Linh Dinh does the U.S./Mexico Border

Sometime around last Thanksgiving the Vietnamese-American poet and fictioneer Linh Dinh showed up in El Paso. A friend in Marfa had told him to go visit Bobby Byrd in El Paso. So there was Linh Dinh walking in the Cinco Puntos Press office in downtown El Paso. He immediately liked El Paso, he said, and he wanted to know more about our city and her bedraggled sister on the other side. He had been reading books about the border and the more he read the more interested he became. I took him on my downtown walking tour. Linh Dinh didn’t want the art museum or the pretty stuff. He wanted the meat, the bleeding but sacred heart.
It was Saturday a month before Christmas and the shoppers from Mexico jammed El Paso Street. It was hard to walk down the El Paso Street, the shoppers buying dolls and hats and t-shirts and tennis shoes and blue jeans and dainty neon-colored bras and panties. Linh Dinh was happy among the Mexican throngs. My downtown walk naturally ends up at the El Paso Street Bridge, so we started up the bridge toward Juárez. A mile long caravan of cars stretching down Avenida de Juárez idled and groaned waiting for the blessing of Customs to let them into the 1st World. Mexican photographer Julian Cardona was sitting in that line of semi-parked cars in his little pickup. He honked at us. It’s hard to miss the gringo with the goofy hat, especially if he’s jabbering at a Vietnamese poet. Julian had chores to do on the U.S. side. He smiled and said he’d only been waiting an hour so far. Fronterizos get used to the wait. We all know the laws are stupid, but if you have business or family on the other side, then you go to the other side. Linh told Julian that he admired his photographs in Mike Davis’ No One is Illegal. Linh was happy to meet Julian, and Julian was happy to meet a Vietnamese poet who admires his photographs. I left Linh with a map scribbled out on a 3x5 card and crossed back over the bridge.

That evening Linh came back to the office delighted about his walkabout into Juárez. We traded books. I gave him poems and he gave me poems (Borderless Bodies and American Tatts). Later on he sent me his collection of short stories Blood and Soap. I became a rabid Linh Dinh fan, sharing his books with anybody who asked. His writing is like a big random Vietnamese-American stew boiling forever on the stove with the bloodied body parts of Vietnamese writers, Kafka, Borges, Frank O’Hara and a multitude of other nameless beings. Sometimes Linh writes in English. Other times he writes in Vietnamese. His poems and stories mock the human body. Shit happens just like the bumper sticker says. Likewise fornication. Unseemly breasts and sweat and anuses and death. Fat people and mean people. No meaningless people. But horny people. Football coaches. Lost Viet Cong heroes tunneling to America. It’s a strange place inside his poems. Linh Dinh thinks it’s a funny place although I can smell his tears. He puts the glass of milk inside his poems. It’s half empty. He empties the glass on the floor. Then he breaks the damn glass that was only half empty anyway. Please don’t lie down on the floor. The floor is milky wet and very dangerous. Not a funny place at all. God never makes an appearance. At least not yet. And even if she did I don’t think she’d be welcome. These are some of the many reasons why America should mistrust Linh Dinh.


The Mind’s G Spot

We’re not miserable, just looking.
You treat me like a piece of media.

Before webcams, our poor mothers
Had to place sushi on Xerox machines,

Then snail mail the blotchy results
To our sad fathers, dribbling in prison.

Now we can upload our nuts instantly.
My silicone tits get a million hits a day.

A million scabbards whack against my face.
It’s more hygienic and serial this way.

Those we couldn’t pin decades ago
Keep coming back, spreading.

The gutter punks, surfers, cheerleaders,
Our first or second cousins, our mothers.

--from Borderless Bodies
A Factory School Book


Would You Mind?

It’s OK that my wife
Likes to suck my titties.
I wish in turn that her hands
Were several sizes larger.
It’d be good to latch on to
Such substantial thumbs.

Years ago, in the parked car,
After much drinking in Winter,
The sad girl said: “Thank you!
It’s been so long. I’m going to cry.”

The Trojan stayed secreted inside
The imitation leather wallet
For several years, forever,
Until it finally fell apart.

We ate blue fish, she and I,
When the evening was pasted against the sky
Like two mental patients, naked on the gray carpet.

Lit by a candle, uneaten, the skinny girl
Watched the boy undress, then said,
“I’ll lie down next to you, if you don’t mind.”

If we’re still unclaimed a decade from now,
With no one to fondle or pester us,
Would you mind having a baby with me?

American Tatts
--from Chax Press

Since we met Linh Dinh wrote about his journey to El Paso and Juárez, including meeting up with Julian on the bridge, on this Vietnamese website Talawas Chu Nhat concerning literature, culture and ideas. Later he was kind enough to write about Cinco Puntos and my poetry on The Poetic Invention Blogspot. I was just there, trying how to find the article and I see where Linh and other Vietnamese writers have launched Wikivietlit. There I found this:
The Vietnamese do not say, "I burst out laughing," but, "I was angered into laughing,"or, "I was saddened into laughing." The individuals in Wikivietlit were apparently angered and saddened into writing.
Most certainly: Linh Dinh.

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