Skip to content
13 On Now

A Sense of Green: The Púca

24th Nov 2023

We commissioned writer Bernadette McBride to reflect on A Sense of Green. Her creative response is the following poem, inspired by the púca: a creature of Celtic, English, and Channel Islands folklore. Púca are said to (sometimes) bring good fortune and offer help to rural and marine communities. Shape-changers, they were believed to take on the appearance of horses, goats, cats, dogs, hares and even human form - along with animal features, such as ears or a tail!

This poem follows an imagined púca of St Helens and Knowsley, visiting some of the sites of A Sense of Green.

Listen to the poem


The púca

púca / shapeshifter / olde english goblin /

bringer of fortune helper of rural communities /

if conjured the right way /

transformer of human and non-human forms /

is the púca /

one as particles of old colliers moss as peat or coal /

depending on mood or which part of the past the púca feels /

most pulled towards /

two as the mycelium of stanley bank wood ‘shrooms /

threading and boring /

into and against the strong roots of trees /

networking /

connecting /

mycelium magicking/

metamorphosing /

three as dropped green embroidered threads into the leaves /

of halewood /

ever lush vert cotton fibres /

swimming /

in the direction the wind blows the tree's last leaves /

along a rainwater risen made lake /

like lost things /

trying to find their way home /

or onto a stitch or picture /

one that is beautiful /

and does not hurt to look at /

the púca traverses the lands and times of the post-industrial revolution /

becomes the past / present / future

the púca at colliers moss /

deep dives into the slag heaps and the old remnants of waste /

left behind by bold colliery and bold power station /

both long gone in name and institution /

yet not in memories physical or emotional /

their colour of what once was still holds fast /

in an almost perfect black circle /

marked on the earth /

drawing out the body of one particular old slag heap /

where no more things grow /

except at its circular edges /

and artists trace out on a white forensics sheet /

the bodies of flora that once were there and now only grow nearby /

with charcoal /

blurring and binding the edges of where life once met and left /

and then returned again /

reeds are remembered and memorialised laid out in the space /

but some are also still standing /

straining towards the sun /

and the ones that are surviving /

púca becomes them /

feels them /

those who live beyond the black circle’s frayed edges /

and now and then /

a willow tit sings a lament /

with a hope for better tomorrows /

piu-piu /

the púca spirit recasts itself /

as local beings and more-than-human objects /

to speak to the people of saint helens and knowsley /

and offers up a message /

that history still lives on /

in the land and the body /

and the particles of before reborn /

can become the future /

the púca at stanley bank wood /

swims downstream and transmogrifies /

into gymnopilus junonius (spectacular rustgill) /

colourful wood rotter ‘shrooms /

marking the bases of the trees that are lost /

and carrying their life sources on /

then after /

with the transformed energy /

words are written to gather /

human attention /

on the canvas of ganoderma applanatum (artist’s conk)

and people dance in groups imagining they are mycelium /

connected /

working together /

communicating /

in environmental /

kinship /

the púca at halewood park /

becomes the messages spoken /

and shared /

as rain and words fall /

from the mouths of /

community /

sewing hands /

recreating embroidered imagery /

of natural life /

and myths of king arthur and felled trees /

floods and retribution /

through simple stitch /

but with a thread /

that runs through everything /

every one /