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

Sunday, 28 February 2016



The house was full of things
no one understood except him.

He gave them names
to make them real.

He said that was important.
Things should have names.

He asked me mine – and I lied.

12 September 1988

I heard a story once—which may or may not be true—that some famous pop star (who I’ve always thought was Freddie Mercury) was kicked out of art school for only drawing the creases in clothes. It probably wasn’t true and I’m afraid Google has let me down in that it has confirmed that Freddie left Isleworth Polytechnic College Ealing Art College in June 1969 with a diploma in graphic art and design, and a few commissions for adverts in local newspapers. David Bowie was a student at Croydon College's School of Art. Maybe it was him. Or someone out of Pink Floyd.

What has the above got to do with my little poem? Nothing really. It’s just this is one of those poems of mine where pretty much everything’s missing. We know there’s a man who has a house which has things in it and he gives those things names but we know nothing about the narrator other than he or she knows the man with the house with the things in it and is a liar. Stated, flatly, there’s not much there and yet I’ve always found this a creepy poem. What exactly happens when you tell someone your name? It gives them power. Maybe not much power but some.

This isn’t a Sweet William poem but it’s related. It has a similar tone. And, of course, William has a thing for names. It also reminds me of the first section of Henry Reed’s poem, ‘Lessons of the War’ called ‘Naming of Parts’.


Kass said...

Are words "things"?
If I was identified as a thing,
I might lie about my name too.

Jim Murdoch said...

It’s quite common to talk about people as things, Kass, as in “living thing” or “you poor thing”. As for whether a word can be a thing the full definition of what a thing can be does include abstracts hence the expression, “Say something.”

Kass said...

Jim, I might be a touch sensitive since I, along with a lot of other women have been objectified.

Jim Murdoch said...

I do understand, Kass, and that’s certainly one way to read the poem. Yes, many women (and a few men too) have been objectified but many have also become objects of affection. That’s the problem with words—and, for me, the beauty of them—that they refuse to sit still and be one thing or another.

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