On A Night You Don’t Sleep

at the sea at the beach in the dark there was somebody
sitting in a car along the shore and playing this drum
as if in Africa and the cops rode by on the sidewalk
and I went down to the disappointing sea
and saw two blue lights in the water and a boat
and a man walked by in a white shirt and squalled by the
shore and got up and walked along the shore
and then another man came and followed him:
they both walked along the shore right by the water
one 12 feet behind the other and I watched them until
they disappeared and then I got up and walked through
the sand to the cement and through a bar door I saw a
nigger singing with a light on his face
he wailed a strange song and the sound of the song twisted
in the air and everything was empty and dry and easy
and I got into my car and drove back to the hot city
but I knew I would always remember the time
and the catch of it—the way the night hung undisturbed
with people walking on it like some quiet rug
and a small boat rocking bravely by bulldogging water
and the colored pier lights like a broken mind sick in the sea.

Charles Bukowski
This poem appeared in the following books: