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Sunday, September 7, 2014



“I was born in Media, PA. I was
A carpenter, then a caddy. I’d make
Up to 125 bucks for four hours of work.
These rich guys would buy me a beer
At the halfway house. That’s a place
To relax, just after the 9th hole, not a
Home for recovering junkies, drunks
Or criminals just sprung from prison. I

Know about that kind, too, for I simply
Love alcohol. First thing in the morning.
At 7 o’clock, I’ve got to have my drink.
I was also on crack for about five years,
And I’ve been on the streets for ten years,

In Atlantic City and Philly. I’ve been
Jumped about ten times. The back of my head
Is stapled. It’s these black kids, about 15, 16,
They’d just hit you for no reason. Or they’d be
Talking to you, and suddenly they’d hit you.

I don’t know where all that anger is coming from,
But I stay away from all black neighborhoods now.
I try not to wander from Center City. Black women,
Especially the older ones, would give me money
Or food. They take care of me. I have

A 15-year-old daughter with a black girlfriend.
I was with Diane for five years. That’s
My longest relationship ever. I haven’t
Seen Diane in years, and I don’t even
Know my daughter’s name. Never seen her.
She hates me, probably. I’m sure she does.

I’ve been in jail for vagrancy and
Public drunkeness, nothing violent.
I would never hurt anybody. I’m just
A friendly guy. When I was a kid,
My mom and dad hit me a lot, though.
My mom is still in Media, but I won’t
Go see her. My dad is dead. Just last week,

I asked this guy for a quarter, and this man,
Who was really intelligent looking, you know,
And an office type. He said, ‘Let me go
To the ATM,’ and I thought, ‘Shit, man,
Why is he going to the ATM for a quarter?’
But then he returned and gave me
200 bucks! I couldn’t fuckin’ believe it!
I’m still spending it. When I can't afford gin,

I drink mouthwash. The hardest part is
Getting that shit down, because it is nasty.
It says so right on the bottle, ‘Do not swallow.’
But if you can keep it down, it will keep you
Pretty damn buzzed for four or five hours.”

Bob wore green hospital pants and pale blue gown.
As we were talking, Bob would wave at cars.
Some drivers would wave back. A double decker
Tourist bus appeared, so Bob grinned and waved.
A tourist waved back. Both Bob and I thought
This was hilarious. Welcome to Philadelphia!
Before leaving Bob, I said,“You know you were
Walking around with your ass showing! You should
Go to that church over there and get some clothes.”

“My ass was showing?!”

“Yeah, man, you should go to the church.”

“Yeah, I know where that church is.”



Anonymous said...

thanks for your human decency in chronicling the collapse of capitalism and dignifying its victims

as Winston mused in _1984_ while he watched the crowd of proles in the railway station
'if they only knew their power'

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Anonymous,

Well, I should thank all these people for not being condescending towards me, for I'm so clueless about so much!

I wish to be their equal, so they treat me like a brother, which is more than I can say about many in our educated class.



About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I lived mostly in the US from 1975 until 2018, and have returned to my native Saigon. I've also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), a novel, Love Like Hate (2010), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six collections of poems, with a Collected Poems soon to be released from Chax Press. 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). My writing has been translated into Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in Tokyo, London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.