Dust Over Sheen

That night, I sat next to a large, elderly lady
Who snored quite prolifically. Even with a
Mispositioned jaw and much fat gathering
Around throat, she managed to compose
Quite complicated, endless solos with her
Unconscious exhalations, but I probably
Did the same, so we must have been
Quite a duet, no less than Miles
And Coltrane during their primes.

Speeding through the dark, two tiers of strangers,
Past backs of homes, cars, car carcasses and
Radiant gas, burger and chicken oases.
With sun, we woke like old lovers, sexless,
That is, sans desire and with a touch
Of recrimination. I found out her name
Was Juanita. After working in government
For thirty years, she retired but now
Made money doing tax returns. “Incomes
Are definitely down,” she said, “and some
Of my older clients are going back to work,
And we’re not talking anything fancy, just
Retail and fast food, mostly. McDonald’s.

Cost of living is going up, rent, gas, food,
But their social security isn’t. You might think
It weird that they are competing against teens.
I mean, they can’t possibly move as fast,
But having worked all their lives, they are
Definitely more responsible. I’m serious,
I’d hire a retiree over any teen.

Many kids these days don’t know how to work,
And they don’t know how to listen. You have
To write instructions down, because they don’t
Know how to listen anymore. It’s true.

Kids these days are too distracted. We all are.
From St Louis to Longview, Texas, there was
This young man behind me who was listening
To his iPod for about eight hours. I could hear
His music, it was so loud, and he was often
Singing along to it. How do you listen
To music for eight hours straight?

If there was loud music in the background,
Would we be able to talk like this? No!
No one can think, the economy is a mess,
And the weather has also gone mad.
Yesterday, I saw Pensacola
From the train window. It was like a bomb
Had gone off. And there’s something else.
There’s more dust in the air now.

There’s definitely more dust in the air
Than when I was younger, but how
Can I notice it, if it’s so gradual? But
I do notice it. I clean my house each day,
And when I wipe my TV screen with a cloth,
I can see more dust now. It’s not soot, no,
It’s not black, just dust. It must be because
We have fewer trees. I don’t know how this
Affects human health, but it can’t be good.”

It can’t be good, but it will have to be,
For there is no will to change anything,
Not when there’s another tiresome tune
To jerk exhausted synapses, and more
Hyped narrations of pointless spectacles.
Though made from dust, our flesh balloons
As if pumped by endless gas, until gassed.
Outside the train, endless parking and cars.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He's tracking our deteriorating social scape through his frequently updated photo blog, Postcards from the End of America. Read other articles by Linh.