Wildflowers by the River Medway

Unsung vetches almost vanish into the thick grasses and reeds of early July along the banks of the river. I like stopping, sometimes, to notice the details of these spindly and (apparently) delicate plants: tougher than they look.

riverside vetch threads
purple embroidery through
grasses, green rushes

Words and images © Lizzie Ballagher

 

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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

May-time Haiku

What is it about this time of year (in the northern hemisphere, at least) that inspires hope? The newness of green leaves? The plans for summer and autumn travels? The freshness of opening flowers? All of these and more?

And in the midst of all the bursting and calling out, the explosion of music and colour, suddenly we hear small, hidden voices…

from honeysuckle:

faint cries of new-hatched finches

breaking blue eggshells

Words and image © Lizzie Ballagher

Japanese haiku for a Japanese banner

On a Japanese Banner: Four Haiku for the Samurai

like spring’s blasting gale:
strike against all walls to crack—
break—thick bulwarks down

like summer’s forest:
stand tall in tranquillity—
grow wise in calmness

like autumn’s tree-fire:
flame up—burn across the land—
devastate your foe

like winter mountains:
hold hard—all cloaked in snowfall—
stay firm in fastness

Words © Lizzie Ballagher.

Image: traditional hata sashimono (feudal war banner) as carried by Takeda Shingen in the sixteenth century