NaPoWriMo 2018 – #9 Foreign Bodies


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


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 – #7 Re: Joyce


Re: Joyce

In the shade

of the Akubra

there is no rejoicing


In the shade

of the Akubra

a dead beet



Re: Joyce re:Joyce

a child is born


The Deputy P.M

is keeping his miss-demeanours

under his hat


The Deputy P.M.’s hat

is hanging

by a thread



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)


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)


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)


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.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #3 Einstein’s Yang

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

Einstein’s Yang

In the macrobiotic restaurant

a Korean man sits across the aisle

alongside a glamorous woman

using her smart phone as a mirror.

I sit by myself with a notepad,

pen and no inspiration.

He leans over, tells me that Einstein

discovered compound interest.

I looked this up on the internet later.

It’s not true of course.

Albert was a fan of compounding

though not of CFDs (whatever they are)

The Korean man tells me

they will double my fortune in a year,

asks me what I’m doing in Vietnam

and do I mind telling him how much I earn.

I tell him I’m a teacher.

and that I do mind.

He smiles, tells me

my hourly rate and he’s close.

As he leaves with his girlfriend,

he hands me his business card

made from recycled, chlorine free paper.

“Think it over, then give me a call”, he says

Macrobiotic food is supposed

to balance my yin and my yang.

I ask the waitress

for an extra serving of yang.


About NaPoWriMo

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018
Image attribution: CC BY-SA 3.0,

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #2 Unplayable



After the shaming

his dark half,

the roughened

dirt-scarred half,

slid into shadow.


His light half,

the spit polished,

sweat glossed half,

lost its shine


His seam barely held,

the stitching picked

loose and frayed.


He swayed


from light to dark

to light to dark.


He was unplayable



About NaPoWriMo

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

NaPoWriMo 2018

Inspired by Kerryn Treadrea and Tracey Korsten, at 11:53 Laotian time, after two ‘bomber size’ bottles of beer at the nearby pub, I’ve made the rash decision to do NaPoWriMo 2018. It may be just a haiku sized offering, but I will try to do something every day. And after reading some Seamus Heaney via Twitter:


I follow his shadow

his stooped, strong handed way

without the strong hands

I match his humour

I have slowed his ease to anger

I am learned

but less skilled

I have had more time

to learn how to navigate

but am still adrift




Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018


In Vietnam: It’s not all Bia and Noodles

* Bia hơi, is a type of very, very cheap draft beer popular in Vietnam.

Actually I’m in Cambodia now, which provides me with a bit of geographical and emotional distance from which to view my time in Vietnam. Whilst pretty much all of my posts about Vietnam have tended to sing its praises, it’s not without its faults. So in order to provide that much called for thing, “balance”, here’s a fairly superficial list of the less endearing characteristics of Vietnam:

  1. Plastic.  It’s everywhere. Everything is put into small or large plastic bags. Plastic bottles are everywhere. Rubbish is dropped indiscriminately. Beautiful beaches are despoiled with plastic waste. There is very little environmental consciousness. Even some of the expats who should know better just drop their litter in the street.
  2. Traffic. It’s hair-raising. Indicators are rarely used, and can’t be relied upon. Horns are sounded repeatedly and continuously. Car drivers, other than taxi drivers, seem to be the most incompetent. Taxi drivers sometimes drive like madmen. I’ve probably witnessed a crash of some kind, on average, every 2 weeks, always involving one or more motorbikes, sometimes underneath a car.
  3. Smoking. There are no non-smoking areas in cafes, restaurants, pubs. Expats are worse than the locals. It’s rare that you get to sit in a cafe without someone nearby lighting up. An American guy yesterday lit up his pipe right next to me. The next day I saw him standing at a food counter, ordering his food, puffing great clouds of smoke.
  4. Karaoke. The Vietnamese love their karaoke. A karaoke party can spring up, with a deafening sound system, in your next door neighbour’s living room. If you’re lucky it’s only for one night. If you’re unlucky, you’ve got a karaoke club next door to you. The songs are belted out at full volume, out of tune, with exaggerated emotion, mostly by drunken men who think they are the Vietnamese equivalent to Elvis. And then they are belted out again, and again …..
  5. Tourists. Yes, it’s hypocritical for a foreigner to complain about tourists. In some places, like Nha Trang and Phu Quoc, it seems that Vladimir Putin has colonised the place. The locals tend to become surly and resentful in response to the tourists’ behaviour. A tour guide told me that money laundering is, allegedly, the main driver. I’ll say no more, for fear of being jabbed with a poison tipped umbrella.
  6. Ageism. I am sick to death of being asked how old I am. It’s nearly always one of the first questions you’ll be asked by a Vietnamese person. They’ll say they need to know in order to address you correctly. There are different forms of address according to whether you are older, the same age or younger than the other person. But I put it down to straight nosiness. You don’t need to know someone’s exact age when it’s obvious they are significantly older than you. Some schools openly refuse to employ teachers over, say, 45. I’ve even seen adverts which say things like “Native English Speaker wanted. Must be young, American and good-looking”. Whenever I walked into a teenage class for the first time, the disdain on the faces of some students was often plain to see.
  7. Expats. Hypocrisy again, I know. Join one of the Facebook expat groups which exist for every city in Vietnam, supposedly to provide a supportive means of information sharing, and you’ll be shocked by the frequency of juvenile, abusive posts, often in response to a perfectly sensible question. I’m told that exclusively female groups are not like that.
  8. Rats. There are lots of them, especially around cafes and restaurants, probably because of the piles of rubbish nearby. In the first restaurant I walked into in Ho Chi Minh City, a vegetarian one by the way, I saw a huge rat running along behind the food trays. I walked straight out again. But if you only went to places where there are no rats around, you’d be hard pressed to find a place to eat. Walk along the back lanes at night and you’ll hear or see a constant scurrying of rats.
  9. Cockroaches. See “8. Rats”. Same problem.
  10. The language. It’s so effing hard to learn. I tried. I’m not good at languages anyway, but Vietnamese must be one of the hardest. There are rising tones, falling tones, short tones, long tones, rising falling tones, falling rising tones and upward inflection tones (I think).
  11. Construction. Vietnam is a fast developing nation. Buildings, large and small, are going up everywhere. If you find a quiet place to live, a quiet hotel, a quiet coffee shop, you can be pretty certain it won’t be quiet for long. The sound of hammer drills, cement trucks, the general hubbub of a construction site will almost certainly find you.
  12. Isolation. It can be lonely at times, especially for an older, single male. I was lucky to have the company of a trio of young American teachers for periods of time. But when they weren’t around, it could sometimes feel, well, like you were on your own in a foreign country, and you didn’t understand what was happening around you. I became friendly with a number of lovely locals in Da Nang. Coffee shops and bars and restaurants were invariably welcoming. But the language barrier certainly limited the closeness of any friendship with locals.
  13. Nature. The lack of it. It’s not easy to get into unspoilt nature from Vietnamese cities. They sprawl. I was lucky to live near a beach. The daily walks and runs on the beach kept me sane.
  14. Nosepicking. I won’t go into details.

No, it’s not paradise, but it’s one hell of a country in which to spend some time, or it is now at least. Hopefully it will retain its charm despite its meteoric rate of growth.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018