“Independence Day,” by Charles Bukowski

charles bukowski poemCharles Bukowski wasn’t a big fan of holidays. That didn’t keep him from writing great poems and stories about them. In fact, the general disinterest he felt for holidays, which sometimes drifted into disgust, make his “holiday” writings more interesting than what most writers come up with surrounding these so-called special occasions.

Here’s a poem called “Independence Day,” which is included in the Charles Bukowski poetry collection Dangling in the Tournefortia.

“Independence Day,” Charles Bukowski

it was the 4th of July and I was
living with an Alvarado Street whore,
I was on my last unemployment check
and we had a room on the first floor
of a Beacon Street hotel next to a
housing development.
it was 11 a.m. and I was puking,
trying to get a can of ale down,
the whore in bed next to me
in her torn slip
mumbling about her children
in Atlanta
then sleeping, snoring
her belly like a watermelon
fattening with green beer and red
she was the best I could do
on and off with her
for two years –
then two kids came up and
threw a firecracker
against the screen of our
“oooh shit,” said the whore.
I got up out of bed
in my torn shorts: “hey, you
fuckers! don’t do that again!”
they laughed and ran off.
“I miss my children,” said the
whore, “I wonder if I’ll ever
see Ronnie and Lila again?”
“will you stop that shit?”
I asked. “I heard that shit
all last night long!”
the whore began crying.
I went to the bathroom and
puked again,
cracked a new can of ale and
sat next to the whore
in my bed.
“don’t mourn, Lilly,” I said,
“you give a great blowjob and
that counts for something.”
it was another firecracker.
“ooh shit,” said the whore.
I leaped up and ran to the
I was 25 year old and a mean
I had nothing to lose and was
willing to
lay it down anywhere.
“I told you fuckers!
that’s all!
that’s the end of it!
the next time will be the
last time!”
they just stood there and
laughed at me, two little kids
maybe ten or eleven years old,
they laughed at me,
me who duked it out
once or twice a week
with the most violent characters
in the neighborhood,
maybe not always winning
but hardly ever shamed.
one of the kids lit another cracker
and tossed it,
I opened the screen and leaped
through the window
into the yard.
the kids backed off.
“go get your father,” I said,
“and I’ll kick his ass good!”
they stood looking at me.
“fucking drunk,” said the
tallest kid and he pulled out
a switchblade, hit the button,
the knife flicked out and he
jammed it into a tree, then
pulled it out.
I moved toward him and
he stood there
making movements with the
I closed in on him,
he flicked out, ran a gash
along my right arm
above the wrist
and then I had the knife
twisted it away from him
and kicked him in the ass.
“now get your father,”
I said.
they both left
and I stood there waiting
in my torn shorts…
a minute, two minutes,
three minutes,
then I got afraid the heat
might arrive
so I went back and
crawled into the window,
got back in the bed
and played with the knife,
flicking the blade
in and out.
I took a hit of ale
and didn’t puke.
I felt masterful – nobody
could have handled it better –
I was one 25-year-old
mean rattlesnake bastard,
it didn’t pay to fuck with
“ooh, you’re bleeding,”
noticed the whore.
“I’m having my period,”
I told her.
“I always thought you were
a queer,” she said.
“I never knew queers had

it was a beautiful knife,
I sat there flicking it in
and out.
I opened a new ale.
I never liked holidays.
this one was no

Independence Day Charles Bukowski Poem

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



Leave a Reply