The Bodily Function Blues


In the middle of Mailer’s second year at Harvard, on December 13, 1941, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he began keeping a hand-written, loose-leaf journal and made sporadic entries covering 51 pages, ending the month he graduated, May 1943. The journal’s purpose is stated on its first page: “Anything that’s important to me at the time is jotted down in here.” He comments, among other things, on his classes, the books he is reading, his literary ambitions, adventures during summer vacation, his roommates, and the women he is dating. Pages nine to twelve contain the lyrics of a blues song he composed; he notes it is to be sung to the tune of W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues.” Titled “Exit Blues” in the journal, in later years it came to be known (by its chorus line) as “The Bodily Function Blues.” Mailer sang variations of it at family gatherings well into his 80s, delivering it with gusto and exaggerated earthiness in his baritone voice. The lyrics are preceded by this statement: “I’m fairly drunk as I write this.” The spelling, line lengths, and punctuation are as written by Mailer. ~J. Michael Lennon

Exit Blues

Oh — h — h — h — h — h — h — Ah can’t piss

Ah can’t urinate

Ah can’t bleed

Ah can’t even menstruate

Exit Blues

Oh, Ah can’t puke Ah can’t regurgitate Ah can’t gargle

Ah can’t salivate Ah can’t talk.

Ah can’t elucidate Ah can’t eat.

Ah can’t alimentate Ah can’t sleep

Ah can’t somnambulate Ah can’t breathe

Ah can’t respirate

Ah can’t shit

Ah can’t even defecate But worst of all

The worst of all

Ah can’t fuck,

Can’t fuck worth a damn, Oh, Ah can’t fuck,

Just can’t fuck

Ah can’t fuck,

Ah just can’t copulate Too late, too late,

Oh — h — h — h — h — h — What am I gonna do Ah got those blues,

Ah got those blues,

Ah got those bodily function blues

So what am I gonna do Why do yer know?

Ah can’t eat, & Ah

can’t sleep,

Ah can’t piss, & Ah can’t puke,

Ah can’t shit, Ah can’t breathe, Ah can’t fuck,

So what am Ah gonna do.

Ah got those bodily function blues.

Blue — e — e — e — s

Ah got those bodily function Blue — e — e — e — e s.

The Mailer Review, Vol. 2 No. 1, Fall 2008. Copyright © 2008. The Norman Mailer Society. Published by The Norman Mailer Society. Digital Edition by Project Mailer.

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