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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sunday Afternoon at Jack’s

As published at Dissident Voice, 1/22/14:






“Are you Chinese or Vietnamese?” She asked.
“Vietnamese,” I said. “I know some Vietnamese,”
She continued. “Boo coo dinky dow. You know
What I just said?” “I actually don’t,” I answered.
“I don’t think it’s Vietnamese.” “Of course it is,”
She retorted. “Boo coo dinky dow! It means
You’re crazy!” OK, so it took me a while
To figure out that she meant, “Beaucoup
Dien cai dau,” which is a mishmash of French
And Vietnamese for “Lots of madness.”
During the Vietnam War, this was often said
By locals to American GIs, and vice versa.

Across from the old lady was a man too old
To have fought in “Iraqi Freedom,” though his cap
Brightly proclaimed him as a veteran of that
Open-ended campaign for petroleum and Israel.
Iraq has been broken for good, with the resultant
Chaos necessitating America’s meddling
Until she herself collapses, which can happen
At any moment, even during the halftime of this
Much discussed game, to be followed by another
Endlessly debated spectacle. “Hey, can I take
A photo of you and your cap?” “I don’t care,”
The old man replied to my request, “you can
Take a photo of my balls if you want to!”

His first war was Vietnam, his last Desert Storm,
And he has managed to survive it all as a cook.
Though his white beard has seen so much, none
Of it will be transcribed properly. Meanwhile
Utter nonsense is endlessly pumped into
Our much befouled national brainpan.
Our lives in arrears, we’re expected to be
Transfixed by Rich Kids of Beverly Hill.

In a peaceful country, to leisurely get drunk
With your neighbors would certainly qualify
As happiness, but in a nation that can’t stop
Mass murdering, even as its cupboards wheeze,
Each laugh is tainted with anxiety and blood.
As our cash is sucked upward, everything
At street level has gotten shorter, even the
Name of a Chinese takeout, Perial Palace.
Death murals and shrines mark drug corners.
It has become extravagant to be left alone
With a cheap pint, as the juke box whines.

Suddenly the bar roared, and I knew the end
Had come early to New England, for they were
Already behind 23-3. Here, no one cared really.
It was just something to watch on television.
Plus, it was fun to needle the bartender, for
She had on a New England jersey and cap.
“Why does she like the Patriots? Is she
From Massachusetts or something?” I asked
The dude next to me, who turned out to be a
Lawyer of 24 years, “It’s Tom Brady, you know,
He’s good looking, not like us!” He guffawed.

Chatting further, we agreed that those who are
Very pleasant to look at, not to mention to eat,
Will get all the breaks in life, though this won’t
Necessarily promise success. “With this belly
And this chin, I’m handicapped, for sure, so if
The prosecutor is super appealing, I’m screwed,
But all I have to do is win over one juror, so if
I can work on one, if I can flirt with her, say,
Then I can get an acquittal or a hung jury.”

The lawyer said he needed not go into
Whether his client was guilty or not. He only
Needed to work with the evidence, so if there’s
Not enough to convict, that’s that, “I don’t ask
If he raped or killed. I only work with the evidence.”
His career was on the upswing, and he even ran
For mayor of Bristol, until he got hooked on crack
At a heavyweight contender’s birthday bash.
“Who are you talking about?” “I can’t tell you.”
“Local guy?” “Yeah.” “Timmy?” He grinned.

Though never mayor of Bristol, the lawyer
Was a sort of mayor of Jack’s, for he knew
Everybody there and, what’s more, wanted to
Make everyone happy, or so he said, “If I see
Anyone here looking sad, I must cheer him up.
What if someone’s having suicidal thoughts and
There’s no one to talk to? That’s why I talked to you.
Not that you’re suicidal or anything, or maybe you are.
See that guy outside in the wheelchair? He lost his toes,
Thanks to frostbite. He’s homeless,” and with that,
The lawyer went outside to greet the toeless man.

So what are you missing, exactly? You can tell me.
I’ll show you my gaps if you reveal your gashes.
Put your hand here. Yeah, like that. Easy! Can you
Feel what’s gone? There used to be quite a lot there.
Boo coo dinky dow! Lotsa madness! Lotsa madness!
Ending, I’ll give you some crucial information. Although
A can of Busch is only $1.50 here, it’s not the best deal,
For a pint of Yuengling, which is much better, is only $2.





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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

my country has always been a crime


my ancestors have died for this crime.
killed for this crime.
raised a flag and marched with song
stepping over dead bodies
or live ones
for this crime.


today the military gets 50 percent of all available money.
they’re not done committing crimes.
they are trained killers. celebrated.
they are drinking blood with a straw by the pool.


killing the Indians of Massachusett.
selling survivors into slavery. putting heads on pikes.
stealing land wowwy wow wow.
stealing land wowwy wow wow.


they befriended to become the Nazis.
they invaded Panama. they raped el Salvador. they bombed Guatemala.
they tortured Viet Nam. they killed Chile. they guillotined Greece.
they murdered the Black Panthers.
they said no die to Native American Indians
every day for hundreds of years.
this is a very short fucking list.


mr hopey fascist war criminal has got pom poms.
he waves them in the morning light


today the military gets 50 percent of all available money.
they’re not done committing crimes.
they are trained killers. celebrated.
they are drinking blood with a straw by the pool.

Danielle Hagmann said...

There are 3-unravelingss: -finance system broken (money making money and currency fighting, everybody gets cash,gold,stuff...) -climate(droughts/food shortage) -oil depletn(maybe permanent shortage in 1year)-all at one so smartmoney/managers are toobusy lyingstealing. Everyone should learn permaculture/horticulture and get tools/seeds if youhave land...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Linh Dinh,

I was in Philadelphia last weekend. I liked it a lot, plus you guys have Peanut Chews which I have never seen here in Boston. I took the XH Bus to the Erie stop on the Orange subway line. It went through some neighborhoods that looked pretty rough. I wonder if it's actually bad, or just my perception is off. Your photos and writing are top notch, keep it up.

-Randall in Boston

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Randall,

I'd say 50% of Philly is pretty rough, 30% of it merely poor and not deadly, with the rest yuppified or upscale. Not too long ago, I wrote about the area around Erie and Broad. There's also a piece about Kensington, where Jack's is, and here's a poem about a Kensington bartender.


Linh

Daniel Orloski said...

Linh,

Said ir before, will say it again: It does Americans a lot of good to get to know people you meet in streets and taverns. The position of all those Americans who THINK they have it better than those you frequently meet & record their stories is indeed tragic. A universal Bell will inevitably toll.

For me, and although America's Upper Caste is not inclined to admit its own incarceration, "Sunday Afternoon at Jack's" depicts a day in the nation's common prison.

Be well, last night I slept eleven (11) hours after cleaning-up a used motor oil spill at a huge warehouse located in Tobyhanna PA, heart of Pocono Mountains. Carol feared I was DEAD, checked my bed for lung movement a few times! Froze both balls and skinny feet-off, could have used shots of whisky after hours of cracking frozen oil upon asphalt and shoveling the shit for disposal into 55-gallon drums. Sounds as if I feel sorry for myself, a "pity-party"? Yea - sort of, but another good guy was with me (Rob Delayo) and that was our Friday night in America's economic recovery -- rescuing the environment from oil pollution for a fair day's pay.

Look forward to Spring, and your possible visit, tour of Wilkes-Barre. This city is not in deep financial doo-doo like Scranton, but murders are proliferating there.

Charles "Chuck" Orloski
Taylor, PA

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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.