Richmond shakes his head disgustedly.
He taps the filter end of his cigarette
on the corner of his gnarled wooden table.
He sticks the thing in his mouth.
“Bukowski didn’t start writing prose
until he was in his forties.”
Richmond’s eyes are wide; he inhales smoke.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” I respond, thinking:
so this is Gretchen Willits, spilling the beans.

“Bukowski’s a fucking genius,” he goes on.
“If you could just tape record everything
that comes out of that fucker’s mouth….”
He trails off, eyes wide, smoke swirling out
of nostrils and mouth.

It’s cruel of me, I realize, to sit here
watching this guy for later poems
and unwise but I see the poem forming
and I push it away. I like Richmond.

“Barton’s just waiting for Bukowski to die;
he’s sitting on tons of crap, just waiting.”

I don’t understand this but don’t pursue.

“Barton wants to write Bukowski’s biography,
publish his collected letters, shit like that.”

I nod.

“Barton wouldn’t let me publish about 80 pages
of Bukowski letters; he threatened to sue.
I was gonna call it, LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET.”
He scrunches out the cigarette in a well-used ash tray.
He sighs.
“Ah fuck it,” he says. “If I were Barton, I’d probably
do the same thing.”

“No you wouldn’t,” I say.

Richmond thinks about it, takes out another cigarette,
taps it on the corner of the gnarled wooden table.
“No, I probably would,” he says, and then he laughs
and lights his cigarette.

Douglas Goodwin's books include Hung Like a Hebrew National, Half Memory of a Distant Life, and Slamming it Down. The latter two include a foreword by Charles Bukowski, who championed Goodwin's verse and corresponded with Goodwin over several years. Much of the Goodwin-Bukowski correspondence appears in the feature "Letters to Douglas Goodwin" in the 2015/16 edition of the Charles Bukowski Society Jahrbuch 2015/16, edited by Roni and Sönke Mann, out of Bamberg, Germany. Goodwin also collaborated with poet Steve Richmond on the literary magazine stance in the 1980s.