sardines in striped dresses

all right, they’re playing Beethoven again; when I was
sleeping on that park bench in Texas they were playing
Beethoven, when it rained last Sunday and the pier fell
into the water they were playing Beethoven; I walked on
that pier 55 years ago and now it’s down in the ocean,
like Atlantis
but things break and vanish, that’s not news, got a
letter today from Louise, she says she’s leaving the
French Quarter and moving in with her sister in a small
town 45 minutes out of New Orleans.
people are getting tired, people are falling down and getting
back up, and they are playing Beethoven as the bums stop
me outside the post office:   “Good morning, sir, have you
got a dollar?”

the old arial circus is falling from the sky, dogs and
cats look at me oddly, the Klan appears, vanishes, Hitler
sniffles underground between palm tree roots, this cheap
cigar I’m smoking, it says Cuba, it says Havanna, smuggled
all this way to gag me as
they are playing beethoven, as Beethoven plays
William Saroyan is dead Celine is dead but Fante won’t
legs chopped off, and blind in his narrow grave he won’t
3 years laying flat like a seedless olive into the mouth
of a fool, as young girls keep arriving from Des
Moines wiggling like sardines in striped dresses, what
does it mean, listening to Beethoven now?

and now it’s over… “Head for some Palm Springs sun,”
the announcer begins as I tune him out and grimace at
this cigar, turn the radio back up:   it’s
Mahler, the 10th, right after the Bee’s 5th, some hell
of a heavy night as pretty much alone here
I think of how
much I like Somerset Maugham’s  title The Razor’s Edge,
then I put out the fucking cigar, drain some wine,
get up, thinking, it’s the
same for everybody, more or less, some more, some
less, Celine’s dead, Beethoven’s quiet a moment:
it’s been a world full of the brave
and I love them all
as outside the
St. Thomas Vincent Bridge arcs in the dark
holding, just now, the luck of us all.

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript