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

Wednesday, 28 October 2015


The Poet

After several years he
turned to his old themes
assuming he had missed the
answers or perhaps there was
more to be said.

I found him there.
Cold and confused –
he almost didn't know me –
hiding himself in the dark.

"I blinded myself, you know, because
everything I saw looked the same
and I got tired of looking.

"I realized how ugly,
like an open wound.
And like an animal
I'm drawn closer."

27 June 1985

MoonKnightCoverThis is not really a poem about sex despite the fact ‘Personification’ (#587) was completed on the same day. It is a poem about the nature of attraction. When you think about an attractive person you imagine one of the beautiful people. But that’s only one form of attraction. Moths are attracted to light. Flies are attracted to rotten flesh. Apparently sharks are attracted to death metal music. Poets are attracted to… well, it depends on the poet. Larkin said that deprivation for him was what daffodils were for Wordsworth.

My wife and I were in an art gallery many years ago in the East End of Glasgow. Hanging in the window were a number of tiny portraits, all by the same artist. Carrie said she liked one in particular and I asked her which one to which she replied, “The sad one.” I couldn’t tell from that which one she was on about. To me they were all sad and I told her so.

I’ve always resisted using terms like inspiration and muse. You can’t avoid them but I don’t make too much of them but for those of you who do have a Muse, which one is it? You see we talk about the muse, as if there’s only one but there were actually nine and none of them was the muse of sadness.

There is something attractive about sadness though. We buy sad books and watch sad films knowing they’re going to make us sad and we’d feel cheated if they didn’t. Sadness is like sourness. Something tart every now and then can be a nice change. Not everything makes me sad but I do seem to have a talent for seeing the sadness in things. I wasn’t always like that but as we grow our tastes change. I still can’t stand Guinness through.


Kass said...

I love wallowing in my sad music...

...and I am always drawn to the gaping wound of soulful, artistic expression.

Gwil W said...

The sadness of the deserted beach under the windswept cliff of some remote Scottish promontory, lets us say the Ardnamurchan in winter, the grey sea rolling over the pebbles under the heavy grey sky and the plaintive cry of a lone gull on its way to the far sea and sky horizon is my idea of a perfect sadness.

Ken Armstrong said...

Hey, hey, hey. Leave the Guinness alone. :)

It is funny how we can be drawn to a bit of sadness. It's almost as if we imagine there's a quota of sadness to be filled in our lives and if we can fill it in fictional, artificial ways, we can avoid some more of the real thing. Not true, of course.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for the comments, Kass, Gwilliam and Ken. For me sadness is a very personal word. Many writers have taken words and made them their own and try as they might none of us really know where they’re coming from. Sadness, like meaning, is, of course, an internal thing. Music is not sad per se any more than a deserted beach is. One shouldn’t equate sadness with misery either. I don’t think of myself as a miserable person. Far from it. I think of my sadness as the emotional equivalent of colour blindness. We all assume everyone sees the world the same way as we do but the simple fact is they don’t. We use terms like ‘colour blindness’ but none of us really know what that means and even those who are colour blind can’t assume that another colour blind person sees the world the same way they do. I “see” the sadness in things. Hell, Ken, a pint of Guinness can make me sad. I have three memories associated with Guinness and all of them make me ache inside. I suppose emotions are like taste. I’ve never acquired a taste for Guinness—and I’m told it is and acquired taste—but then I’ve never acquired a taste for anger. Happiness I can take in small doses.

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