Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Poems from the Backroom 114: Tom Murray

Great poem here by Tom Murray on one of my own favourite themes, the very liminal space between fiction and fact, memory and reality. I don't know whether anyone else feels this but this is the most unreal time- most 'supernatural' time- I have ever experienced and in the journeys I make now, internal or external, there's a continual and discomfiting sense of replay. I don't like it. Stanley Kunitz one said "Memory is each poet's Poet-in-Residence'. Knowing what liars poets are, I don't think that helps, either. Time for beer, maybe, but not before enjoying Tom Murray.

Tom Murray is now resident in Dumfries and Galloway but spent much of his writing career in the Borders.  He started and ran the Galashiels Writers Group for nearly ten years and was co editor of the Eildon Tree Magazine from 1999 to 2011. He's been Writing Fellow to Tyne & Esk writers, Scottish Book Trust Reader In Residence to Scottish Borders Libraries, Writer in Residence to Clackmannanshire Council, Writer in Residence to Galashiels Academy and to Peebles High School. He was also a lecturer in Creative Writing at Borders College.

Although an award winning playwright with many productions to his name, he has also written poetry over a span of many years and been published in, among others, 'Rebel inc',  'Northwords', 'Cutting Teeth', 'Eildon Tree',  'Iota',  'Tears in the Fence',  'Northwords Now',  'Aesthetica',  'Envoi',  'Under The Radar',  'Acumen', and  'Postbox Magazine'. In 2006 his collection 'The Future is Behind You' was published by Lapwing Press

Here he is reading 'Two Memories':

Tom's Website:

Tom's Blog: Postcards From Borderland


Link to Tom reading one of his stories 'Soulmates':


Two Memories

Crunching through knee high Russian snow.
Devouring pages of Dostoyevsky bread and vodka
Feeding my mind.
Burning thoughts into existence.
Murder, mayhem, good and evil square go in front of a burning log fire.
Can you say that the fledgling writer says to the murky candlelit room?
‘Och aye.’ Says Dostoyevsky! ‘Dinnae muck aboot. Get in there with your
Aching soul, pull up a chair and tell your tale.
Lay it bare, peel the skin off the face
Let the thoughts lie where they fall.’

I’ve never re visited the book.
Sometimes I doubt I even read it.
A memory picked up from someone else and re written for my own end.

Tell you a story.
Two cousins sitting beers in hand cherry picking the past.
Two cousins sitting beers in hand remembered white sheets Chaplain, Keaton,
Beamed along a smoky beam.
Two cousins sitting beers in hand nodding heads at the shared memory.
A projector stuttering to a stop
Mid Chaplain funny walk twirling walking stick.
The white screen sheet tumbling from the window
Crumpling Keaton’s deadpan face.
Hand up I’m one of the cousins.
Two hands up if I wasn’t even stardust in my daddy’s eye on movie nights.

Thing is: I was there.
Thing is: I read that book.
Thing is: Fiction or fact that’s me.

A Good Catholic

That Sunday came and went
Like any other but not.
Hours blurred by waiting
On flanked questions.
Good angels on either shoulder.

‘Is this how we brought you up?’
‘Everyone asking after you, what could we say?’
‘You don’t believe?’

The questions never came only the baffled looks.
The rigid tapping of fingers on chairs at Songs of Praise.
The concentrated laughter at Morecambe and Wise.

Atheist years rolled on and now the angels
Are with the angels.
No confession came.
No absolution.
You see how the language sticks like fat
On a stuttering heart.
It grows thicker by the years.

Sunday noon is when it bubbles and sparks
To burn.
A boy in a car on a road marked out by the accident
Of birth, of family’s gentle expectant squeeze on the arm.
‘This way.’

Sunday noon and I find myself searching photographs
Wondering if my father when he was a boy on a road
Marked out by accident of birth… Ever?
If my mother as she threaded
My arms into my straightjacket black buttoned coat…Ever?

Things I remember.
The holy row of ancient ladies chanting.
My father mourning his lost brother his own death
whispering in his ear.
The certainty that life is only the opening chapter.

Things I wonder.
What if it is?

(Reprinted from 'Acumen')

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