Cracks in Pavements

Throughout the 1990s (and to a lesser extent for a further decade) I worked with children who were on the autistic spectrum. In this poem, first published in 1994 by the National Autistic Society, (NAS), I imagine being parent to such a child – all too often quite misunderstood: a child who experiences information overload in almost every waking moment; a child who sees and responds to the world differently from his or her peers; a child, in fact, who is “differently abled”.

My Son

Someone smiled at him just now

When we were coming back from town

With Safeway bags bulging—

When we were trudging


Up the heavy steps to our front gate—

Someone smiled at him;

At a boy dreamy-eyed and humming, as he swung

The shopping, counting the cracks in the pavement


So he could tell his dad

The definitive count,

And no mistaking—

But someone smiled at him


And he lost count,

Cringed back against the wall,

Howled, howled

Like a parody of his toddler self…


And now sits rocking, rocking

By the radiator,

Counting to ensure

The folds in its metallic warmth


Still number twelve;

Counting for his security,

Counting to cast out

The yawning crack


In the pavement

Made by someone’s careless smile.


© Lizzie Ballagher


The dizzy taste of fresh blackcurrants

Just recently I’ve received the happy news that Poetry Space’s Summer Showcase will be featuring the poem shown below. Here, after a walk through currant fields just last summer, I recall the happy experience of growing up on a blackcurrant farm in Norfolk.


I hold the weight of light upon my palms:

Sprays and strands of wine-dark pearls strung

Perfectly from alchemy of rain & sun,

The pulse of summer’s hot & running blood

Shining, clotting on my fingers.


The heat of August sweetens, stains my hands

With fragrant orbs: purple, jewel-like (however small).


For now, I am summer’s queen again,

High on the handle-bar, riding aloft

Between rows & ripened rows of blackcurrants

On my father’s rotovator: around me the whiff

Of petrol & oil, the comfortable putt-putt

Of the churning motor as it chugs & chews

Through weeds & trampled ground.


With grubby hands I grab for currants,

Snatch at the light between the leaves.


Both escape my clutching fingers.

The dapple & ripple of green-starred growth

Flickers, skitters between them with nothing left

But the crimson smear of juice upon my skin:

The dazzling, fizzing, dizzy taste of fresh blackcurrants.


© Lizzie Ballagher

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