JURY DUTY

years ago
I was in a big room
and Our Row
started talking
about what we did.
My own sentence
surprised me.
In my heart I’m a poet
I said to a man
in a nice suit
who imported Good Swiss Watches.
Will you write
a poem for a watch
he asked? Of Course
I said. I wrote
six love poems
(all to the same
woman) and he
gave me six
good watches.

A few months
after jury duty
he sent me a note.
I have it somewhere.
She Liked Your Poems
he said. I told her
I wrote them.
Now, he said
I have more
of a chance.

REVISION, or Coming Home

not just snow or familiar
towels, stack of mail
mostly strangers selling
t-shirts I don’t wear
t-shirts courses I will never take
while I am sleeping not just
what I know in my old well loved
orange and other colors apartment
sentences half written
everywhere not just many soaps and a lifetime
of friendships people who will
come to dinner and the crazy
Palestinian across the street
sellings milk for seventy five cents
more than the grocery store
I buy it from him because I want to
even though we don’t agree
about too much even milk he likes his
fat not just the possibilities
of ice cream and the opportunity
now that I am home after 36 hours
of getting home to consider
where I’ve been.

 

Vietnam

Today I want
to tell you
a story said
our intrepid guide
how my sister
got engaged to
one man who
fixed engines. Right
before their wedding
he disappeared.
We heard
boat people
took him.
Ten years
went by. One
night he
knocked at
our door. We
thought he
was a ghost.
Now they live
in Pittsburgh.
She runs
a nail parlor.
He has
a good job.
If you saw them
you wouldn’t
know any
of this.

Veng Tells a True Story

We kept our money
in gold Veng said. When
the Khmer Rouge came
my father hid our gold
in a well with dirty water
where no one would drink.
He and my mother went
to the well after the war.
All our money was gone.
My mother cried.
One day when my father
was walking he saw
three men drinking liquor.
One of the men said
you look so unhappy. I will
buy you a drink and you
will feel better. My father
said ok. The man was
a fortune teller. My father
didn’t believe in them.
Still he told the stranger
his problem. You’re
in luck he told my father.
Your money is still
in the well. The next day
he went to the well
with my uncle and his
money was right there.
He and the strange man
became like brothers.
This is Cambodia
said Veng.

Tourists, or Other People

How would I feel
if 18 small brown tourists
from Vietnam
came to see
how big white people
lived entered
my rent stabilized
apartment watched me
eat a bagel schmeered
with cream cheese I would
offer them some
if they examined
my shoes particularly my
red suede sandals
pink laces if they
saw my Big TV
home to Bob’s Burgers
opened my refrigerator
to examine Paul Newman’s
salad dressing asked me
what I think about war
and duty and governments
and love. I wonder
what I’d want to say.

Mekong Fish Stories

1)

We Vietnamese have cheap
and tasty catfish.
Mississippi catfish growers
didn’t want our fish.
They went to US court
to say in Vietnam they
do not have real catfish.
We changed
our fish’s name
to Basa. But it’s catfish.

2)

Giant carp
can be
big as
a big bus.

3)

We have dog eating
catfish. Google it
for a picture. You
don’t want to walk
your dog
near this river.

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