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

Wednesday, 2 December 2015



Of my feelings
I can never forget that I am their host.

They possess me, not I, them.

And I have nightmares of exorcisms
and what they would leave me.

Better the devils you know.

28 September 1986

Not one of The Drowning Man poems but certainly related. The title comes from Mark 5:9, “Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many.’” Jesus is, of course, addressing a demon-possessed man. In the end the demons leave the man and enter a large herd of pigs (about two thousand according to the account) that then rush down a steep bank into a lake and drown. The account raises some interesting questions like How come the demons could get into the man on their own but needed permission to leave him? but I’m not really interested in debating them. The story provides a good metaphor for how I was feeling at the time contending with a host of feelings that I wasn’t ready to accept as my own. I suppose it really should be ‘horde’ of feelings if we’re talking about demons and not angels.

What of the man? “When [the townspeople] came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind…” (Mark 5:15). Good for him. But what about me? If I managed to rid myself of all these feeling—maybe not two thousand but a lot—where would that leave me?



Kass said...

If only we could,
cast out our devils.

Good poem.

Jim Murdoch said...

It’s interesting, isn’t it Kass, how metaphorical our language is. When we talk about someone’s demons these days the last thing we’d imagine would be literal spirit creatures. And that goes for so much we say on a day to day basis. We never say what we mean. We think we do but so much is left to those listening to us to fill in. The Scottish writer William McIlvanney has pointed out more than once that the lower down the social ladder you get, the more metaphorical, the more idiomatic, and quite simply, the more poetic language gets. Why then is poetry not more popular? It’s puzzling. Glad you liked this one though.

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