“sick” Charles Bukowski

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

secretly assured;

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


Dangling in the Tournefortia, Charles Bukowski

The poem “sick” appears in the Charles Bukowski poetry collection Dangling in the Tournefortia. Click the image for more information.



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