a touch of steel

we had the nicest old guy
living in the back–
tall, thin, stately
with an open direct stare.
his wife was squat
wore black
looked down at the sidewalk
and mumbled.
she didn’t comb her hair and
was usually drunk.
they’d pass us as we sat on
the porch.
“he’s a real nice old guy,”
my girl friend would say.
“sure,” I’d agree.
they had a daughter with silver
crutches who always wore a white
nightgown and had smears of violet
upon her mouth.

one day the daughter came out
with her crutches and started
they went inside and the man
had knifed his wife.

the police arrived and handcuffed
him and walked him
down the court and
then the ambulance came and
they rolled her along
on a stretcher with wheels.

the daughter went back inside
and closed the door.

–which proves what I’ve
always said:
never trust a man with
an open direct stare
if he smokes a pipe.

the nice old guy in back
didn’t smoke a pipe
but the way I see it
he should have.

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: