This poem now appears as well on the trail manager’s blog for the South Downs Way.
Untangle the knot;
Let ribbons unroll, uncurl at our feet:
Not the burning yellow ribbon wrapped around
A tree for some returning sweetheart;
Not the crimson ribbon of garlands at Christmastime,
Or broken hearts, or silken Valentines;
Not the black & lilac ribbons rustling
Their sibilance of sadness, sorrow & sighs.
Unravel the bow;
Let ribbons whirl, swirl at our feet:
The silver ribbons of roads to ride on
To places we have loved to be & longed to see;
The azure ribbon of skies to fly in, where jet-streams
Vanish behind us in little clouds of vapour dreams;
The turquoise ribbon of salty sea-lanes to sail on,
Waves frothing with kittiwakes & herring gulls.
Untangle the knot; unravel the bow.
Send us along the straggling, way-worn ribbons
Of trailway & pathway over distant downland
Where we shall walk together, side by side;
Where the dappled, dusty ribbon of every road,
Of every track we pass & every street,
Is the rhythm of our feet, our feet, our feet.
And—no—don’t roll out any red carpet. Not for us.
© Lizzie Ballagher
News just in is that all the writing and walking are coming together again in and along the South Downs Way. This month, for the February issue, Hampshire Life Magazine is running a piece about our ongoing trek from Eastbourne to Winchester. By all means have a look at the South Downs Way and Hampshire Life websites for inspiration!
I’m guessing many followers of this blog have felt, at least once, that strange sense of belonging in a particular place—usually without fully understanding why. It’s a curious sensation, one I’ve revisited recently in this new poem: “Roots”.
Before long buried great-grandmothers knew to count the years,
We here took root. I know it in my bones
As I rustle over hawthorn leaves’ brown layers,
Or over opalescent beads of churchyard snowdrops,
Or as I roam across the uplands’ sky-flecked flint,
The clifftops & the chalk-striped fields of home.
From burnt-out stars, my dust, my DNA, my ashes—
All are here: the past, the present & the yet-to-come
In future generations’ tales already traced
And tracked on winding trails where, deep below,
Our roots run long & strong beneath the downs;
For miles—millennia & miles—they mine these hills.
From trunks, from tibias they spread their metatarsals
Drawing water from the pools & wells of rain,
From springs in folded clay & shale beds.
Their dry roots tangle, cleave & cling; turn & twine;
Drive fibrous fingers, thin phalanges in
Through waves and weaves of moss-stained greensand.
I feel the pulse and push of heart & foot,
The thrum of sap, the throb of blood,
The rise of hope without the reasons
While lives deep-rooted round me grow,
While trees green-shooted round me know
The stream & surge of changing seasons.
© Lizzie Ballagher