It’s Nothing To Laugh About

there’s no color like the color of an orange,
and the mountains were a sad smokey purple like
old curtains in some cheap burlesque house;

and the small toad sat there
holding the dusty road like a tiny tank,
and staring,
staring like something really definite,
a greener living green than any green leaf;
and it puffed its sides and let them fall
and sometimes through the skin you could see
the dark water of another world;
and then it shot the blood through one eye —
you could see the guts contract
gripped by the glove of the skin — and
the red-thin stream of frogblood
a bright neat trick of centuries
hurled through bright valley air
upon golden nylon;

she screamed and he laughed, delighted with
the frog’s great victory; she rubbed a quick
pink hanky against the desecrated nylon —
some womanly female her had been splashed
and unveiled and defeated, and her dress hung
like some loose and second skin as the
indelicate horror writhed in her and claimed away
her fullness;
“you fool!” she spit over the stocking, “it’s
nothing to laugh about!”

he looked at the toad in the fine rustbrown road
and imagined it smiled at him —
and then it turned half-sideways and hopped left
without haste
and popped again into the air
and the head humped stiff
and brutalized away from life
like an old man reading a newspaper;
and then, with a backward over-the-shoulder look
he hopped into the grass of home;

“he’s gone,” he spoke sadly.
he looked to the rocks of the purple mountains
and sensed the frog moving toward them,
done with cities and roads;
he imagined the frog in a stream
his green skin happy against the blue-chill water;
and then he saw a red mouth that
was like an animal itself —
a red snake in a circle
and the teeth like slabs of back walls
of some inescapable cell…
down through the caves to bitter salt
and the bloodied asphodel,
but casting the eye outward
like some desperate hook —
he took her hand and they moved forward
over the unguarded road.

Charles Bukowski
This poem appeared in the following books: