A Bucket of Crabs

I’ve been working since I was 15. This sums up waaaaaaaaay too much of what it’s been like. Might be time to focus on who’s providing the bucket.

crabs in a bucket poster

the great escape
by Charles Bukowski

listen, he said, you ever seen a bunch of crabs in a
no, I told him.
well, what happens is that now and then one crab
will climb up on top of the others
and begin to climb toward the top of the bucket,
then, just as he’s about to escape
another crab grabs him and pulls him back
really? I asked.
really, he said, and this job is just like that, none
of the others want anybody to get out of
here. that’s just the way it is
in the postal service!
I believe you, I said.

just then the supervisor walked up and said,
you fellows were talking.
there is no talking allowed on this

I had been there for eleven and one-half

I got up off my stool and climbed right up the
and then I reached up and pulled myself right
out of there.

it was so easy it was unbelievable.
but none of the others followed me.

and after that, whenever I had crab legs
I thought about that place.
I must have thought about that place
maybe 5 or 6 times

before I switched to lobster.
“the great escape” by Charles Bukowski from Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way. © Ecco Press, 2004. Buy now.

More: Crab Mentality

One Reply to “A Bucket of Crabs”

  1. Ah, Bukowski–you’ll always get a “like” from me. I had a union job once, in a “greenhouse” that was really just a factory, plugging tiny starts into cellpack trays 8.5 hours per day–it was hot, humid, even in winter, and the assembly line conveyor belt moved fast. No talking allowed. We had to shout out if we needed a toilet break, then wait for a supervisor to release us. It took 7 minutes to walk to the cafeteria, each way, for our 30 minute unpaid lunch break. I lasted a week and a day, most of which was spent fending off the stench of my co-workers’ misery, and thinking of this poem.


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