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a tree, a road, a toad  

Charles Bukowski

a table of 7, all
laughing loudly, again and again,
almost deafening,
but there is no joy in their
laughter, it seems machine
the pretense and falsity
poisons the air.
the other diners seem not to
I am asphyxiated by the laughter,
my gut, my mind, my very meaning
gags on it.
I dream of taking a gun, of
walking over to the table
and blowing their heads off,
one by one.
of course, this would make me
far more guilty than they
still, I have the thought and
then I realize that I expect too
I should have long ago
realized that this is the way
it is:
that everywhere there are tables of 2,
3,7,10 or more
where people
laugh meaninglessly and
without joy,
laugh inanely without
real feeling,
and that this is an inevitable part
of all that,
like a tree, a road, a toad.

I order another drink and
decide not to kill them, even
in my imagination.

I decide, instead, that I am a
very lucky man:
the table is twenty feet away.
I could be at that table, sitting there
with them,
close to their mouths,
close to their eyes and their ears
and their hands,
actually listening to the conversation
which is causing their joyless
I have been in many such situations before
and it has been one bloody cross,

so, I settle for my good fortune
but can’t help but wonder
if there is any place left in the world
with a table of 7 where
there are genuine feelings,
where there is
great and real laughter.
I hope so.
I have to hope so.

© 2002 by Linda Lee Bukowski. Printed in BLR with permission of Black Sparrow Press.