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

Sunday, 1 January 2017



we are not ready

go skinny dipping

one another's souls.

29 August 1989
I’ve never really got haiku. I like the idea of it but at this point I’d never written one nor even attempted to write one. That wasn’t how the words came to me. And then this thing appeared out of nowhere, a quiet and contemplative—dare I say reflective?—poem. It’s a poem that always pleases me when I come across it. It’s the kind of poem that feels like a slow exhalation after a deep breath. It’s also the first poem where I think I managed to balance content and form: three stanzas, each six syllables in length and—to my mind at least—evocative of ripples.
What I always note, every time I read the poem, is the opening, “No.” This is a response. To what we never know, other than a request (an imaginary request I have no doubt) to get to know me better. I was all about appearances in 1989. The last thing I’d want anyone to do was get to know my soul, my dark and selfish soul.


vito pasquale said...

It is beautiful. I don't think I would have seen ripples but now that you've pointed them out, I do! I've always liked one word lines coupled with a longer line. I believe it communicates visually that the poet wants the poem to be absorbed quickly--that the poem is a breeze and there will not be another just like it ever. That opening "No" engenders feelings of "why not?"

Jim Murdoch said...

I've never been skinny dipping, Vito. The first I heard of it was from a film and it's always struck me as a quintessentially American thing which I very much doubt it is. I found a list online going back to 1932 (Blonde Venus) and there were some 260 entries. TV Tropes suggests the first instance was in the 1918 film Mickey. The earliest one I remember was the original Planet of the Apes where the three astronauts go for a dip but that doesn't really fit with what I think of when I hear the term 'skinny dipping'; there should be a jetty and moonlight and women! There is (at least in my head) a mythos surrounding it. It's almost a rite of passage.

vito pasquale said...

I've never skinny-dipped either but you've started me thinking about other rites of passage that I've missed out on. . . I've drafted a poem that I know is a little confusing. Sometimes I just leave them and declare them finished anyway. Sometimes the words will not arrange themselves out of their initial awkwardness. I imagine it's because the underlying sentiments are awkward.

I'm trying to draw a parallel between the skinny dipping rite of passage that I missed and the old age rites of passage that are catching up with me.

Jim Murdoch said...

Well, Vito, I look forward to reading it whenever you get round to posting it or whatever. Rites of passage are not something I’ve really thought about but it’s a good subject. Most of them are so arbitrary and meaningless: if x does y then he/she’s transformed into z. Every day when we’re kids there’re these little moments of conquest. I crossed the street on my own; that’s one step closer to being the next thing on the rung. I wiped my own backside; yea me! We’re all just passing through. Life is therefore the passage and we only graduate once we’re dead or maybe that’s when we flunk out and no one ever graduates because no matter how much you do or achieve in the one life you have there will always be so much you never get round to. I guess that’s why the notion of reincarnation is so appealing.

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