Literary Yard

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‘Sixth Time’s the Charm’ and other poems

By: Jim Murdoch

Sixth Time’s the Charm

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication – Clarence Boothe Luce

First loves are forever, true or not—
every fool and his frog knows that—
but so are seconds and thirds and so-ons.

What the book-smart brigade can’t grasp though is
as you can hate more than one person at a time and over time
there is nothing stopping you loving more than one.

Flour runs out and oil and lives (miracles excepted),
loves, however, grow and take time to grow up;
they age gradually like whisky or sophistication.

My first love was unrequited.
My second deserved to be first.
The third was bound to fail.

The fourth… well, we don’t talk about the fourth.
The fifth lost both its will and its way but
the last will last and be my last

quite simply because it’s not
claiming or aiming to be anything it’s not,
least of all sophisticated.

Note: When the prophet Elijah arrives at the town of Zarephath he encounters widow and her son gathering sticks. Elijah asks her for a piece of bread, and the destitute widow invites him to her home where she uses her last bit of flour and oil to bake for him. The prophet then blesses the woman and her child, and assures them that their supplies of flour and oil will never be diminished. Shortly thereafter the son dies, but because of Elijah’s fervent prayers, God returns the boy to life.

Observer Effect IV (Déjà Lu)

[Joyce is an author who] “cannot be read—he can only be re-read.” – Joseph Frank
Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. – Nabokov

This poem won’t make sense to you
the first time you read it so let’s
pretend this is the second time and
dive right into the next stanza.

A poem never changes. It is fixed.
And yet it will seem to. Over time.

The definition of insanity some say
is doing the same thing over and over
again and expecting different results.
Ipso facto all readers are a little mad.

You can’t step into the same river twice.
You can’t even splash twice in the same puddle.

Social Distancing

We do not touch… much
or at all most days.
We are still in touch
merely out of reach.

There is comfort
to be found in words… some
and so we wring
what comfort we can
out of them.

We make do
in new ways.
New is good
they keep telling us
but I’m not so sure.

The shortest distance
between two points
will always be
no distance at all.

Phantom Truth Syndrome

It was not a glorious death
or even a meaningful one.
To be honest, to be totally honest,
and how could we talk about Truth dishonestly? you ask,
she didn’t even put up much of a fight.

To be honest, there we go again,
she’d been losing ground for some time.
I blame Art myself, at least that’s where the rot set in.

Politics finished her off unceremoniously and,
I keep wanting to say “to be honest,” undeservedly
but not, we’ve since learned, uncharacteristically.

Sincerity stepped up to the mic and then Gravitas
but as John Q. Public wasn’t buying it
some bright spark in Sales came up with that…
I believe the technical term is “pragmatic marker”…
and the free bumper stickers didn’t hurt. That said

plans for an annual celebration had to be ditched
once the press got wind there already was one…
several, in fact… no one bothered about

although a commemorative fifty pence piece
is still on the cards.

Note: Pragmatic markers comprise a functional class of linguistic items that do not typically change the propositional meaning of an utterance but are essential for the organization and structuring of discourse, for marking the speaker’s attitudes to the proposition being expressed as well as for facilitating processes of pragmatic inferences.

March 24, International Day for the Right to the Truth
April 30, Honesty Day
July 7, Tell the Truth Day
September 30, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation


About the poet

Jim Murdoch lives down the road from where they filmed Gregory’s Girl which, for some odd reason, pleases him no end. He’s been writing poetry for fifty years for which he blames Larkin. Who probably blamed Hardy. Jim has published two books of poetry, a short story collection and four novels.

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