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

Sunday, 24 April 2016



(for B.)

So I am a port in a storm?
Who will come into me,
into my arms?

They're tearing me down
but my arms are still there.

Who will come into them?

I held you in Greenock station
until you went away
then I walked the empty jetties
and watched the ebbing tide.

23 March 1989

Greenock is a historic industrial town by the Firth of Clyde, 25 miles west of Glasgow. It thrived in the post-war years but as the heavy industries declined in the 1970s and 1980s unemployment became a major problem, and it’s only been in the last ten years with reinvestment and the redevelopment of large sections of the town the local economy’s started to revive. 

I only hugged B. in Greenock station—she had a migraine and decided to get the train home—although how I contrived to be the one to walk her there I’ve no idea. So it’s a bit of an exaggeration, a bit of wish fulfillment. She got on the train but rather than go back to the rest of the group I took myself off down the docks which at the time had seen better days. That's where the idea for the poem came and I'm pretty sure I wrote it then and there. I wouldn’t swear on it but this might’ve been the last time I was ever in Greenock. Carrie took the train to Gourock, which is just down the coast, when she first came over here and she also came away from the place inspired which is odd because, as best I can remember, Gourock was an even more miserable place than Greenock back then.


Kass said...

This is a lovely poem with the symbolism of a port - RR station and the welcoming (hopeful) configuration of a hug.

"Who will come into me?...
They're tearing me down
but my arms are still there."

There is something so melancholic about these lines...and "watching the ebbing tide."

Jim Murdoch said...

Oh, Kass, this poem just make me ache. And I can see a little of that ache’s been passed on to you. What use are arms if you’ve nothing to hold? I held B. in Greenock station even if only briefly but when she left I didn’t know what to do with my arms. My arms were still there but she wasn’t. Probably the last place I should’ve gone was down the harbour but I wanted to be alone and back then it was a good place. I never used to be a huggy person. F. taught me that and once I saw how easy it was I wanted to hug pretty much every woman I met. I haven’t hugged many blokes in my life but there have been a few.

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