Hello, Willie Shoemaker

By Charles Bukowski 1920–1994 Charles Bukowski
the Chinaman said don’t take the hardware
and gave me a steak I couldn’t cut (except the fat)
and there was an ant circling the coffee cup;
I left a dime tip and broke out a stick of cancer,
and outside I gave an old bum who looked about
the way I felt, I gave him a quarter,
and then I went up to see the old man
strong as steel girders, fit for bombers and blondes,
up the green rotten steps that housed rats
and past the secretaries showing leg and doing nothing
and the old man sat there looking at me
through two pairs of glasses and a vacation in Paris,
and he said, Kid, I hear you been takin’ Marylou out,
and I said, just to dinner, boss,
and he said, just to dinner, eh? you couldn’t hold
that broad’s pants on with all the rivets on 5th street,
and please remember you are a shipping clerk,
I am the boss here and I pay these broads and I pay you.
yes, sir, I said, and I felt he was going to skip it
but he slid my last check across the desk
and I took it and walked out
all the lovely legs, the skirts pulled up to the ass,
Marylou’s ass, Ann’s ass, Vicki’s ass, all of them,
and I went down to the bar
and George said whatya gonna do now,
and I said go to Russia or Hollywood Park,
and I looked up in time to see Marylou come in,
the long thin nose, the delicate face, the lips, the legs,
the breasts, the music, the talk the love the laughing
and she said
I quit when I found out
and the bastard got down on his knees and cried
and kissed the hem of my skirt and offered me money
and I
walked out
and he blubbered like a baby.
George, I said, another drink, and I put a quarter in
the juke
and the sun came out
and I looked outside in time to see the old bum
with my quarter
and a little more luck
that had turned into a happy wine-bottle,
and a bird even flew by cheep cheep,
right there on Eastside downtown, no kidding,
and the Chinaman came in for a quickie
claiming somebody had stolen a spoon and a coffee cup
and I leaned over and bit Marylou on the ear
and the whole joint rocked with music and freedom
and I decided that Russia was too far away
and Hollywood Park just close enough.

"Hello, Willie Shoemaker" by Charles Bukowski, from The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems 1946-1966. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1968, 1988 by Charles Bukowski. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, www.harpercollins.com.

Source: The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems 1946-1966 (Black Cat Press, 1988)

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Poet Charles Bukowski 1920–1994


Subjects Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Jobs & Working, Activities

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse

 Charles  Bukowski


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 Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Jobs & Working, Activities


Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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