they are after me

more and more I get letters in the mail
from young men who say they are
going to replace me, that I’ve had it too
long, they were going to kick my ass,
strip me of my black belt, etc.

I am surprised how many young men
there are out there who are sure they
are going to replace me.
I could fill half a McDonald’s with
and I am astonished how cocksure
they are of their attributes.
I suppose they have been bolstered up
by their wives, girlfriends, mothers,
teachers, barbers, uncles, brothers,
mates, waitresses and gas station
but why would they want to replace
a nice guy like me?
I listen to Mahler, tip 20 percent, give
money to bums, I get up each morning
and feed 9 cats.
why can’t I keep my black belt a while
they can’t wait, all these fellows…

I get drunken phone calls at 3 a.m. in
the morning:
“you’ve had it, Chinaski, you’ve sold
I’m a REAL ARTIST, you son of a bitch
and I’m out on the street!
I’m waiting for you in the streets, I’m
going to beat the shit out of you!
Chinaski, …. etc. etc.”

I change the phone number to another
unlisted number but soon they find it
and I must listen to another drunk, or
rather the answering machine does.

or they come to the door and if I don’t
let them in, the night rings with their
curses and beercans are flung against
the door.
all these ranting, raving fellows.
and me, such a nice guy.
they want my damned ass.
in hell.

I’m sure I’ll be replaced, perhaps already
I understand the workings.
I’ve had my fling, a long fling.
and I’m old enough to die in the wink of
an eye.
I shouldn’t be smoking this huge cigar
here or drinking these beers, one after
the other.
my black belt is slipping down around
my ankles.
patience, patience, fellows, you’ll have
your day, not all of you but one or two.

meanwhile, can’t you find somebody
else to rail against?
must I always be on your minds?
I’m a nice guy, I haven’t punched anybody
in the mouth in ten years.
I even voted for the first time in my life
last year.
I’m a good citizen.
keep my car washed.
greet my neighbors.
talk to the mailman.
the owner of this sushi bar bows to me
when I walk in.
yet the other day somebody mailed me
a letter with the pages smeared in
everybody wants my ass in hell.
please wait, I will accommodate.
meanwhile, let me play with my toys,
let me shoot these tiny rockets into

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript