This Charles Bukowski poem comes from the collection Dangling in the Tournefortia. As described on the book’s dedication page, “The tournefortia is a large tropical tree, ideally suited to the Southern California climate, that produces small delicate flowers and a kind of flesh fruit.”
The poem “sick” deals with Bukowski’s time working awful jobs, which he had a lot of experience with before making it as a writer. This topic is the main focus of the novels Post Office and Factotum, and also shows up in the book about his childhood, Ham on Rye.
Sick, by Charles Bukowski
I had this night job and I’d sit in bed
looking out the window in the late afternoon
the last of the sun filtering into the room
through the leaves and branches of a large green bush
and when I thought about what was out there
waiting, I’d reach for the telephone.
the office clerk knew my voice:
“yes, Bukowski, what is it this time?”
“just writing something down,” I’d tell him,
“common cold, flu, the clap…”
I’d hang up.
it was good watching it slowly get dark
listening to people coming home
parking their cars, turning on their tv’s
making kitchen sounds, talking.
then I’d get up and drink for three or four hours
then go back to bed and sleep.
and the next night at the factory everybody
would seem very small and wrinkled
and I’d walk in tall and shining
eyes calm and cool
the men didn’t understand and the girls
all loved me, and the foreman would come forward
to speak to me of absenteeism
as I took out a cigarette, lit it and