[Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, 2/27/08]
If you don’t care for contemporary poetry, just skip this post!
A week ago, a student at Fulton Science Academy High School in Georgia asked me for poems to include in his “passion project,” which features “small Asian American artists.” A glance at the website shows, among others, David Mura. No one knowledgeable would consider the author of Turning Japanese “small,” and though I’m canceled, thus less than zero, I was a flyweight contender!
Akshay Maheshwari is in high school, though. Remember when you were 16 or 17? Of course not, for your self-portrait has been so heavily photoshopped to edit out all the goofiness, awkwardness, mishaps or even crimes, so in your mind, you were always smart and considerate, and not, as Gombrowicz would say, cowering under the table, terrified of being exposed.
Busy with writing and photographing, I ignored Maheshawari’s request, but this morning, he asked me again, so I obliged. Though I’m not fond of racially based anthologies, it’s clear Maheshawari needs this, as affirmation and inspiration. If I as a 59-year-old author can be racially mocked by illiterates, imagine what he’s going through.
Why doesn’t he go back to India, you say? Without its Orientals and Indians, the USA would be even more of an idiocracy, and I’m only stating a fact, not endorsing mass immigration or race replacement.
Educated Indians don’t cross the Rio Grande, but are recruited into the country, so it’s really intellectual theft by Uncle Sam. Elite US high schools and colleges are filled with Orientals and Indians. They’re there to study math and the hard sciences, with just a few straying into queer or transgender studies.
In Namibia, I was told by my Indian landlord, “Without foreigners, this country would collapse,” meaning it would be even less competitive. If you want to maintain your heritage and racial cohesion, however, that’s not a high price to pay.
It’s actually unfair to label the USA an idiocracy. It’s much worse!
In Idiocracy, President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho may be a strident clown, but he has good intentions. That’s why he chooses Not Sure, the smartest man in the world, for Secretary of the Interior. Camacho has his nation’s best interest in mind.
Not so, any recent American president. In fact, no US politician is working for America. That’s why there’s such a consensus on Israel, Syria, Jewjabs, lockdowns and Ukraine, etc., resulting in policies that have destroyed the country. Deliberate crimes and evil plots are paved over with bullshit. No public figure challenges absurd narratives on 9/11 or the Bin Laden assassination. Remember the Holocaust, though not the one they’re enacting with Jewjabs.
“Vaccine equity,” burps Amy Goodman. Kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out!
Below is what I sent Akshay Maheshwari. A final warning: even if you do like contemporary poetry, God bless you, this is your last exit before disgust or just one big yawn. It’s past time I get my $1 breakfast, so ciao, ciao!
[Gijang, South Korea on 4/24/20]
Born in Vietnam in 1963, Linh Dinh lived mostly in the US from 1975 until 2018, but is now adrift in Asia. He’s 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), and six collections of poems, with a Collected Poems cancelled by Chax Press from external pressure. He’s 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. He’s also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). Go to his SubStack page, Postcards from the End, for his essays on our increasingly messed up world.
To Flee Conjugation
Lugging my exploded home
And trampling on my own name,
I trek to a yearned deformation.
Imperial chaos hacks flesh,
Sends the unmeshed towards a
Capsized horizon. They dream
Of clean graphic design, houses
That don’t collapse onto cribs.
Invaded, the invaded invade
The invaders’ kitchens and,
Soon enough, bedrooms. Look,
They’re invading each other.
Shut up, smug face, you know
Nothing of ugliness, even that
Which you’ve long bankrolled.
The Most Beautiful Word
I think “vesicle” is the most beautiful word in the English language. He was lying face down, his shirt burnt off, back steaming. I myself was bleeding. There was a harvest of vesicles on his back. His body wept. “Yaw” may be the ugliest. Don't say, “The bullet yawed inside the body.” Say, “The bullet danced inside the body." Say, "The bullet tumbled forward and upward.” Light slanted down. All the lesser muscles in my face twitched. I flipped my man over gently, like an impatient lover, careful not to fracture his C-spine. Dominoes clanked under crusty skin: Clack! Clack! A collapsed face stared up. There was a pink spray in the air, then a brief rainbow. The mandible was stitched with blue threads to the soul. I extracted a tooth from the tongue. He had swallowed the rest.
My son won’t eat anything but fish eyes. At the fishmonger’s, if my wife wants to buy a sturgeon that has already lost its set of eyes, she would also have to ask for two eyes plucked from a catfish, or even an eel, just so my son will have his fish eyes that evening. At home, these eyes are inserted into their new sockets.
If a boy who eats chicken legs all the time will most likely turn into a drunkard, and a boy who eats chicken wings will become a poet, what will become of my son, who never eats anything but fish eyes?
You are often hunched over in an armchair to confide sweet nothings to the side of a face. In this sense, you resemble a bassoon. Though you expect the most extravagant praises for the most trivial accomplishments, you shun and despise those who view you favorably.
As sunlight slants down on another late afternoon, you are strumming on a guitar, eating shepherd’s pie, and sipping rum-laced coffee. Always bitterly exuberant, you see life as a pink spathe swathing a yellow spadix. Tonight, standing in a musty hallway, you will speak your penultimate line with some dignity.
You are often seen in profile at the top of a stairs, listening to a distant music. Your hair is bouffant in the front, flat in the back. Your best view is three-quarter. A minute or two after midnight, champagne will spill from your fragrant mouth.
As you bend down to retrieve a long lost favor, someone seizes you by the shoulder. You are such a master at aestheticizing your crimes that even your victims are grateful to be included in the horrible photographs.
Inducing doubt and self-hatred in all those you come into contact with, you are a cancer and a pig. When a stream of your indulgent reveries is nixed by an unpleasant, ghastly image, you let out a high C and touch yourself immodestly.
“A straight line is easy enough,” you hear in a dream, “but it is not possible to draw a perfect circle.” You smirk at this provocation. Waking up, you work all night on an endless piece of paper, drawing circle after circle, each one wobbly, oblong, squarish, rectangular, some are outright triangles.
Trying to peel away your fingers, someone pleads, “Let go of me!” but you are already beyond discretion. Like every other human being, you crave a single moment of absolute exposure. Today will be your day. Your veins will pop out.
Overhearing “Where I come from, people don’t . . .” you punch the speaker, a blind, elderly immigrant, in the face, knocking two teeth out, before you yourself are knocked unconscious by a blunt instrument from behind. Waking up days later, you are told by a lugubrious dog that he, too, has often slept through the best parts.
In the men’s room of a small town bus terminal, you discover your oil portrait in a trash can. You cut the canvas out, then stuff your folded face into your back pocket. Later, you notice with irritation that where your nose should be is a clay pipe, and your mouth is just a hole.
You cannot understand the story of a youth who falls in love with his own reflection in a spring. Where you are, water does not reflect. Nothing reflects. One’s view of oneself is made up entirely of other people’s verbal slanders.
Told by your employer to buy a new shirt, you respond, “To buy a new shirt is to assume that I have at least two more years to live. Such presumptuousness cannot go unpunished. What's more, there would be this outlandish incongruity between a brand new shirt and my already worn-out body. Such an incongruity would cause my entire being, every single cell, to feel an unspeakable shame, a shame not on the skin, but in the skin, a shame to bring on my early death.”
You wake up to a jungly tune. On the ceiling is a water stain showing your mother’s face in three-quarter view. A suspicious fluid drips on your forehead. You wish there were a hand the size of an umbrella to protect you from all this fresh degradation.
Before, I was a miserly person, dried up, stiff,
Stuck, completely wrung, stuttering, fanatical,
But this morning, my skin felt unusually cool and conscious.
My body tingled. Suddenly I could understand and speak
2,000 languages. My soul blossomed, my breasts budded.
I peeled back my foreskin to scrape clean all of my obsolete
And labored presumptions. My teeth, the gaps in between
My teeth and my breath felt unusually fresh and clean.
I could see very far away. I could sympathize with each
Strand of hair stranded on the skin of each person.
Shuddering, I ejaculated for the first time in life, into life.
I became aware of my miraculous vagina and anus.
Finally, I had been allowed to spread out, to blend into
All humans, animals and things. I just wanted to leap up
To kiss everyone right away. I just wanted to service
And suck everyone right away. I also wanted to be sucked
By everyone on this earth. I was willing to forgive
And apologize to each toe joint on each person
Naked, I walk through the street as the very first human.*
Postcript: Four hours after sending Maheshwari my poems, I received his response, “Good evening. After a short re-evaluation, I'm afraid I will not be featuring your work. I am sorry for disclosing this late.”
I’m not offended but amused. Although this young man nagged me for poems, he hadn’t bother to read my work, hence this immediate rejection. In all three of his emails, Maheshwari also never addressed me by name, so not very professional or even courteous.
Maheshwari isn’t so much an editor as spammer.
I do wonder, though, what he was looking for? Writing more in line with identity politics, perhaps? Woke outrage?
Did he just find out online that I’m a “Holocaust denier,” “anti-vaxxer,” “9-11 conspiracy theorist” or “neo-Fascist”?
It wasn’t time wasted since I got to introduce my SubStack and blog readers to some of my poetry, not that they asked for it!
Kids these days. Smh
You should send him this great line I wrote down from one of your interviews with Kevin Barret, and ask him for one more chance. Say it's one of your poems-
I think the boredom in the west is so great, the tedium and just the mind numbing lifestyle is so bad that they'd rather just die, you know. But they want something exciting to happen just for maybe half a day before they die. Something great to watch on TV and then maybe to see out the window and then they're gone, you know. Anything but the life they're living, man. It's unbearable.
I don't remember 99.9% of what I've written or said, so if you didn't attribute that quotation to me, I wouldn't have recognized it!
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