June Grass’s Sweetness – A Beauty More Than Green

intoxicating
sweet mown grass cuts a wide swathe
through my memory

Words & Image © 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

Glorious Friday

On this day every year people say, “What’s so good about Good Friday?”—a question I consider quite often these days.

So here’s my attempt to address this painful, deeply paradoxical question.

Glory, Glory
A star bathed shepherds’ hills in light
The night that Christ was born—
Was this the glory of God?

Stone jars of water turned to wine
At Cana on that wedding day:
And was this the glory of God?

The lame man walked. The blind could see.
The leper left his sores behind.
So was this the glory of God?

The women grieved & Jesus wept.
Then Lazarus was restored to life.
Was this not the glory of God?

Under waving palms & cheering cries
He rode a humble donkey colt.
Surely this was the glory of God?

Stripped to a loincloth,
Nailed to a tree,
Shamed before friend & foe—

He was lifted high
On a cruel cross.
Does glory shine out here?

The temple curtain tore in two.
The voice of His Father was heard.
Glory. Glory!—more than ever in this world.

Stripped to a loincloth,
Nailed to the tree,
This—even this—was the glory of God.

© Words Lizzie Ballagher.  Image of Lampedusa Cross © Trustees of the British Museum only, used by permission.

Grief and Hope

So many people face bereavement at this time of year, and in the past few months three friends or close family members of friends have died. Remembering them, both in giving thanks for their lives (two short and the other long), I am today sharing a poem I wrote two years ago. Perhaps this poem comforts only me; but so many light candles to reflect and remember, all over the world, that I hope this poem reaches out to others, as well.

Seven Candles

Light me a candle for sorrow:
For the one on a journey with no returning
And pennies on his eyes for the burying.

Light me a candle for tomorrow:
For the tug of longing & the loss of hope,
For the winds of war & the stuttering of prayer.

Light me a candle for blissful memories
In the darkest hours of night:
For sunlit colours & the laughter of friends.

Light me a candle for thankfulness:
For the holy moments of marrying,
For childbirth & the first faltering prayers of children.

Light me a candle for blessedness:
For bread & wine on a sacred table—
To stand & burn in beauty & in tenderness.

Light me a candle for gladness:
For a welcome at windows late in the evening,
For the hush & stillness of soft sleep.

Light me a candle for peace:
For the swansdown drift of dreams;
For the gift of Christ at Christmas,
And for His rising on Easter’s radiant morning.
Yes, light me a candle for the breath of day’s dawning.

The hiss of a flame, the flare of a spark
Will raise us soon against the dark.

Words and image © Lizzie Ballagher

 

Reflecting and Remembering

     Lest we forget, living in the relative peace of Western Europe, just what war can do, November serves as a month for reflecting on the consequences of war and the sufferings of those who still endure it now, in 2017.

My poem “Merciless Day” was last year set to music by composer Simon Mold. If you would like to hear the music and poem, please follow this youtube link.