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

Sunday, 11 December 2016


Lunch in Ayr

(For B.)

I met you
just this side of love
in a safe place
where we could talk.

And we shared a memory
because we didn't have enough
for two.

And anyhow, it was cozier.

The sad thing is,
it took half the time.

Still, you got to pay the full bill.

28 August 1989
Ayr's a seaside resort on the west coast of Scotland although nowhere near as commercial (ergo tacky) as the likes of Blackpool or Morecambe. It's been a long time since I've been to any of the three so much could've changed. In 1989 Ayr was still a nice place to visit. I've even worked there a couple of times over the years so I know the place well and I've many fond memories going back to the sixties.

Who is a poem for? This one isn't for you I can tell you that. You can have a look at it, see what you can make of it but it won't open up to you because it is what my wife likes to call "a decoder ring poem." Unless you have the key its true meaning will refuse to reveal itself. This was a poem for B. and not simply a poem dedicated to B. but one for and about her. We met in Ayr, had lunch and went for a walk down the beach where I showed her my notebook and I don't recall ever showing anyone my notebook before. How I managed to arrange it I have no idea. It's deliberately cryptic in the same way as 'The Summer of '89' (#670)—another poem for and about B.—is cryptic, as so many of the poems from this time say one thing and mean something else completely. Make of this one what you will. I'm telling you no more than this.


vito pasquale said...

All of a sudden, I am given this mental map of places you've been that inspire a poem. . . Ayr, Larkhall, Edinburgh, Glasgow. . . These places overlay these sentiments and form a brilliant tour. Even a poem I could never decipher becomes one I can enjoy. "We shared a memory because we didn't have enough for two. . ." contains in eleven words, the entire contents of thousands of novels and poems.

Jim Murdoch said...

I've thought quite a bit about those eleven words, Vito. You could probably scrap the rest of the poem and leave it there. The subtext here is all about payment, price, cost. I find it hard to imagine me letting her fork out for lunch but maybe she did. Perhaps she was saying thank you for something or other. I don't know. Lovers often share items of food even though they can afford one each. But there's another meaning to 'afford. As always with this lunch I was trying to push the boundaries of our relationship. I couldn't afford to have an affair and I had no doubt had I'd even hinted such a thing I would've been firmly rebuffed but this poem is a photograph of something that never happened, except in my mind. She will only have remembered half of what was going on because I never exposed my half to the light. I never really wanted to have an affair with her. Had I seriously wanted to make a play for her I couldn't done it before F. and I got married because there was a window of opportunity but I let it pass. She was important to me but she wasn't the only thing to be factored in at this time. That's the thing about this potted history. It neglects so much that was equally and perhaps even more important than B. A life raft in a swimming pool is a preposterous imagine but in a wild sea far away from land it becomes something else entirely. And that's what B. was during this time, something... someone to cling to, to focus on, to take my mind away from the less than poetic rest of my life.

vito pasquale said...

That you've described the poem as, "a photograph of something that never happened" is why I learn something about writing every time I read your work. "Photograph" as something of a (imagined) perfect representation of a scene and placed in the sentence with "something that never happened," is just wonderful. I've also just realized how sweet the line "and anyhow it was cozier" is. "Cozier" is a word you can carry around with you all day.

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