Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Wednesday, 14 January 2015



Reclining in the squalor of his own body,
The Fatman;
Morose and self-indulgent.

flaccid flesh-fantasies.
erotic hamburgers;

a numb pubic lust ...

A Wimpy whorehouse
lies in a corner and
strips tears from his eyes:
He wants to be repulsed by himself:

He's a junkie, returning to vomit
    like a dog, or a moth to light.
He's a pig, resplendent in mud;
     (some latent cannibal part of us):–

nude, base and free.

24 April 1977 

When I posted ‘Stray’ last week my friend Marion said that is sounded “exactly like you now!” So this one’s for you, Marion. I don’t have an exact date for ‘Stray’ but it must’ve been written only a few weeks before ‘Chains’.

Now ‘Chains’ is a strange one. It’s one of those where-the-hell-did-this-one-come-from? poems. I can see myself working on it whilst walking down Buchanan Street in Glasgow but that’s as much as I can tell you about that. The only Wimpy I can recall ever eating at was the one at the side entrance to Glasgow Central station and the last one I ever remember seeing was on Ingram Street but it’s gone now too. In 1977 Wimpys were still fairly common; McDonald’ses existed in the UK (since 1974) but it wasn’t until the eighties that we really started to notice them. Now there’re apparently only 93 restaurants in the UK compared to McDonald’s’ 1300. (I wonder if Richard and Maurice McDonald had a clue how many problems they’d create for grammaticians when they included that comma? My wife spent an hour poring over The Chicago Manuel of Style trying to decide on these two and we’re still not sure what’s right.)

I’ve nothing particularly against fast food restaurants. Or fat people. So I’m pretty sure I’m using this as some kind of metaphor. The punctuation’s weird too but I’ve left it as I wrote it. For a while I did some odd things with punctuation but I’ve completely forgotten what my rules were, if, indeed, I had rules because I suspect I just went down the whatever-feels-right-must-be-right route.

That said I’m still surprisingly fond of this one; for all the differences it has a similar tone to ‘Stray’ and I get a comparable feeling when I read it today.

‘Chains’ was first published in Street Games and Other Poems and, yes, the editor “fixed” my punctuation.



Kass said...

OOooooh, I love it, alliteration and all. It's earthy and honest.

And in all of us.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’m glad you like it, Kass. I really do wonder what little eighteen-year-old me was thinking when he wrote it. I know I was living in East Kilbride at the time and I can’t imagine it not having its fair share of fast food restaurants but I actually can’t remember ever eating in any. It’s scary how much we forget. I’ve just looked up photos of the town centre from the seventies to try and jog my memory but the only restaurant I could find was… well, we called it ‘The Mushroom’ for obvious reasons. I recall having a drink there with some people from work and someone ordered a black and tan and blackcurrant which is a mixture of pale beer, dark beer and blackcurrant cordial. I did not ask for a sip.

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