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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dick Seeth, Moe and Woman Drinking Nothing

As published at Dissident Voice, 3/30/14:

Illness forces a sharpening
Of self-definition, and so can
Argument. Some fights, though,
Are so stupid that the only solution
Is to walk away. Vietnamese proverb:
“Argue with a smart man, can’t win.
Argue with a stupid man, can’t stop.”

Dick Seeth, let’s just call him that, derives
Enormous pleasure from conflict, which
Empowers him. Without constant war,
He’s bloodless and limp, a loser, which
He is, frankly, for there’s no art or,
More importantly, love in his music.
Hiding behind posts, he shoots bile.

There are Dick Seeths all over, but the world
Is not, in fact, overrun by them, so yesterday,
I went up to Kensington to connect with a
Saner and sweeter humanity, and besides,
A pitcher of Yuengling at Jack’s Famous Bar
Is only $3.75, and a cheesesteak four bucks.

With prices like that, the place was packed,
As usual, but I managed to find a stool, so
Let’s listen to Moe, to my right, “I’m 73.
When I was 17, I got my first and only job,
Working at Globe Dye Works. They gave me
Tasks no one else wanted to do, and for that,
They paid me $6 an hour, which was excellent
Money way back then. I stayed for 18 ½ years.
What have I done since? Nothing! I survived on
Welfare and odd jobs. Now I’m on Social Security.

I get a grand each month. My landlord takes 400,
I have a room, with my own TV and ice box, but
I never cook, really. I eat here. One cheesesteak
Is usually enough for an entire day. I spend more
On beer,” Moe laughed, “but if I’m out of cash,
I can borrow or I just don’t drink. I stay home
To watch TV or listen to my radio. It’s no big deal.

Yes, I’ve been married, but that was so long ago.
It only lasted six months! I was a virgin,
And she was pregnant, but I was pretty sure
It wasn’t my child. We only did it once or twice,
But my mom and dad said, ‘If you slept with her,
You should marry her,’ so I did, but we argued
All the time. In the beginning, I gave her half
Of each paycheck, then I stopped. I didn’t care.
I don’t even know the kid’s name. He wasn’t mine.

I never remarried, never even came close.
The love of my life is in heaven,” and Moe pointed
To the copper ceiling. Fully expecting him
To answer, “Mary. The Virgin Mary,” I asked
For her name. “Bobbie,” Moe said. “She died
At thirty-five, in her sleep. I still don’t know why.
We were only together two years. It was love
At first sight, but she was married, you know.
In fact, it’s her husband who knocked my door
To tell me Bobbie had died. He knew about us.
Everybody did. He didn’t mind. Maybe he also
Had a lover. Bobbie and I loved each other, but
It wasn’t about sex. I was much older, you know.
How old? Let’s see, she only died four years ago,
So I was 67 when I met her. It wasn’t about sex.
In fact, we only did it maybe once or twice.
Sex is not that important to me. I’ve been
To a prostitute once or twice, also, and
I didn’t really care for it. I was really drunk.

You don’t have to do what everybody’s doing.
I don’t vote either. Don’t believe in it. They always
Promise you this and that, then do whatever. I’ve
Only voted once. I voted for Kennedy, and that’s
Mostly because he was Irish.” Moe laughed.

By this point, I was on my second pitcher.
Behind the bar, beadworks by a bartender.
Of flowers, they cost 20 or 30 bucks.
On television, the Sixers were trying to
Not lose 27 consecutive games. I’m serious.
To my left, a woman of about 65, wearing a
Lidded knit cap, two coats, purple nail polish and
Chowing on cheese fries from Crown Chicken.
“Don’t ever get fish sticks there,” she advised.
“They’re the size of French fries. I remember
Ordering them when Madonna was singing
During the Super Bowl. These are all right.”
She kept talking to herself when not draining
Her empty mug. “Hey, you’re drinking nothing!”
Without turning to me, she replied, “I know.”

It was pouring when I left Jack’s, but I was already
Feeling much cleaner, and so far removed from
The stench of those whose rage obscures.


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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. 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 Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). 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, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.