horse

as one goes to the racetrack for years one notices certain
characters who are there every day,
people who are poorly dressed and desperate of eye–
as I am.
there was one who actually stank badly, had this diseased
beard.
I often picked him up as he hitch-hiked and I believe
he slept in the bushes.
his theory was that all the jockeys got together in the
jock’s room before the races and they decided which number
to let in–they chose a number and that number won almost
all day long and that’s why all those sons of bitches were
rich:    they bet that number.

and there was this one guy I had seen for years at all
the tracks, I was drunk and he bumped me with his elbow
and I said, “Hey, Mac, watch that shit!” and he said,
“I got a mind to rub your face in the cement” and I said,
“Wait a minute,” and I took my coat off and layed it on
a bench but when I turned around he was gone.
I still see him at the tracks and the strangest thing is
that he is getting thinner and weaker and older and I seem
to be getting younger and strong, but I don’t think it’s
me, I think it’s him, I don’t know what he’s on–maybe
a long string of losers.

then there’s this blonde, she was always fat but it didn’t
seem to matter, she had a way of picking up the winners,
some of the winners after the races, day after day, she
only bet the horses in a very off-hand manner but now
I see her in the clubhouse all dressed fine, still fat,
and she knows that I know but I don’t say anything.   so
I’m in the clubhouse too so maybe I’ve done some whoring
in my own way.

there’s another one, dresses dapper, smokes good cigars,
but I know him, he never bets, he just pokes around in the
trashcans for things, reaches his fingers into all those
wet coffee containers, napkins, ripped tickets, old news-
papers, stale hot dog buns, beer puke, he just reaches in
there, inhaling on his cigar, a real freak.

then there’s one who starts running when he sees something
on the board late, they are putting them into the gate and
he starts running toward the window like he’s seen a message
from the sky, and he’s right, the last flash of the board
is the most important but you can’t win that way either, and
he’s so very poorly dressed and come to think of it I haven’t
seen him for some weeks now.

I think I’ve been around the track longer than any of them,
I mean the bettors, maybe there are a lot of hot walkers,
trainers, jocks who were there before me, well, maybe not
the jocks but some of the hot walkers.

all my women (and there have been plenty of them) have said
(as in one voice):   “My God, every time you get drunk you
start talking about the HORSES!   You talk about the HORSES
for hours!   My God, what a dull subject!   And then you write
POEMS about the HORSES!   My God, you don’t know how dull
your HORSE poems are!   Nobody understands them!”

here’s another.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1979
Source
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: