Poem a Day 2013 #30: Face from the Past


Poem number 30.

I feel like a marathon runner limping over the line. 30 poems in 30 days is a great project, but I am now mentally drained. Here’s the final offering:

Face from the Past

I ran into him in the supermarket.

Older, but still that cocky look.

At first it felt good to see him.


We went to a coffee shop,

recalled memories

of laughs, of late night drinking sessions,

of shared trials and triumphs.


Then he launched into the same speeches

he used to make twenty years ago.


The one about how he hates Adelaide.

(he’s still here)


The one about how all Aborigines are useless

(he’s never actually spent time with one)


The one about how he’s broke

(he’s earned good money all his life)


The one about how women have always taken advantage of him

(he constantly scans the bodies of the young waitresses)


The one about how useless the Labor government is

(he’s spent most of his working life being paid by them)


But the final speech I hadn’t heard before:

how he’d been sacked for harassment

and was now having trouble finding a job.

That was a new one

but somehow it made sense.

Somehow it was all the others rolled into one.


We finished our coffees,

swapped telephone numbers,

promised to catch up for a beer.


I might see him again in another twenty years.


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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

Poem a Day 2013 #29: A Riddle, a quiz, a question

Poem number 29.

Seeking inspiration again today, I’ve come up with a sort of quiz. Below is a poem, each line of which describes a thing.

Question 1 – What are all those things?

Question 2 –  All of them have genuine names except for two. Which two have I made up?

Not hard at all, but if you need a clue or want to know where to find them, they are all right next to the labyrinth at Urrbrae, shown in the picture above.

By Any Other Name

Summer Snow persists into autumn

Seduction is pink with a vulnerable bud

Golden Shower is yellow with a distinctive scent

Peace broke out in France in 1942

Cocktail is deep red, mixed with pale

Dearest has had her limbs savagely cut

Shady Lady casts a jaundiced eye

Neighbourhood Cat has sated its appetite

Climbing Buff Beauty spreads her arms, displaying her body

Mission Bells ring a brick path

Tuna Sandwich has been devoured

Orange Triumph gave false hope in Germany in 1937

Borderers have not been repelled


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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

Poem a Day 2013 #28: Self Important

Poem number 28.

I feel like a marathon runner, in the last 5 kms of the race. I’ll make it, but there’s not much left in the tank.

This poem came from a fragment in my notebook, from when I was at Goolwa Beach last year. I saw a group of oystercatchers on the beach, and was amused by their antics. They seemed determined to get as close to the water as possible without getting wet. This resulted in manic dashes up the beach whenever a wave came in.

Self Important

Thirteen oystercatchers

dash over the beach

daintily avoid the rush of sea.

Red nosed, black and white clothed

like inebriated head waiters.

Too self important

to take their hands

from behind their backs,

too dapper to get their feet wet.



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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

Poem a Day 2013 #27: Howl Disjointed

Poem number 27.

Today, I woke up tired, cycled 30 kms and ran a 10 km race. So, now feeling more tired, the idea of doing a new poem is pretty daunting. I looked at the NaPoWriMo site, and they suggested an ‘erasure poem’. This involves taking someone else’s poem, preferably a long and famous one, erasing words from it, and thereby creating a new poem.

I sort of did this. I took part 1 of Alan Ginsberg’s “Howl”, extracted lines from it, changed the tense to make it read consistently, then replaced words in each line with a word having an opposite meaning, as far as possible e.g. replace dark with light, replace barefoot with boots etc. Then I shuffled all the lines except my first and last lines, and this is what came out. Definitely experimental, and quite possibly crap.

Howl Disjointed

The best minds are destroyed by sanity

listen to gospel through the wall

investigate clean-shaven and suited with big warmongering eyes

forget whatever has been said

get headhunted by shrewd businessmen

crawl the corridors and creep into beds

plunge themselves under vegetable racks looking for grapes

dance with boots on broken wineglasses

sit up soaking in the supernatural darkness

walk all day with shoes full of blood

vibrate in the roaring summer winds

freezing for a new hellish disconnection

reappear in nowhere Zen

hide the motionless world of time

agree unreservedly with the echoes of the soul

fall into basements hung- over

drag themselves through the light

grasp total recall for seven days and nights

baring their backsides to Heaven

are lauded by academia for publishing impenetrable odes

consume whispered facts and fragments

wander around and around at dawn in the rail yard

comport themselves on endless subway rides

rise up in vast glorious stories

preserve their own brains for a thousand years.



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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

Poem a Day 2013 #26: Nightmare 4– Trapped in a Bad Pub

Poem number 26.

I’ve been in a few strange pubs in my time. Some of this ‘prose poem’ is based on a recent experience, but it is much embellished with older memories.

Nightmare 4 – Trapped in a Bad Pub

I’m standing outside, looking up at its grubby edifice. A sign creaks in the wind. A bloke stands by the main door, apparently guarding it. Elderly, but stocky. Old suit jacket, sleeves rolled up. As I approach he shouts incoherently, but stands aside. I enter, and he follows me in. A bored barmaid charges me ten dollars for a pint of bad beer. Distorted seventies pop music rings from speakers on the walls. A man with a straw hat sits near the door. He’s inspecting a list of names. He has a panel cut out of the back of his jacket, revealing a tattoo of Alan Ginsberg on his left shoulder-blade. He looks up, seemingly expecting me to give him my name. I do so, but he mumbles and ignores me. There are a dozen other people in the bar. All seem slightly deranged in some way. They mutter to themselves, and throw an occasional glance at me. All the men, except one, are thin armed, wear old waistcoats with the belt at the back hanging loose. The exception is an overweight middle-aged bloke with long, lank, dyed black hair, parted in the middle, black leather fingerless gloves, leather waistcoat, jeans, check shirt hanging from his waist. He goes to a microphone, recites a poem. The poem is riddled with profanities, but it is a good, powerful poem. It moves me. I clap, but nobody else does. A steady succession of people come through the door, well dressed, carrying presents wrapped in gold or silver paper. Each time, they ask the barmaid a question, and she points them to the other bar. Tells them they should have come in another door. A woman goes to the microphone, recites a ten minute version of “Desolation Row”. Everybody claps, except me. At the bar, a man, yellow toothed, grabs my jacket, breathes beer fumes in my face and says “Are you having fun?”. I nod. The bloke who had been guarding the door grooms his hair every five minutes with a plastic yellow comb. Another man goes to the microphone, shouts into it “Shut up you dickhead” to someone collapsed on the floor. A man in a fluorescent vest, carrying a clipboard, enters, talks to the barmaid, looks around, makes detailed notes. He takes out a mobile phone, dials a number, speaks into it: “Yes, that’s right, about twenty of ‘em. Get over here right away and bring backup”.


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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

Poem a Day 2013 #25: Dance into the Light

Poem number 25.

I’m lucky to live within walking distance of Urrbrae House and its beautiful rose gardens, labyrinth, walking paths and sculptures. Doing ‘poem a day’ is an almost Buddhist experience. It makes you pay attention, to look for ideas, for inspiration. Today, I walked to Urrbrae House (my phonecam pic below) and stood in front of a sculpture which I’ve never really taken much notice of before. Urrbrae is on the Waite campus of the University of Adelaide. The Waite campus is primarily associated with agricultural research. For instance, they develop and test different strains of wheat. So, the particular sculpture I noticed is of Ceres (my phonecam pic above). Ceres is the goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility, motherly relationships and of light.

The plaque reads:

Dance into the Light

Ceres the goddess of light rescues her daughter from the underworld. Spring returns to earth.

Sculptor Meliesa Judge

Liquid Metal Studios

This is my meditation on the sculpture:

Dance into the Light

Light has been sucked from your eyes

by the shadowed frigidity you flee.


You manage a weak smile,

right fist clenched in triumph

for she has been delivered.


Your left hand spreads

your wheaten cloak behind

shielding her from pursuing gloom,

shepherding her towards summer’s relief.


Your left leg kicks a phantom malignancy

like a footballer sweetly hits a volley

or a teenager extravagantly despatches an empty can.


Your daughter skims the ground beside,

all frail, flying, straining ligaments,

arms pleading the power of flight.


Her face a younger yours,

nothing wasted on expression,

no betrayal of the horrors she has seen

in the months of chill despair.

2013-04-25 16.13.53

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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

Poem a Day 2013 #24: Veni de Tenebris Continentem

Poem number 24.

Figure this one out if you can. This morning I read an Irish poem, “Venio Ex Oriente” by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill translated into English by Michael Hartnett. It’s loosely about a sensuous woman from the Middle East. I’ve taken the tone and, I hope, some of the sensuality of that poem, relocated the subject’s origin to Africa, incorporated some articles I still have from Zimbabwe, Malawi and Swaziland, and then let my subconscious mess around with it. Who know what it’s all about? Maybe you can tell me.

Veni de Tenebris Continentem

Splintered cedar I bring with me,

and from dark hands a carved icon,

a beaded pestle from plateaus south,

to crush addiction in my hand.


My hair is braided, oiled and sleek.

My eyes admit an antique fear.

The bracelets on my wrists reflect

on batiked shapes upon the wall.


My body breathes a distant place,

it hints of earth and curious trees,

the scent of insect, bird and brute,

the heart of darkness beats within.

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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

Poem a Day 2013 #23: War Veterans Home

Poem number 23.

I live near a War Veterans Home. I’ve noticed they seem to be marketing themselves lately. I wondered why, and came up with this imaginary scenario.

War Veterans Home

A gaudy flag flies at the entrance

of the Hurtle Bank War Veterans Home.

Not a national or regimental flag

This one was not hoisted by a wounded soldier.

This one will not be saluted by beribboned, medalled men.


It proclaims “Retirement Village”.

A sail-like banner, the kind you see

as you pass an outer-suburban development

designed to attract the attention

of young couples and astute investors.


It beats in the breeze, flashing its oranges, blues and yellows

over the red, white and black five km per hour speed limit sign.

The marketing manager chose it without much thought.

His job is to make the War Veterans Home financially sustainable.

Occupancy has fallen drastically. Old soldiers drop almost daily.

Newly wounded soldiers are too young for a place like this.


The home needs to broaden its appeal,

find another demographic.

Its market niche is too constraining.

The marketing manager has taken aim

at the residential wings.

Coral Sea can stay, it conjures up tropical islands.

But Tobruk, Gallipoli, Long Tan, Kapyong, Bangka?

They all have to be renamed, realigned, repositioned

if the Hurtle Bank War Veterans Home is to compete

in today’s increasingly competitive economic environment.


In a few decades, they can change the names

to Oruzgan, Charmestan, Kandahar, Mirabad, Baluchi

But until inflows catch up with outflows

he’ll go with Sunset, Windsong and Gracedale,

Orange Grove and Grevillea.

Much more attractive.

Much less depressing.

Much more marketable.

Much more rewarding.



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

Poem a Day 2013 #22: Choices, choices, choices


Poem number 22.

So many choices, so little time. I’d like to have had time to arrange this into the shape of a question mark. A post April project, if I choose to do so.


Bike or car

8:45 or 9:00

Red or white

Cash or plastic

Gas or electric

Peak or off peak

Gloss or metallic

Plastic or paper

Gillard or Abbott

A/C on or A/C off

Washed or unwashed

Full fat or fat reduced

Processed or unprocessed

Ultra thin for sensitivity or ribbed for her pleasure

White fleshed or yellow fleshed

Gluten rich or gluten free

Play safe or take risk

Full strength or light

Mountain or racer

Beatles or Stones

Pen or keyboard

Settle or move

North or south

Now or never

Long or short

Twist or stick

Meat or veg

Elvis or Cliff


Left or right

Yes or no

Go or stay

Life or death


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

Poem a Day 2013 #21: Nick Cave meets the Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Poem number 21.

This is an experimental poem, based very, very loosely on my very talented poet friend Jennifer Liston’s “rescue poems”. Only I’ve cheated. I’ve taken the lyrics of two songs, Nick Cave’s “Song of Joy” and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s “Next”. I’ve mixed up the lines and sorted them randomly. Then I’ve looked for lines that fit an abab rhyming pattern, combined them into stanzas, and then made various adjustments to get them to make some sort of weird sense. Both songs are very dark, so of course the resulting poem is very dark.

Next Song of Joy

I fear the morning will bring a frost

and lunatic eyes, a hungry knife

I was just a child when my innocence was lost

My method of murder is my way of life


I would once do anything just to survive

Stand on endless naked lines of the following and the followed

I’ve taken many innocent lives

and each in my breast is an unnamed sorrow


There was no laughter in my house

We spoke in voices grown dry ‘n’ hollow

Somehow I am still on the loose

But not for many days to follow


But my story is nearly told

If we could but hold each other’s hands

For the wind round here gets wicked cold

and I have dreams that not even I understand


My knees grow weak, they turn to jelly

Maybe a word, a smile, maybe some happiness

An army towel is wrapped around my belly

I hear only the wolves howl, the serpents hiss


I drift from land to land

My voice stinks of whiskey, corpses and mud

The last thing I will write is “my red right hand”

and quotes from John Milton on the wall in my victims’ blood.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013