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Thursday, September 16, 2010

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Willing-to-Work-if-I-can--Richmond









Vincent grew up in Syracuse, then studied at Penn State. Divorced, with children 22, 16 and 12 years old. Worked as a registered nurse most of his life. Last job was as a waiter at Red Lobster. Business was bad, so they cut his hours, then let him go. He took out a title loan, then lost his car, then apartment. Vincent's been homeless six weeks. His oldest kid is in college, the two younger ones were living with him, until everything fell apart and they had to go to their mom. He divorced because his wife cheated on him. She remarried, and is working for a defense contractor. "She tries to tear people apart," I chuckled, "while you try to put them back together." "I was always the more nurturing one," Vincent said grimly. "If we were going out, I was the one to ask if the kids had their gloves." Then, "It was deeply humiliating for me to let them go live with their mom." Then, "She was never meant to be a mom."

The day before, a homeless man washing his clothes by the river was assaulted with a 2 x 4. He was struck on the side of the face, near the eye, but his eye socket was not damaged. "Another homeless guy?" I asked Vincent. "My friend couldn't tell. Tall, skinny black guy. He came to me because he knew I was a nurse. I told him it will heal eventually. He didn't want to go to the hospital because he's illegal. He's Mexican."

The people who treated him the best, Vincent said, were black women. Soon as he finished his sentence, a young black woman walked up and gave him an apple.




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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy and England. I'm the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, among other places. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013), and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao (2006). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Reykjavik, Toronto and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.