we had goldfish and they circled around and around
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, ‘be happy Henry!’
and she was right: it’s better to be happy if you
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week while
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn’t
understand what was attacking him from within.
my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: ‘Henry, smile!
why don’t you ever smile?’
and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw
one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother
I hope this doesn’t depress you all today, but I thought this was a very powerful piece of writing. It says what it is with no frills, no elegant poetic phrases – tragic and dark, it works so well. Charles Bukowski really knew how to present the dark subjects of life, leaving behind much food for thought. If you’d like to read more about the man and his life, have a read of this.
I haven’t really gone in the direction of dark in my poetry on here, but I have written about much darker subjects in a novel I’m writing. I can do dark quite well, when I want to. Poetry seems to cause me to lean towards the elegant, the beautiful, the positive, and occasionally the sad. Dark just doesn’t quite feel right when I’m in poetry mode, but I’m working on it!
I know not everyone likes writing on the ugly things of life, the ones we would prefer to forget, or not see at all. I’m okay about poetry that’s quite dark, I like to face the miserable subjects head on, and see writers shine a bright light on them, but there always has to be something within it that allows my mind to be thoughtful, inspires me to want to write more about those horrible days, otherwise it can feel a bit pointless to me. If you have any thoughts and opinions about this, even if you don’t like it, and it makes you feel uncomfortable, I’d be very interested to know.
Poetry Reading – A Smile To Remember
You may also find these two documentaries of Charles Bukowski of interest.
(Please note: Contains language some may find offensive)
Bukowski – Born Into This
Bukowski – Poetry In Motion