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

Sunday, 6 November 2016


The Bypass

There being no time
and having no place else
I hid what I had to say
in the words,
just out of sight –
unless you were looking.

28 August 1989
Had I been writing these poems now I would’ve probably scrapped ‘What I Never Meant to Say’ (#682) and ‘Dressed Apology’ (#684) and just kept this one. Back in 1989, however, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was writing poems—one a day on average (I completed 29 in August)—and I was on a high. I had a note book that was brimming with ideas and half-finished poems. It was (at least from that perspective) wonderful. I’ve never been that creative and I don’t ever expect to be as creative again. Prior to this I used to sit on poems for a long time never quite willing to let go of them but in 1989 I couldn’t give them a number and type them up quickly enough which is why so many not-great poems slipped by. Now I have quite a different problem. I still get ideas but I can’t seem to be able to finish anything. Everything dissatisfies me. The last poem I stuck in the big red folder was ‘There is Nothing New Under the Sun’ (#1088) dated 15 January 2015 although I can tell you here and now it was written at the end of 2014. So nearly two years and nothing. I’ve gone longer—between August 1991 and June 1994 I didn’t write a single poem—but at least in 1994 I had the drafts of my first two novels to comfort me. Now I just wait to see what comes, what else I’ve left unsaid or might find a better way to say. I’m not overly worried. My oeuvre as it stands is not something to be ashamed of. Some people when they get on lose their hearing or their eyesight. Or even their minds. Maybe I’ve lost my mojo. We’ll see. 

For the record the bypass in the poem was an actual road. I offered to drive B. to an appointment and to get there we drove down one of the new bypasses that had started to spring up. Nice to have her to myself with no chance of anyone interrupting us if only for half an hour.


vito pasquale said...

I like poems such as this where the poet maintains that one can hide what he wants to say in the words. Brilliant.

I wonder if you were tempted, as I would have been, to take the long way instead of the bypass. I am pretty sure I wrote something along these lines a couple of years ago and I just found it (after looking for it and not finding it yesterday). The poem was titled, "Life Is Like Driving Your New Ex-Girlfriend Home For The Last Time." The poem is something of a short narrative and the ex- is tired of "him" always taking the long way.

Jim Murdoch said...

To be totally honest the bypass didn’t cut off that much time, Vito. This must be a situation thousands can relate to, not being able to pluck up the nerve to open up to a girl— or boy (always the proviso these days)—who only sees you as a friend or less. I’ve come back to this theme again and again, words as containers and hiding places. It’s how I think of them. If it is true that ninety-three percent of communication is non-verbal why do we writers have such a chip on our shoulders? Words are profoundly inefficient and it doesn’t matter how great a writer you are because, frankly, most of the “great” ones lose us not because they don’t choose the right words but because they choose words we don’t fully understand.

vito pasquale said...

Well, I'm actually pleased the bypass didn't cut out much time. The more time we spend with those we love, the better. Even if it takes a little subterfuge. I'm not saying that in this case you did, I'm just saying that it would be okay in my book.

Perhaps someday I should put together A Brief History of Things That Are Okay In My Book. . .

Now on to read #686!

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