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

Sunday, 25 October 2015



One day my guilt appeared to me:
obscenely naked with empty breasts.

She did not offer her body,
rather, she had me watch,
         Please, I want to.
thrusting her gaping orifices at me –
at me – towards the screaming.
And she would not stop.

27 June 1985

Guilt_FingerGuilt is an acquired taste. Like Guinness or Bovril. I can’t stand Guinness or Bovril but guilt doesn’t upset me nearly as much as it once did. I would never write a poem like ‘Personification’ nowadays. I still feel guilty—and guilt isn’t always a bad thing—but I’ve become desensitised to it. In fact guilt can become a part of the pleasure. Proof you’re doing it right. What do most people feel guilty about? Even in this permissive society I’d still wager it’s sex that tops the list.

I have standards and when I don’t live up to them I feel bad, I feel disappointed in myself and, when it’s particularly bad, I feel guilty. That is as it should be. The danger lies in feeling bad about something you’ve done because it would disappoint someone else. That’s not automatically wrong. We’re social animals and so there are times when we need to do what’s best for our partner or our neighbours or our countrymen. Lying to your wife could be a cause for guilt or dropping litter or refusing to go to war.

I was brought up to equate sex with guilt. Sex was something you felt guilty about. If you didn’t feel guilty you weren’t doing it right. I have never forgiven my parents for that. They took something rather wonderful and conditioned me to feel bad about it. Of course it was okay to have as much sex as you wanted when you were married, within reason. Yeah, even there they managed to spoil it.


Kass said...

Yes, guilt is beguiling. Like Guinness (this made me smile).

My parents and religion did the same thing to me concerning sex.

I've been ruminating about 'empty breast'. Empty because they offer no nourishment? Saggy with the eventual disappointment? Does it mean whatever I want it to mean?

Jim Murdoch said...

I’ll be honest, Kass, I think I chose the image because I wanted to de-eroticise the image without getting bogged down in a detailed description; better to leave that to the readers’ imaginations. Breasts have multiple functions and, of course, are open to interpretation so make of them what you will. There’s no nourishment in guilt. You can suck at her teat all you like but you’ll still feel empty. There’s no comfort in guilt, nothing to rest your head on. There’s a lot of scope here.

To this day this poem makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s a poem I want to back away from.

Kass said...

I like your explanation. I feel un and dis comforted by the empty breast, but informed about my own residue of guilt-laden identification.

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