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

Wednesday, 8 June 2016


Facing Walls

I do not like myself
very much

I do not have the guts

I cannot do it

I am a weak man
and no
it takes no strength to say that

It takes strength to let go
and it takes time to grow strong

My time is not yet

3 July 1989

It’s a miserable wee poem this. In fact looking ahead there’re a few miserable wee poems coming up so I apologise in advance. As I’ve said before I’ve never seriously considered suicide but I have wallowed in not-being-here fantasies. In many respects I didn’t have a lot to complain about in 1989 but I could’ve been happier with my lot. Most of my life I’ve been trying to attain something. I like having goals. And being with F. was something I wanted. But after you’re attained then you have to maintain. And that’s not something I’d much experience with. I’d just turned thirty but few things in my life had lasted more than a few years before I’d moved on. Now I’d arrived if you like and this was it. This was going to be it for years and years and then we die.

Turning ones face to the wall is regarded as a last gesture of acquiescence indicating that one’s about to give up the ghost. It comes from Isaiah 38:2. Isaiah’s sent to King Hezekiah to tell him to put his affairs in order because he’s going to die at which point the king turns his face to the wall but not to give up. Instead he prays to God to remember all the good he’s done in his life at which point Isaiah gets sent back with a message telling him he’s been granted fifteen more years. It’s an odd expression, facing the wall, because no matter where you are in a room you’re facing one wall or another. The title of the poem refers to multiple walls so I’m thinking more about ‘walled in’ than ‘turning to face the wall’—i.e. no escape.

The first thing I noticed about this poem was no punctuation. Odd. Not like me. Wonder why I did that.


Jacqueline Howett said...

Then there's the wailing wall in Israel.

Lots of hope in the last line.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for the feedback, Jacqueline. And you’re quite right about the Wailing Wall but that came later after Solomon’s temple was destroyed. The Western Wall was erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple by Herod the Great. As for hope at the end. I don’t see it. The poem’s narrator wants to give in or give up but lacks the strength and so puts up with the status quo. Quitting is not as easy as people imagine. Quitting relieves some of the pressure, yes, but there are always consequences. At the time I wrote this I was struggling with a belief system that simply wasn’t working and eventually I did find the strength to walk away, to give way to sin (as my parents would’ve put it) but it certainly wasn’t easy.

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