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

Sunday, 8 February 2015


Street Games II

in the corner of a lavatory

standing in wretchedness,
hat in hand;
sagging like ancient flesh
adjoining the body.

an army of refugees
whose wounds are
their own weaknesses;

who look like

they can’t understand
why Christ died for them.

24 May 1977

This one first appeared in Sepia #10 along with ‘Street Games’ and ‘The Venereologist’ in October 1979. I’ve no special memories attached to it but since it follows ‘England Expects…’ and ‘Yesterday’ I can see a melding of influences here. And, again, the odd punctuation which I’m going to attribute to E.E. Cummings burlak-with-the-cap-in-his-hand-1866.jpg!Blogsince he was another American I’d recently become familiar with. Eleven months separate ‘Street Games’ and ‘Street Games (Part II)’ as I originally entitled it. I’ve changed it here because it’s not really a continuation, more of a second look at like Larkin’s ‘Toad’s Revisited’.

I’d originally shown the first ‘Street Games’ to my dad. I only remember one thing he said about it—poetry really wasn’t his thing—and that was, “Life’s not a game.” I knew what he meant but I also felt he’d missed the point. I didn’t show him this poem. I’m not actually sure I showed him any poems again.

When I think of the man asleep in the Gents an image comes to mind but not one I can locate online probably because it doesn’t exist, a sculpture by George Segal—the artist, not the actor. I don’t see the man as have chosen that spot to beg. What I imagined was his having used the facilities like anyone else and then dozed off leaning against a wall still holding his cap in his hand as if it’s intended purpose, to keep his head warm, had been lost to him. Had I been crueller—and braver—I might’ve had him fall asleep at the urinal with his dick in one hand and his cap in the other. Perhaps that’s still implied.


Gwil W said...

I think this is an excellent piece of work and a finely crafted poem, it has the real poetic touch , it is memorable on first reading, it touches on a subject that we all witness in our city streets today, and I think it is an important poem that should be widely promulgated.

Kirk said...

I don't know that you'd appreciate one of your poems compared to a pop song, but this reminded me a little of Eleanor Rigby, and I mean that in a good way.

Jim Murdoch said...

Excellent, eh, Gwilliam? Glad you think so. I’m not the best judge. The first poem means so much to me that it’s hard to look at the others objectively; I’ll post the third and final poem on Wednesday and you can see what you think of the set.

And, Kirk, in my first novel Jonathan Payne lives in the northern seaside town of Rigby. The choice was quite deliberate and I’ve always been fond of the song. That my poem would remind you of it is just fine by me.

Gwil W said...

It's true we cannot judge our own stuff Jim, as that's for others. Sometimes we can if we haven't seen it for a year or two and we come upon it fresh and think if we wrote it or we just noted it down from a book we read. It's a big problem I have. I have piles and piles of paper covered with scribbles. What's originally mine and what is someone's thought I've delighted in and captured in passing I cannot tell.

Jim Murdoch said...

Horace apparently said that one shouldn’t publish a poem until ten years after its finished. I wonder what he’d think of our digital world, Gwilliam, where poems get published before they’re even finished? You do need distance to be able to look at a poem with anything close to objectivity. This is why this is proving an interesting exercise because I’m getting to sit down with a single poem and look at it with fresh eyes. Our best work is always our latest work. So we think. I’m editing a novel just now that I finished over ten years back and it really is like reading someone else’s book. Thank God he can write, that’s all I have to say even if he does feel the need to hyphenate everything.

Kass said...

Such a jolting and strong poem.

Jim Murdoch said...

I'm glad you think so, Kass,

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