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

Sunday, 20 March 2016


William's Jigsaw

No: why should you see my scars?
You didn't share in my trials
so why should you look on my shame?

If I was glass I'd let you look –
but then there wouldn't be any scars,
only fragments.

9 November 1988

So William’s still with the lady doctor and he’s being as awkward and cryptic as ever. When I was in San Francisco—the one and only time—we stopped off at Borders to look for books and CDs. Typical me, I fly to the other side of the world and spend most of my time looking for things I could find in Glasgow. I did find a copy of Ignacio, a soundtrack by Vangelia I’d never heard of which was good, a book of poems by Patti Smith which I thought I’d like more than I did and two books of short stories, one by Thomas Bernhard and another by Sherril Jaffe which I brought purely because of the title: Scars Make Your Body More Interesting and Other Stories. I’ve mentioned it before.

I have two scars, two visible scars: the first I got as a little boy when someone threw a rock at me but it’s hidden under my right eyebrow, the second is on my left wrist and that’s the odd one because I did it in my sleep, dug my nail in and cut my wrist. Very strange. It’s not a big scar but it is a scar. As far as my psyche goes, well…

My favourite quote about scars is by Leonard Cohen from The Favourite Game:

Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.

It is easy to display a wound, the proud scars of combat. It is hard to show a pimple.


Kass said...

Yes, I'm prouder of scars than pimples.
Most inflammations were temporary and only became scars when I carried them chronically, along with contempt.

The word made flesh. Love this idea.

Jim Murdoch said...

I suppose like everything, Kass, there are those scars we’d be proud to show off and those we’d rather keep to ourselves. There’ll be a story behind every scar but not every story is worth telling. Just after I got the scar on my head I was rushed to hospital with meningitis and I’ve always associated the two events even though they’re unrelated. Neither of my scars was earned and I suppose that’s the key word here; they’re not a badge of honour; I never did anything brave or even reckless. For the record I’ve only one broken bone—two, if we’re being pedantic, because I’m talking about a finger—and there’s no story there either; a pile of paving slabs fell on my hand when I was loading them into a van. I guess I’m lucky it was just the one finger.

Ken Armstrong said...

It's funny how the word 'surgical' has come to imply something precise and neat when, in actuality, the residue of the scalpel is often rather brutal.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’m sure you’re like me, Ken, and are as fascinated by words as objects in themselves as you are in what they can do when strung together. There was a time when surgery never existed and then one day someone decided to cut into a body to try to fix it and probably made a muck of it and over an ale later that day he was probably talking with his mates about what he could’ve done differently and he suddenly realised he didn’t have a word for it so he called it his handiwork and the next thing you know surgery is born—from Greek kheirourgos "working or done by hand." I’m being flippant but it’s always fascinated me how new words establish themselves. Why isn’t a calculator called a computer and a computer a calculator?; the words are synonyms after all.

lee woo said...

A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars.
See the link below for more info.


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