downtown

nobody ever goes downtown anymore
the plants and trees are cut down around
Pershing Square
and the preachers are not as good
anymore
and down on Broadway
the Mexicans stand in line
waiting to see Mexican movies.
I walk down to Clifton’s cafeteria…
the waterfall is still there
the few whites are old and poor
dignified
dressed in 1940 clothing
sitting at small tables on the first
floor.
I take my food upstairs to the
third floor–
all Mexicans
more tired than hostile
the men from out of the factories
their once beautiful wives now
heavy,
the men wanting badly to get drunk
but the money is needed for
clothes, tires, jumpropes, tv sets
children’s shoes, children’s clothing.

I finish eating
walk down to the bottom floor and out,
and nearby is a penny-arcade.
I walk in.
it is full of young Mexicans
between the ages of six and
fifteen
and they shoot machineguns
play soccer
and the piped-in music is very
loud.
they fly spacecraft
test their strength
fight in the ring
have horse races
auto races
but none of them want their fortunes told.
I lean against a wall and
watch them.

I walk outside again.
I walk down and across from the Herald-Examiner
building
where my car is parked.
I get in.   then I drive away.
it’s Sunday.   and it’s true
like they say:   nobody ever
does downtown anymore.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1977