Charles Bukowski

Alone with Everybody by Charles Bukowski

Among the world’s most beloved posts, such as Charles Bukowski, poet to Alone with Everybody, we often find the most tortured souls. Their ability to put soulful words to feelings we’ve all known can only mean a deeper sense of human emotion. Few poets express joy and contentedness, though some do. Most express deepest thoughts of life and death- thoughts that often bring agony, frustration, or listlessness, but rarely joy. These most beloved poets express that which we have all felt but could never quite put words to, that feeling of meaninglessness and vanity that sweeps over us and clouds our thoughts in moments of silence.

In this poem, Alone with Everybody, Charles Bukowski expresses this particular feeling in words that seem to five something real and tangible to this often inexpressible feeling.
The title itself immediately connects the readers to the meaning and the feeling of Alone with Everybody. Most people have at one time or another felt alone even if they were with people. Anyone who has ever felt lonely when surrounded by people knows that it is a rather hopeless feeling. For if human contact cannot cure loneliness, then what can? And so the reader immediately feels connected to the speaker in that they have both experienced this feeling of deepest loneliness which seems to have no cure. Charles Bukowski’s Alone with Everybody can be read in full here.

Alone with Everybody by Charles Bukowski


Alone with Everybody Analysis

Lines 1-4

the flesh covers the bone
sometimes a soul,

This gives the poem a listless tone at the start. The speaker feels like nothing other than flesh covering bone. He sees that everyone else is flesh and bone as well. Almost as if it were an after-thought, the speaker claims, “and they put a mind in there and sometimes a soul”. The speaker never mentions the identity of this vague “they”. Whomever “they” are, they put a mind into the bones and flesh of mankind, and sometimes, they even give a soul to these creatures of flesh and bone.


Lines 5-8

and the women break

In a yet melancholy tone, the speaker reveals the outcome of this feeling of meaninglessness and hopelessness in mankind. Women, he portrays as expressing this feeling in bursts of anger. Men, he portrays as numbing the feeling by drinking away their sobriety.


Lines 9-14

and nobody finds the
of beds.

In these lines of Alone with Everybody, the speakers express the earnest desire to find that one person with whom to experience life and give of themselves to one another spiritually, emotionally, and physically. But, as the speaker concludes, “nobody finds the one”. Instead, they continue to go from one person to the next, “crawling in and out of beds” and they continue to feel lonely.


Lines 15-19

flesh covers

These lines give the reader expression for that sense of deepest loneliness that has already been felt. They give expression to a feeling of meaninglessness. These words essentially suggest that human beings are nothing more than flesh covering bone, by instinct search for more flesh. The speaker continues,


Lines 20-24

there’s no chance

At this point, the speaker concludes that as he is only flesh and bone, and there seems no chance at meaningful human connection.


Lines 25-26

nobody ever finds
the one.

The repetition of this line suggests the speaker’s intense desire to find someone with whom to spend life. The lack of meaning and value in his life clearly stems from his lack of authentic human interaction. Although he is with everybody, as the title suggests, he has not yet found anyone with whom he can actually share his life. He has not found “the one” and he has come to believe that no one ever does. He suggests that the idea of finding meaningful human interaction in all in the fantastical life of people, but is never actualized. He suggests that we are but flesh and bone, striving for meaningful human contact, but doomed for a fate of loneliness.


Lines 27-33

the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
nothing else

The ending of Alone with Everybody is certainly interesting. The speaker is clearly searching to fill a void that he feels in his life. This void, he believes, is the lack of a person to share his life with. He loses hope that the void can be filled. He has never seen this void filled in someone’s life, and he has certainly never felt it filled in his own. He feels empty and desolate. So he lists the things that he has seen filled: dumps, junkyards, madhouses, hospitals, and graveyards, but not the human heart. He concludes, “nothing else fills”. And so he ends his poem with the same feeling of utter meaninglessness with which it began. Though he is surrounded by people, he feels alone. He feels he is nothing but bone covered by flesh, with a mind that “they” gave him as an after-thought. He believes he may or may not have a soul, and he feels hopeless at the prospect of filling the void in his heart.


Charles Bukowski Background

Charles Bukowski was born in Germany and brought to the United States at the age of two. His memoirs reveal that he grew up in a very strict, sometimes abusive home. He also reveals that he was constantly rejected by women, beginning at a very young age. These two areas of his life affected him greatly. He felt alone and rejected most of his life. It is no wonder that he concluded that true love was not out there. He did not experience the tender affection that a child should experience from a parent, so again, it is no surprise that he should feel a disconnect from human emotion. His life experiences led him to this hopeless belief that human companionship and comfort did not exist, and yet, ironically, his poetry offered comfort to millions. His poems have allowed his readers to feel they were not alone in their loneliness. They give expression to those feelings which so many have felt an inability to express. And in the knowledge that others have felt this loneliness, there was comfort. And so Bukowski, in his utter hopelessness, ironically, offered hope to others.

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Allisa Corfman Poetry Expert
Allisa graduated with a degree in Secondary Education and English and taught World Literature and Composition at the high school level. She has always enjoyed writing, reading, and analysing literature.
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