a wise-ass

that’s what I was on campus, some of the profs, I’m sure
even feared me or at least preferred me not to be in their
I had this scarred and lean countenance and I slouched
in my seat
hungover and dangerous.
I refused to buy the books, study.
I was insolent, cool and crazy and I drank every night.
my parents supported me out of fear.
I was the meanest   18 year old son of a bitch in the
I would leap up in class and make brilliant and incoherent
speeches against whatever the professor
I was a pain in the ass, I was tough but I was afraid to
go out for the football team or to ask a girl for a
I was a nut.
all I read was Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.
I was taking journalism.
when they asked for one writing assignment a
week, I wrote seven.
some said I was a genius.
I felt like a genius or I felt like I thought a genius
should be.
I got in a fight with a huge black in art class.
we fought for an hour and 30 minutes on the campus
nobody stopped us.
I finally won although I never expected to.
I kept waiting to lose and it didn’t happen.
I began to get popular and I couldn’t take that so
I pretended to be a Nazi.
then I got a lot of freaky guys full of hate trailing
about after me.
I told them to fuck off and I became a
I don’t know, after two years on campus I didn’t
want it anymore.
I quit and got a job in the railroad yards as a
I got a small room downtown and roamed the
bars at night.
some genius I was, some god damned
I made some trips to the Herald-Examiner and the
L.A. Times, told them I wanted to be a
I never made it past the receptionist’s desk.
“Fill out these papers,” they said.
I shoved them back.
they didn’t know I was a genius.

one night in a bar I got in a fight with a little
guy, he must have only weighed 130 pounds.
he whipped my ass.
the next night I tried him again.
he whipped my ass all over again.

a week later I took a bus to New Orleans.
somewhere along the way I bought a paperback by
some famous guy called
Henry Miller.
I couldn’t read it.
fucking guy couldn’t write.
I tossed the book out the window.
a girl on the bus kept staring at me.
she turned backwards in her seat and made a
sketch of my face.
she got off at Fort Worth.
I went on to Dallas, got off, caught a shave,
took a bus back to Fort Worth, found her.
I sat in the bedroom with her while her mother
sat in the front room.
we talked, it was great, she was beautiful.
then she started talking about God and I got the
fuck out of there.

I got another bus to New Orleans.
I had a portable typewriter with me.
that’s all that I needed.
that, and another 35

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: