Swifts and Swallows

These small birds are feeding now on the wing before their long journey south to Africa. You might just see the blurred flash of a swallow in the centre of this recent photo – far quicker than the shutter!

hungry beaks open
fast wings outfly their bodies:
swallows hunting prey

© Words and image Lizzie Ballagher

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Exciting New Opportunity

Poet in Residence for the South Downs Way – this is a new opportunity I’ve just been given to celebrate one of Britain’s longest and most wonderful national trails. Follow the link below to read the trail manager’s blog and see the start of a new venture for me as a writer. Who ever said poetry was a purely indoor activity?

http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/south-downs-way/news/lizzie-ballagher-becomes-sdw-first-poet-residence

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The Wrong Kind of Leaves

Raking leaves was an autumn task I enjoyed when I lived in the US. British Rail once coined the phrase “the wrong kind of leaves on the lines”, but I don’t think there are any such things as the wrong kind of leaves. They look more than all right to me!

Raking

When first I heard them say
They ought to rake in all New England’s leaves—
Fiery eruption and fall-out from every hot
Volcanic tree in Massachusetts—
I laughed the madness of it
After leaves were soaked and sodden,
But raked beside them anyway:
Cooled coals in the rake’s dark teeth
On the cloudy coldness of a sullen,
Snow-driven Thanksgiving
With ashy whiteness in my heavy, leaf-brown hair.

And now the clear October ten years on
Sees me rise to this autumnal ritual
I was not born to, raised to
Under the damp, knobbed trunks of English lindens
Lined lovely in a leafy row down Derby Road,
Where leaf led to loam beneath in days, not weeks.

My sapling son, still seed then
In another’s body, unopened acorn
Then unknown in the branch of my own,
Now laughs the folly of it—
Leaps, shoots leafily as we rake
The conflagration of all of New York’s leaves.

I bend to the sweat of them
Making blazing mountains, raking
Wetly clinging leaf on leaf
Shining with showers, still—light,
Frosted frigid by night on night,
Parched paper-thin by molten sun on sun.

My mouth opens round crisp air
As I rake to the rasp and gasp of it,
And my arm aches to the heave of leaves in the barrow.
Now my back breaks to the turn of the steep shovel
In the black clay of the autumn day as I furrow in
This year’s glory for next year’s plenty.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Ashdown Autumn

Earth:
Pleat after crease of hillside and heath blends
Into the long indigo distance
Where earth becomes

Air:
Coil after curl of cumulus & cirrus ascends
Into the fleece-frothing emptiness
Where air becomes

Water:
Drop after drip of rainsquall & dewfall descends
Into the cloud-shadowed wilderness
Where water becomes

Earth
Becomes air
Becomes water, yet still
No radiant heat until

In the forge of the forest
Brawny-limbed blacksmith beeches
Strike out sparks & kindle flames
On autumn’s fearsome anvil:

Fire!

© Lizzie Ballagher

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