Poetry: Sheenagh Pugh


Per Heaman, Swedish sailor, turned pirate
for the Jane‘s silver freight. He helped heave
the captain overboard, bludgeoned the mate
but left a weeping cabin-boy alive

to bear witness against him. At his trial
he lied, forswore himself, confessed nothing,
and in the death-cart, among the catcalls,
he stood up in his chains, waving and bowing.

Offered a last request, he paused, replied:
“Don’t tell my mother how I lived and died.”



In the high window, looking out over
Hoswick Bay, a little blue boat
that sails nowhere, her light canvas
spread to the breeze that never blows
on the airless landing. Set on some pond,
she would float, I think, in fair weather,
given the chance, but she was not made
for the open sea, this painted toy
between the curtains, forever safe
from winds and waves. She has the lines
of a lady, though, as sailors say,
a craft that would answer. Sometimes a walker,
passing the house, will glance up
and pause: you can see his eyes fill
with the blueness of her, the promise
of movement, the framed story.

Sheenagh Pugh was born in Birmingham in 1950, and lived in Wales for many years before moving to Shetland. She is the author of nine poetry collections and two novels, as well as translations of poetry (mainly from German) and a study of fan-fiction. She was a judge for the 2013 Forward Prize.