4PM, Wednesday, September 24th
Kesler Lecture Hall of Hickok Hall
1220 First Avenue NE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
THE ART OF TRANSLATION: LINH DINH IN GRINNELL
(A reading of my poetry translations from the Vietnamese, plus some of my works that focus on language.)
8PM, Thursday, September 25th
Bucksbaum 131 - Faulconer Gallery
1210 Park Street
Postcards from the End of America
Monday, September 15, 2014
Shellacked, Edward fell asleep waiting
For a hypothetical bus. As he dreamt,
Someone played with his foot, but
It was no giggling lover, as he thought.
She or he nudged harder, so Ed smiled.
“Wake up! What are you doing here?!”
Opening his eyes, Ed saw a cop, took
A moment to figure out where he was,
Then got up to walk home in the snow.
His feet were cold and wet. Someone
Had stolen his $80 pair of sneakers.
Ah, but how can a man go through a day
Without ten thousand mishaps, at least?
And we’re not counting the insults even!
Each tick above ground is mushroom gravy.
You’ve crossed the line, though, if you asked Ed
About his missing arm, out of the blue.
There’s no graceful preface or segue.
“When people say something stupid
About my missing arm, I tell them
I got an infection after fist fucking
Your mom. You got that?” Ed smiles.
Once, Ed had so many limbs, he ignored
Most of them, so a bunch felt sad, atrophied
And fell off, but he didn’t care, he had so many
Arms and legs left to toy with. Didn’t we all?
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Thursday, September 11, 2014
* Thanks for a $50 donation from Damak, Nepal. Black White, Occupy and Postcards from the End of America PDFs have been sent!
* Thanks for a $30 donation from Kearney, Nebraska. BLACK WHITE and Postcards from the End of America have been sent! On my upcoming trip to Iowa, I'll also stop for a day in McCook, in western Nebraska, so I've been reading Willa Cather, whom I first encountered 30 years ago. She's another on our long list of underappreciated greats...
* Thanks for a $30 donation from a repeat donor in St. Augustine, FL!
Scraggly bearded dude had an upturned
Finger etched onto the back of his neck,
But he didn’t seem like a fuck you type.
In jean shorts, a moustachoed paesano
Rubbed his Yuengling belly with both hands
As he kvetched to his pal, “Yours is bulging
Sideways, but mine is shooting straight out.
I’m going to have a boy, and you a girl!”
Among four men and a woman, the barkeep,
There wasn’t a single button, for all
Were wearing a T-shirt or muscle-T.
Freefalling superpower, we’ve become
The United States of Underwear. In
A few years, maybe, no American
Will know how to tie his shoes. On TV,
Our brain cell flushing is already frightfully
In high definition. Question on Who Wants
To Be a Millionaire, “What is commonly
Placed over the opening of a Corona?”
First of, who cares?! Still, among the dangled
Answers, the ditzy contestant could choose
A) Taco Bell Chalupa (product placement)
Or C) Sombrero, I kid you not, and though
The correct burp was clearly a wedge of lime,
She sweated along with host and audience.
Peeling from T-Barr’s Bar, I drifted home
Through snug gauntlets of row houses. Though
Not much can grow here, there’s a Tree Street,
And even a Mountain Street. This kind of
Flash magic is also deployed on countless
Majestic murals dotting dismal hoods.
At a pre-school, Discovery Place, I espied
A banner congratulating Mo’ne Davis,
“Scholar & Athlete.” Sagging attire
Mirrors droopy thinking and writing,
So a 7th grader is now a PhD,
And this banana nuclear power and
Tireless sower of chaos is, even now,
Stridently trumpeted as mankind’s succor.
As I type, our prez is pushing war, again.
From plumber to college president, we’re
Passive killers, at best, so as our bombs
Tear through other people’s flesh, we’ll see
And say what we’re told to see and say.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Even if this economy was gravy,
James would still be in deep shit.
At 57, he sleeps in a trailer in a
Camden junk yard. In exchange
For this rusty haven, plus sporadic
Cash and food, he’s the nightwatchman,
A slurry backup to the crazed bulldog.
The trailer has no water or electricity.
Each month, James gets 140 bucks
In welfare, plus 200 in food stamps,
Which he sells for $100 cash. Most
Of his meals are taken at soup kitchens.
Born in Camden, James has spent most
Of his life in Millville, NJ, the home of
Mike Trout, the 150-million-dollar slugger.
James has been to California and even Alaska,
But never out of the country. At 16, James
Fell in love with Linda, 14, and they had sex,
But they would not become husband and wife
Until 11 years later. They had twin girls, then
A girl and a boy, but the marriage
Didn’t even last five years. A lifelong drunk,
James just drifted away, but each time
He showed up again, Linda would let him in,
Even after she had a new man. Sometimes
James wouldn’t leave for two weeks. “I got along
Good with her boyfriend. I would introduce
Them to people as, ‘This is my wife, and
This is her boyfriend.’” James spent decades
Working as a carpenter. He built houses.
Three years ago, Linda committed suicide
By swallowing a bottle of pills. Jame’s children
All live near Scranton but won’t talk to him.
He has never seen his seven grandchildren.
Five years ago, James took some vodka and crack
To this woman’s house, “I was trying to
Get some pussy, you know, and we were
Partying over at her place, but I passed out.
When I got up, I noticed that my wallet wasn’t
In my pocket, but sitting on this counter. When
I opened it, my money was all gone! I had
Six hundred bucks, man, but it was all gone!
“She denied she had anything to do with it, so
I said, ‘If you don’t give me back my money, bitch!
I’m going to burn this place down!’ She wouldn't,
So I went home and got a container of gasoline,
Returned and poured it on her trailer. I wasn't
Going to light it, I was just trying to scare her,
But she called 911. That’s how I went to jail.
I plea bargained for five years and ended up
Serving four. I had never been homeless until
I got out of jail.” While James was locked up,
His mother, a brother and Linda died,
But he didn’t go to any of the funerals,
Since it’d have cost him 500 bucks
To be released each time, and he would have
To show up in handcuffs and shackles. “I didn't
Want to see my ma in a box anyway. My brother
Said she didn’t even look like herself. She was
All bloated. I prefer to remember her sitting
At the kitchen table, reading her book.
That’s how I still see her.” This day,
James trekked across the Ben Franklin Bridge
To panhandle in Philadelphia, and that’s how
I met him. James smiled, “Some people collect
Coins, others stamps. I collect jokes.” He told me
Several unlaughable tales, including one about
A rueful Italian who’s selling a blind horse.
His honest pitch, “He not looking so good.”
I asked James if he had a photo of Linda,
And he said no, “It would make me cry
To look at her face.” I said Linda means
“Pretty” in Spanish, and James said the only
Spanish he knew was, “Te quiero mucho!”
James has seven siblings, all brothers,
But three have died. A brother offered
To take him in if he’d sober up, but
James declined. This brother is also
Trying to quit alcohol. James has owned
Seven cars, but lost his last license due
To a DUI conviction. Female homeless
Drug addicts will offer sex for $20, even 10,
But fearing diseases, James is not tempted.
James doesn’t have a woman now, “Because
I have nothing. I have nothing to offer a woman.
I take it one day at a time. At night,
I thank God for having given me a good day.
In the morning, I thank God for another day.
I thank him during the day too. I thank God.”
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.”
Saturday, September 6, 2014
- Linh Dinh
- Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy and England. 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 Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, among other places. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013), and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao (2006). 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, Reykjavik, Toronto and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.