My God

I was standing in the sandwich line
at the racetrack on a Saturday,
47,000 people
in the dream,
and there was an old woman in her
standing up against a steel girder
and she had a 2 dollar ticket in
her hand
her program
and a full cup of hot coffee.
and while holding her program
and her coffee
and her 2 dollar ticket
she opened her purse and reached in.
and as she did
the papercup jiggled
splashing one of her hands
with hot coffee.
she held still a moment
recovered and continued:
she found her social security check.
then she had the
check, the coffee, the ticket, her
program and her purse in her hands
and again the coffeecup jiggled
and the steaming coffee spilled on her hands
then she had the social security check in
her mouth
and then somebody bumped her shoulder
and the hot coffee again spilled
over her hands and
into her purse.
her hands were scalded and red.
I was going to help her
I was going to say, “look, lady,
let me hold that coffee for you.”
but then my line moved forward
and I told the counter girl, “I’ll
have a corned beef on rye.”
and she asked, “with or without
barbeque sauce?”
and I answered

but what hurt me about the old
woman was that she never screamed
all during it.
it was like watching a totally
unbearable horror

I ate my corned beef sandwich.

Charles Bukowski
This poem appeared in the following books: