Spring at the start of autumn

Here is the second of two poems recently commended by poet John Siddique in the 2015 Poetry Space international competition: a reminder of spring at the start of autumn. Happy those in the southern hemisphere right now!

View from a High, High Window
Wind stirs the starred uncurling leaves
Beyond this glass, between these eaves,
And the long town settles with a sigh.

Blue twilight pulls a blanket on the day–
The great uneven bed of it–spreading,
Shouldering night across hunched rooftops.

Now night sets out the seedling lights
The way your lover’s hands set out
Spring seeds within the rain-dark earth.

Then lights bloom bright as paths of marigolds
Which I would tread with cool bare feet
To follow to your arms, your sleep.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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The might of the little

In a January storm two years ago (and I take heart from this now that colder weather returns to the northern hemisphere) I heard a wren burst into such loud song that her voice drowned even the roaring wind. And now, happily, this poem was one of two chosen by poet John Siddique as one of those commended in the 2015 Poetry Space national poetry competition.

Storm Wren

Over the whinnying, plunging wind,

The frantic strain of sycamores bent double in anxiety;

Over the thundering train of cloud-carriages

Blundering eastwards in the blast;

Over the heaving spines of conifers uprooted in a tyrant gale,

 

One small dun wren

Opens her tight brown beak

And with a clear cathedral voice cleaves,

Breaks the blackened heart

Of this relentless western storm:

 

A shout to crack

The feeble egg-shell

Of the watery world—

Soaring, rolling notes, a mere breathful—to tip

The whirlwind off its antic axis.

 

Sing, wren, sing!

And let angels, larks & nightingales

Take notes.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Those who have walked this way before us

On Old Winchester Hill

High on Old Winchester Hill, I wonder:

Did Victorian archaeologists miss the point

With their methodical measuring tapes,

Their neat white note-cards & their tapping trowels;

Their careful record books & counted shards

Of flint & iron & pottery?

 

The hill is healed now of all diggings: hollows & barrows

Softened by falling rain, by grass & honeyed clover,

By golden gorse & trefoil; by thistledown & scabious;

By poppies’ red splash & purple coils of rampant vetch.

Now rock-hard ramparts, humps & clumps of earth are blurred:

Jumbled by time & tempest, roots & rabbits.

 

What’s left to mark the memory of ancient ancestors

And long-lost clans?—those who lived before the builders of Stonehenge,

Before Romans drove their roads in dead straight lines & marched to ruin,

Before Arthur cantered out with wandering knights

Or Alfred was enthroned in royal halls at Winchester—

What’s left to mark their memory?

 

Only this: a gentle wooden seat to rest upon with you,

To stare back down & through the ages;

And this: our love shall last, not overlords.

We carry seeds of sweetness in our plantings

As surely as feathered corn-cockles flare

Open for another summer & another—

 

As surely as the children born to us

Will walk upon this hilltop once:

Their eyes fixed on the azure glory of the sky,

Their feet sunk deep in kingly blue of cornflowers

And golden hoards of seed-heads where today we go

In tracks of those who settled here six thousand years ago.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

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