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Jacket 16 — March 2002   |   # 16  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |    

Overland magazine feature

Linh Dinh: two poems

A Hardworking Peasant From The Idyllic Countryside

I was illiterate until yesterday. All these squiggly lines — tattooed on every available surface, all around me, all my life — suddenly started to make sense yesterday. Until yesterday I did not know that the invectives and commands constantly swarming around me were actually made of words. I thought they were mosquitoes, or dust, or flecks of paint, each one leaving a prickling sensation on my thin, almost transparent skin. Yesterday someone said something in my vicinity and I finally decided to write it down, a phonetic transcription, to the best of my abilities: FUAK YOW MOFTHEARFUAKIER.

I wrote that down with a blue pen on a yellow piece of paper. I finally wrote, I thought, now I’m a writer. If I had merely transcribed the above as a blue thought onto my yellow memory, I would still be seen as a hardworking peasant from the idyllic countryside.

A Peripatetic Purveyor of Nothing

On The Avenue of Idleness, there is a man who pushes a pushcart around with nothing on it. He rings a bell to announce his arrival. Children and other undesirables like to throw rocks at him.
‘I was never made out for this. I don’t want to sell nothing. I don’t even want to buy nothing.’
‘So much for nothing today?’
‘You better know it.’
‘A little cheaper by the dozen perhaps?’
‘Not at this weight, ma’am.’
‘But my children are grossly underweight!’
‘Like the billboards say, We can’t modernize overnight.’
‘Please wrap it up then.’

Linh Dinh is the author of a collection of stories, Fake House (Seven Stories Press 2000) and three chapbooks of poems, Drunkard Boxing (Singing Horse Press 1998), A Small Triumph Over Lassitude (Leroy Press 2001), and A Glass of Water (Skanky Possum Press 2001). A poem of his is anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, and he is also the editor of the anthologies, Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (Seven Stories Press 1996), and Three Vietnamese Poets (Tinfish 2001).

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