the big weight-lifting feat

I was a packer in a factory east of
Alameda street
and I was living with a bad-assed
she fucked everybody and anybody
even me.
and I didn’t have the sense to get
anyhow, I worked all day and we
drank all night
and I arrived every morning
at Sunbeam Lighting Co. and
I always told them the
same thing:
“don’t anybody fuck with me.
I’m not in the mood for it.”

this one morning
there was a triangle of steel
with a little loop on top of it.
I didn’t know what it was.
it didn’t matter.

all the killers and bullies and
musclemen were trying to lift it.
it wouldn’t move.

“hey, Hank, baby!” a worker hollered
at me, “try it!”

“all right,” I said.

I came around my bench and walked up
to the steel, stuck my finger into the
loop and yanked.   nothing.   it must have
weighed at least 300 pounds.

I walked back to my bench.

“whatsa matter, Hank baby?”

“been beatin’ your meat, Hank baby?”

“your little bib gonna fit this mornin’,
Hank baby?”

“ah shit….,” I said, “for CHRIST’S SAKE!”

I came around my bench and swept down on the
steel, grabbed it, lifted it up a good foot and
a half, put it down and went back to my bench
and continued packing a light fixture into a

“jesus!   did you see that, man?”

“I saw it!   he did it!”

“let me lift that son of a bitch!”

he couldn’t do it.   they all came and
tried again.   the steel weight wouldn’t

they went back to their various jobs.
at about 11:30 a.m. a truck backed in
with a crane in the back of it.   the
crane reached down, clamped the steel
and lifted it, with much grinding, into
the truck.

for about a week after that
blacks and Mexicans who had
never spoken to me
tried to make friends.
I was looked upon with much

then not long after that
everybody seemed to forget about
it and
I began to get verbally
sliced again
challenged again
mocked again
it was the same old

they knew what I knew:
that I’d never lift anything
like that again.

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