what will the neighbors think? (excerpt) by Charles Bukowski

I think that was the question asked most of me
by my parents.
of course, I didn’t really care what the
neighbors thought.
I felt sorry for the neighbors, those frightened
people peeking from behind their
the whole neighborhood was watching
and in the 1930s there wasn’t much else to
except me coming in drunk late at

“this is going to kill your mother,”
my father told me,
“and besides what will the
neighbors think?”

me, I thought I was doing very well.
one way or the other
I managed to get drunk
without having any
money at all.
a trick that would stand me in good
later in my life.

to make things worse for my poor
I began to write letters to the
editor of one of the large
most of which were published
and all of which
backed unpopular causes.

“what will the neighbors think?”
my parents asked

SOURCE: Read “what will the neighbors think?” in its entirety in Charles Bukowski’s collection Bone Palace Ballet (Ecco, 2001), available at

PHOTO: Charles Bukowski with his parents, late 1930s.