A necessary evil

28 February 2011 § 10 Comments

A necessary evil

How the words must hate me.
All day I forced them
Into acts of petty crime;
A thousand pretty perjuries
Committed to save my skin.
I twisted them,
Bent them into cunning shapes
Corrupted and persuaded them
To say one thing
While meaning
Quite another;
Hollowed out the truth
Then stuffed it full
Of fat, sweet-smelling falsehoods;
Bit my mother tongue
Until it bled.
After hours
I can make my peace with them;
Restore the sacred trust
I sold for tarnished silver.
This is my penance
And redemption;
All is forgiven.
The job is done.

As well as (more or less) paying the bills, writing for a living can be a lot of fun. But sometimes, making words perform circus tricks feels like betraying them; they are my friends, after all. I’m never asked to tell outright lies in my work – God bless the Advertising Standards Authority – but it’s often a selective, filtered version of the truth. Poetry keeps me grounded, and ensures my own voice never gets wholly lost in all the smoke and mirrors.

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§ 10 Responses to A necessary evil

  • belfastdavid says:


    There are enormous benefits to be gained from no longer working for a living.

    I had kinda forgotten about all that bulls**t

  • gonecycling says:

    You’re a lucky fellow, David. And at least I have my family/bikes/dog/music/poetry to put it all out of my mind! Due for another massive dose today, though – going to a meeting in London this afternoon. Ugh.

    • belfastdavid says:

      I worried when I retired Nick about all sorts of things – money, filling time and on and on………

      It was the best thing I ever did!!!

      Now I fill my time with the things I want to do. I am busy with what pleases me and the money takes care of itself!!

      I do not envy you London

      Take care


      • gonecycling says:

        I was merely envious before; now I’m properly jealous! Must say I have a great deal more freedom than most people I know of my age and stage, so I shouldn’t really grumble. In fact, I’ve just come back from a snatched half-hour on the bike – and there’s no job in the world that would let me do that!

  • John Stevens says:

    I like the idea here (and especially “bit my mother tongue until it bled”). But I have a hunch you’re going to go back to your sinful ways in the morning and the redemption you mention at the close might be only temporary!

  • gonecycling says:

    I’m afraid you’re right, John; it’s only ever an overnight reprieve. Back to it with a vengeance this morning; my only hope is that if I do it long enough and well enough, I might one day be able to follow David’s excellent example! Many thanks for your kind words, as always.

  • Brendan says:

    My job involves writing, too, somewhat — some ad copywriting, creating promotional materials, etc. One gig I had a while back was doing the company newsletter for a newspaper undergoing massive (and mostly damaging) change. Spin is monied nuance — a necessary evil, when you have a mortgage to pay — but poetry is a penniless occupation. I somehow think one is in tandem with the other — the lucrative trade in “sweet-smelling falsehoods” and this sandbox of deep-water truths. I agree with you all the way here. I “make my penance” in the early hours. Great poem. – Brendan

  • gonecycling says:

    ‘Monied nuance’ is a lovely phrase, and perfectly described this delicate balancing-act we perform between fact and fiction in the name of paying the bills. I’d sensed a kindred spirit through your poetry; great to find you’re a fellow-traveller in the commercial world too. Thanks for your ever-helpful and generous comments.

  • I love the line
    restore the sacred trust
    I sold for tarnished silver
    great poem

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