Riot

the reason for the riot was we kept getting beans
and a guard grabbed a colored boy who threw his on
                                                                                         the floor
and somebody touched a button
and everybody was grabbing everybody:
I clubbed my best friend behind the ear,
somebody threw coffee in my face
(what the hell, you couldn’t drink it)
and I got out to the yard
and I heard the guns going
and it seemed like every con had a knife but me,
and all I could do was pray and run
and I didn’t have a god and was fat from playing
poker for pennies with my cellmate,
and the warden’s voice started coming over the cans,
and I heard later, in the confusion,
the cook raped a sailor,
and I lost my shaving cream, a pack of smokes
and a copy of the New Yorker;
also 3 men were shot,
a half-dozen knifed,
55 put in the hole,
all yard privileges suspended,
the screws as jittery as L.A. bookies,
the prison radio off,
real quiet,
visitors sent home,
but the next morning
we did get our mail–
a letter from St. Louis:
Dear Charles, I am sorry you are in prison,
but you cannot break the law,
and there was a pressed carnation,
perfume, the looming of outside,
kisses and panties,
laughter and beer,
and that night for dinner
they marched us all back down
to the beans.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1960
This poem appeared in the following books: