Christmas Fair!

For those in the south-east of England over the coming weekend, November 28th to 29th, 10a.m. to 4p.m. both days, there’s an event not to be missed: the annual Christmas fair at The Friars, Aylesford, ME20 7BX. I’ll be there with baskets of poems – come and join the fun. Entry £4, with free entry for children.

Ten Poems for ChristmasChristmas Fair 2015

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Winchester Trilogy III

Here’s the final poem in the Winchester series. It marks the end of our one hundred mile walk from Eastbourne to Winchester…which took us a long time!

III      Two Walkers

The path delivers us, worn weary
With all the walking, down the last long hopper
Of the rolling trail. And so we are harvested
Earthy as rough grain
From the wind & rain of the track.

We are come to the end of a pilgrimage.
We are come home, come back.

Now buffeted & footsore
We are refined like wheat,
Sifted like fine white flour,
Now shaking the dust from our coats, our feet.
Worn, yes, but reborn on reaching

The end of the long southern ridge:
The end of our South Downs pilgrimage.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Winchester Trilogy II

Second post in the Winchester series for you…

TO WINCHESTER

II       Golden Grain

Grown from the ground,
From earth’s chalk & clay, grime & gravel,
Tight-folded granules of wheat—
The poor man’s gold—
Is grist to the mill.

Dusty with lowly soil
It bulges in shadowed sacks,
Dull & lifeless as ash
Until from the dry-store it’s poured
Rattling, scuttling down the hopper:

Nuggets crushed between grey jaws,
Between the furrowed grit-stones.
They utter no sound but the low, low groan
Of stone on stone as gold-dust
Turns soft as silk:

Brighter than chalk or silver,
Whiter than milk or light.

And flour blooms on the mill-house floor.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Winchester Trilogy

Followers of this blog over the last year know that our challenging, gorgeous trek along the whole length of the South Downs Way is over. We celebrated the end of our 100-mile westward walk by spending several days in historic Winchester.  Here follow some of our impressions, starting with the Winchester City Mill.

TO WINCHESTER

I      The City Mill

Upstream the water unreels diamond clear from its cress-bed source
Over chalk-beds white as sifted flour:
Bird-dipped, sliding, slipping in silence
It glitters in its shallow course.

Upstream the water drifts in a dream,
Soundless, limpid below blue-green willows:
Swan-swum, trailing skeins of water weed,
Beaded with pennywort, with ferns fountaining,

But then—above the gabled red-brick mill—divides.

One side flows smooth, the other rough-grained like wood,
Braided suddenly in faster-flowing fibres;
In light-shot silver bands it runs
In a hissing murmur, strands twisting ever tighter,
Drawn inexorably through the deepening sluice.
Soon it rushes, slices over tiny stones,
Over long-lost Saxon buckles, Roman coins
And stream-washed rainbow trout bones
Drawn into the foaming white churn of the mill,
Roiling, boiling & the great black wheel
Turning, toiling, with the flap, the slap of blades
Clacking, iron cogs clicking
And the bright wet-shine of water on old oak,
And the rattle of pulley chains
As a cascade of wheat-grains
Descends to feed the yawning hopper.
Now Winchester’s city mill roars.
Old timber floors tremble
At the guttural growl, the groaning grind
Of mountainous grit-stones turning…

But then—below the thundering mill—
The sundered water joins its twin tides once again.

Downstream the river drifts in a dream,
Soundless, limpid below blue-green willows:
Swan-swum, trailing skeins of water weed,
Beaded with pennywort, with ferns fountaining.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Remembering November 11th, 1918

Even to those born in the middle of the 20th century like me, and especially because so many of our parents and grandparents lost their lives in one or both World Wars, the years 1914-1918 do not seem far away at all.

Here’s my remembrance for November 11th.

TAPESTRY: A Poem of Remembrance
You daughters of Normandy
And you who wield the needle through the lancing,
Branching threads of Ypres and Arras cloth—
Weep.

No wool or flax from the low low fields
Of Flanders can match the knotted intricacy,
The lacework, tracework
Of sword and spear and pitching pike,
The criss-cross-stitch savagery,
Brown broidery futility
Of Harold among the trees,
Of Hastings blood poured out on Bayeux tapestry.

You women of Picardy
And you who shove the shuttle through the branching,
Lancing looms of Lancashire cloth—
Mourn.

No homespun or hessian from the rolling mills
Of Blackburn can match the intricate knottedness,
The tracework, lacework
Of trench and gun and bloody bayonet,
The Christ-crucifying savagery,
Red poppy insanity
Of Tommy among the trees,
Of wasting blood poured out on Somme and Passchendaele.
© Lizzie Ballagher

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