a magician, gone….

they go one by one and as they do it gets closer
to me and
I don’t mind that so much, it’s
just that I can’t be practical about the
mathematics that take others
to the vanishing point.

last Saturday
one of racing’s greatest harness drivers
died–little Joe O’Brien.
I had seen him win many a
race.   he
had a peculiar rocking motion
he flicked the reins
and rocked his body back and
forth.   he
applied this motion
during the stretch run and
it was quite dramatic and
effective…

he was so small that he couldn’t
lay the whip   on   as hard as the
others
so
he rocked and rocked
in the sulky
and the horse felt the lightning
of his excitement
that rhythmic crazy rocking was
transfered from man to
beast…
the whole thing had the feel of a
crapshooter calling to the
gods, and the gods
so often answered…

I saw Joe O’Brien win
endless photo finishes
many by   a
nose.
he’d take a horse
another driver couldn’t get a
run out of
and Joe would put his touch
to it
and the animal would
most often respond with
a flurry of wild energy.

Joe O’Brien was the finest hardness driver
I had ever seen
and I’d seen many over the
decades.
nobody could nurse and cajole
a trotter or a pacer
like little Joe
nobody could make the magic work
like Joe.

they go one by one
presidents
garbage men
killers
actors
pickpockets
boxers
hit men
ballet dancers
fishermen
doctors
fry cooks
like
that

but Joe O’Brien
it’s going to be hard
hard
to find a replacement for
little Joe

and
at the ceremony
held for him
at the track tonight
(Los Alamitos 10-1-84)
as the drivers gathered in a
circle
in their silks
at the finish line
I had to turn back
from the crowd
and climb the upper grandstand
steps
to the wall
so the people couldn’t
see me
cry.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1984
Source
Original manuscript