Pegging Out, Lauren Colley
Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2021 £6.00
At home with the animals
In Pegging Out, Lauren Colley looks at human beings aslant through the lens of our relationships with animals, both literal and metaphorical. As the blurb says, these are poems heavily concerned with ‘home and connection’, but I believe it’s the poems about animals that truly explore human domesticity, vulnerability and even spirituality.
Cats feature heavily in this pamphlet. ‘Cat’ paints a picture of homeliness:
I like the black fact of you
when I get home [...]
Your green eyes on my back
surely see to the heart of me.
Elsewhere, animals are used more metaphorically to invoke a sense of human beings’ relationship with home.
‘Home Scar’, for example, begins with a quotation from The Encyclopaedia of Tide Pools and Rocky Shores: ‘Limpets return faithfully to a particular position on the rock [...] forming home scars.’ The rest of the poem details an attempt to sell a home, and all the complex emotions that entails, lamenting the fact that ‘we must learn new walls, new lines, new rules.’
Animals are also used to depict human frailty, with ‘New Born’ comparing a baby to ‘a frog – / belly up, legs akimbo, arms splayed’. In ‘Grass Roots’, birds futilely jab at newly lain Astroturf ‘for turned roots and worms’ — an act that perhaps seems to hint obliquely at some kind of loss.
In other poems, animals take on an almost spiritual aspect. ‘Restitch’, the final piece in the sequence, explores how ‘shoals of starlings’ repair ‘our seams’. The birds here seem to bring connection and transcendence to their human observers, ‘stitch[ing] sky once more to sky.’
These tender, gentle poems explore what it means to be a person, to belong with other people and to belong in a place. One key way they do this is through their treatment of animals — the pets we share our homes with, the wild animals who live alongside us, as well as animals whose lives are a metaphor for aspects of our own lives.