Gertrude up the stairway

I think of Gertrude walking up that St. Louis
stairway
and myself just behind her
I think of Gertrude walking up that St. Louis
stairway
and never a stairway as beautiful as
that
with the landlady’s paintings of Jesus
hung here and there along the
walls
I think of myself walking up that St. Louis
stairway
behind Gertrude
and up into her room
going in there
the door closed
her pouring the claret
into the tall thin glasses
in that roominghouse
near that very large park
with all those leafless trees of winter
Gertrude was so great
so perfect
a woman beyond women
a statue sheathed in quiet decent yet
dramatic dream
she was there before me
she was
all too perfect:
I downed my claret and begged my
leave
knowing that for all its grace
following Gertrude up that St. Louis
stairway
was fine enough in
itself–
her greatest show: all that followed
would be
down
down
and I wanted to remember her like
that: perfect
before she wearied of the trick and
we of each
other.

I moved out of there
two days later
out of that roominghouse
out of   that
city

New Orleans had its bloody
Madi Gras…

and Gertrude being alive
now
and myself
perhaps being
alive

if we met now
these many decades later
she would forgive me for
leaving
maybe thank
me

I think of Gertrude walking up that St. Louis
stairway
and she will always be there
before
me.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1985
Source
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: