rags, bottles, sacks

as a boy
I remember the sound
of:
“RAGS!  BOTTLES!  SACKS!”

“RAGS!  BOTTLES!  SACKS!”

it was during the
Depression
and you could hear the
voice
long before you saw the
old wagon
and the
old tired
swaybacked horse.

then you heard the
hooves:
“clop,  clop,  clop…”

and then you saw the
horse and the
wagon

and it always seemed
to be
on the hottest summer
day:

“RAGS!  BOTTLES!  SACKS!”

oh
that horse was so
tired–
white streams of
saliva
drooling
as the bit dug into
the mouth

he pulled an intolerable
load
of
rags, bottles, sacks

I saw his eyes
large
in agony

his ribs
showing

the giant flies
whirled and landed upon
raw places on his
skin.

sometimes
one of our fathers would
yell:
Hey! Why don’t you
feed that horse, you
bastard!

the man’s answer was
always the
same:
“RAGS!  BOTTLES!  SACKS!”

the man was
incredibly
dirty, un-
shaven, wearing a crushed
and stained
fedora

he
sat on top of
a large pile of
sacks

and
now and
then
as the horse seemed to
miss
a step

this man would
lay down
the long whip…

the sound was like a
rifle shot

a phalanx of flies would
rise
and the horse would
yank forward
anew

the hooves slipping and
sliding on the hot
asphalt

and then
all we could
see
was the back of the
wagon
and
the massive mound of
rags and bottles
covered with
brown sacks

and
again
the voice:
“RAGS!  BOTTLES!  SACKS!”

he was
the first man
I ever wanted to
kill

and
there have been
none
since.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1994
Source
Original manuscript