Grey Heron

Images (c) RSPB

For the first time this year, I saw a huge heron fly over today. Usually I see them hunched by the river or beside a lake. Their watchful stillness is eerie, almost as if they’re not quite a part of this world.

Old Heron

Hunched, still as a wily snake,
You wait below the willow on the shallow bank.
Although alone, you’re doubled
At the water’s edge by your shadow self,
By that ageless grey bird, who, unstirring,
As stoic as you on stilted legs,
Stands just as hunched.

Tireless, you wait & watch
With prehistoric reptilian eyes
For hapless frogs & fish—whatever swims your way—
Since you’re not choosy
But endlessly patient,
Missing not the smallest ripple
And, like running water, tireless.

How ragged you are, old heron!
You’ve stood on the brink so long
That the weeping willow’s turned
From green to grey, from yellow back to green again
While you’re still biding your time, lurking,
Ruffled, muffled in your shaggy cloak
And—like a leafless willow branch—how ragged.

Words © Lizzie Ballagher

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Nine Days – Day Four

“Make do and mend” was a favourite saying of my parents and others in Britain who lived through World War 2. The ingrained attitude meant that in my teen years I spent many hours in a sort of darning purgatory. So I feel nothing but dismay as I review the darning paraphernalia that was left in our family sewing box. Yes, I can still “mend hosiery” (as the cards used to say so quaintly), but it will certainly never be a favourite occupation. Give me a poem to mend any time!

 

My Mother’s Book of Hours: Novena

IV

From just below the open lids

A humble darning-mushroom surfaces—

Rough-scuffed by all the years of cloth stretched

Over it by Granny, Mum & me (& now perhaps by you)

And scratched by needles flashing in & out

Tugging miles of Mending Thread for Hosiery

Unreeling yarn from those quaint darning cards

That no one uses in this century.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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