Friday Poem – Sea’s Answer

This Friday’ poem, Sea’s Answer, comes from Sheenagh Pugh’s new collection Short Days, Long Shadows. Taking inspiration from the Shetland Islands, these poems are steeped in the wilder weathers and views of rugged coastlines, sweeping sea-vistas and the hardy historical characters who have inhabited these lands. There is a lovely pared-down spareness, and elegiac formality to  these poems, mixed with plenty of humour, and Sheenagh has as much to offer the general reader as it does the specialist, who will admire her artful use of traditional forms.

Sea’s Answer

I was talking to the sea the other day,
(you get that way, at my age)
and I said, I wish I knew why,

when I figure you, every image
fails me. They are, after all, accurate,
for what that’s worth: the scalloped edge

of lace, the beaten metal sheet,
pewter under cloud, copper at sunrise,
the pleated silk, anyone can see it,

and if they have been seen by many eyes,
still they are none the less true
the thousandth time. I don’t believe in clichés;

words don’t just stop working. But you
swallow each likeness, each true word
and spit it out, rejected; how

does that work?
                     Its stony throat wide,
the sea yawned, breathed out with the hawk
of a consumptive, and answered

“I am not like anything; you speak
of things made or named in my honour,
out of your own hunger, to be like
me. I am myself the metaphor.”

Get Short Days, Long Shadows here. Save 20% when you join our online book club.

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