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Monday, March 17, 2014

Sunil at his Shopping Mall Kiosk

As published at Dissident Voice, 3/18/14:

People who don’t know South Asians think
We’re all the same, more or less Indians,
But Pakistanis are Muslims, mostly,
While Indians are mostly Hindus and
Bangladeshis are much poorer than
Both Pakistanis and Indians. Although
A Bangladeshi, I was not poor at home.

Far from it. Back in Dhaka, I’d never, ever,
Eat lunch without meat, like today, with this
Ridiculous pretzel, with its smear of mustard.
Yesterday, though, Tumpa and I split
A Subway hoagie, on sale for five bucks.
Sometimes we also buy McDonald’s, from
Their Dollar Menu, although it’s not really
A buck anymore. This is bullshit, I’d think.
Why did I leave my decent life in Dhaka?

Back home, I would shop at Bashundhara City,
A mall ten times nicer than this Gallery bullshit.
This place is dying. It’s, what, 3 o’clock already?
We’ve sold two necklaces all day. Imagine!
And customers also haggle with you now,
Just like in Bangladesh. When I first came,
Americans didn’t haggle, didn’t even know how.
Now they’ll shoot off their mouths for 15 minutes
If they think it will save them a buck or a penny.

If this sucks so much, then why did I come?
But how was I supposed to know? Back home,
America appears as Paradise. You know, lots
Of money and everyone dancing and singing
All day long, and having sex, lots of wild sex!
Speaking of which, Tumpa and I barely do it.
You know, I never really loved her. In fact,
I don’t even like her. I only married Tumpa
To come here. I mean, just look at Tumpa!

And it’s not like we can even talk, because
She either makes no sense or she lies.
She lies to everybody. She’d tell people
We’re about to travel to Niagara Falls,
The Grand Canyon or even Dubai, that
Last night we had dinner at Olive Garden.

All my girlfriends back home were gorgeous.
They didn’t even look Bangladeshi, but Indian.
I know it’s bad to talk like this, but it’s the truth.
I wish I had never married Tumpa or come here,
But now, I can’t return, for people back home
Would laugh at me for being a failure in America.

Yesterday, one of the security guards gave me
Two tickets for the flower show. “Your wife, Tumpa,
Will really like it!” He said. What a nice man, but
There’s no way we’re going, because I can’t stand
To do anything with Tumpa. In fact, I can’t stand
To even be seen with her in public. Oh wait,
Here comes Tumpa now, so goodbye, eh!
I’ll talk to you some other time, buddy!


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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.