Friday 30 November 2012


Toy helicopters? During the Celtic Tiger period in Ireland, the thing to have was a helicopter. It was a toy for those who had made an awful lot of money during those boom years. And of course, if one had a helicopter, one had to have a helicopter pad.
It was nice to be able to say, 'Go round the back, past the helicopter pad, and you'll find us in the conservatory.'
There was a story about a man who used the roof of a building as a helicopter pad, without permission, and damaged the building's structure.
"Keeping up with the Jones's" reached new levels of insanity in the Celtic Tiger era. I try to capture this surreal situation in my poem The Copper Mines of Peru, to show the effect it had on the relationship between a fictitious teenage son and his father, and on the whole family.


A sullen-faced youngster
is getting into his father’s car.
He’s had a bad childhood.
I had a bad childhood too
but I got over it. Look at me,
I’m going through the cycles
of eternal recurrence.
Unlike my father did on me,
I never laid a hand on him
and yet what his eyes are saying
every time I look at him
is that I have failed him,
that I embarrass him,
that my very existence
was the cause of his bad childhood
What he needs is a good funt
but you can’t get away with that 
nowadays. I’m driving him to school
but he doesn’t want to be driven to school,
above all, he doesn’t want me
to drive him to school,
and if he must be driven to school,
it should be in a Merc or a Beamer.
But what he really really wants
is to have his own Merc or Beamer
and drive himself to school.
Would he be happy with that?
No, there’d be something else
biting him. Some day one of his pals
would descend to school in a helicopter.
Then he’d want a fucking helicopter.
And would that take the perpetual sulk
off his face? Would he get a life then?
You can be certain he wouldn’t,
because I’d buy him a shit helicopter
having mortgaged the house to pay for it
and sold my wife into slavery
and sent his younger brother and sister
to work in the copper mines of Peru. 
While other fathers would buy his classmates
brand new classy twin-jet-engined helicopters,
his would only be second hand
with a single piston engine
and not one of the girls in the school
would ask him for a lift.
And if I tried to reason with him:
‘Son, you can take it from me...’
‘Oh Jesus, not that again,’ he’d say.
‘Let me talk, you little fucker,’ I’d say
and he’d throw his eyes to heaven,
heaving a petulant sigh.
‘You can take it from me,’ I’d say,
‘that if a girl likes you, really likes you
she won’t care if your helicopter
is shit. It’s you, not your helicopter, 
she’ll want – your personality.’
‘Tell that to the Marines,’ he’d say.
‘Anyway, I don’t have a personality.
I had a bad childhood –   remember?’
And this is how it would finish:
we’d settle down in our sleeping bags
in the cabin of the shit helicopter
parked on a flat rock
on the top of a mountain.
‘I miss Mom and Billy and Frida,’ I’d say.
‘So do I,’ he’d say.
‘Fuck you and your teenage angst.’
‘Fuck you and your shit helicopter.’

‘Night, Son.’  
‘Night, Dad.’ 

SEE A VIDEO AT of a reading I gave of this poem at 'On the Nail' Readings in Limerick March 2016.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2012

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