Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Lives, Lived and Unlived’ and other poems

By: Jim Murdoch

Lives, Lived and Unlived

Poems don’t have meanings.
They have vague possibilities

and much the same can be said of life.
We desperately seek the meaning of life
all the while failing to fathom its potential.

Answers, which many mistake for meanings,
arrive, if at all, late in life and are often wrong.
Nothing ever means what we dreamed it would.

What we should be looking for in life is purpose.
A river only appears to move but it’s an illusion.
It’s a channel, a rut if you will. It goes nowhere.

Lives go nowhere too, mostly.


Poeticus Interruptus

A poem is never finished, only abandoned—Paul Valery

Few things in life are complete in themselves.

Most things need other things
at least some of the time
but mostly most of the time.

People are absolutely the worst.
They need so many things just to
get out of bed in the morning.

The thing is so few of the things
they need or think they need
actually make much of a difference

or should I say a lasting difference:
you eat but you get hungry again;
you sleep then you get tired again.

Everything in life gives out eventually.
The one exception is disappointment.
Life always finds new ways to let us down,

something us poets have dined out on for years.


Yet Another Abandoned Poem

My husband doesn’t talk much.
He’s a writer so you know how that goes.
He spends forever mulling over
what he wants to say only to decide,
as the words tickle the tip of his tongue,
there might be a better way to phrase things
or, maybe, what he has to say isn’t worth saying,
besides someone else is bound to have said it
and with more panache and aplomb.

I have my own theory
but since he’s writing this in my voice
no doubt we’ll never get to hear it.
He knows better.


There’s No One Driving

I’m a poet so I have to watch what I say
and that’s not simply a matter of using
the right words or even the best ones in
whatever order.
No. No, no, no and no.

The trick with poetry is to say just enough
and let impetus do the rest but remember
wonder, once given even the slightest nudge,
is hard to steer.
Can you feel it now? Can you?

I should probably also mention there are
no brakes on this thing so watch out for the
ragged edges and don’t imagine you’re safe
simply because the words run out.

This isn’t a road, it’s a runway.


Jim Murdoch has been writing poetry for fifty years and has graced the pages of many now-defunct magazines and a few, like Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Lake and Eclectica, that are still hanging on in there. For ten years he ran the literary blog The Truth About Lies but now lives quietly in Scotland with his wife and (increasingly) next door’s cat. He has published two books of poetry, a short story collection and four novels.

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