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The Beautiful Lie -- Sheenagh Pugh

Guest poem submitted by Amulya Gopalakrishnan:
(Poem #792) The Beautiful Lie
 He was about four, I think... it was so long ago.
 In a garden; he'd done some damage
 behind a bright screen of sweet-peas
 - snapped a stalk, a stake, I don't recall,
 but the grandmother came and saw, and asked him:
 "Did you do that?"

 Now, if she'd said why did you do that,
 he'd never have denied it. She showed him
 he had a choice. I could see, in his face,
 the new sense, the possible. That word and deed
 need not match, that you could say the world
 different, to suit you.

 When he said "No", I swear it was as moving
 as the first time a baby's fist clenches
 on a finger, as momentous as the first
 taste of fruit. I could feel his eyes looking
 through a new window, at a world whose form
 and colour weren't fixed

 but fluid, that poured like a snake, trembled
 around the edges like northern lights, shape-shifted
 at the spell of a voice. I could sense him filling
 like a glass, hear the unreal sea in his ears.
 This is how to make songs, create men, paint pictures,
 tell a story.

 I think I made up the screen of sweet peas.
 Maybe they were beans; maybe there was no screen,
 it just felt as if there should be, somehow.
 And he was my - no, I don't need to tell that.
 I know I made up the screen.  And I recall very well
 what he had done.
-- Sheenagh Pugh
I stumbled across this poem by Sheenagh Pugh by sheer accident, in the TLS.
It describes the possibilities opened by the making of fiction, of creating
counter universes with imagination. I love that heady, delirious moment of
discovering -  "this is how..." - it's resonant, memorable. It's such a
powerful affirmation of the magic of 'making it up', escaping a too-literal
world. "Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live
there", as John Barth puts it. Despite the teasing suggestion of Sin (the
snake, the garden, the "taste of fruit"), it places creativity firmly on the
side of experience. It looks at imagination not as some kind of pure
innocent vision, but as something that is born out of some kind of friction,
contact with the outside world.

I don't know much about Sheenagh Pugh, except she's Welsh and writes
wonderfully. She has a website: [broken link]


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