The Shoelace by Charles Bukowski


it’s not the large things that
send a man to the madhouse. death he’s ready for, or
murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood… no, it’s the continuing series of small
tragedies that send a man to the
madhouse… not the death of his love
but a shoelace that snaps with no time left …
The dread of life is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer and which are always there –
license plates or taxes or expired driver’s license,
or hiring or firing, doing it or having it done to you, or
roaches or flies or a broken hook on a
screen, or out of gas or too much gas,
the sink’s stopped-up, the landlord’s drunk,
the president doesn’t care and the governor’s crazy. light switch broken, mattress like a
porcupine; $105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump
at sears roebuck;
and the phone bill’s up and the market’s down
and the toilet chain is broken,
and the light has burned out – the hall light, the front light, the back
light, the inner light; it’s
darker than hell and twice as
expensive. then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re your friends;
there’s always that and worse; leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains, 50 cent avocados
and purple liverwurst. or making it
as a waitress at norm’s on the split shift, or as an emptier of
bedpans, or as a carwash or a busboy
or a stealer of old lady’s purses leaving them screaming on the sidewalks
with broken arms at the age of 80. suddenly
2 red lights in your rear view mirror and blood in your
underwear; toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold tooth,
and china and russia and america, and long hair and short hair and no
hair, and beards and no faces, and plenty of zigzag but no
pot, except maybe one to piss in and the other one around your
gut. with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces, one man, one woman, one
thing enters a
madhouse. so be careful
when you bend over.

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