the knife

my 2nd job was at the railroad yards
and I was one of the few white
laborers there.
my first day as I walked into the yards
toward the timeclock
these 3 stood in front of the clock
grabbing their dicks as if to intimate
that I was a fag.
I walked up to them.
“what the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
they just grinned at me.
but later as I was working the
Oakite hose against the side of a
the leader came up to me,
“we run these yards, you watch yourself
or you get the knife.”
“fuck you,” I said.
I put my waterbrush into the bucket and
we squared off.
the foreman saw us and ran over.
“all right, all right, break it up!
we’re here to work!
you wanna fight, you do it off the

there was no grabbing of dicks when I
punched in after that
but let me tell you that I   was worried
about the knife,
I worried about it every day on that
I guess they fixed it that way, so a
man would worry.
I worried about it for 3 months
but then I quit that job and got a
bus for New Orleans
where I didn’t get knifed but I
saw a guy get knifed in the
French Quarter
and then I was in a small room
drinking wine
and my next worry was about
having to get another
god damned

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript