Sheenagh Pugh – On the Other Hand

On The Other Hand

On the other hand,
observed the grasshopper to the ant,
I was all summer in the air,
tasting the world, feeling sun
on my back, while you, buckling
under your loads, looked only
downward. You went navvying
in dank tunnels, disgorged food
on demand, following the orders
that filled your head, while I
made music, mated, ate what and when
I fancied, launched myself at the air.
And now comes winter, the long wait
for light; you have wasted your days,
and what will you do for memories,
having made no store?

Sheenagh Pugh: Poetry website:

Sheenagh Pugh – Frontier


In this municipality
three borders meet
and for the longest time
there was one language.

Sami drove reindeer
where the grass grew:
fish in the Pasvik never knew
which bank was Russia.

Little willows and aspens
wear snow like spun sugar,
but the dark pines bear it
on bowed shoulders.

At the mining town’s back
an iron mountain rises:
one black slag peak
against a white ridge.

When the burned town lay
ashes on snow,
ten children were born
in the mine’s tunnels:

there are those who still recall
the Red Army soldiers
who came down, in ’45,
to lead them back to light.

These days, Murmansk trawlers
lie up here for repair,
the Thursday market
glows with matryoshkas,

and the town bandstand
boasts an onion cupola
left in no-man’s-land
by a Russian squaddie

for a waiting Norwegian,
while their two officers
admired the geese crossing
Finnmark’s endless sky.


Sheenagh Pugh is a poet based in Shetland.  Her latest collection, “Short Days, Long Shadows” was published by Seren  in 2014.

Poetry website:
Other website (translations, prose, articles):

Sheenagh Pugh – La Catalana

La Catalana: Port St Julian, Patagonia

In Port St Julian a house once stood,
well known to men in the neighbourhood,

the kind they call a house of ill fame,
and yet it bears a noble name.

Consuelo lived at La Catalana
with Maud, Amalia, Maria, Angela,

and every night they worked, in their way,
like the men who tilled the fields all day.

But back in 1922
the bosses were driving wages low,

men got no good from all their work,
so they downed spades and went on strike.

In came the Army to save the state
from folk demanding enough to eat,

and General Varela’s troops, quite soon,
had fifteen hundred neatly mown down.

Killing peasants can be a chore;
the soldiers fancied some R & R,

so the conquering troops of General Varela
marched off to unwind at La Catalana.

Consuelo went to fetch a broom
and swept the rubbish out of her room.

Angela prodded them down the stair,
Amalia pushed them out at the door.

Maria said, as she slammed it shut,
“We knew the men you bastards shot.

Some were our fathers; we caused them shame,
but we sent them money all the same.

Some came for comfort, their muscles aching;
this is one strike you won’t be breaking.”

And English Maud from the window shouts
“Murderers, get out and stay out!

Go back and tell General Varela
how you couldn’t storm La Catalana!”

Well, the police were called, and ran them in,
so, when they all got out again,

their names were on record: Maud, Amalia,
Angela, Consuelo, Maria,

who will be honoured as brave and good
as long as language is understood,

which goes to show, as any can see,
that words are tyranny’s enemy,

as is comradeship, the sense to know
who your friends are, when to say no,

and there are times nothing hits home
like an angry woman with a good broom.

Sheenagh Pugh spent most of her life in Wales but now lives in Shetland. Her current collection is Short Days, Long Shadows (Seren 2014).