The man on my left stank so much I had to
Chain-smoke Lucky Strikes to cancel his funk.
“We're all the same,” he’d been muttering,
In a castrato voice, odd for a nose tackle,
“You've got to thank God for everything.”
The grimacing woman across the bar
Suddenly waved in my direction, grinned,
Became a little less shopworn. I wobbled
Before waving back, smiled,
Before I heard a baritone bellowing
Behind my back: “Sorry I'm late.”
The guy on my right cleared his throat:
“I've just moved to Center City
A month ago. I'm still trying
To figure out which bars are cheap. Which not.
Which bars are queer. Which not.
When I came in here and saw no women,
I thought maybe Frank's a queer bar,
But all youse guys are just too pitiful-looking.
Queers like to dress up, from my experience.
Not you, pal.”
Watching the Winter Olympics at McGlinchey's
Jackie, who used to be a DJ on WKDU,
The best punk station in Philly,
Is sitting at a booth reading Sophocles.
The translation is bad. She's holding her head.
Wendy, the bartender, has two rows of broken teeth
And an oil derrick inked onto her freckled arms.
She's into Tolstoy, Imperial Russia and the occult,
Whatever's not of this world, at least not of 9 PM,
Although that clock is usually fast.
When Al showed up, Tommy yelled, “Hello, penis head!”
“Yo, cum breath!” “What's up, Al!” “How you doing, Al?”
Al's a balding nurse who method-acts during his spare time.
Our TV has recently been upgraded and now has closed-captions
For the mentally ill. It is, again, the Winter Olympics,
And rebels in Nagano are dying their black hair auburn,
And there's a German guy by the name of Hackl,
With a thin moustache, who has just won something.
Linh Dinh is the author of a collection of stories, Fake House (Seven Stories Press 2000) and a chapbook of poems, Drunkard Boxing (Singing Horse Press 1998). His poems, stories and translations have appeared in Sulfur, New American Writing, Chicago Review, Fence, Threepenny Review, The Literary Review, American Poetry Review, VOLT, and New York Stories, among other journals. A poem of his has been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, and he is also the editor of the anthology Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (Seven Stories Press 1996).