Poetry2Go

September/October 2019 Favorite Poem & Poet


A Smile To Remember | Charles Bukowski
1920-1994

we had goldfish and they circled around and around
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, "be happy Henry!"
and she was right: it's better to be happy if you
can
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week while
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn't
understand what was attacking him from within.my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: "Henry, smile!
why don't you ever smile?"

and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw

one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother
smiled

***

Charles Bukowski [1920-1994] was one of the most famous of the American poets of his time. He was first published in his 20s, but gave up serious writing for the world of work and bars. He spent a lot of time roaming from job to job living in rooming houses from the East coast to the West coast before joining the United States Postal Service in Los Angeles. His life at that time bordered on insanity and death, two prevalent themes in his writing.

***

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