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

Wednesday, 31 August 2016


Exhuming Truth

It was there.
She knew it would be
if she dug deep enough.
But she seemed disappointed.

What did she expect to find?
Nothing smells very sweet
this far down.

28 July 1989
My old whipping boy. I was brought up literally IN the truth. It was the most important concept in my life. So I was told. It didn’t matter what, you told the truth. And I always did… when asked. But I didn’t always volunteer the truth unless asked. At least not the whole truth. I’d let slip some version of it. “Did you see who did that?” No. I knew. I’d heard. They’d confirmed it but I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. And that was the God’s honest truth. 

In 1989 I was living a lie. I’d been living a lie for a long time but it was a lie wrapped up, buried in fact, in acceptable truths. It makes me sound like such a terrible person but I wasn’t. I was decent, kind, hard-working, understanding, loving etc. etc. And I truly was all those things. Most people are. In my experience. It’s not until you get to know them you start to see that other side peek through. A slip here. A slip there. It’s hard to keep up appearances. You want to be decent, kind, hard-working, understanding, loving etc. etc. but deep down you know even at your most altruistic you’re being altruistic because it makes you feel good about yourself. And that’s pure selfishness. 

It took me a long time to stop probing. Nowadays I know I can come across as a little incurious, plain disinterested even. That’s not true. I just don’t want to be disappointed again. And I will be. As sure as eggs are eggs.


Ken Armstrong said...

One of the things with your poetry is that it's so wonderfully quotable.

"Nothing smells very sweet
this far down."

On its own, it's just so 'stand-alone' so enigmatic and memorable.

Not to belittle it, but I could see it in the cinema foyer on a poster for some dark movie that I couldn't wait to see.


Jim Murdoch said...

Speaking on behalf of my poems, Ken, they don’t feel belittled at all. I’ve always thought of my poetry as having punch lines but taglines work too and there’s definitely an art to crafting a memorable tagline. There’re some cool ones—I’ve just found a website full of them—and some not so cool. Off the top of my head the first one I thought of was from Alien: “In space no one can hear you scream” and it is dead cool except for the fact all the action takes place on a spaceship or inside spacesuits and we definitively hear a lot of screaming. Only the alien ends up in space so maybe it screams and we don’t hear it. Looking down the list I was surprised at the number of films I know well, have seen multiple times even but don’t recognise the tagline. Like Dirty Harry: “You don’t assign him to murder cases. You just turn him loose.” Or the 1962 version of Lolita: “How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?” Probably the silliest was for Myra Breckenridge: “From the book that couldn’t be written comes the motion picture that couldn’t be made!”

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