NaPoWriMo 2018 – #13 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)

Warning. This post contains disturbing material.

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He recognises the structure of the building. It had once been a high school like those he’d  taught at in Vietnam: three or four floors high, each level having a long balcony overlooking a playground. Doors opened off the balcony onto side-by-side classrooms.

But in S-21, the classrooms were sub-divided by roughly built brick walls, making multiple torture chambers out of each classroom. Prisoners were shackled to iron bedsteads, tortured until they confessed to being anti-government subversives working against Pol Pot. The torturer was practiced in the art of taking the prisoner to the brink of death and then pulling back. A death without a confession was a failure, which did not reflect well on the torturer. After the confession had been extracted, the prisoner was taken to the edge of a pit where the playground had been, hit on the head with an iron bar and throat slit. The pit was then covered with DDT, to mask the stench and finish off any unlikely survivors.

Replacing

Laughter with screams

Skipping ropes with manacles

Desks with racks

Homework with confessions

Rulers with iron bars

Chalk dust with DDT

Innocence with corruption

 

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: By Nefelimhg at Dutch Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3218978

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

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NaPoWriMo 2018 – #12 Sticks and Temples

Been travelling most of the day, so this is a last-minute offering.

angkor

 

At Angkor Wat

the temples are obscured

by a forest of selfie sticks

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: Mike Hopkins

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #10 Laos -1

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Laos – 1

Evading the spruiking taxi drivers

I find myself on a lonely corner

outside the airport

 

Out of nowhere

a tuk-tuk appears

the engine sounds of popping bubbles

 

He spots me before I spot him

pulls over

lifts my bags onto the rear seat

 

We putter down a riverside lane

the Mekong  black, turquoise, green

a temple or spa on every corner

 

Overtaken by women motorcyclists

one hand on the bars

the other holding umbrellas

to block the skin-darkening sun

 

Tailless cats in the hotel driveway

the receptionist chanting “sabai dii

hands pressed together as if in prayer

geckos chase mosquitoes across the walls

 

over the road, a bar, blasting out Led Zeppelin

 

—-

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: Ilya P

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #9 Foreign Bodies

Manspreading_in_Korea_Busan_Metro

Foreign Bodies

Look at them

with their manspreads

their open plan sexual organs

their overdeveloped egos

their bass-boom voices

 

Just bloody look at them

with their alpha-male postures

their over-muscled buttocks

taking up three seats

their bad-designer stubble

their hangdog hangover eyes

 

Just fucking look at them

ogling the waitresses

complaining about the service

planning their moves

their cigarette smoke airs

poisoning the atmosphere

 

—-

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: wikicommons/friedc

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #8 Silent Joke

silence

Silent Joke

The monk in saffron

smiles to himself

silently enjoys his thought

 

The next monk

brown robed

senses the smile

grins with pleasure

 

the next monk

robed in red

feels a surge of levity

his shoulders shake

 

the next monk

in clay coloured robe

is overtaken by giggling

 

the infection spreads

until the sound of silence

is immersed

in the mirth of monks

 

—-

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #6 Three Degrees (part 3)

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Three Degrees (part 3)

A Vinacabs taxi speeds through

the intersection horn blaring,

the press of wind as it passes.

 

She continues to An Thuong 4

parks in the alley next to the Silk Spa

takes off her helmet, still shaking.

 

Inside, she changes into her uniform

brown blouse, loose fitting

knee length trousers

 

Checks the list of clients

booked in for her shift,

sees his name against her 2 p.m. slot

 

“Your boyfriend is coming again.

Aroma massage, 90 minutes”

says the receptionist.

 

(to be continued)

 

—-

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #5 Three Degrees (part 2)

buildforblog

Three Degrees (part 2)

 

She loses her train of thought,

closes her laptop, pays and walks out,

past a construction site where

 

labourers are drenched in sweat

demolishing a building

with sledgehammers

 

They look down from the second floor

at the white woman walking by,

wondering why she looks agitated.

 

They take their lunch break

sitting on small plastic stools

at the corner food stall.

 

A Vinacabs taxi speeds past

horn blaring

narrowly missing a woman motorcyclist.

 

(to be continued)

 

—-

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #4 Three Degrees (part 1)

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Three Degrees (part 1)

She’s sitting in the courtyard of Gozar Coffee

drafting a short story on her laptop

about an older guy and a spa girl.

 

A Vinacabs taxi driver manspreads in the corner

taking a break from driving

chain-smoking Marlboros.

 

He’s staring brazenly at her,

blowing smoke in her direction,

his thoughts mirrored in the set of his face.

 

She’s aware of it, it still gets to her,

after months of living in Vietnam,

the cat-calls, the comments, the staring.

 

She loses her train of thought,

closes her laptop, pays and walks out,

his eyes following her out the door.

 

(to be continued)

 

—-

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

In Vietnam : the Dumpling Man – “Bánh Bao Đây”

In Vietnamese cities, there is always something happening. The streets hum all day and into the night. People are on the street cooking and selling food, eating food, drinking coffee, drinking beer, playing cards and Xiangqi (a draughts-like board game), riding motorbikes and bicycles, selling lottery tickets; on the move or just hanging out. There’s nearly always a background buzz, a babble of voices, a drone of engines, a beeping of motorbike horns, a clatter of construction activity, cocks crowing, dogs barking, geese honking, people shouting, call and response.

One  of the first things I noticed was the regular amplified announcements from blokes on motorbikes. At first I thought these were party political slogans on behalf of the communist party, and I think some of them might be e.g. reminders that the capitalist imperialists were defeated, or that a party meeting is coming up.

But the more common announcements, night and day, are those from the motorbike mounted dumpling (bánh bao) and soup vendors. They drive around the city streets with great metal pots strapped to either side of the backs of their bikes. A wood fire underneath the pot keeps the dumplings and soup hot. I dread to think of the results of being involved in a collision with one, but that is only one of the hazards of driving a motorbike in this country.

Until about 10 years ago, they would cycle or motorcycle around the city streets, shouting out their pleas for people to buy their hot food: “Bánh Bao Đây” (Dumplings here). Being heard above the constant din of Vietnamese city streets would have put a great strain on the vocal chords. So someone had the idea of rigging up a loudspeaker and a looped, pre-recorded message powered by the motorbike battery. Now the amplified, nasal recorded call can be heard several streets away, until the early hours of the morning. They all sound like the same announcement to me, and I wonder if they all use the same recording, and if the originator gets royalties!

I used to curse these characters, especially if they woke me up just as I’d fallen asleep. But after a bit of investigation, I came across this wonderful mini-documentary by Angus Ashton. Angus is an Australian photographer who has obviously spent quite a bit of time in Vietnam. His short film tells the story of one such dumpling seller, in Hue, just north of Đà Nẵng. It reminded me of what a hard life many Vietnamese people have, and how privileged I am to live the easy life I do. Like many Vietnamese people, the dumpling sellers work bloody hard just to survive, and to give his children a better life.

I haven’t sampled the dumplings yet, my vegetarianism being the excuse for avoiding them. But when I go to Hue, I will search him out.

—–

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2017
except documentary: © Angus Ashton 2013 http://www.angusashtonfilm.com

 

 

Yorkshire Dales 1 – From Wensleydale

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I’m cycling in the Yorkshire Dales and trying to write a poem a day for a week. Internet access is patchy, so they may get posted sporadically. And formatting is not so easy on a tablet

Here’s number one. I love the place names around Wensleydale.

From Wensleydale

(after  Jen Hadfield)

I will take you by Wanlass

I will take you by West Wood

I will take you by Haremire and Tullis Cote

I will take you through Preston Scar to Old Flue


I will bring you down Long Scar

I will lead you up Broomber Rigg


I will show you Loft Skew

I will show you Bellerby Moor


I will lead you down Black Beck

We will run in Spring Gill over Walburn Moor


We will cross over Cross Gill Top

We will fall into Whit Fell and Peat Fell


We will beat through East End Vein

We will beat through Old Stork Vein


We will rest in Hags Gill

We will wash in the icy Swale


We will sleep in Nun Cote Nook.

—–

copyright Mike Hopkins 2015