“Long Haul Travellers” concerns journeys, generally made by others, eg an ageing tortoise reflects, picture messages from one webcam to another and occasionally the dead, eg in “Josephine” which ends
“The dead come so far. They negotiate,
lopsided with baggage, so many customs posts,
doubtful officials, time zones, to stand on your doorstep
washed out, with the patience of long-haul travellers
in their eyes. When they call, it seems polite
to be in.”
Sheenagh Pugh is far too experienced and accomplished to bore with travelogues that leave the reader feeling left out and disengaged. Stories travel too and the reader can never be sure how many unintended embellishments or interpretations have been picked up on the way. “The Girl Taken by an Eagle” wisely points out
“No-one knows the moments that will matter,
not at the time, not when they’re happening.
That was mine, on the ledge, that made me
The Girl Who Was Taken By An Eagle,
which I have been all my life,
wishing I could recall it. Now it seems,
after all, I was in the wrong story.
The Girl Who Climbed A Mountain – she sounds
bolder, more fun. Maybe I should have been her,
if I’d know. If you ever know.”
Perhaps too a comment on all those fairy tales that have been filtered down to passive heroines. Another poem, “The Pause” looks at that moment when a single decision could completely change a life.
“It was like a huge intake
of air, that moment
when the sea drew back
and held a breath
that stretched out
forever, a pause
into which you could whisper
a word, and change the world.”
A tsunami survivor realises that, with no paperwork, he could reinvent himself. But how many would?
Sheenagh Pugh quietly delivers poetry that’s enjoyable to read but very much alive and engaging.