The Bodily Function Blues
By: NORMAN MAILER
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
Oh — h — h — h — h — h — h — Ah can’t piss
Ah can’t urinate
Ah can’t bleed
Ah can’t even menstruate
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
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.