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

  • Gold Star - 52,210 Points 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

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Freshman - 839 Points Gobinda Sahoo (10/21/2015 8:08:00 PM)

    Not anything on earth is permanent. Its true (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 469 Points Gauri Sharma (10/17/2015 9:39:00 AM)

    it was the
    saddest smile I ever saw
    what a alluring n thought provoking line..really full of sentimental emotions! (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,285 Points Sofia Kioroglou (9/24/2015 5:43:00 AM)

    Awesome poem! A lot of food for thought and absolutely sad! (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 40,220 Points Mohammed Asim Nehal (9/11/2015 1:43:00 PM)

    A smile that taught many lessons..........................To live the life with courage, face the hardship of the life, Take the bull by its horn etc....Awesome poetry.............I liked it (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 1,497 Points Dedan Onyango (7/14/2015 11:35:00 AM)

    Indeed a smile is the only language that even a baby knows. We should learnt to smile even in our lowest moments. A nice piece with a powerful message (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 6,662 Points Howard 'the motivational poet' Simon (6/26/2015 5:00:00 AM)

    Smiling in the midst of pain is not always easy. This reality is well expressed in this poem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 8 Points A Crowley (6/2/2015 11:40:00 AM)

    There's something about a mother. Her love for her children will carry her through the hardest of times. She will smile a sad smile in hopes her children will smile a genuine smile. She will know loss, and devastation, but if her kids still smile, she will persevere. There is nothing a stronger than a mother's love. The pain brought on by her husband couldn't keep her from trying for her child.

    The saddest part of the poem is that the mother's attempts are futile. The kid won't smile. The child knows all that the mother is going through. His mother is beaten multiple times a week. There is no time to smile, only to worry. His mother is as trapped as the goldfish, and he knows it. She tries smiling, tries hiding the physical and emotional pain. He sees passed the fake smile and notices her sadness. He notices what she's been trying to hide. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 112 Points Nishu Sharma (5/8/2015 5:37:00 AM)

    Super !!! (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 8,398 Points Francis Lynch (5/5/2015 9:26:00 AM)

    Way over-rated as a good poem. I wouldn't even post this one. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 787 Points John S (3/25/2015 10:03:00 PM)

    God, I made so many grammatical errors in my comment below. Does anyone know how to edit your comment? (Report) Reply

    Gold Star - 11,360 Points Frank Avon (4/5/2015 10:16:00 PM)

    Well, it's a backward way of doing it, but I've learned to COPY the comment, DELETE it, then PASTE it as a new comment, make CORRECTIONS, only then SUBMIT it again. There oughta be a better way, but I haven't found it.

  • Freshman - 787 Points John S (3/25/2015 1:19:00 AM)

    While I disagree with the commenter below, I think the old poets were way more talented than the famous modern poets (I mean come on Shakespeare was to lierature like Einstein was to physics. Brukowski ain't Shakespeare) , I disagree with those who say this is not a good poem. This is a great poem. It has a sort of a structure and literary quality to it. In my opinion it has three, shall I say parts, subjects, ideas... I don't know forgive me it's two AM and I ain't an English major) , so I'll say subjects. The fish, the cruelty of his father, and His mother's obsession with smiling and happiness. At first the fish seem to be just randomly thrown in the poem at the beginning. Then we have an example of his father's cruel nature as a domestic abuser, and intermixed is his mother's desperate attempts to remain happy and optimistic given the unpleasant, bleak circumstances. In the end, like a good storyteller, Bukowski manages to weave all three together as the dead fish are, with cruel indifference, thrown on the floor for the cat by the father, while the mother smiles and pretends all is swell and well in their broken home! A masterfully written poem. (Report) Reply

    Veteran Poet - 1,636 Points Nel Omofolarin (7/29/2015 8:23:00 AM)


    Gold Star - 11,360 Points Frank Avon (4/5/2015 10:18:00 PM)

    I agree!

  • Rookie - 176 Points Wei Bin (1/18/2015 7:10:00 PM)

    So cruel and I'm in pain. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Emaan Mir (1/8/2015 10:40:00 AM)

    Awwww ..... Sad (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 515 Points Houssam Mokhtari (11/1/2014 5:00:00 PM)

    Sad poem smiling what a philosophy! ! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 150 Points Mark Sebert (9/24/2014 12:53:00 PM)

    Keep smiling, is that the lesson. Or find happiness by the vicarious in the destruction of others which is really the destruction of ourselves. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Suhana Ali (6/24/2014 2:19:00 PM)

    What a poem, my heart goes while I try to picture the situation. So painful yet so beautiful! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 48 Points Anna Garland (5/27/2014 1:49:00 PM)

    That is beautiful. I wish one day I can write poetry as clear and straightforward as Bukowski, yet evoking so much recognition and emotion in readers..! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Mazhari David (5/21/2014 3:54:00 AM)

    What is left of a human drama... sigh... sadness, and we relish it...* * (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 8,689 Points Herbert Guitang (4/25/2014 8:08:00 AM)

    A very unique kind of poem. An smile to remember. A poem that will be remembered in all generations (Report) Reply

Read all 53 comments »

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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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