A necessary evil

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.
Now
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 thoughts on “A necessary evil

  1. 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.

    • 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

      David

      • 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. ‘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.

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