NaPoWriMo 2018 – #20 – Realising Perfection

IMG_20180420_084554-01.jpeg

 

 

Realising Perfection

at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig

From this bay window

the black lough,

the banks of bulrushes,

the silhouetted swans

 

are perfect and yet:

a longtail boat

churning a wake

across the surface

 

or a boat woman

hawking soft drinks,

and one plastic bottle

floating in the shallows?

 

Below this bay window

the perfect lawn

is disturbed only by

the shadow

 

of a beech tree

but maybe:

tyre tracks

gouging the turf,

 

fast food boxes

scattered around

and a stray dog

scavenging?

 

The perfect sky

could be tinged

with exhaust haze,

the perfect silence

 

pierced by jack hammers,

the perfect paths

pitted with pot holes

and broken pavers.

 

The scones and cream

could be served

from a street cart

by a Bánh mì lady,

 

the brewed Italian coffee

made piquant

with a blob of

condensed milk,

 

the vegetables coated

in cheap chilli sauce,

the spotless kitchen

could sport a cockroach,

 

the empty roads

might feel the pulse

of swarming motorbikes

that I might fully realise

 

this perfection.

 

 


 

logo-napowrimo.png

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image of Tyrone Guthrie Centre: Mike Hopkins

About NaPoWriMo

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

 

Advertisements

NaPoWriMo 2018-#19 – Climbing the Ladder

Man_in_pelvis_cloth_climbing_ladder,_carrying_bricks_(rbm-QP301M8-1887-405c_8)

 

Climbing the Ladder

My father went to work in a suit,

frayed-collar shirt,

shiny arse trousers,

mud caked shoes

 

Carried 94-pound bags

of cement on his shoulder,

climbed wooden ladders,

slippery with sleet

 

Drove a digger,

sometimes with me on his knee,

let me pull the levers of a JCB,

ate bacon sandwiches with mugs of tea

 

On Fridays after work

he went on the lash,

sank several pints

and then drove home.

 

I go to work in a suit,

clean ironed shirt,

matching tie,

soft leather shoes

 

I carry a laptop

to meetings, endless meetings

with managers slippery

with self-importance.

 

I dig into project plans,

pull apart spreadsheets,

build business cases,

climb the corporate ladder.

 

Sip cardboard cappuccino,

nibble salad sandwiches,

and on Friday evenings

maybe sink a cold chardonnay

 

though mostly I can’t wait

to get away.

 


 

logo-napowrimo.png

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: By Muybridge, Eadweard, 1830-1904 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About NaPoWriMo

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

NaPoWriMo 2018-#18 – It’s 2 p.m. and a Woman is Screaming at Me

5243406297_0b8f3486a8_z.jpg

Today I’ve been feeling a bit wiped out so didn’t start writing until about 4 p.m. I tried a few different exercises, none of which worked, and then decided to write about this incident in Vietnam. Very much first draft.

It’s 2 p.m. and a Woman is Screaming at Me

It’s 2 p.m. and a woman is screaming at me

on the phone, I don’t know why

I put it down

and drink my tea.

 

It’s 2:30 p.m. and a woman is screaming at me

under my balcony

like some demented Romeo

but I don’t think it’s love.

 

It’s 3 p.m. and a woman is screaming at me

rattling my thankfully

padlocked gate

saying I’ve ruined her business.

 

It’s 3:30 p.m. and a woman is screaming at me

and the penny

drops: she’s from the restaurant

I left a 2-star review for on TripAdvisor.

 

It’s 4 p.m. and a woman is still screaming at me

out in the laneway

I call the restaurant, and a man says

“Yes, that’s my wife. I feel your pain”.

 

It’s 4:30 p.m. and a woman is not screaming at me

I’ve taken down the TripAdvisor review and see

that every rating for that restaurant

is 5 stars.

 

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: Barry Schwartz

About NaPoWriMo

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

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #17 His Photoshopped Life

photoshopped life

Yesterday I started my two week stay at the wonderful Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. Now I have no excuses for not writing. This one is new today, but I’ve had more time to work on it. Hence it’s longer than most, which probably means it needs a good edit.

His Photoshopped Life

Now that he’d left Vietnam

he could Photoshop his memories,

rose tint them for public consumption,

make them suitable for family viewing,

crop the New Year’s Eve incident,

the altercation with the restaurant owner

and anything to do with women.

 

Now that he’d left

he could filter the green tinted anxiety

of daily dealing with surrounding strangeness,

the life-threatening traffic,

the challenge of just crossing the road,

the fear of being bribed by police.

 

Now that he’d left

he could tone down the times

when there was nobody to speak to

except waitresses and barmen

and his Vietnamese was too pathetic

to get beyond “Xin chào” and “Cảm ơn”.

 

Now that he’d left

he could sharpen those bits

where the kids were delightful,

where they chanted “Hello TEAcher”

and “Goodbye TEAcher”

and unpacked his bag for him

and repacked his bag for him

and hugged him at the end of class

and cried when he said he was leaving.

 

Now that he’d left

he could erase the smartarse teenagers

who wanted a young, square-jawed American teacher,

who completely ignored his only three rules:

  1. Turn off your phone 2. Speak English 3. Be nice.

He could cut out the time he shouted:

“Does anyone here actually want to learn English?”

and they all laughed and chanted “I do TEAcher”.

 

Now that he’d left

he could highlight the camaraderie,

the nights sitting on benches,

drinking beer, eating phở so cheap

that it was almost free,

of riding three up on a motorbike

down back lanes, dodging the rats and the dogs

and yes, even going to a karaoke bar.

 

Now that he’d left

he could get back to normality.

 

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: originally Mike Essl  with minor modification by 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 – #16 Language App

dogduck

Der Hund hat eine Ente – The dog has a duck

In recent years I’ve been using DuoLingo (without much success, I have to admit) to try to learn German and Vietnamese. DuoLingo is an app that runs on phones and computers. Part of its approach is to give you an English phrase and its translation, which you then have to speak into your phone or computer. The phrases are mostly mundane (e.g. where is the hotel?) but occasionally bizarre. Today’s piece uses some of those bizarre phrases. There are a number of web-pages discussing the origins of these phrases. There is a link to one at the bottom of this page.

 

 

Language App

In Berlin a woman recites

German phrases into a computer.

 

In Bangalore, a programmer loads her phrases

into the language app.

 

In Australia, a man downloads the app,

recites these new German expressions.

 

He loves her voice,

is enchanted by her eloquence.

 

He imagines a woman gazing at a Paul Klee painting.

asking “Who eats the clock?”

 

He thinks of her flipping through a Thomas Manne novel,

wondering “Where does the cat run to?”

 

He suspects she has watched a rerun of “The Blue Angel”

thinking “My husband wears a dress”.

 

He imagines her at Mass praying for absolution,

hearing a whispered “We know every egg”,

 

considers her strolling the Tiergarten,

a stranger shouting: “You need a duck”.

 

He searches for her on Facebook, on Instagram,

finds her on LinkedIn.

 

Professes his love for her,

for her phrases, for her life.

 

He tells her:

The clock asked to be eaten.

Cats have no conscience.

Your husband is confused.

Your body is your own.

Ducks are indispensable.

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

How do weird duolingo sentences get generated?

 

Image: here

About NaPoWriMo

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

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #15 The Bardo

Zhi-Khro_Bardo_Thodol.jpg

A few months ago I read George Saunders’ “Lincoln in the Bardo”. Its premise is that when Abraham Lincoln’s young son, Willie, died, he was trapped in a place between life and death, the bardo. The bardo, in some schools of Buddhism, is  a liminal state between death and rebirth. Whilst in Vietnam I wrote a draft of this as a homework exercise with friends Gaby and Nick. I’ve updated it slightly in this version.

The Bardo

In the death flash,

his past flickers to life

on a parchment screen.

 

The saddest scenes,

his worst deeds,

his shame freeze framed.

 

Unedited lowlights

on endless repeat,

the happy parts made banal.

 

His next life

a pinhole of light

unwilling yet to show its hand.

 

 

 

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: Zhi-Khro Bardo Thodol.jpg

About NaPoWriMo

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

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #14 The Problem of Language

 

Vietnamese_Collage

 

The impossibility of tone

“Sweet. Candy. The difference?”

What timidity prevents

“Adjective+Noun. But if I have two adjectives?”

If the noun is a feeling

If the adjective betrays

“Call. Speak, Say. Give examples”

What is not confessed

The meanings of silence

“Now, all speaking stops”

What can be misread

“Why a dog barking up a tree?”

“and where to find red herrings”

 

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: Mxn at en.wikibooks

About NaPoWriMo

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

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

Warning. This post contains disturbing material.

Tuol_Sleng.jpg

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.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #11 Flight of Fancy

723987842_c8599d2e98_z

This is the first time this year I’ve used a prompt from the NaPoWriMo site, which is to write :
”  a poem that addresses the future, answering the questions “What does y(our) future provide? What is your future state of mind? If you are a citizen of the “union” that is your body, what is your future “state of the union” address?”

Phew. So not just a first draft but also a first thought.

Flight of Fancy

His mind had always been

a distance from his body.

It drifted further each year,

 

changing at a slower rate,

refusing to keep up,

despite the weight of evidence:

 

shop window reflections,

slower running times,

invisibility to young people.

 

He would grasp at any sign

from friends

that he was still “cool”.

 

As his body aged,

his imagination grew more vivid,

his ideas more fanciful,

 

until his mind detached

from his physical self,

wandered off on its own.

—-

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: Kristian Bjornard

About NaPoWriMo

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