Charles Bukowski’s poetry is often associated with by references to alcohol, sex, and perpetual sadness. In his poem “Alone with Everybody,” Bukowski addresses all three topics. This freeform poem describes the pain that comes with trying to find “the one” romantic partner to be with for eternity, and how no one will ever truly find this person, despite so many attempts. The title itself states that each of us is destined to be “alone,” or unhappy in a relationship. In yet another poem where “Bukowski writes with no apologies from the frayed edge of society” (Kessler). The tone of this poem is just as cynical and sad as one could expect from any Bukowski work, but still tells an honest truth about the romanticization of finding “the one” and how these unrealistic expectations sets one up for disappointment.
The speaker opens by reducing people to “flesh” and “bone,” (line 1) mere animals with instincts to find one another. He goes on to say that “they” (line 2) made the idea that there is “sometimes a soul” (line 4) in us. The speaker is clearly cynical of the idea that humans have anything more than just a skeleton in us- it is clear that the speaker believes that a soul is a human construct. In addition, the speaker is so pessimistic of human emotions that he/she describes then by their skin and skeletons instead. By reducing people to nothing but a physical body, the speaker is proving a point about how finding love is not what people think it is. This is a cynical way of seeing humans’ desire to find love and romance, only to be expected by
Bukowski, a writer with a “loner persona” (Economou). The speaker goes on to explain in lines 5-8 how people’s sadness and utter loneliness can be expressed through different outlets.
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
Here, it is clear how women who are expected to remain cool, calm, and collected are likely to lose themselves in an angry burst, while men who often suppress their feelings will drink their sadness away. Even the word choice in how the speaker explains their violent coping mechanisms is vital here- a “vase” (line 6) tends to be feminine, as it is a household item used to hold flowers. The men “drink” (line 7) because alcohol is a way to internalize their pain, another form of escapism. These raw descriptions of how heartbroken people employ different forms of self-destruction to deal with their pain add to the bleak tone of the poem.
In the next line, the speaker explains how people are constantly searching for their soulmate despite so many failed attempts at doing so, how they are constantly “crawling in and out / of beds” (lines 13-14) in search for someone to love them. The metaphor of humans being mere “flesh” comes back into play because humans are always looking for another body to fulfill their need. The people are “crawling” as if they are wounded, though in this case the speaker is insinuating that this is emotional pain they are struggling with. These people are desperate for affection and relief, a person to call their own or at least a place to escape. Bukowski uses this poem to suggest that people are defeated and depressed from heartbreak
Then, the speaker makes a daring statement that every human has the same destiny of loneliness- that “no one ever finds / the one” (lines 25-26). This controversial negative opinion of romance sets the theme for the entire poem. This is also where the title is so revealing; “Alone With Everybody” refers to how each person will end up alone, but everybody is together in having this destiny.
The last few lines go on to say that although “junkyards” (line 28) and cemeteries and “hospitals” (line 30) might fill up with garbage and humans, this is all that will be filled. The speaker chooses to use these places as examples because they are the opposite of the romance he/she is so critical of. These are places that are full of despair and sadness, which is the the negative reality the speaker is highlighting. When it comes down to people’s desire to be with someone else, to feel less lonely and “fill” the void inside them, this will never come. The speaker’s view is that people will always be alone, no matter how hard they try.
Charles Bukowski’s poetry leaves readers with a sense of familiar sadness. In his poem “Alone with Everybody,” Bukowski does not disappoint. This freeform poem describes the pain that comes with trying to find “the one” romantic partner to be with for eternity, and how no one will ever truly find this person, despite so many attempts. Throughout these lines, Bukowski uses specific word choices and metaphors to maintain a theme of hopelessness and loneliness.
“Charles Bukowski.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 2010, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/charles-bukowski.
Economou, G. (2004). Sifting through the madness for the word, the line, the way: New poems. World Literature Today, 78(3), 97-98. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/209371490?accountid=14183Like (0)