Charles Bukowski

(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994 / Andernach)

A Smile To Remember - Poem by Charles Bukowski

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

Comments about A Smile To Remember by Charles Bukowski

  • Adilson Pinto (6/15/2017 1:31:00 PM)

    Charles Bukowski's father always was a stupid one. The poet suffered a lot in his hands! Of course this violence came to influence his poetical works before! A great poem - sad, notwithstanding.... I love Charles very very much! (Report) Reply

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  • Mehta Hasmukh Amathalal (4/23/2017 5:42:00 PM)

    Nice one....beautifully place the importance....10

    From then on
    I feel “the smile is divine”
    It takes you near to the heart of people
    Lead life exemplary and participate with their struggle
    (Report) Reply

  • Sylva-onyema Uba (2/23/2017 1:37:00 PM)

    saddest smile I ever saw.

    A poem unveiling domestic violence.
    Poem with emotional drive.

    (Report) Reply

  • Marie Francis (2/15/2017 12:23:00 PM)

    This evoked so much emotion - pain, sadness, longing, indifference, and subtle depths of each character (Report) Reply

  • Tom Allport (12/31/2016 4:14:00 PM)

    tom allport
    a very sad graphic poem of a family trapped. (Report) Reply

  • (9/30/2016 11:38:00 AM)

    Smiles.....the make-up of the unhappy. (Report) Reply

  • Mohammad Maleki (8/25/2016 12:33:00 AM)

    Depiction of tragedy across manifestation of majestic words.
    atrocious father
    Selfhumbling mother
    Transitory of life span
    (Report) Reply

  • Alem Hailu G/kristos (8/16/2016 10:05:00 AM)

    It shows men chauvinism in a very transparent way.I liked this poem (Report) Reply

  • (8/15/2016 10:08:00 AM)

    A great poem and concern about the dear mother and the situation she suffered but maintaining equanimity and asking the boy to be happy. (Report) Reply

  • Atri Majumder (7/25/2016 1:17:00 PM)

    typical realism of a matured poet...a fragmentary reminiscence that transcends the barriers of domestic violence and strikes a deep chord of passionate nostalgia (Report) Reply

  • Harry Irene (6/11/2016 2:48:00 PM)

    God, this is such a tragic poem and yet not excessively ornamental and flowery, which I love about Buk's poetry. (Report) Reply

  • Thomas Case (3/10/2016 6:12:00 AM)

    fantastic...Buk is one of a kind. (Report) Reply

  • Thomas Case (3/10/2016 6:11:00 AM)

    great poem, sad but Buk all the way. (Report) Reply

  • Rajesh Thankappan (2/26/2016 10:41:00 AM)

    The mother putting up a facade of a smile is most pathetic. The father, suffering from within, has made the life hellish for rest of the family members. (Report) Reply

  • Luka Martin Dezmalj (1/30/2016 10:31:00 AM)

    one of my heroes.. one beautyfull dirty old man :) (Report) Reply

  • Bharati Nayak (1/20/2016 2:57:00 AM)

    The poem paints the picture of a broken home which stayed together as mother had no option to go out and bore the torture of husband.sShe was pretending happiness and carrying on as if every thing was normal.She wanted her children not to see through her pain.Three lines vividly express the three characters-father, mother, children
    1-'He could not understand what was attacking him from inside'',2-then, she would smile to show me how and it was the saddest smile I ever saw,3- he threw them to the cat there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother smiled.
    Father, mother and children, all were all confined to such painful situation like fish in the jar from which they could not escape.Only death could liberate them.
    (Report) Reply

  • (1/13/2016 4:25:00 PM)

    ..........this poem paints a dark picture of the family sad to be with someone, whom one isn't happy with....and must fake it....or doesn't have enough self esteem, or resources to make a permanent change for the better....I've read of many women who stay with men, even though they are beaten black and sad ★ (Report) Reply

  • Thomas Case (12/17/2015 6:19:00 AM)

    so sad and beautiful....sometimes there is nothing to smile about. (Report) Reply

  • (12/1/2015 8:08:00 PM)

    Absolutely sad, but beautiful, poem. The sadness of the mother mixed with the permanent care with the child... Certainly she wished to be free as the goldfish at the end... (Report) Reply

  • Kumarmani Mahakul (11/4/2015 5:36:00 PM)

    Beautiful smile is ever rememberd in this wise and interesting sharing. Expressive poem definitely shared. (Report) Reply

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# 29 poem on top 500 Poems

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Read poems about / on: happy, smile, cat, father, mother, fish, water, home, remember, fishing

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Poem Edited: Monday, May 16, 2011

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