Tri-State Mall Variations

It is 20 below zero, windy, and I’ll surely croak
Unless you give me a ride to the Tri-State Mall.
I’ll kill you if you don’t take me to this oasis
Of discount liquor, sneakers and payday loans.

Across from this sixth-rate temple to Capitalism,
An old man sells cemetery flowers. Buy roses
To place over your own grave, then say a prayer
For a life well-wasted inside the Tri-State Mall.

My entire youth was spent in this beautous mall.
I had my first kiss and sexual experience there.
I also got married, then divorced there. No doubt
I’ll die in the Tri-State Mall in Claymont, Delaware.

For decades, people laughed, cried and gasped
Inside the Cinemagic Five, then they chuckled
When it was turned into the Comedy Lounge.
Actually, most of the movies were awful, and
Most of those “comedians” should be sent to
The Howard R. Young Correctional Institute.

At 17, Marlene ran away from South Carolina.
In Chester, she was the first to use dark eyeliners
And slash her jeans, showing some skin, but
What did those innovations get her? Nothing.
Now, past 50, she pours beer at McTullio’s
On the lower level of that dump, Tri-State Mall.

Chuck makes beef jerky out of sirloin steak,
Which he brings to McTullio’s daily, to offer
Friends and strangers. His face radiates peace,
Thanks to his good heart and countless pints
Of Miller High Life, at only a buck fifty per.

Each day, an unemployed man comes and sits
Across from the rolling gate of a long-dead store.
Hey, is that a joke? Where’s the joke? There’s no joke.

Actually, there is a joke. Today’s headline: “More
Americans are rich than previously suspected.”
Another: “Pope and Miley Cyrus vie for Time’s
Person of the Year honor. Repeat for Obama?”

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.