I Thought Of Ships, Of Armies, Hanging On . . .

I have practiced death for so long
and still I have not learned it,
and tonight I came in
and my goldfish was not in his bowl,
he had leaped
for reasons of his own
and was now on the rug
with black spots on his gold body,
and he was still and he was stiff
and I put him back in the water,
some sound told me to do this,
and I seemed to see the gills move,
a large air bubble formed,
but the body was still stiff
but did not float flat,
the tail-part was down in the water,
and I thought of ships, of armies
hanging on,
and I saw the small fins
near the underside of the head move,
and I sat down on the couch
and tried to read,
tried not to think
that the woman who had given me
these fish (the other had died of overeating,
stealing the food of the small one),
and now the woman was gone
and the small one was stiff,
and an hour later
when I got up
he floated flat and finished;
his eye looking up at me did not see me
and the slave carried the master,
this gold with black spots
and dumped him into the toilet
and flushed him away.
and I put the bowl in the corner
and I though, I really cannot stand
much more of this.

dead dogs, dead ladies, dead wars.

it seems a miracle to see anybody alive
and somebody on the radio is playing
a guitar very slowly, and I think, yes,
he too:   his fingers, his hands, his mind,
and his music goes on
but it is very still.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1963
This poem appeared in the following books: