We’re about to set out on more summer walks along the ridge of the South Downs Way – probably in the rain! Today, though, the sun is baking most of southern England.
Before these fields turn yellow as a Van Gogh reverie,
Before those rooks descend and cast
Dark shadows squawking on the grain,
Stand here & watch the meadows grow:
The longed-for greening of the naked ground.
Before the harvester rolls down with sharpened shears,
See arrowed spears dart up—
Fescue & timothy in chalk & loam;
See blade tips bristle, soft as painters’ brushes,
A watercolour haze on fallow-field horizons:
Tufted, wafted, wavy in the mill-wheel of the wind;
Brush-stroked with milky strands of corn-silk,
Sap-streaked, gingered with bees, rain-washed—
A veil of sprouts & stalks (& later seed-heads)
Rising, cresting in a tide, a sea of green.
And afterwards, look! Grasses are studded
With thistle & poppy, spectrum-ends flashing
Violet, scarlet in the blaze of August’s arc-lamp:
Pixel-thin stems stripe an Impressionist landscape,
Luminous with absinthe light on grasslands’ stretching canvas.
© Lizzie Ballagher
This poem now appears as well on the trail manager’s blog for the South Downs Way.
Untangle the knot;
Let ribbons unroll, uncurl at our feet:
Not the burning yellow ribbon wrapped around
A tree for some returning sweetheart;
Not the crimson ribbon of garlands at Christmastime,
Or broken hearts, or silken Valentines;
Not the black & lilac ribbons rustling
Their sibilance of sadness, sorrow & sighs.
Unravel the bow;
Let ribbons whirl, swirl at our feet:
The silver ribbons of roads to ride on
To places we have loved to be & longed to see;
The azure ribbon of skies to fly in, where jet-streams
Vanish behind us in little clouds of vapour dreams;
The turquoise ribbon of salty sea-lanes to sail on,
Waves frothing with kittiwakes & herring gulls.
Untangle the knot; unravel the bow.
Send us along the straggling, way-worn ribbons
Of trailway & pathway over distant downland
Where we shall walk together, side by side;
Where the dappled, dusty ribbon of every road,
Of every track we pass & every street,
Is the rhythm of our feet, our feet, our feet.
And—no—don’t roll out any red carpet. Not for us.
© Lizzie Ballagher