a tree, a road, a toenail

there is a table of 7
laughing loudly, again and again
but there is no joy in their
laughter, it seems machine
made,
the pretense and flatness
batter the air,
the other diners seem not to take
note.
I am asphyxiated by the sound,
my guts, my mind, my meaning
gag upon it all.
I dream of having a gun, of
walking over to their table
and blowing their heads off,
one by one.
of course, this would make me
far more worse than
they.
still, I do have the thought.
then I realize that I expect too
much.
I should have long ago
realized that this is the way
it was,
that there are tables of 2,
3, 7, 10 or more
here and there,
everywhere,
laughing meaninglessly and
without joy,
laughing inanely with blatant
tonality.
that was it, it was part of it
like a tree, a road, a toenail.

I order another drink and
decide not to kill them, even
in my imagination.

I decide, instead, that I am a
very lucky man:
their table is twenty feet away
from me.
I could be at that table, sitting there
with them,
being closer to the sound, being
closer to their eyes and their mouths
and their hands and their hair,
actually listening to the sentences
which keyed-off their so-called
laughter.
I had been in such situations
and it had been one bloody cross,
indeed.

so, I settle for my luck
but I can’t help but wonder
if there was any place in the world
with a table of 7
truly laughing, aching and rolling with
great and real laughter.
I hoped so, I had to hope so.

I finish my drink, pay and get out
of there

Author
Charles Bukowski
This poem appeared in the following books: