Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Charles Bukowski's "the hookers, the madmen and the doomed"

I'm a subscriber to the Writer's Almanac, a source from Garrison Keillor that sends a poem to my inbox every day. I like it--a chance to hear a fresh voice or be reminded of a favorite. I especially enjoyed today's selection, from Charles Bukowski, for its reverent irreverence. I also like the assumption that, at some level, we're all counted amongst the ostracized. That we're all "other," and that sometimes it takes a moment of stillness to realize it.

the hookers, the madmen and the doomed

today at the track
2 or 3 days after
the death of the
came this voice
over the speaker
asking us all to stand
and observe
a few moments
of silence. well,
that's a tired
formula and
I don't like it
but I do like
silence. so we
all stood: the
hookers and the
madmen and the
doomed. I was
set to be dis-
pleased but then
I looked up at the
TV screen
and there
standing silently
in the paddock
waiting to mount
stood the other jocks
along with
the officials and
the trainers:
quiet and thinking
of death and the
one gone,
they stood
in a semi-circle
the brave little
men in boots and
the legions of death
appeared and
vanished, the sun
blinked once
I thought of love
with its head ripped
still trying to
sing and
then the announcer
said, thank you
and we all went on about
our business.

"the hookers, the madmen and the doomed" by Charles Bukowski, from What Matters Most is How Well You Work Through the Fire. © Black Sparrow Press, 1999.

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