Charles Bukowski was born Heinrich Karl Bukowski in Andernach, Germany; his mother, a German native and his father, an American serviceman. After financial issues in Germany, the family moved to America, first making a home in Baltimore, Maryland and then settling in South Central Los Angeles. Time Magazine called him a “laureate of American lowlife.”
German by Charles Bukowski
being the German kid in the 20’s in Los Angeles
there was much anti-German feeling then,
a carry-over from World War 1.
gangs of kids chased me through the neighborhood
yelling, ‘Hieneie! Hieneie! Hienie!’
they never caught me.
I was like a cat.
I knew all the paths through brush and alleys.
I scaled 6-foot back fences in a flash and was off through
backyards and around blocks
and onto garage roofs and other hiding places.
then too, they didn’t really want to catch me.
they were afraid I might bayonet them
or gouge out their eyes.
this went on for about 18 months
then all of a sudden it seemed to stop.
I was more or less accepted (but never really)
which was all right with me.
those sons-of-bitches were Americans,
they and their parents had been born here.
they had names like Jones and Sullivan and
they were pale and often fat with runny
noses and big belt buckles.
I decided never to become an American.
my hero was Baron Manfred von Richthofen
the German air ace;
he’d shot down 80 of their best
and there was nothing they could do about
their parents didn’t like my parents
(I didn’t either) and
I decided when I got big I’d go live in some place
never open my door to anybody and live on my
luck, live with a beautiful wife and a bunch of wild
which is, more or less, what
American and German,