Tit for Tat, “I was wondering why it seems
That a majority of your interviews take place
In bars? Is it because there is where one can
More easily connect with a cross section of
The local public, or is it something else?
As one who has spent very little time
Hanging out in bars, it just seems that whole
Other cross sections of the ‘America’ you seek
Out and expose are not appearing in your work.
I do have to admit, that like your most aggressive
Detractor, these pieces seemingly appear,
And I have read many of your pieces, more
Monochromatic, not very inclusive of other
Potential sources for thought and discovery.”
Me, “If you have limited time in a town
In which you know nobody, you go
To a public place where people gather
And in the United States, that’s a bar.
If I had the means, I’d infiltrate other venues,
But I don’t. I don’t get paid for my articles,
Though people Paypal me money to support
My wandering. If you want me to write
From more pricey haunts, you’re welcome
To bankroll me, but if you’re not inclined, then
This is what I have to offer. Working class people
Meet in bars, so even if I wasn’t writing Postcards,
I’d go to bars. The working class, underemployed
And unemployed don’t go to concerts, art openings,
Fashion shows or golf courses. They hang out
In cheap bars, often for many hours at a time.
They don’t care for the bar’s decors or
How many beers it has, they just want
A place to sit and talk with their similars,
And when in a bar, they certainly don’t
Talk about the bar itself, but everything
Outside of it, so if you find their stories
Monochromatic, then I’m afraid there is
Something wrong with your vision, for I
Can never find people’s lives monochromatic.
Ten thousand more nights in bars would be
No waste of time, if I could soak in anecdotes
About the joys and sorrows of their existence,
Which is also my lot in life, though not,
Apparently, where you’re coming from.
The thin walleted also go to bars to get out
Of their cramped quarters, especially if all
They have is a room in a shared apartment.
A crappy bar, then, becomes their communal
Living room, and a luxurious one at that, since
It has pictures on walls, free music and
Televisions showing sports, which many
Can no longer watch at home, not since
They canceled their cable subscription.
Finally, there’s a sign in Di Nic’s, a bar
Not too far from my front door, ‘Never trust
A man who doesn’t drink,’ and beyond the
Jokey inducement to alcoholism, it’s a
Admonishment against rejecting what
Every other man and woman is doing.
In many cultures, there are no separate plates
At meal times, so you simply eat and drink what
Everybody else is eating and drinking. If they
Drink sake, chianti or thin beer, you do that. If
They eat snakes, snails or blood pudding, you eat.”
Thursday, April 2, 2015
- Linh Dinh
- 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 a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), 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). 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.