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

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


Burns Monument After Dark

Here we are again,
and your grey eyes and mine

avoid the distant lights –
still an afterglow remains.

I can deny reality
but what of my fears?

Secrets are just lies
by process of omission:

shadows amongst shadows
and tonight the dark scares me.

20 November 1984

rabbie-burnsIn 1976, when I was seventeen, I wrote a poem called ‘Burns Statue After Dark’ (#376), my version of Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle’. It was a good idea but I don’t really pull it off. There are twenty memorials to Robert Burns in Scotland (at least according to Wikipedia) and it doesn’t really matter which one’s mine but I’ll still keep it to myself. Suffice to say it was the one I passed on the way home from F.’s in the early hours of the morning drained and yet still filled with guilt.

Burns died when he was thirty-seven. I was thirty-five when I wrote this poem. Burns was a womaniser. I wasn’t, although I’ve always preferred the company of women. And yet when I think about my poetry it’s in blocks based on the women in my life. I wrote my first poem for Carrie on 1 December 1996 and, by far, this has been the longest and most productive period of my life even if the poems do appear to be tailing off at the moment. I’ve thought that before.

The romantic in me has always wanted a muse, a Nora Barnacle or Nora Batty perhaps, a battery I could tap into. Or a place I could go to clear my head. Sadly, no. I just have this hellhole in my head that occasionally spits out a good idea but most just spits flames.


Kass said...

I think your readers love "the hellhole in your head."

In think your middle finger did what mine does when I type an: "and afterglow"

The last two stanzas - truth here.

Jim Murdoch said...

They might like what was forged in the fire, Kass, but I don’t think they’d enjoy spending much time in the fire itself. Fixed the ‘an’ BTW. You would not believe the number of times I reread that wee post.

As far as secrets go I wonder when I first started not telling people things. Honesty is not natural. No one teaches kids to hold stuff back but they do it instinctively. Later on they start to find names for what they’re doing and not doing and ‘secrets’ is one of those, a nice word for lying. Or is it lying? Do people automatically have a right to the truth just because it exists? You don’t have a right to my kidney but I might decide to give it to you. Why should you assume you have a right to hear the things I know? We talk about people living a lie. Never heard of anyone living a truth. As I say in the new book, “[F]ew people tell outright lies but even fewer tell outright truths.”

Kass said...

....and then I made my own typo and put "In" instead of "I"...

Your comment reminds me of my post You Can't Handle The Truth and your interesting comment.

Jim Murdoch said...

If you’re interested, Kass, this is how that poem from 2010 ended up:

      Made Up Truths

      You asked me to tell you
      the truth
      and so I told you some
      true things

      but not all the true things
      too many things were true
      and so

      I had to decide which
      true things
      the truth you were looking
      for should

      comprise of and I told
      you them.
      Things were never the same

      You can't possibly know
      what truth
      is till you've made one up

      22 January 2010

Kass said...

Jim, yes. I like that ending better. Nice twist.

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