FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Three by Linh Dinh

by POETS' BASEMENT

Strumming Broke

by LINH DINH

 

Tony pays $280 per month for a room

Merely two blocks from the cracked bell,

Now more dinged than ever, but only

To the eagle-eyed. 7th and Market

Is no free-fire zone, but street noises

Disrupt sleep all night long. Honks,

Sirens and drunken shouts jab into

His already anxiety racked dreams.

 

Tony often wakes with a headache.

With no kitchen, everything’s nuked,

Or fried, surreptiously, on a hot plate.

Soon he may burn everything down.

On each floor is a shared bathroom.

“One of these guys shits on the toilet seat,”

Tony sighs, resigned, sort of, to such shit.

 

Tony was born and raised in Kensington,

A traditionally Irish slum that’s now

Irish, Puerto Rican, Black and Vietnamese.

Ever heard of a Kenzo Mouthwash? Look,

It’s when you bite on the curb as someone

Like Rocky Balboa stomps on your head.

The last time I was there, a young woman

Had just been shot, and as I was snapping

Her large candle-and-teddy-bear shrine, her

Teenaged sis shouted at me, “Hey, you can’t

Take photos! This is not a show and tell.”

 

Tony was delivering pizzas in Philly,

But that felt deadly, so he got a similar

Gig in Cape May, on the Jersey Shore.

On a good night, he’d earn 200 bucks,

Sometimes even more. Tony bought a

$40,000 home, then sold it

For a 20-grand profit. A dead uncle

Also left him 50,000. This was Tony’s

Financial, social and philosophical peak.

What is your apex, buddy? Ah, don’t say,

“The years before I was born,” or, “The decades

After I croak.” Say, “The moment they’re nabbed.”

 

(In drug rehab, Tony met Tina, whom I’d find

Dwelling in a Camden tent city. Freckled,

Redheaded and petite, she said she was

A former Miss New Jersey. She was cute.)

 

Though he has never heard of the word “busking,”

Tony has been busking for two years. He freaks

Strumming and singing in public so, this day,

He swills two cans of Pabst beforehand, outside,

Since he can’t afford to get buzzed inside a bar.

 

“I’m too old to be arrested for public drinking. Plus,

I wouldn’t be able to pay the fine.” Diffident,

Tony stands in the back corridor of a nearly empty

Commuter rail station, in front of a Dollar Store.

 

“FROZEN FEATURE OF THE WEEK. $1.”

With luck, he’ll cover his beer investment,

Plus enough for reconstituted meat.

 

 

Backpack and Nut Indexes

by LINH DINH

 

Forget the DOW or Nasdaq, I give you

The backpack index. Meet Aslim, a

Purveyor of backpacks and purses

At Philly’s half dead mall, the Gallery.

It’s back to school time, so backpacks

Should fly off the rack, but not this year,

Since everyone is broke, after years

Of drowning wages, or none at all, yet

The cost of anything has gone way up,

Including the price of nuts, which have

Been crossed from your grocery list, for

Who needs snacks, when there’s not enough

Quarters and dimes left for regular meals?

 

Out of nuts, rice or beans, you can sell blood.

Out of blood, you can sell your lower half

For half an hour at a time, or else

Have it shredded overseas, under the flag.

Like a nutcase, you lunge forward, yelping,

“Better to kill ‘em here, I guess, than there,

Though I hardly know which country I’m in.

Even home, I no longer know where I dwell.

Fighting for nuts, I’ll leave my nuts right here.”

 

Nutless, you will be deemed a hero, fool or freak,

As you roll down the street, with your small flag,

But at least you’ll eat with what’s left of your jaw,

Though you may have to loiter outside all day,

Behind a sign, “HOMELESS VETERAN. PLEASE HELP.”

Nutless, you’ll recall that hazy, sweet night

In your Chevy, after much Schlitz, when she

Rotated those dice in her winsome way.

 

 

Tom Fischer’s Tavern

by LINH DINH

 

Even blind, you can tell

What kind of a bar you’re in

By listening to the canned tunes.

 

Sinatra’s “Summer Wind,”

Cash’s “Ring of Fire,”

The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek,”

Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,”

Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,”

Then, most unexpectedly,

Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,”

Which I’ve never heard in any tavern.

 

Arlo’s rambling confuses the barkeep,

An Italian-looking woman, maybe 32,

“What the hell is this?” “Arlo Guthrie,”

I pipe up. “ It’s Woody Guthrie’s son,”

But she has never heard of Woody, so

I try, “Do you listen to Bob Dylan?”

No, she says, so that’s that, but at least

Now you know where you are, a trough

For middle-aged white guys. It’s afternoon

And we’re in Westmont, New Jersey.

 

Some bars are black and white, but more

Are almost exclusively black or white, and

Seldom will you see an Asian guy, like me,

Save in California or Hawaii. In Philly’s

Chinatown, there is no neighborhood bar.

In beer commercials, though, everyone

Drinks, laughs, flirts and celebrates together.

 

Here, they’ve been talking about food,

As in fried chicken, pig’s feet, beans and rice,

And grandma’s killer egg and potato salad,

But now the chatter turns to water parks,

So a 55-ish gent tells the smiling barkeep,

“I can sit on one of those tubes all day long.

It’s most relaxing, and you don’t have to get

Out of the water unless you have to poop.”

“To do what?” She asks, looking alarmed.

“To poop. Ahhh, it is relaxing to soak

Your butts and privates in that water.

It’s only, like, four feet deep, you know,

So if you’re fat, like me, your bottom scrapes

The bottom, as you glide along, in that water.”

 

Shaving hell, we too will frolick until

We turn to some bottom material.

Like sediment or memory, we’ll blur

To our true shape, leaving nothing,

Not even an icky smell, in Westmont.

Outside, flags everywhere and a sergeant

Named Rambo, I kid you not. Here, I’m safe

And whisky comforted. That’s fair enough.

 

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

 

Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

 

Poets Basement is now on Facebook. Find us as http://www.facebook.com/poets.basement.

To submit to Poets Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at counterpunchpoetry@gmail.com with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work).  Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where.  For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights.  Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx – use “Save As” to change docx files to “.doc”).  Expect a response within two months (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions). Submissions not following the guidelines may or may not receive a response.

Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.

For more details, tips and suggestions, visit http://crowvoice.com/poets-basement. Thanks!

Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting) Poets Basement is now on Facebook. Find us ashttp://www.facebook.com/poets.basement. To submit to Poets Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at counterpunchpoetry@gmail.com with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work). Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where. For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights. Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document. Expect a response within two months (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions). Submissions not following the guidelines may or may not receive a response. Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology. For more details, tips and links to past installments, visit http://crowvoice.com/poets-basement. Thanks!

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
Alice Donovan
Cyberwarfare: Challenge of Tomorrow
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
April 28, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz Díaz
Puerto Rico: a Junta By Any Other Name
Alfredo Lopez
Where the Bern is Fizzling: Why Sanders Can’t Win the Support of People of Color
Peter Linebaugh
The Commons and the Centennial of the Easter Rising
Dan Arel
What Next? Can the #Movement4Bernie Accomplish Anything?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail