Archive for the ‘prose poetry’ Category

Saturday 11th June 2005

Queuing along a shadowy passageway leading down to the local ferry from Havana to Casablanca and Cojimar. My bike worth ten years wages to the Cubans pressed in around me. It’s claustrophobic. It’s humid. My paranoia is mounting. The queue shuffles forward. Even the locals are sweating.

One hand on my wallet. My thoughts of a stiletto knife and the ease with which one could be slipped between my ribs. My eyes drawn to the dark gap between ferry and quay, tailor made for a tourist’s body. My attention sought by a ragged man and his ragged wife in front of me. They are staring at my wallet and the Convertible Pesos * folded inside it. He gesticulates to me and then to his wife. She looks too old, surely, to be a prostitute, though she is probably younger than me.

I don’t understand his gap toothed Spanish. Can vaguely interprete “too much, too much”. Too much what? I have too much money for one person in a socialist country? I have too many possessions and those around me have too few?  I tighten my grip on my bike, push my wallet deeper into my pocket, keep edging forward towards the rough looking, swarthy Cuban collecting fares on the gangplank. The old man is getting more and more agitated, keeps pointing to his wife and to me. At last she reaches into her purse, pulls out 40 centavos, local currency, the ferry fare; gives it to me, to save me using a whole convertible peso, for which I would receive no change.


* Cuba operates dual currencies: Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC$) are for tourist use, pegged to the US dollar and must be used to pay for accommodation and anywhere that tourists might shop – bars, restaurants, supermarkets,tourist buses. Local pesos are used day to day by Cubans, are only accepted in the local shops, street stalls, local transport etc. A CUC$ is worth about 25 times a local peso. Each peso is made up of 100 centavos. So the ferry fare of 40 centavos is about 1/60th of CUC$1

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014


I’m not in a good mood today, having stayed up to the early hours to watch my Premier League team Fulham, desperately needing a win, throw away a two goal lead. Not sure why this still upsets me but it does. So there’s a bit of venom in the brain today, and it’s come out in the form of satire. I acknowledge a debt to the great, veteran, British performance poet Attila the Stockbroker for this one. He did a wonderful piece called “The Bible according to Rupert Murdoch“. I’ve pinched the idea and turned it into this:


The Gospel According to St. Tony

after Attila the Stockbroker


In the beginning was the word

and the word was Stop!


And the Lord said:

Let there be a plague of slogans and let there be a slogan for every prejudice,

Yea, even until the prejudiced themselves will say “Stop the Slogans”


And let St. Tony be the prophet whose mouth will constantly chant these slogans

And let St. Rupert be the holy messenger of these slogans

for he has minions in every corner of the land waiting to write the word.

And let this plague of slogans spread across the land so that the people hear and see nothing except “Stop”.


And St. Tony, in his raiment of red speedo and chest of camel hair, hearing the words of the Lord, smirked in an unholy way.

And St. Rupert said:

Now, let us also send forth the shock jocks of the east for verily, they will gladly mouth these slogan ad nauseam.

And let the old growth forests be felled to feed the paper mills so that my media empire can engrave the word “Stop!” in 4 inch headlines on newsprint every day unto eternity.

And let not the people be allowed to think of anything but “Stop!

For thinking leads to fornication, sodomy and bestiality and if any reporter dares to start an article, not with the holy word “Stop!” let he or she be cast forever from the media empire and spend eternity volunteering for Radio Adelaide.

And the Lord looked down on St. Rupert’s work and on St. Tony’s slogans and saw that they were indeed execrable.

But this was capitalism, and it made rich the robber barons of the land and so it was good.


But lo, it came to pass that the people went mad from the constant slogans. They took to drink and drugs, fornication, footy, home renovations and cooking to deaden their pain.

And St. Rupert sent forth his Fox Channel familiars to film the people and all the goings-on thereof, and made it into a top rating reality show.

And so the beginning of the end began.

And from there, things got even worse.


© Mike Hopkins 2014


“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

New Age Bull


This one came from a Facebook post this morning, about a “New Age Bullshit Generator” (here). You press a celestial button on the site and it generates a page of New Age bullshit – you know, rebirth, unicorns, the cosmos, chakras etc.

So I challenged fellow Poem A Day-er Tracey Korsten to a duel – write a poem out of the New Age bullshit.

So here’s mine:


“The Universe is Buzzing ….“

…with bio-electricity” she says.  “We exist as bio-feedback.”


–          I am reminded I haven’t paid my power bill.


“The solar system is calling to you via vibrations.” she says “Can you hear it?”


–          I cup my ear, but the vibrations are overwhelmed by bar chatter and the cash register


“We will be reborn at a crossroads of power and discontinuity” she says


–          I had a Robert Johnson record once, but I scratched it.


“Who are we? Where on the great mission will we be reborn?”


–          I hadn’t realised she was one of the Stolen Generation.


“We are in the midst of an event that will remove the barriers to the cosmos itself so that we will enter into infinite space-time”


–          I see myself as a young Captain Kirk, in an early episode of Star Trek


“Bondage is the antithesis of growth. Desire is born in the gap”


–          I think she’s trying to hit on me


“Reality has always been full of adventurers”


–          She IS trying to hit on me


“Imagine a maturing of what could be. It is time to take aspiration to the next level” she says


–          No, she thinks I’m too old


“Astrology may be the solution to what’s holding you back from an epic fount of potentiality. Confront the things that can exterminate” she says


–          Astrology instead of Viagra? Or maybe it’s Dr. Who.


“Our chakras are engulfed in the wonders of curiosity” she says


–          “I’m skint. I was wondering if you could buy me a pint?” I say.




© Mike Hopkins 2014

Circle Line

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece recording my trip on the Adelaide Tram on Australia Day. It was inspired by Ron Silliman’s “BART” poem. This is a companion piece, recording my trip in June 2013 around the Circle line, on the London Underground.

Circle Line

11:45 a.m. 15th June 2013. London. A cool, windy summer’s day. The District line from Ravenscourt Park to Hammersmith (where I was born) to get onto the Circle line. “All change please. There is no District line east from Hammersmith. All change. All change. This train is terminating here”. A typical Londoner opposite me: angular, large features, greying. An east European family next to me. Off the train, along the platform, bumping in the crowd, up the stairs, past a man playing guitar, who could be Edge, the guitarist in U2. Past W.H. Smith, through the barriers, swiping my Oyster card, across two roads to the other Hammersmith station for the Circle line. “Hey buddy how you doing?”: a man opposite. Not talking to me. Talking loudly on his smartphone. “This is a Hammersmith and City line train to Barking. Please stand clear of the doors”. The smartphone man: “ I don’t know where to go. Should I go straight to the gate?”. “Do you wanna be a lawyer? I’ll call you when I get to Aldgate”. Another man opposite reading “Private Eye”. “This is Goldhawk Road”. A family with plastic bags of food and large bottles of Coke. “The next station is Shepherd’s Bush Market”. My Dad used to bring me here as a child; we could walk from our house in Shepherd’s Bush. A man in a green tracksuit top scans his ‘phone. A Chinese looking man looks over his shoulder. The wife shares the Coke bottle with her son. The classic tube sound: whine rising in pitch as the train speeds up, clunkety clunk, clunkety clunk; the whine lowers in pitch as the train slows down. Vacuum thud of a train going in the opposite direction; strobe effect from its windows. Past the huge Westfield shopping centre coming into Latimer Road. “Sale ends soon. Bed and mattress £1,170 £498. Warner Evans. Handmade in London”. Clouds, cumulo nimbus. Sun streaming through the windows. Rumble of wheels. The train stops for no apparent reason. That strange motor noise like a recharging generator. A tall woman gets on. Stands, adjusts her white trousers, tucks in her tangerine top below a pink and black cardigan. Sits. Blows her nose. “The next station is Ladbroke Grove. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform”. White trouser lady takes off her pink and black cardigan. Gets out her smartphone, puts in her earphones. She has striking pewter coloured shoes, black nail polish, bare shoulders now. “The next station is Royal Oak”. A Russian looking couple converse down the carriage. Squeal of brakes. The doors rattle open. A big, young bloke paces up and down by the doors. Reads his smartphone. White trousered lady takes out a book: Anne Patchett, “State of Wonder”. Big young bloke has a “Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band” t-shirt on, very muddy trainers. “This is Paddington”. It’s getting crowded. Sound of an ascending xylophone – the ‘phone of a woman next to me. She has brown suede Ugg boots. Lights flicker on and off and on. We are now underground. A bang and shudder and then smooth progress. Reflections in the window against the dark tunnel. I can see myself hovering over the head of white trouser lady. Woman next to me gets out a drink. “Edgware Road. Change here for Circle Line”. Platform 1 Eastbound. Above ground. On the platform a young couple with bicycles. Opposite the platform, a concrete building, grey, smoke-stained, dirty. A low door: “Danger. Risk of Electric Shock”. Rows and rows of cables, piping, wires; dozens of them run the length of the wall the other side of the tracks. A Japanese looking girl, colourful top, red glasses on her heard, reading her smartphone. Smiles to herself. A small boy next to me, Indian, perhaps five years old, receives a call on his smartphone: “’allo. no ….”. It is 12:15 p.m. on the station’s Roman numeral clock face. A train comes in on platform 2. “Circle line via Aldgate” on the front. This should take me full circle. Quite full. I grab a seat at the front end, back to the window, the door to my right. Through the door window to my right I can see into the next carriage. Back underground. “Baker Street – change for Bakerloo, Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines. Exit here for Madame Tussaud’s”. Doors clatter shut. “What about Rome, that would be fantastic”: a woman opposite with green shoes. In the next carriage, a girl in a shiny pink dress, pink top, pigtails, nine or ten years old, swings from the handrail; takes her pink top off, hands it to her mother. “Oh I’m sure it was. Got it from”: green shoes woman. A man gets on with a suitcase. Sits next to me. He is restless. Feet tapping. Sniffing. Down the carriage a girl plays a game with her young father which involves knocking him on the head. She sits on his knee. “This is Euston Square”. White tiled walls. Advertisement: “Dress £15”.We move off into the tunnel. Clunkety clunk. Flash. Glimpses of people in a passing train. A man, short, bouquet in his hand, “Isle of Flowers”, Karrimor backpack, sandals. He is with a woman: tall, blonde. Who are the flowers for? Not her. Maybe his mother? “Kings Cross St. Pancras. Exit here for Royal Institute for the Blind”. Restless man has gone. Replaced by a man with Veldskoens (“Fellies” we used to call them in Zimbabwe). Black trousers, arms crossed. Lights flash off and on. The train rocks side to side. Back out into daylight. Grey brown brick walls flash by. Badoom, badoom. “In a way that is my subject too”: the woman opposite. “And we have to divide our costs”. “No Smoking” in the ubiquitous underground logo – blue horizontal bar across red circle. Sun streams in. Classic rail arches, pipes, cables. Farringdon – a spacious station. Dark cream brick, not tiles. “Change here for National Rail Services”. Warning beeps as the doors close. “I was concentrated on being smart”: a foreign woman in white shoes to the green shoed woman. The sun is bright now, streaming in and then we are underground again. In the next carriage, two young black men laugh and swap jokes. “Barbican. This is a Circle line train via Liverpool Street and Tower Hill”. Down the carriage a South American looking man, big camera, dark glasses, dark Latin hair, green and white hooped shirt, blazer, Nikon black and yellow camera strap around his neck. Moorgate: typical underground: grey tiled walls. “ASUS Talk to your Tablet”. Into the tunnel. Clink, grind. Blackness. Window reflections. All seats are occupied. A few people standing. Back above ground. Then Liverpool Street. Crowded platform. A lot of people get off, a lot get on. Woman pulling a large suitcase with wheels, probably from a British Rail train. Opposite: green shoed lady is gone. A lady with a yellow daffodil badge on a parka, grey trousers, about my age; clutches her handbag protectively. The next carriage is full. A girl in a hijab. The girl with the suitcase laughs and smiles, looks around the carriage. Maybe she is new to London. Aldgate: brown bricked, above ground. Warning beeps. The doors close. Squeak, grind, squeak, grind, kaboom. Lights off, lights on. A man in a blue polo shirt and grey jacket gives up his seat. Back underground. The grab rails are all yellow. The seats are blue with a yellow, green and purple pattern. “Mind the gap please. Mind the gap please” at Tower Hill. Warning beeps. Doors rattle shut. The train moves off in fits and starts. The next carriage is very full. Lights off, lights on. Lights off, lights on. Daffodil badge lady looks like she’s praying. Next to her could be her daughter, and her husband in a red jacket next to me. Monument station. Larger cream coloured tiles with a dragon design. CBS flat screen advertising panels: “8 p.m. Micro Monsters with David Attenborough”. “It’s about a ten minute walk but it will be nice and sunny”: a man with a Liverpool accent. “How do they know which side to open the doors?”, his daughter asks. “They do” he says. “But how” she says. “The driver does it”, he says. Daffodil badge lady plays with her t-shirt. Looks like she’s feeling too warm. Manor House: a big underground station with white tiles. A young black man – light blue pork pie hat, white t-shirt, dark blue cardigan, only buttoned in the middle. Gaggle of five teenage girls swarms off at Blackfriars. “You pay in, your boss pays in”. Into the tunnel. Lights off, lights on. Whine of acceleration. Clickety clunk. Daffodil lady family don’t talk to each other. Each in their own world, hypnotised by the rhythm of the underground. Temple: green tiles, cream tiles. “Feeling unwell? Seek help at the next station”. “Barking Blondes”. “Caulfield and Hume”. Into the tunnel. Rocking side to side, up and down. Brief daylight, back underground. Flash of sunlight. Embankment. Crowded platform. A kiosk on the platform: M&Ms, Bounty, Rolo, Picnic, Mars. A lot of people get on. White tiles with modern art type, diagonal, random coloured bars. Opposite: a young woman, earphones in, wears a large silver watch. “This is Westminster. Exit here for the Jubilee line. Exit here for Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, riverboat tours”. A man with a large camera stands in front of me, and noisily opens the window on the connecting door. He wears a Berghaus vest. Standing room is nearly all taken up. The next carriage appears even more crowded. Diagonally opposite, an Indian girl: a heart shaped pendant around her neck; a scarf and jeans. I think the camera man is trying to read what I’m writing – he lets out a big sigh. I’m in a good spot here in the corner. The carriage is packed. St. James’s Park. American accents: “Can you see where we are out there. St. James’s Park”. In the next, a man strokes the long hair of the woman with him. She grabs a seat when someone gets up. “This is Victoria”. A scrum as people try to get off and on at the same time. “People get angry don’t they? Are you alright?”: a father to his daughter. They squeeze through and stand in front of me. The next carriage looks absolutely jammed. The girl standing in front of me has a polka dot jacket and square framed glasses. Her father is young. He has a northern accent, wears brushed suede trousers. They play a sort of balancing game as the train speeds up and slows down. We stop between stations. “This is Sloane Square”. There are so many passengers that I can’t see the doors. Glimpses of the station: green tiles and a white design. Kiosks, advertisements. A  young man with his daughter and his young wife- or perhaps they are siblings. They check the tube map above the windows. Arms are raised, hands holding the ceiling grab rails. Wrists with bangles, forearms with black hair. Back to the surface to South Kensington. The sound of jets flying overhead. The crowd eases as people get off, and less people get on. The famous museums are near this station. Cream brick arches. Strobe effect as we move forward and back underground. Lights flash off and on. A young Indian girl with an Abercrombie and Fitch shirt and a cable design cardigan. Gloucester Road. “Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber”. The lady next to me asks which is the closest station to the Westfield Shopping Centre. I refer back in my notes and tell her that I think it is Shepherds’ Bush. “We’re literally just pulling into High Street Ken now. See you. By-ee”: a girl on a ‘phone. “Excuse me please”. It’s still very crowded. A small American boy with geeky red and black framed glasses and bright red baseball cap with a W design on the front. A man sneezes. “Bless you”, someone says. “Notting Hill Gate – Change for the Circle Line”. The platform at Notting Hill Gate is filled by people getting off the train. Next to me, an Asian bloke, looks like a student, folder under his arm, earphone inserted. “The next station is Bayswater”. In and out of tunnels. Bright sunlight, darkness. Light brown brick walls. “”, “SunSeeker”,”Kaftan £15”, “Show us your boohoos”, “Stunning! A must see! Summer in February”. I’ve now completed the main circle line loop. “The next station is Paddington”. A train goes very fast in the opposite direction, making a “Blap” sound. An American couple opposite, checking a map on their smartphone. “Therese Desqueyroux. In Cinemas and Curzon home cinema, June”. “Beady Eye: BE. The New Album 10.6.13”. “This train will terminate at Edgware Road. Passengers wishing to continue to Hammersmith please cross over the bridge to platform 4”. Lights flash off and on. The tunnel has yellow lights. The next carriage is three quarters full. A young man leans on his elbow the other side of the window, yawns, reads a letter. “This train is terminating here. Please take your belongings with you”. I get off, and cross over to platform 4. The Hammersmith and City line train is roomier, more airy, brighter, but with very few spare seats. I sit between two large men. The one on my left sniffs persistently and rubs his eyes with the heel of his hand, leans forward, restlessly. Paddington. “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform”. A man with a wheeled suitcase has trouble getting it across the gap. A young man in shorts opposite, wearing trainers, jiggling his feet incessantly. An ascending whine as the train speeds up, then descending as it slows. Above ground. Royal Oak. A middle eastern woman, wearing a black abaya, pulling a shopping trolley. A woman in a green striped top fixes her hair behind her head, attaches a hair band. A grey haired elderly woman, wears a cream leather jacket, holds a white leather handbag.  Westbourne Park. Cream painted brick. Trees. Grey railings. “Walk through carriages – at busy times you can move easily through the entire train to find space” – on this train there are no doors separating the carriages. Ladbroke Grove: an old station. “Ladbroke Grove for Portobello Road”. “Not all trains stop in this area. Please move further along the platform”. “The – the best electric car news”. Latimer Road. An old station with a carved wooden shelter. “Shurgard Self Storage”. There are dark clouds outside now. Spots of rain on the train windows. Wood Lane: a modern station. BBC Studios. “The next station is Shepherd’s Bush Market”. I decide to get off and re-visit the market. It’s raining. I have no jacket or umbrella. I change my mind and get straight back on. Goldhawk Road: old, brown brick building. Graffitied. High rise ‘60s flats. Wire fences. Breeze block. I can see into the backs of houses. Net curtains, Gingham curtains. Factory roofs, ladders. drainpipes, metal pivoting windows, train cleaning sheds, razor wire. “All change. Please take your belongings with you”. “A dozen reasons why you should choose Chiswick 500”. Platform 1. 1:36 p.m. “Bargains. To Let. Funky Offices. Nearby and Chiswick. From £9.50 per sq.ft.”. “Please shut the gate”.

Baker Street

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”.


Vote for “Mistaken for a Real Poet” in Best Australian Blogs 2013:

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013


Poem number 10. I’m not sure I’d call this a poem. I’m not even sure I’d call it a prose poem. I started work on this some months ago, and did nothing with it. I re-read it today, and it made me laugh, so I’ve quickly spruced it up a bit, and present it as my poem for today. It is probably in the top three for weirdest poems I’ve ever written.  I hope you can apply the formula in your own life.

Archimedes Other Less Famous Principle

Also known as The Distance from Happiness principle states that:

A life is deflected from its purpose by a force equal to the weight of its worldly worries. The extent of divergence is measurable and is termed “distance from true happiness”.

To express this as an equation, we can calculate the distance from true happiness (Dth)  as follows:



Where (all measurements are to be taken from subject’s life to date):

Dth is the distance from true happiness in kilometres

 L = total impact of lies told  (in kilograms per square inch)

T= distance run to avoid facing the truth (in kilometres)

S= distance travelled out of way to help a stranger (in kilometres)

R = resilience / sensitivity measured by thickness of skin on the back of neck (in centimetres)

Ws = the weight on shoulders (in tonnes)

Ch= Number of Chips on shoulder (nearest integer, count both shoulders)

Wp = Weight of material possessions (nearest tonne)

F = Mean number of true friends (beware of zero divide error)

En= Mean number of enemies

Xs= Number of ex-wives, husbands or partners (avoid double counting items from En)

Wb = Weight required to cause the bottom to fall out of subject’s world

It is clear from the formula that a life, the trajectory of which is deviating from its true purpose, can only be deflected back onto its correct path if the force applied by total worldly worries is negative, and will only remain on trajectory where total worldly worries is = zero. Negative total worldly worries can also be instrumental in deflection (for more information, refer to Archimedes other principle, of self-delusion).

Consider also that if the subject accumulates such an enormous WS x Ch x Wp (weight on shoulders  x  chips on shoulder  x  weight of material possessions) as to cause it to exceed Wb, this will result in the bottom falling out of its world. In this case the distance from true happiness is immeasurable. (refer chapter 39 for a full explanation of Wb).



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013


On Labor Day, September 6, 1976,Ron Silliman spent five and a half hours travelling around San Francisco  on the Bay Area Rapid Transit train system, the BART. With pen and notepad, he recorded in detail his experience of travelling from one end of the subway system to the other.

On Australia Day, January 26th 2013, I emulated Silliman’s exercise on the Adelaide tram. The tram line is not as extensive as the BART. It took me about two and a quarter hours to do the trip. I took a new notepad and pen, and wrote for the entire trip. Here is the result:


Australia Day Saturday 26th January 2013 10 am

King William Street, Adelaide,  near corner of Rundle Mall

A perfect Adelaide summer’s morning, light breeze, mid 20s Celsius, sitting at the tram stop in the middle of King William street, cyclists inspired by the Tour Down Under, overly noisy motor bikes, a bloke collecting ‘return deposit’ cans and bottles from an overflowing rubbish bin, the sun warms my back, opposite: “Opals – Aboriginal Art Gallery”, “Uae Exchange – Service Is Our Currency”, King William Travel, a discarded McDonald’s cup at my feet, a screwed up fast food bag,  the tram is coming, headlights on, ahead of it the G10 bus to Blair Athol, beep, beep of traffic lights, people crossing, an elderly man in a cap and dark glasses, and wife, look like tourists, the tram “Entertainment Centre via City”, doors slide open, good, almost empty, “the next stop is Adelaide Railway Station”, out the window, New Parliament House, which looks old, the steps where I have demonstrated against the Iraq war, against the treatment of refugees, against just about anything John Howard did, the tinnitus hum of the air conditioning, the tram turns hard left into North Terrace, past Old Parliament House and the “Live Large” casino, restricted service on Australia day, “the next stop is City West”, The Hyatt, well heeled couple walking down the ramp, Adelaide Convention Centre, hardly anyone on this tram, “Woods Bagot – North Terrace loading dock”, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital site, “Fowler’s “Lion” Factory”, “ale on tap”, a bloke with black refuse bag gets on noisily, bag full of return deposit containers – heading for rich pickings at the Entertainment Centre? “the next stop is West Terrace”, five cranes on the RAH site, politicians love cranes on the skyline,  “park and ride just $2”, “to stop at Thebarton, please request now”, into the west parklands, bright green playing fields next to parched yellow, “Adelaide Gaol historic site” – historic if you were ever in there, Road Safety Centre, “Ice Skating, Ice Skating”, “Stepney’s ornamental plaster work”, The Squatters Arms Hotel, woman in a red top by 60 speed limit sign, Clipsal advertisement: “the future starts here”, Bonython Park, the man with the noisy refuse sack, peaked cap, earphones in, shirt hanging out, bag over his shoulder, gets off, “the next stop is the Entertainment Centre”, the tram stops here, “please exit the stop or validate your ticket for the return trip”, “A7 Port road, Port Adelaide, Entertainment Centre”, “coming soon – Downton Abbey”, “my kitchen rules starts Monday”, “who will crash the party?” Enzo’s Ristorante and bar, tickets, ATM, “The Seekers”,  I get off and get back on, the driver walks from one end of the tram to the opposite end, radios in his report, an oriental looking couple get on, I sit near the ticket machine and will validate when the tram resumes its trip, the driver gets off, stretches his legs, looks Lebanese, dark glasses, stubble, a woman, two women, young, teenagers, draped in Australian flags, thongs, painted faces,  a beach ball emblazoned “Come on Australia”, flags painted on their ankles too, one squirts the other, “Ooh it’s freezing Emma”, one has her hair tied in a top knot,  pink “Billabong” back pack, four people wait on the platform, maybe they know better than me when the tram will leave, the flag girls are inflating a beach ball, smell of cheap plastic, one stretches her legs across two seats, a Woolworth’s truck goes past on Port Road, the driver gets back on, Smartphone in hand, tells the people on the platform to board, the larger of the two flag girls is still blowing into the plastic thing, but it’s not a beach ball, it’s full length li-lo, in an Australian flag design, “this is the tram service to Glenelg”, the li-lo is not a li-lo, it’s a giant thong, six feet long, fortunately the tram is not crowded, the tram picks up speed, nobody wants to get off at Bonython Park, along the middle of Port Road, but people want to get on at Bonython Park, elderly couple, nod in approval of the flag girls, 10:33 am, E.S. Wigg & Sons processing plant,  the flag girls chatter, Coca-Cola Amatil, Suburban Taxis, Yellow Cabs, Adelaide Independent Taxis, a grey haired man with baggy jeans gets on, looks east European, imagine him younger, in communist East Germany, “the next stop is West Terrace”, Squatters Arms again, “$5 pints of Coopers”, the oriental man taps a white shoed foot, I’m facing the wrong way, I might need to turn around to prevent getting dizzy,  maybe I should sit near the flag girls, will that give me more material or drive me nuts with their chatter, so far, not getting dizzy, “Hansen Yuncken building value”, “emergency only pull handle down to release door penalty for misuse”,  a middle aged lady in floral top gets up early to get off, too early for North Terrace, her husband tells her it is too soon, “what are you doing?” “getting off”, “it’s just a straight line”, they get off, they get back on again, they sit behind me, I hear them say they want to go to the chocolate factory, “Haigh’s?” I ask, “yes”, I give them directions, “get off at Greenhill Road”, they’re very grateful, a flag girl gets up, looks like she might get off, face is bright blue – a different blue to the flag, I move up the tram and sit facing the way the tram is going, not the best seat, the flag girls have friends, the giant thong is propped against the window, 10:45 am, I’m back where I got on, dark clouds hover over Adelaide, the flag girls are arguing over somebody’s phone number, “oh my God”,  tram turns into King William street, on the phone flag girl: “where are you?”, a mob of young men in Australian flags get on at Rundle Mall, a girl with an Australian flag umbrella hat, a man on a scooter – the driver drops the ramp for him, a Down syndrome Asian girl with her mother, the girl sits next to me, looks at what I’m writing, the mother stands but keeps an arm around the girl, the girl is dressed in pink, “The Impossible – a film by J.A. Bayona” on the side of a bus, Yorke Peninsula coaches, the tram is packed now and I haven’t yet validated my ticket, I think it’s free between the Entertainment Centre and Victoria Square, “the next stop is Victoria Square”, two more flag girls, one standing, Smartphone in hand, Victoria Square, Aboriginal flag next to “Santos Tour Down Under” flag, then dozens of flags, lots more people, get up to validate my ticket, bumping into a German (?) man as I do so, he gives me a dirty look, I’ve left my stuff on the seat, he and his wife look at it in puzzlement – should they take the seat? I hurriedly sit back down, “Dispute Resolution Centre S.A.” chatter from both sets of flag girls, the German woman has sat next to me – she turns round to talk to her husband, she has a huge gold wedding ring and silver bracelet watch, on the way back I should make sure I get a better seat, an Aboriginal man in a black beanie, grey curly hair bursting out from under it, blue, white and black check shirt, earphone in one ear connected to his phone, green Woolworths carrier bag, 10:57 Sealink Travel Group, South Terrace, parklands, taxi heading north, Australian flag flying, the Aboriginal man gets off,  I catch myself guiltily thinking about stereotypes, the stereotype would be that the Woolworth’s bag contains a cask of cheap wine,  another stereotype – blondish 30s man, red t-shirt, sunglasses on his head not over his eyes,  a man, elderly, walking stick, driver: “can you please move away from the doors”, the German woman again talks to her husband, maybe they too are going to Haigh’s, “advance warning temporary road closure”, Greenhill road, the German woman has an Australian Seniors’ card, an elderly couple, he has a floppy hat and wheeled shopping trolley, she is well dressed, smart white trousers, the Haigh’s tourists get off, “to stop at Wayville stop 2 please request now”, tram picks up speed making it harder to write, Wayville, two couples get on, it’s a couples tram, late middle aged, the flag girls all have their smart phones out but this doesn’t stop them chattering, Goodwood Road, the area in front of me is all wheels, a new lady with a shopping trolley, the scooter man, the man with the floppy hat and shopping trolley, up over the ramp, speed picks up, mother with two teenage sons, discussing the shoes of one son,  Forestville, “it’s so annoying” – one flag girl, black forest, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi,oi,oi”, in a sort of derisory way, more crowded, middle aged woman with patterned dress, anklets, smart sandals, nice earrings, stop, looking down on South Road, cars flying under, graffiti: “Roger Vegan”, suburban houses, tin corrugated roofs, some in poor condition, Glandore, greenery and bushes behind the platform, cream brick houses, freestone villas, two storey townhouses, Pleasant Avenue, stop 8, Beckman Street, an inspector is helping the scooter man off at Beckman Street, inspector man is not apparently inspecting tickets, but basically walking around being helpful, giving advice, but the friend of the well dressed woman has to buy a ticket from him, why? hasn’t asked me for my ticket, Marion Road, 11:15 am, the flag people are all obviously heading for the beach, laughter from the flag girl crowd, they have a young Sudanese male friend, they’re painting his face blue, he looks like a Masai warrior, Wattle Terrace, the bike lane runs beside the tram track, Morphettville Race Course, the quieter of the flag girls compare Smartphone images, flag girl’s friend: “what did I do?” a lot of elderly people get off at the race course, Morphett Road, Trams Division, “it’s a girl”, “you know my wish”, “he used to always support Glenelg”, “you hanging out with Daniel Moran?” over culvert with just a few puddles, “to stop at Glengowrie please request now”, new units, solar panels, old freestone, transit watch S.A. 11:20 am, Glengowrie, floppy hat trolley man and wife get off, he leads the way, two story large white house, twenties villas,  more freestone, Brighton Road, Sudanese boy now has a completely blue face, blue face flag girl is staring out of the window, looks pissed off, “glenelg bbq inn”, “Cheap As Chips”, “SA Camping World”, “OPSM Optometrist”, elderly lady in yellow trousers, walking, overtakes the tram, “Ian’s Shoes”, “Judells”, “Sportspower”, “Bay Newsagency and Card Centre”, “Happy Herbs”, the mob of flag boys get off along Jetty Road, “Indochine”, Moseley Square, “this trip terminates here”, “Wokinabox”, “Fish and Chips”, “Jetty Bar and Tab”, “Tosca Viva”,  I get off, fresh sea breeze, I get back on, 11:30 am, return trip, leaving Glenelg, elderly lady, floppy hat emblazoned “Australia Down Under”, cool dude, t-shirt: “Issued by Diesel”, noisy woman on her phone: “they had a good day yesterday, $45, mmm, yeah, alright, walking around, yeah I know, can’t be bothered, the parking, eh? yeah, alright, yeah”, Grundy’s Shoes: “half price sale”, tough looking bloke: white shirt, open to his chest, gold chain, earphones, two elderly women, shopping bags, “all covered public transport waiting areas are smoke free”, stop 15 Brighton Road, tram a lot quieter, nobody gets on, cool dude has Converse black and white trainers – laces them more tightly, man looks over his spear topped gate at the tram, a cream, rusty VW beetle, a man in a battered cricket hat blows his nose into a grubby hankie, gets his Smartphone out, puts his hand to his mouth, two people get on, a woman has trouble with the ticket machine, comes and sits next to me, black handbag and sunglasses, red shopping bag, fiddles with her handbag, several zips, three young guys, headbands, all dressed in white, wearing big wigs, woman next to me checking her Smartphone, Wilson Security man watches the wig boys, looks like he’d like to do something, another Wilson Security bloke struts the platform, the blonde wigged bloke has tatts all up his arm, a ute in the car part at the racetrack, the wigged guys get off at the race track, Australia Down Under lady gets up, has a chat with another elderly lady, has a shopping trolley, bashes the door opening button, it’s not working, “ooh I won’t get out!” eventually it opens, the friendly ticket inspector seems mainly to be friendly to women, he’s small, the type some women might call “cute”, stop 10 Marion Road, two obese people get on, mother and son? he has a voluminous blue t-shirt, blonde hair (bleached?), beard, dark glasses, “California” on the t-shirt, he’s so wide he only just squeezes between the seats, cricket hat man get up, bottle of water in his hand, Beckman Street, 11:47 am, a young Asian guy, big head phones, gets on, board shorts, iphone or large Smartphone, homes with two cars in the driveway, girl with red hair, dressed in black, dark glasses, sits opposite the cool dude, large black onyx type ring on second finger of left hand, buckled shoes, beige, Roberts Close, a unit for sale – big orange flag, red hair girl gets Smartphone out, elderly couple behind having conversation about shopping bags, wife: “what are you talking about?” level crossing bells sound, skate park, three or four young blokes sit in the shelter, woman next to me has a picture of a white rabbit on her Smartphone, Goodwood Road, couple behind: “it’s quite empty”, “yes”, “it’s Australia day”, “what, today?” “yes”, young couple with matching sunglasses, both with short hair, man has Australian flag on his neck – temporary tattoo? transfer? Greenhill Road 11:55 am, elderly lady, well dressed, red top, well cut hair, sits next to Asian big headphone guy, she has blue, red and green strapped sandals on, a supermarket shopping trolley on the median strip of Greenhill Road, obese guy is standing – cruelly I suspect he might not fit on one seat, the pavilion on the park, surrounded by lush green grass, friendly ticket inspector man gets off, tough looking guy, black top – “Devil’s Raceway Indianapolis”, elderly couple: “nobody forced it down your throat”, “no, it was just that it was a big meal”, the woman is bullying him, “you didn’t think I was going to sit next to __ for something like that did you?” King William road, “Massage and Acupuncture”, elderly couple: “it takes two days for an injection”, “what, they don’t have them themselves”, 333, “Assist Finance”, Victoria Square, 12:01, Supreme Court Courtroom II, people coming from the Central Market, young couple get up to get off at Victoria Square, cool dude gets off, another cool dude gets on, sits opposite me, if I was him I’d sit opposite red haired girl, an elderly couple site opposite red haired girl, new cool dude looks tired and / or depressed or hungover, obese man moves towards the door,  a man on a tagalong bike with his young daughter on the back, red haired girl gets ready to get off, “Office To Rent”, “We Love To Party”, “Function Room Free Hire”, “$6 Pints All Day”, “Dumpling King”,”Gaming Room”, “Goodlife Health Clubs”, “Welcome Lucky 7”, Sudanese girls sit behind me, the tallest Sudanese woman I’ve ever seen walks along King William street,  tram halts at Rundle Mall, I get off.

I lived in Dublin in the late 70s. My first residence was sharing a basement flat in Avoca Terrace, Blackrock (down the steps behind the hedge on the right above).

I discovered that the great Irish comic writer Brian O’Nolan aka Myles na Gcopaleen, aka Flann O’Brien, had lived in the same building, in a flat next door and above mine (up the steps on the left). It was whilst living in Avoca Terrace that Flann started writing his Cruiskeen Lawn (transliterated from the Irish crúiscín lán, “full/brimming small-jug”) column for the Irish times, a column which ran from 1940 until his death in 1966.

O’Nolan was, in my opinion, ahead of his time, in terms of the absurdity of his humour. Many of his ideas would not have been out of place in Monty Python, which came along after his death.

Amongst O’Nolan’s Cruiskeen Lawn column was his Catechism of Cliché, which mocked the banality of much public speech. For example:

Is a man ever hurt in a motor crash?
No. He sustains an injury.
Does such a man ever die of his injuries?
No. He succumbs to them.
From what sort of time does a custom date?
Time immemorial.
To what serious things does an epidemic sometimes attain?

The sporting arena (there’s another cliché), is redolent with such material, so here’s my contribution in the style of Myles:

The Catechism of Sporting Cliché

How will you approach the rest of the season?

We’ll take it one game at a time

Where will the team take it?

We’ll take it to the next level.

Which end of the season is this?

It’s the business end of the season

How good was that kick?

It was centimetre perfect

Is the game over yet?

It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings

What’s the score?

Have a look at the scoreboard

How much effort will you put into the next game?


How much respect did you show the winning team?

We showed them too much respect

Who is in control of your destiny?

We’re in control of our own destiny.

How do you feel after that win?

It hasn’t sunk in yet

How many halves are there in a game?

It’s a game of two halves.

How big is your ask?

It’s a big ask.

How right is he?

He’s  exactly right.

Who has ownership of this game?

It’s anyone’s game.

How good was that match?

It was a great advertisement for the game

How good do you feel right now?

I feel over the moon.

How bad do you feel right now?

I’m as sick as a parrot

How hard is your next game against the team that hasn’t won in half a century?

There are no easy games

Is the game amusing?

It’s a funny old game

Brian O’Nolan

My prose poem, “The Collector”, has just been published in the very handsome looking collection “Short and Twisted 2012″.

It is, without doubt, the weirdest poem I’ve ever written. The sort of poem you wouldn’t want your mother to read.

It came to me after running into someone I hadn’t seen for a long time. When I asked her what she was doing these days, she told me she was analysing tissue samples from men with prostate cancer. That, I stress, is where fact ends and weird imagination takes over.

The Collector

I should have seen it coming. She told me she worked in a laboratory, collecting  tissue samples from prostate patients. We hit it off. Went out. Then it started. Innocently at first. An offer to give me a haircut, then a manicure, and a pedicure. After we first slept together she said she preferred circumcised men. Offered to do it for me. I was shocked and resistant but I didn’t want to lose her. She was a trained nurse, could get some gas. I could trust her, and  actually, she did a good job. Neat and clean, no infection. Our sex got even better. But in the kitchen one night, showing me how to slice mangoes, she took the end off my finger. No need for  hospital, she said. Stitched it herself. A week later, looking for ice cubes. I found the fingertip in her freezer, along with my foreskin. And in her chest of drawers, all my hair and nail clippings, neatly dated and labelled. I confronted her over dinner. She admitted it all. Yes, she was a collector. No, she didn’t love me. Yes, she only wanted me for my body. And she would get it. The next thing I knew I was up here on her mantelpiece. A disembodied talking head, alongside half a dozen others. Other parts of me in the salad crisper of her industrial sized Frigidaire. And probably various bits and pieces providing blood and bone to her vegetable patch. So that’s my story. How did you end up here?