the x-con

he did time, came out, put on a black shirt and did
country and western, had a good deep easy voice,
sang about killings, how good it felt to kill;
there was one song where the son kills the father
(like Fyodor D. said, who doesn’t want to?);
but the main things were that the songs came from
places and actions hidden from most people in their
standard existences.
he started going back to the prisons and singing
for the cons, they liked it at first, then his
songs started sounding like somebody else was
writing them, they became less and less dangerous,
and one night he appeared on tv on the Bob Hope Show
with dancing girls and Las Vegas comedians, and it
was that night that I wrote him off
although I still wanted him to have the luck,
his voice was almost as good as it used to be,
it was only that the words seemed to be about
less and less,
he was still good and kept going back to the
prisons, and then his voice didn’t sound quite as
well anymore, the cons didn’t react like they used
to, record sales fell off, way off and he more or
less vanished for a while, it was said he went from
drink to drugs and then he appeared again as a
Born-Again Christian and sales picked up a while,
then fell off again.

I was at the Fair Grounds today and after the
eleventh race they announced that he’d be singing
at the track that night at 7:30 p.m.

when I walked outside I saw the crowd lined-up
to buy the tickets–not a man or woman in that
line, although they had hands and feet and heads,
and shoes on their feet, and they were clothed,
there was nobody in that line, nothing at

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