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Instead of Reading This, You Should Be Reading David Markson (Part Two)


As promised in Part One, here are excerpts from the postcards and letters David Markson sent me from 2003-2010:

I still regret that inadequate answer to your letter. (Whatever it is, here—age, the rotten weather, my 97 sundry infirmities, etc.)

I will try, try, try to get off my butt and set up a drink or whatever. (I cannot explain this goddamn reclusiveness, but it’s in the last few books, I’m sure.)

Poor innocent child, thinking a man of 117 years of age would remember what T.S. Eliot quote, that long after I’d sent it to you.

Did I say I was 117? Now that the heat/humidity has finally lifted, I sometimes don’t feel a day over 109.

Tomorrow, around lunchtime, will be fifty years to the hour since Dylan Thomas died about four blocks from where I now sit. He was in a coma for approx. five days, and it was about three before that when I last chatted with him at the White Horse. But good gawd—a half century ago?! Old, did I say?

And meantime, NO, I’ve no idea what a Blog is. BLOG? Do I want to see printouts or not? Nothing that will upset/annoy/distress me, pls., eh? Only if they truly make nice.

Thank you for all that blog stuff but forgive me if after a nine-minute glance I have torn it all up. I bless your furry little heart, but please don’t send any more. In spite of the lost conveniences, I am all the more glad I don’t have a computer.


I have just taken the sheets out of the trash basket and torn them into even smaller pieces.

I would rather spend an hour and a half trying to solve the roughest first draft of a note for the new book—that will eventually be endlessly rewritten—than ever ever ever read another word of the Internet. Don’t be sore.

Long hours daily here making notes for a new book—but so many damned aches and pains simultaneously that I feel as if I’m 107 years old. Which is pretty grim when you’re only 103.

Lissen, that’s lovely news about a NY reading, and I will, will, will, try to see you—lunch or something—will, will, will, will, will.
Rodya, don’t do it! [*I shared this quote with DM after seeing it scribbled on the wall outside the apartment in St. Petersburg that supposedly belonged to the fictional Raskolnikov]
Will, will, will, will, will, will, will.

I hope neither of you slashed your wrists after the (’04) election. I was gonna jump off the roof here, but my sciatica hurt too much for me to get over the railing.

OK, OK, here’s the deal. Sunday, March 6. Noon. Sharp. Place called Rafaella…I just may, may still be the guy with the three-month experimental beard—when we are peering around to spot each other.

P.S. Yes, dingbat, I know who Jorie Graham is. But I’ve only known for 25 years.

I’ve now learned that there is a special seminar in third-year med school, entitled, “How to Scare the Shit out of Patients,” in which my most recent referral MD got an A-plus.

I am again given a reprieve. To galumph onward toward senility. Next week: Drooling into my custard.

I keep crossing over to smell the lilacs. I have a vague feeling my woman brings in some in Wittgenstein’s Mistress, but can’t be sure—and haven’t opened it in forever. They are now on that small table next to where you were sitting, far more attractive there.

The Danes are great people. When the Nazis in WWII arrived and said all Jews must wear the yellow star, the king himself appeared wearing one.
And then of course there’s Hamlet.
(Though of course he’s an Elizabethan handover.)

No, I ain’t a Capricorn, whatever comes before that—which I recall only because somebody once told me. Don’t tell me you believe in that shit?

Gawd, how can you teach as much as you say? The only time I did it full-time—1964-66, at LIU—I was semi-suicidal.

Why why why do you do all those readings? Who arranges them? Do you get paid?


Dear Laura / Thank you / I am pleased to have it / But the poems are so / Difficult / I will try / some more / Times / Thine / David

You think you’re a poet? Ha, get this. I’ve just received royalty statements on mine, for Jan ’05 through June ’05—I sold SEVEN COPIES! Willie Yeats is turning over in his grave. Eddie Poe weeps where he lies. Johnny Keats whimpers. SEVEN COPIES! IMMORTALITY.

Nada aqui. Old, tired, sick, broke. BUT WORKING!

Did I say that both of your contributions to my new masterpiece made the final cut?
A. Don’t do it, Rodya!
B. Catherine the Great dying in the royal W.C.

The MRI they scared the shit out of me by making me take for my brain did not show a brain tumor (they did not mention whether it showed a brain).

Is there no way to transport every central figure of the Bush administration to Guantanamo in place of 95% of the people there now? Can we ship Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, along with them?

When you come home, will you stop by and put my message on my answering machine with your energetic cheerful voice for me?

I am desperately trying to start a new book.

Greenwich Village street corner anecdote for you, circa early 1990s:
Grace Paley: David, how are you? Tell me what’s new?
DM: Hi, Grace, nothing really. Though in fact I do have a volume of poems coming out.
GP: That’s what we’d all rather do, isn’t it?

What the hell is a “young adult novel”? Don’t waste your writing time on trivia, dammit.

You turn old and pot-bellied and senile and you’re still in touch with some who a half-century ago were heartbreakingly young and beautiful.

Nada mas. My kitchen sink drips. The super fixes it. It drips anew. This comprising the major events in my existence of late.

Yes (again), thinking about a next book—but, dammit, collecting those cursed notes again—which (see your interview) I swore I’d not do! Ah, well, keeps me occupied, at least. “Old. Tired. Sick. Alone. Broke.”

Meantime, nada here. Everything I can think of would be making me repeat myself—and I almost prefer the silence. (Actually I hate it.)

Originally Published: April 22nd, 2013

Laura Sims is the author of three books of poems: My god is this a man (2014),  Stranger (2009) and Practice, Restraint (winner of the 2005 Alberta Prize), all from Fence Books. She received a Creative Artists Exchange Fellowship from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission in 2006, and has been a co-editor of Instance Press since...