bright lights and serpents
by Charles Bukowski

oftentimes I can’t separate the
people from bright lights
and serpents.
in the supermarket
I see them standing and waiting
or pushing their carts.
I see rumps and ears and eyes
and skin and mouths, and
I feel curiously detached.
I supposed I fear them or
I fear their difference and
I step aside as they
pick up rolls of toilet paper
apricots, heads of lettuce.
today I saw a man

less than 3 feet tall.
he was shorter than his
shopping basket as he
stood angrily in the aisle
looping steaks into his shopping
for a moment I felt like
touching him and saying,
“so you’re different too?”
but I moved on as the
lights glared and
serpents abounded.

my total at the register
was $46.42
I paid the cashier whose
teeth kept watching me.
without warning
a bolt of lightning
flashed past my left ear
and flickered out in the fresh
egg section, then
I picked up my bag and
walked out to the parking

“bright lights and serpents” appears in Charles Bukowski‘s collection What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (Ecco, 2002).