To Whom It May Concern:
In the Polaroid in a drawer of the housethe other relatives picked over, I'm the blur in the background,mop of silvery hair. The rasp of the ashpan when you empty the stoveis a bit like my voice, stuck in the chimney like a nest.You won't have to know how I procrastinated, of my abiding fearof snakes, or how I gave terrible presents when I bothered to give them at all.I was told by a psychic to remember the unloved dead,and so I did, but not in a way they would like,recalling how they got ugly when they drankor stole the loose change from the laundrywhen they thought nobody saw. I spent yearswriting my last letters, writing off the debt of a cold bed,pretending I was busy when really I was homepinned to the couch by a cat.For money I did many things—trapped muskrats,forged thank-you notes, let men pet me while I danced.Mostly I played the role of someone who cared,tilted in my chair and trying to appear engaged,the preoccupied uncle you weren't quite sure you liked.That's me smoking in the Winnebago, leaving the sinkclean of hair. I'm there deadheading the rhubarbnobody bothers to pick and my worthless collections—rag rugs, concrete gnomes—were most likely put out in the trash.Sometimes I lied when I was bored. I wanted youto know what I knew, though I eventually gave that uppreferring to make you laugh.This life I led was mostly private, and hours were spentsweeping bat guano from a crumbling set of stairs.Nobody knew the half of it, and nobody seemed to care.I foresaw how neglected the town cemetery became,glimpsed in a vision the rusted fence that let in the deer.They stripped the bark from the junipersthat eventually came down in a storm.I was in that storm, blown out across the icetoward Arcadia. That's a town in Wisconsinand not some name for paradise.
“To Whom It May Concern:” from God of Nothingness.
Copyright © 2021 by Mark Wunderlich.
Used with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.
Mark Wunderlich’s most recent book of poems is God of Nothingness, forthcoming from Graywolf Press in January. He has published poems in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere. He is the director of the Bennington Writing Seminars, and lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.
“The superb fourth collection from Wunderlich disarms with its directness, humor, and pathos.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“God of Nothingness is a folkloric investigation into death and its resounding implications on our humanity and significance.”
—The Arkansas International
"Erotic, folkloric, elegiac, philosophic, aesthetic, lyric, queer and rural and utterly haunted (but without the usual messiness of haunting), Wunderlich transcends downward and takes us with him. . . . I am in love with The God of Nothingness, which is permeated, it turns out, with a majestic somethingness.”