Meeting Uncle Sam at Samy’s

While it’s true that a hangover prefigures death,
So does a host of other events, missing a bus,
Stealing a kiss, sniffing something gross while eating…
Still, I’ve had enough of Miller High Life, that headache
In a bottle or pint glass, too many of which I swilled
That evening at Samy’s, while chatting with Uncle Sam.

A short guy acting huge, Sam had been in the US
All of five months. Coming from China, he had landed
Somewhere in California, though his accent was so thick,
I couldn’t make out which city he had stayed in. After a month
In that sunshine, he ended up in overcast Philadephia.
“Sam,” he blurted, “that’s my name. I’m Uncle Sam!”
Coming to where America was born, Sam will get
To see her commit a mass murder and suicide finale,
Though by then, he might have to flee back to Guangzhou.

OK, so Uncle Sam had no job yet, and no skill set
Beyond a willingness to schmooze, for he had become
A regular in this black bar. Having bought a 99-cent
Bag of chemical-dusted potato chips, Sam shoved it at
A chick who had just walked in. Pissed, she shoved such
Right back. “Hey, hey, you remember me!” Sam shouted.
Playing peace maker, I grinningly said, “Punch him!”

With little English, Sam spoke in clichés, slogans and
Commercial pitches, “It’s all good. Just do it. I’m lovin’ it!
It’s better here.” In short, Sam conveyed nothing but
His own giddiness, but in that, he’s no more silly than
The real Uncle Sam who preaches to us daily that
Happy days are here again, life’s looking up,
The recovery is picking up speed, we will be
Energy-independent soon, there’s a resurgence
Of American manufacturing and Detroit is back, etc.

Stripped of production and pride, we must swallow,
As if we’re already brainless zombies, an endless
Buffet of hollowed out phrases: Winning the future.
We’re the change we’ve been looking for. Change
We can believe in. Betting on America. Yes we can!

Meanwhile, America continues to hemorrhage,
With the latest, the announcement that chickens
Will be shipped to China to be slaughtered, then
Shipped right back here, to feed all the fired
American workers, pinching their food stamps.
Hunched in shelters, cars or tents, a million plus
Homeless American school children will munch
On killed-in-China, chicken-like poo poo platters
Once a month, when the welfare check arrives.

But don’t sweat, Sam sings. Just listen to the kids.
“Ma, I want to grow up to be a drone operator!”
“Me, I’ll get a PhD, then work as a pro snuggler,
Charging a peanut butter sandwich an hour!”
“I’ll volunteer at the same soup kitchen I eat at!”
“I’ll sign up for a badass uniform so I can explode
From a mine in a country I’ve never heard of.” Good
As any, these are the plans as we blunder forward
Towards that mass murder and suicide spectacle.
With his body dismembered, Sam will eat himself.

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.