sun’s rays filter through
thinning chlorophyll: frail leaves
rinsing gold light green
Words & images © Lizzie Ballagher
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.
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
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
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
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…
faint cries of new-hatched finches
breaking blue eggshells
Words and image © Lizzie Ballagher