The poem was written in 1979 and it likely reflects the dark, frustrated mood of public life at that time. One thing the poem does represent is Bukowski’s own life. He once said that due to his being beaten between the ages of 6 and 11 by his father, he learned what undeserved pain is, and in ‘2 flies’ we see this same emotion as Bukowski states that the flies “taunt” him and leave him in “agony” for no reason…Although this is not nearly so traumatic as being beaten by one’s father, it perhaps opens a window into the poet's early life. Bukowski certainly had a gritty past, and the poem offers a new viewpoint that features a little bit of crazy.
As I said before, the poem engages on many levels. One example of this is the representation of the flies. In the first lines, the poet associates the flies with loose chunks of soul, which portrays holy images and connotations of purity and innocence, and promotes a sense of wonder about these small beings: “other men suffer dictates of empire, tragic love... I suffer insects”. In these words the poet puts the flies above himself, almost as though they have defeated him. However, later on in the poem he describes them in less respectful ways. Bukowskli refers to the flies’ “fly-ugliness”, a superb coinage that implies these particular flies are ugly even for flies; stronger still, he compares one of the flies to “an angry whore” – which is far from holy!
Close to his death Bukowski described the way he was inspired to write in this manner: “It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it”. Arguably the poem contains metaphors that express Bukowski’s very personal sense of life, for example how the same thing viewed at different points in time can cause different emotions. This may be a reflection of his transition from Germany to America. It may seem odd to suggest that such a minor incident could represent a change this big; still, I doubt Bukowski’s words on inspiration and the poem are just a coincidence.
Towards the end of the poem Bukowski writes about “some man-thing in me” – a phrase loaded with connotations of his early experience in terms of living with his abusive father; this appears in the suggestion that he doesn’t understand the violence in himself, but it’s programmed into him because the most obvious male role in his life is still his father. He also writes “sometimes it does not take a man” suggesting a man or even his own manliness upsets him.
No doubt the poetry of Charles Bukowski portrays many different aspects of his life and allows you to see through the eyes of someone you’re not likely to be.