wax job

By Charles Bukowski 1920–1994 Charles Bukowski
man, he said, sitting on the steps
your car sure needs a wash and wax job
I can do it for you for 5 bucks,
I got the wax, I got the rags, I got everything
I need.

I gave him the 5 and went upstairs.
when I came down 4 hours later
he was sitting on the steps drunk
and offered me a can of beer.
he said he’d get the car the next
day.

the next day he got drunk again and
I loaned him a dollar for a bottle of
wine. his name was Mike
a world war II veteran.
his wife worked as a nurse.

the next day I came down and he was sitting
on the steps and he said,
you know, I been sitting here looking at your car,
wondering just how I was gonna do it,
I wanna do it real good.

the next day Mike said it looked like rain
and it sure as hell wouldn’t make any sense
to wash and wax a car when it was gonna rain.

the next day it looked like rain again.
and the next.
then I didn’t see him anymore.
a week later I saw his wife and she said,
they took Mike to the hospital,
he’s all swelled-up, they say it’s from the
drinking.

listen, I told her, he said he was going to wax my
car, I gave him 5 dollars to wax my
car.

he’s in the critical ward, she said,
he might die . . .

I was sitting in their kitchen
drinking with his wife
when the phone rang.
she handed the phone to me.
it was Mike. listen, he said, come down and
get me, I can’t stand this
place.

I drove on down there, walked into the
hospital, walked up to his bed and
said, let’s go Mike.

they wouldn’t give him his clothes
so Mike walked to the elevator in his
gown.

we got on and there was a kid driving the
elevator and eating a popsicle.
nobody’s allowed to leave here in a gown,
he said.

you just drive this thing, kid, I said,
we’ll worry about the gown.

Mike was all puffed-up, triple size
but I got him into the car somehow
and gave him a cigarette.

I stopped at the liquor store for 2 six packs
then went on in. I drank with Mike and his wife until
11 p.m.
then went upstairs . . .

where’s Mike? I asked his wife 3 days later,
you know he said he was going to wax my car.

Mike died, she said, he’s gone.

you mean he died? I asked.

yes, he died, she said.

I’m sorry, I said, I’m very sorry

it rained for a week after that and I figured the only
way I’d get the 5 back was to go to bed with his wife
but you know
she moved out 2 weeks later

an old guy with white hair moved in there
and he had one blind eye and played the French Horn.
there was no way I could make it with
him.

"wax job" by Charles Bukowski, from Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems 1955-1973. Copyright © 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1974 by Charles Bukowski. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, www.harpercollins.com.

Source: Burning in Water Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems 1955-1973 (Black Sparrow Press, 1996)

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Poet Charles Bukowski 1920–1994

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Growing Old, Health & Illness, Living, Eating & Drinking, Death, Activities

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

 Charles  Bukowski

Biography

Charles Bukowski was a prolific underground writer who used his his poetry and prose to depict the depravity of urban life and the downtrodden in American society. A cult hero, Bukowski relied on experience, emotion, and imagination in his work, using direct language and violent and sexual imagery. While some critics found his style offensive, others claimed that Bukowski satirized the machismo attitude through his routine use . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Growing Old, Health & Illness, Living, Eating & Drinking, Death, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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