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

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


Frozen Moment

They crossed in front of me
with their eyes
and that walk
and they know.

It is Autumn
and too late now
for skirts like that
and I'm cold just looking.

29 August 1989
The last poem was about Ayr. This one I wrote sitting in a car outside a primary school in Larkhall. As I was waiting there two girls who were clearly not from the primary school walked across my line on vision and caught my eye. I'm not sure if they noticed me looking but they were clearly dressed to be looked at. This poem is all that remains of that moment. You can make them thirteen if you like or eighteen. I can't help you out. I'm not even sure why I was there. I imagine it was to see the headmaster of my daughter's school but I'm guessing.
I revisited this theme years later in 'Advice to Young Women' (#820). It's a subject that fascinates me. Looking. Writers look. They watch. They observe. No one's safe. There're rules to looking. I can see straight into my neighbour's flat across the road. But one's not supposed to spy. I notice. It's impossible not to notice especially when she's doing her exercises and they're bound to catch the eye but I'm not supposed to watch. And I'm certainly not supposed to record. But what if I wrote a poem about her? A record of the moment. Like the one above. Where's the harm in that?


vito pasquale said...

When I was in school and throughout my whole life, I've enjoyed sitting in the back of the room. In school, I probably had the illusion that the teacher didn't see me back there. (They are of course wise to that tactic). But the best part of the back of the room is that you can take in the whole scene. It all matters. . . every bit of it. If you're not going to be at the front (the teacher) the only other place that makes sense is the back. The front is where the authority stands, the back is where the poetry's written.

I seem to always wonder why something I see or hear is the way it is. There is always so much manipulation going on. I've always enjoyed magic and slight of hand because I know I'm not supposed to see what's happening, I'm supposed to follow the magician's misdirection. And I do. . . even as I try to spot the trick, I miss it.

I'm not much of a student of fashion. One could be wearing a ten-thousand dollar scarf and it would strike my senses as "scarf." Or a million dollar ring and I see it as "ring." I know that anyone who wears a five thousand dollar pair of shoes isn't dressing for me. It's for someone else. It's like the channel on the TV between the one with something I am watching and the one with something else that I think I might want to watch. I don't truly see what's there. I'd probably have written "kilts" instead of "skirts" because I like that kind of gender ambiguity and I like to tell fibs in poems. Larkhall seems to have 8 churches and presumably one is RC so I can confess to my fib.

I love the "now" feeling to your poem it's a scene that looks as if it occurred and became a poem all in the same instant. Even if it took another thousand years for you to write the poem from that day in Larkhall, it has that real feel of being there. Very excellent.

Jim Murdoch said...

For a time I also got to sit at the back of the class, Vito. One year our teacher arranged the seating according to our position in the class. I wasn't top of the class that year but I was probably third which meant with half a dozen others who really didn't need close monitoring we got the back row to ourselves. I forget which year it was. Primary 6 would be my best guess. I never really thought about the teacher as an authority figure (at least not in the way you put it) but rather as someone who was the focus of attention and I've never wanted that. That was what was so good about being at the back.

When I was growing up magic shows were much more popular than they are nowadays. David Nixon was a staple of TV in the sixties and early seventies when Paul Daniels took over the reins but who followed him? I can't think of any who had their own series. At least not here in the UK. So I grew up with prestidigitation and have always had an appreciation for sleight of hand. Oddly enough making airplanes and elephants disappear has never interested me as much but then I'm not fond of spectacle. If my parents saw something like that they'd say the magician was "in league with the demons. How else could he do something like that?"

Kilts are only really seen these days at weddings although Duncan Wilson's parents used to send him to school in one on the last day of term and you can only imagine how miserable we made that day for him. The first time I ever saw a man in a kilt walking down the street was in Edinburgh in my teens. Granted no one batted an eye but it was still unusual. I've never worn a kilt, not even to get a feel for it. There used to be a kiltmakers on Dumbarton Road I'd pass on the way to work. Not sure if it's still there. But I'm definitely with you when it comes to fashion and style. I have no interest in brands whatsoever. I can't see the connection between Roman Catholicism and kilts however. Perhaps you could clarify.

vito pasquale said...

Ah. . . the connection was between RC and my "fib" that they were wearing kilts and the truth that they were wearing skirts. "I lied" in the poem and would have to confess.

Jim Murdoch said...

I see now, Vito. Rereading what you wrote originally it makes perfect sense.

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