Poem a Day #23: Reasons to Spend $12 Billion on Fighter Jets


“The Government has given the go ahead for the purchase of 58 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) at a cost of $12.4 billion – making it the nation’s most expensive Defence asset.” (ABC News, 23/4/14).


Reasons to Spend $12 Billion on Fighter Jets


  1. Saves on medical bills – less Viagra needed by politicians and military top brass.
  2. Loud, fast, impressive flypasts at motor races
  3. Avoids arguments between bureaucrats about whether to spend the money on health or education
  4. Sounds really impressive in speeches – sexy words like ‘strike’, ‘JSF’, ‘fighter’, ‘f-35, ‘hornet’
  5. Exciting daily rides for large numbers of Australians – well 58 of them at least
  6. Wonderful vote of confidence in those great, great people in the armaments industry
  7. You can get somewhere really fast – if you’re on your own, a qualified F-35 fighter pilot and the ‘somewhere’ is an air force base or aircraft carrier
  8. Got to love those vapour trails
  9. Easy to park – can fit into just 4 normal car park spaces *
  10. Gives lots of our money to a really needy country … the U.S.A.
  11. Stimulates jobs … in the U.S.A.
  12. Shows how independent we are from everybody (except the U.S.A.)
  13. Scares the shite out of boat people when you fly really low over them
  14. Big boost to the sales of plastic model aircraft kits and glue
  15. Video stores get increased demand for rentals of  “Top Gun”
 * car park spaces must be at the end of a 750 metre runway


You know it makes sense.


© Mike Hopkins 2014

Poem a Day #22 – Stretched on Your Grave (Blues)

Many years ago, when I lived in Dublin and listened to a lot of Irish music, I heard an incredibly sad song called “I am stretched on your grave”. The lyrics are a translation of an anonymous 17th-century Irish poem titled “Táim sínte ar do thuama”. I think the version I heard first was from about 1979, by a band called Scullion, founded by Philip King.

Here’s a version in Irish by Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin

A more contemporary version is by Kate Rusby:

And my favourite is by the Voice Squad, but the only version I can find has some cheesy excerpts from Braveheart. The harmonies are stunning. Close your eyes and shut out Mel Gibson if you wish:


There are some astonishing lines in the song lyrics, and I’ve had the idea of somehow using them in a poem for some time. After trying a pantoum and a villanelle version unsuccessfully, I eventually resorted to a blues format, which is entirely appropriate for the tone of the lyrics, but does not quite transmit the extreme grief of the Irish songs.


Stretched on Yo’ Grave Blues


Well I woke up dis mornin’

I was stretched out on yo’ grave

Said I woke up dis mornin’

Stretched out along yo’ grave

Gonna lie here fo’ever

Don’t care how dem priests do rave


I woke up dis mornin’

I was smellin’ of the clay

Said I woke up dis mornin’

I was stinkin’ of that clay

My tears all hot and wild

Fall on you all night ‘n day


My ma and pa they thinkin’

I sleep safely in my bed

Said my ma and pa they thinkin’

I sleep safely in my bed

But I spend the night a callin’

To my girl, the one who’s dead


Do you remember

That night when we was lost

I say do you remember

That night of cold and frost

We done dat righteous thing

Yo’ honour was not lost


Dem priests and dem friars

They looks on me with dread

Said dem priests and dem friars

They fear me, they all in dread

For I love you darlin’ still

Oh, my life, and you is dead


I am stretched on yo’ grave

I lie here for ever mo’

I am stretched on yo’ grave

I lie here for ever mo’

If yo’ hands they was in mine

We be joined for ever more


I woke up dis mornin’

I was stretched out on yo’ grave

Said I woke up dis mornin’

Stretched right out along yo’ grave

I gon’ lie here fo’ever

Don’t care how dem priests do rave


Said I gone lie here fo’ever

I don’t care how dem priests do rave

 © Mike Hopkins 2014

Poem a Day #21 – Confessional Poem


Swapping messages of mutual support with Roxy Contin this morning, she mentioned that her poems are mostly ‘confessional’. (Read her excellent blog here.) This was a good prompt for me to attempt one, though not in the same style as hers. I was brought up Roman Catholic, and, for some years as a child, went to confession fairly regularly.


Confessional Poem

Dry incense darkness

A screen slides open

A backlit lattice pattern profile


In the name of the Father,

the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

He knows who you are


It is one week since my last confession Father

Oh God, how many sins

can one boy commit in a week?


I reel them off,

the same ones every week.

I never learn


He sighs, no surprises,

knows what I’m not telling him.

 Say two Hail Mary’s and an Act of Contrition


Yes Father, thank you Father

A clean slate.

Now it starts all over again.


© Mike Hopkins 2014


Poem a Day #20 – Catfished

Missing boy existed only on Facebook

A woman in France called the police in to search for a boy she said had gone missing – however, the boy only existed on Facebook. The police found pictures of they boy and his father on Facebook, but no evidence that he was real. Read about it here. Similar to the very entertaining documentary “Catfish”, which is well worth watching.


Our imaginary boy is missing

His timeline’s not switched on

His Facebook ‘likes’ have halted

His status updates gone


I’ve called in Missing Persons

To see if they can find him

They say that they are certain

They know where he is hiding


He’s in my mental slipstream

In cortex, stem and cord

A social network daydream

The boy’s lost in my thoughts.


© Mike Hopkins 2014

Poem a Day #19 – St. Fiacre

Saint Fiacre



After yesterday’s dark and heavy subject matter, something much lighter. There are patron saints for almost anything you can think of. There’s a patron saint for those who fear mice, for convulsive children and for mad dogs. One of my favourites is the Irish Saint Fiacre, patron saint of taxi drivers, sufferers from sexually transmitted diseases and piles.

Blessed Saint Fiacre

Gentle healer, solitary forest dweller

collector of herbs, mixer of potions

patron saint of taxi drivers,

sexually transmitted diseases

and those afflicted by haemorrhoids


had you known then ,

what taxi drivers would become

would you have taken the job?


To be patron saint of overchargers,

short changers,

‘scenic routers’,

know- all bores

and “you’ll never guess who

I had in the back of me cab yesterday”-ers?


and when you decided to

remain celibate,

to exclude women

from your chapel,

to turn female transgressors mute,

did you imagine your name

forever invoked

by syphilitics and gonorrhoea-ites?


When you first laid hands

on someone’s piles

did you not think twice?


Did you not hope

for a better gig?

Even ‘lost causes’

ribbon makers or  truss makers

would be better than

patron saint

of sore arseholes?


© Mike Hopkins 2014

Poem a Day #18 – The Sewers of Bogota

Bogota Sewers

Last night I watched a disturbing short documentary, about people who live in the sewers of Bogota.  They are mainly streetkids, but adults too. One man and his wife have lived in the sewers for 20 years. They live there because the streets of Bogota are unsafe. Street kids are rounded up and executed by social cleansing death squads. The police are as bad, and regularly drop petrol down manholes to burn the sewer dwellers. In one incident, twenty streetkids were burned to death.

Of course safety is relative. In the sewer, they just have to worry about rats, disease and storm surges. The documentary was narrated by an unusual man who goes by the name of ‘Baby Balls” – I’m not sure why. But if you are game, you can watch it here

Here’s my reaction to the documentary:


The Sewers of Bogota

Stalactites of shit

mark the entrance

to my hideaway,

a hollow off the main sewer,

a hollow where I am safer

than on the street.


Safe from the death squad’s

social cleansing,

from the police

who tip petrol

down the manhole

and throw a lit match.

The ‘whoomp’ of flame

surges along the sewer,

bypasses my hollow home,

singes  the stalactites of shit.


The rats are smart

enough to retreat

but the streetkids,

addled by drugs

and hunger, slowed

by shin deep shit,

are burnt, twenty

at a time. Their bodies

lie like huge blackened

turds in the sewer;

until a downpour of rain

washes them away.


“When it’s your turn,

it’s your turn” we say.

My wife too was swept away.

“It was her turn” I say.


In the darkness you lose

sense of day and night.

If I’m feeling brave

I climb the rungs

of a  manhole

to check the streets

but the clear air

stresses me.

I scrounge food,

find drugs,

steal what I can;

take it back to my

hidden hollow

where the stench of shit

tells me I am safe.


© Mike Hopkins 2014

Poem a Day #17 – Googling Corruption

Today saw a case of severe writer’s block. The harder I tried, the worse the ideas became. The more I searched poetry books, the web, old notebooks, the less inspiration I had.

Eventually, getting sick of it, and just wanting to eat and relax, I’ve gone back to the earlier idea of a google search bar poem.

This one is loosely inspired by recent events in New South Wales, where the Premier has had to resign over a gift from a corrupt businessman of an expensive bottle of wine.


google corrupt


© Mike Hopkins 2014


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