with a flagpole over the San Pedro Bridge

   with a flaghole over the San Pedro Harbor
is an old hotel many stories high with dirty curtains
and torn shades.
it’s people have been skinned inside-out,
their eyes like old grapes in the marketplace.
when they come out (some of them do)
(some of them almost so)
(and those that almost do walk along and around
the vast promenade of the entranceway
over the marble floors and under the chandelier
light fixtures)
they are young and old and in between.
their clothing is hand-me-down and their
countenances almost expressionless
they come out
(some of them come out)
and sit in the park across the street
and look at the ships in the harbor,
talk to each other quietly
and nip at drinks
from bagged and hidden bottles of wine.
most are men but some are ladies
and one lady is bold
she was once something
quite other than what she is
(now) (white straw hair) (bitter memory of
light and vaunted days)
she will ask strangers for 35 cents,
seldom get it.
the men and women will only talk to each
not you (except for the old bold one).
you have to be in the club and they know
who’s in the club.

they sit and watch the ships.
the ships come by as large as ordinary
city blocks.
they sit and watch the ships.
the ships go out
come in.
the ships have names and they have
names and the old hotel
sits behind them
(and many of the people never come
out of the hotel).
it’s the hotel and
the people sitting and walking and
not guilty enough
not innocent enough,
not enough.

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