For most people in the UK, March’s solar eclipse was a bit of a non-event. Even so, what struck me about it was the way, with encroaching darkness, all spring birdsong stopped. Thank you, Pauline Pilcher, for the wonderful eclipse photo taken from the Faroes that day!

Eclipse *

The pod of morning unfolds with a flower of evening;
So daybreak begins with a kind of mourning—
A lament for the failing of lovely light.

As winds drop out, the lively leaves (first blush of buds
In canary yellow, woodpecker green)
Swing loose in the sudden breathless stillness,
Velvet chains hanging slack in willows.

Woodpigeons cease their murmuring mutter,
Thrushes their exultant singing.
Starlings stop their burbling chatter.
Even crooning collared doves fall quiet;
They fan their tails, preen plumage, rest & roost.
All soft winged things are hushed.

The willows’ lush spring waterfalls haul in
All folded feathers, muted birds; they make
Small vivid dashes, splashes of colour
In the leaden, dwindling light.

And skies tilt down—the sun’s great bonfire dips
To smoke. Already it is dusk: deep dusk.
The Earth’s husk tips. Eclipse!

© Lizzie Ballagher
* Solar eclipse 20th March, 2015

Eclipse 20th March 2015, photo (c) Pauline Pilcher

Image (c) Pauline Pilcher


Bluebell Season Starts

This post is for Sue and for other fellow writers on Poetry Space and cyberspace beyond, with thanks for all the encouragement!


Cut the earth and it bleeds
Blue blood:
Bluebells among the brutal butchery
Of coppiced beech, of oak corpses
By cacophonous winds
This winter gone.

While heaven’s hue falls
In ocean pools, cobalt
Below the April leaves,
And cuckoos
Brand the air with heartbreak,
Blue earth gives out green light.

Cut the earth and it bleeds
Blue blood:
Bluebells under the frill and trill
Of singing green, of winging green
By starry-eyed blackbirds
This slow, slow spring.

© Lizzie Ballagher


A Happy Easter holiday to all who follow this blog!

Belief that a man rose from death doesn’t come easily. In the poem that follows I try to chart my own spiritual journey to the place that is Easter.

A Doubter’s Creed

Why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d meet a keen-eyed king
Come to redeem his people
After all the years of prophecy & promise.
Instead I saw an infant in an ass’s stall
And cows lowing piteously over a starlit manger
Where yet there was no grain,
No corn, no sweet green summer grass,
But only a weeping newborn boy
And his quiet mother in a dusty cloak,

Her womb suddenly empty of her child.

Why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d greet a loyal lord
Riding in triumph over festal palms
Where massing crowds would bay for him.
Instead I saw a broken hillside
Naked as a dead man’s skull; soldiers dicing
And three men crucified, one bloodied
With a crown of thorns. ‘Jesu, King of the Jews,’
The mocking sign above him read.
And, later, a cave-pocked place they called

His tomb—suddenly empty of his body.

Why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d hail a ravening ruler
With resolute arm upraised in battle:
With two-edged sword to smite them left & right.
Instead they led me to a back-street house
Where cowering men & weary women
Met secretly for breaking bread,
For dipping bitter herbs & sharing wine;
And where that quiet woman sat with them,
Woebegone, still in her pilgrim cloak,

The room suddenly empty of the man they loved.

So why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d see the kingdom come.
I see no cunning kings.
I see no lordly leaders.
I see no raging rulers.
Instead I hear a voice that bids me
Put my hand into his side
And touch the nail-wounds in his bloody palms.
He lives! this Son of Man.
He lives! the King of Heaven.

Filled suddenly with grace, I cry, ‘My Lord. My God!’

© Lizzie Ballagher

2015-04-05 11.38.58


A Shepherd

Walking the South Downs Way last year, we met several shepherds. At this time of year, Easter, I find it moving to think of the paradox of one who is both shepherd and sheep.

Agnus Dei

You do not break the doors down
Of our bolted hearts.
You do not shake the walls down
Of our meagre shells & shelters.
The only way you know,
The only way you go
Into the grounded stable of our lives,
Into the wounded sheepfold of our souls
Is close to earth & down upon your knees.

Then & only then do you stand
In our benighted midst—
Right in the thick
Of your bewildered flock
(The cloven hooves & bleating mouths)
To keep us, Shepherd, in the steady gaze
Of your all-seeing eyes;
To graze us, Shepherd, in the mazy meadows
Of your green & boundless sheep-fields.

Sentinel & watchman, you rise
With lantern lofted high
Amid the mist & darkness
Of our fractured farms
To rescue us, to lift us in your arms.
You heed us, heal us,
Lead us, feed us
And rest your loving cross & crook
Upon our bowing backs.

Hear us, patient Prince with nought but thorns for crown.
Steer us, King & compass, Lord & lodestar clear.
Be near us, Lamb & Shepherd dear.

© Lizzie Ballagher

Easter 2015