November Seascape

The North Kent Coast can be bleak and blustery at this time of year, even with the stark beauty of Reculver Towers in the distance. And so – another haiku for you for November:

tumultuous waves
thick wind and cloud-clotted skies:
November storm breaks

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Even if it’s a day late…a new poem

National Poetry Day was yesterday—yes, I know, I know! But here’s a new poem with an old picture to delight everyone just one day after the poetry hoopla calms down…

on the velvet pile
of midnight’s darkest fabric
stars stitch needlepoint

Words © Lizzie Ballagher

“Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh

Boston’s Freedom Trail

Even I Revere the Freedom Trail          

Here I am on the eve of July Fourth—

Yes, that Stars & Stripes Forever day—

But the irony’s not lost on me:

A Brit walking Boston’s Freedom Trail.

Thinly the path of red bricks going two by two

Like a column of starved colonial infantrymen

 

Frog-marches me past churches & graveyards

Where men fought & died—from the gold-leaf dome,

Past that bronze beast bearing Revere, the coppersmith

Riding to warn when two lanterns swung high,

Swung high in the loft of Old North Church,

That our Georgian forebears were coming—

 

Marches me past cold-hearted cobbles

Commemorating the massacre of foolhardy youth,

To the Revere-plated hulk rebelliously hunched

In dry dock, the one they named ‘Ironsides’

When shocked British cannonballs

Bounced back, bounced back off the metal hull—

 

Ensnares me, tugs me

All the city miles it snakes its way,

Makes its way—although, whisper it,

I am shamed by ugly history…

However, still I bounce back,

Bounce back through time’s twisting mystery

 

And I’m a mother now to young Americans—

More: a grandmother, too. My line

Of British sight, of independent British fight

Streaks up with a flare of firework sparks

Bursting in free American air in stripes & stars

Over the city the following night.

 

My life, my line, my freedom staked upon it,

Here: I sign my John Hancock.

A Beautiful Place

Have you ever felt a sense of belonging or some kind of inexplicable connection with a certain place? One such, for me, is a wooded hill on Kent’s long greensand ridge. Unassuming by comparison with its oft-feted neighbour Ightham Mote (National Trust), Wilmot Hill offers long views across the blue hills and wide fields of the Weald. And more besides, as I hope this poem illustrates.

“On Wilmot Hill” has recently appeared in the magazine South-East Walker, but I thought I’d share it here to an even wider readership.

On Wilmot Hill

And if you turn aside
from the greensand path
to ascend the wooden stair
in the south slope of the hill,
you will come to an old way,
an older way
running high
on the ridge:
between toppling yews
planted before history by birds & beasts;
between beeches threading the sky with branches,
stitching the greensand banks
with roots that cling,
drive deep down underfoot—

while all the way to the south lie
the plains & blue foothills
of the ancient weald:
away & away for ever to the sea.

In secret folds, in the lee of this hill
where springs run out, grow
primeval marestails greener than greensand,
violets, primroses & spotted orchids.

A blackbird will be singing
just for you
somewhere in the yew fronds;
clouds will drop their mercy on the beech leaves.

Ahead of you
the path will dwindle
to a white-light vanishing point
at its downward curve.

Words and image © Lizzie Ballagher