Mark Wisniewski


Mark Wisniewski’s second novel, Show Up, Look Good, was praised by Ben Fountain, Kelly Cherry, T.R. Hummer, Jonathan Lethem, and Molly Giles; his first, Confessions of a Polish Used Car Salesman, sold out two printings after praise from the Los Angeles Times. Wisniewski’s fiction has won a Pushcart Prize, and Salman Rushdie chose work of his to appear in Best American Short Stories. His poems have appeared in magazines such as Poetry, West Branch, Confrontation, Gargoyle, Prairie Schooner, Ecotone, and Poetry International.

To Bukowski, #43

today only one SASE: typed
letter from a woman with “Editor” near her name
though I know she’s spent the bulk
of her life otherwise—came to this mag because her mother
ran it before she (the mother) expired

anyway she (the daughter) rejected
my third & fifth “To Buk” poems
both long since accepted & published
both long since withdrawn from her by me
yet she somehow found herself
gifted with time enough to type me a letter—“We like
the writing, but are looking
for more than a response to Bukowski”

as if her readers
(if any exist) truly care
about the moon & the taste of eggplant more than they
do you

she also typed: (“And how
does he manage to get so much published, and his
books everywhere?”
) thus suggesting she’s both comma-
happy & clueless about your death

an ignorance I couldn’t
fathom during all of my walk home

maybe she was born just after you passed
a very young woman who grew up hearing about Buk
never herself living any of that oddly silent
day in that March

which if true tells you & me
we’re certainly not the kids we once were

though probably you’ve long since
lived with that

When I was young and Bukowski was alive, he and I corresponded. I still have his letters, and their warmth and humor still leap off the page, and the advice in them about writing and living and dealing with the pettiness of literary folk still makes for some darned fine guidance. And sometimes, after I read one of his letters, I’ll set it down on the desk to my right and—to keep myself sane—start writing to him again, sometimes about things like horseracing, sometimes about what’s going on with publishing, and, for quite a while now, I’ve been writing such letters as poems.