new edition at fischer contains an afterword by me.

Also, 'Bukowski and the Beats' by Duval has been published in German for the first time last year (by Maro).
Last edited:
The new edition at fischer contains an afterword by me.

Now there is a reason to get this one. Who did the translations after Weissners death, different people? Don't stress, I could get off my lazy ignorant ass and check it myself.

Great that David and Abel made/will make it into the German market! I honestly didn't know.

Thanks for the information, Roni!

"Somethin for The Touts ..."?? Available in German as of yet in your knowledge?
Now there is a reason to get this one

Modest as I am, I do agree without any doubt.
It's HERE.

(I also made for this edition, what the former edition, as well as the original one till today, are missing: A source-note dating every one of the texts.)

Who did the translations after Weissners death

The Calonne-books at fischer are translated by one Malte Krutzsch.
(a few months ago he contacted me for the first time, asking something for his translation of 'Bell tolls'. Seems a nice guy.)

The translation of the missing 50% of 'You Get So Alone' is by one Esther Ghionda-Breger and I am really, absolutely sorry to have to state, that her translation is a mess. She even makes mistakes in the meaning of words.

Sure, you can order those at my shop too, baby.
And since today, I also have Abel's PhD in softcover at a bargain.

"Somethin for The Touts ..."?

Dunno yet.
Won't look up yet.
Nor tomorrow, since I'm buzy then.
Maybe later that week.
Last edited:
I got to read everything by Bukowski twice. First the German translations by Carl Weissner, which got me hooked. Than the original. And boy, did that make a difference
I think MJP said it in some thread here, a translation can only be an approach to the original, nothing more.

If you translate poetry, sound and rhythm simply get lost. It still might be there, but it's a different sound and rhythm. Personally, I would always try to settle for the original, even if it's in Russian or in Finnish. So translating poetry seems pretty pointless to me. On the other hand, a translated piece of work is often the first contact with a foreign writer, no matter in which language he originally wrote. And if the translation, or the approach, is well done, you might get hooked and want to learn more about the author.
But again, as Johannes said, reading Bukowski's German voice and reading his original voice is a completely different ball game.
Last edited:
oh, and have you seen Weissner's translation of 'Rambling Essay' in: 'Letzte Meldungen' (2007)?

Yes, this one I remember seeing somewhere! I lost track of the German scene about six or seven years ago.

THANKS TO EVERYBODY for your help with "Something For The Touts ..." once more! I always loved this poem and now finally I completely understand it too :D

Users who are viewing this thread