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

Sunday, 18 October 2015


White Light

Did you ever think you might have
done it because you wanted to?
She said after.
No need to apologize.

Drowning inside I close my
eyes allowing such feelings
to cover me as will.

Unaware of their names I
open my mouth to the waters.

(For E.)
2 June 1985

(For H.)
19 June 1985

DrowningfunIn the past I’ve been a bit… well... derisory when it comes to inspiration. I demoted it to, and I quote, “a good idea”. Which it is. But a good idea on its own isn’t always enough. I’m reminded of this passage from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.

Timing is… well… everything.

Before I looked up my copy to paste it into this article I thought I had a pretty clear idea how this poem originated plus why it has two dates and two dedicatees. Well… I was wrong. Or at least I had it back to front. Now I’m just not sure. It is, however, a very important poem, the first of a series I now call ‘The Drowning Man Poems’.

I’m a reasonable man. I can be emotional but I prefer to be reasonable. My experience of emotions has… well… left a lot to be desired. Frankly I don’t much trust them. This poem is describing an epiphany. The word smacks of spirituality and maybe that’s as good a word as any to describe the situation you find yourself in when reason fails you. I had never considered want as an end in itself. To my mind it always came with a rider: because.

Some time later I went to my dad after getting into a bit of bother and I told my side of the story which he summed up as, “You mean you did it because you wanted to.” It wasn’t a question. And he was right. I had no reasons. I had no excuses. In 1985 that possibility sent me into a tailspin, an emotional tailspin since reason was shutting down. And for a long time after this I felt I—and by “I” I mean the man inside me, the real me (call him what you will)—was drowning in unfamiliar emotions and yet here’s the thing: I never actually drowned. I’ve never drowned but I am an asthmatic so I know very well the panic that comes with an inability to breathe. You want it to be over. You really don’t mind which way it goes but you want it to end.

Odd that I haven’t included quotation marks. Most unlike me.

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