Submerged

I am floundering under

water
shoals of deep-down fear
rising subterranean nightmares
the weightiness of endless work
books & the reading of many books
papers & the writing of many leaden papers:
the gravity of muddles

but I am drowning, too, in

slabs of buttered sunlight
lark-flights of soaring joy
the mood & magic of wild dreams
waves of unexpected, bright imaginings
the unrolling of a spool of story like a silken thread stretching & spinning from my mind
the blossoming of poems in my head:
creation turning chaos into craft

that springs up like a sapling birch-tree
under beaming logs of light &
under western rains where still I may
follow gleaming unnamed paths
into the untamed
wilderness  &
lose myself:

submerged.

2014-01-19 14.22.30

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A change of direction for this blog!

Lizzie Ballagher welcomes you to her poetry blog. If you’re following her already, you’ll know she writes often about trees. For a few weeks, from today, however, she turns to poems about what it may mean to be human. She writes in today’s poem about what it’s like to watch a much-loved mother approach the end of her life.

Mother among the Roses

The mercury rises, like my mother’s age,
Into the nineties.

Bowed in a wheelchair,
Nodding among the roses,
She’s in the December of her life.

Australian January brands its heat
Upon her white head, pale
On a slender stem.

After months behind spring’s steel doors
In a hospital hot as a greenhouse,
She’s back in an Eden of air and roses.

Now for the first time out in sunlight
She lifts her face into the velvet:
Damask roses along a bowling green.

Like perfume, memory rises, too.
Standing unseen behind her,

Behind her bending head,
My hands dark as rose thorns
On the wheelchair’s wrists,

I hold on hard, mourning
Gardens made and left behind
By her.

I weep for gardens dug and planted
By those same hands, all crooked now,
By those same green fingers

That steady the red, the blush, the pink
To inhale the fragrant rose scent
Sharp with thorns, yet sweet:

Sharp, yet sweet as my mother.

© Lizzie Ballagher

Mum - grandma Joyce - in 1916 aged 3

Mum as a child 100 years ago

 

Tree Rings

 

In the cupboard, a parchment tightly rolled (I suppose

So no skeletons can embarrass us by dropping out)

The family tree takes up less space

Than any sapling apple shoot in garden ground.

 

Felled, unscrolled across the tabletop, it is a thing

Of mighty girth, of substance & of centuries,

Gravid in age with flower & fruit:

Many-sprayed with lithe & leafy children.

 

Now & then a bough is scarred, is severed

By the roaring wind of downfall, wrack & havoc;

And, for a while, the ancestry stands rooted, maintains

A season of wintry mourning when all limbs hang slack.

 

Sometimes, though, new sprigs sprout out of cross-grained bark,

Joined at the hip to the spreading tree

Yet drawn by tendrils of morning summer light

To the ribs & rings & wishbones of others in the greenwood.

 

Often new stocks are grafted in:

One wedding ring weaves round another;

The rough-cast band of bark grows out;

Somehow, accommodation fit is found

 

(Even in a shabby, time-worn trunk)

For honeyed yellow rising sap;

For buds & sprigs & sparrows;

For golden bees & roseate apples.

 

True: in spite of bungled pollination & broken branches,

In all this slipshod history, in twists of twigs

Created by the wheeling rings of sun’s white heat,

This tree stays faithful to its healing gardener:

 

It bears—it wears—one more encircling wedding ring

Concentric round another, year on year

Ascending on ladders of grace & hope

To heaven’s high, high orchard.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

Tree Rings

Although I Do Not Speak

Although I do not speak the language of trees,
Still, I hear them murmur their low rumours of sorrow,
Now that the storm’s at last gone past.

All around me, tall trees have toppled:
Trunks swung & hung in others’ arms;
Angled, tangled, switched vertical for horizontal.

Bursting gusts have stripped their bark
And flayed away the shelter of the woods:
Laid bare branch sinews, strings & strands.

Their roots have hauled up broken chalk, have heaved up
Flint, have made earth’s floor tremble with tender sympathy
While I, so young in trees’ time-reckoning,

Child without root, my feet as yet unplanted
In knee-deep bluebells, ran, swerved below
Branches that clawed the roaring sky in frenzy.

Still, now, I hear them keening:
Those lingering laments, the eulogies of sapling sons
Who mourn the bare, stark skeletons of woodland forebears;

Still, now, I hear them grieving
Long, long after the howling storm’s gone over…yes,
Although I do not speak the language of the trees.

© Lizzie Ballagher 2014

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