A moment ago, while you still slept,
they were all in the same story:
the ship, your mother, that job you left.
Now, as the room comes back, they are beginning
to unravel: you catch at a fact, a face,
but they slip by, each diminishing down
a different corridor, calling round corners
like children playing chase in some old house.
And your mind cannot help but go
to the author who is losing the plot,
who stood on the rostrum staring down
at the page where his words had come loose
from their meanings, had freed themselves so far
as to become not even patterns but penstrokes;
he liked the curly ones best, but how to turn them
back into ideas was beyond him.
It is an old house; some rooms we have not seen
in years, and the time is coming
when the way home, old friends, names of things
we have always known, our own children,
will be off down different corridors,
laughing round corners while we stand puzzled.
How random are these dreams, that seemed to fit
so well together, while we were sleeping.
Letter to Dr Johnson
Dear Dr Johnson, I am writing this note,
if you’ll excuse a stranger’s approach,
beside the statue of your cat Hodge,
whose eyes are fixed on your old front door
as if you might come out with an oyster
or two. That odd thought of yours
won’t leave me: we shall receive no letters
in the grave, however companionable
we be, however desperate for people
and their news, their voices. I shall seal this
and slip it under your door, just in case
on the other side, disembodied but portly,
a dishevelled ghost is waiting daily
for a letter to land on the mat.
(previously published in PN Review)
Sheenagh Pugh now lives in Shetland but lived for many years in Wales and still publishes with Seren. Her latest collection is Short Days, Long Shadows (Seren 2014). She likes writing about northern landscapes and odd corners of history. She blogs here.