In this narrative poem, the narrator enters his doctor's waiting room only to find that the room is full of "mostly old / dying women," and the doctor is not in. So the narrator decides to go to the racetrack, where he finds the doctor "standing there with / a hot dog and a beer."

The doctor explains that his practice is depressing; for example, "there's one / old woman, she's got / cancer of the ass." The doctor gives his patient a good tip on the next race. The narrator reveals that he, too, has cancer of the ass. The doctor gets them both another hot dog and beer and starts "talking / about what / a horrible woman / his wife was." [103 lines]


Charles Bukowski was a poet that generations of critics loved to hate. He was, I suppose, the last of the Beats. The public library in my town, which is very handsomely supported by high property taxes, does not even own a single one of Bukowski's 45 or so books. He was a real bad dude. This poem is vintage Bukowski--cool, ironic, rhythmic, and wild.

First, you have the doctor abandoning his patients to spend an afternoon at the racetrack because "it gets depressing." He shows absolutely no compassion for, or connection with, any of his patients. His manner is detached and humorously ironic. However, he does demonstrate a capacity for at least a mild form of human connection by buying the narrator a couple of hot dogs and beers; or perhaps the food is just a ploy to encourage the listener to stay, so he will have someone to sing his narcissistic blues to.

Primary Source

Open All Night: New Poems


Black Sparrow Press

Place Published