in one ear and out the other

my father had some sayings that he liked to
repeat over and over:
“If you can’t succeed, suck eggs!”
“My country, right or wrong, but my country!”
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy,
wealthy and wise!”

my mother just smiled as he mouthed these.
me?
I thought, this man is a fool.

“Any man who wants job can get one!” was one
of his favorites.

almost everything he said was stupid.
he called my mother “mama”.
“mama, we gotta move out of this neighborhood!”
“why, daddy?”
“because I saw one, mama, movin’ in…”
“one what, daddy?”
“a nigger…”

another one of his favorites was:
“eenie, meanie, miney, mo, catch a nigger by the
toe, if he hollers make him pay, 50 dollars every
day!”

he never voiced his sayings while sitting down
but always when marching about the
house.
“God helps those who help themselves!”

“you listen to your father, Henry,” my mother
told me.
that poor woman, she meant it.

“Don’t do as I do,” he told me, “but do as I
say.”
I ended up doing neither.

and the day I looked down at him in his
coffin
I almost expected him to say something
but he didn’t so I made it up for
him:
“Dead men tell no tales.”

thank Christ, I had heard enough.

then
they closed the lid and my uncle Jack and
I went out for hamburgers and fries.

we sat there with them in front of us.

“your father was a good man,” he
said.

“Jack,” I answered him, “pass the pepper,
will you?”

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1991
Source
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: