The Payoff

it’s down by a track near the border and it’s called
THE PAYOFF HOTEL and it’s directly north of the track
perched on a cliff and after the races you can look
down at the empty track and see the stables and now and
then a horse and always those stacks of hay.

there are hundreds of rooms, all taken, each room with
a shower and black and white tv.
next to the lobby is a dance floor where some of the players
try to dance and romance the few young girls
to the loud music of a small band playing thirty year old

the players drink beer and cheap wine, their shirtails
hanging out, their pants too short, their shoes scruffed
and down at the heels.

walking through the halls at night, many of the doors are
open and each room sit one or two men reading RACING FORMS
and drinking beer and wine, and in the morning by the pool
before the races some of them will be dressed in vari-colored
trunks, more like wimps than pimps and they’ll each have a

there aren’t any steady winners at the PAYOFF HOTEL.
how they exist is unknown; they are durable and transitory
and all the rooms are always taken.

I’ll see you there next summer and I won’t be able to tell
you from them and you’ll look like me and I’ll look like
you and we won’t look very good, waiting for the action.

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: