It’s National Poetry Day

In celebration of 2017’s National Poetry and in honour of a family birthday today, I hope readers of this blog will enjoy this poem:

Postcard to Two Grand-Daughters
(or She Stoops to Conkers)

On the day when you became a loving sister;
And on the day when you were born,
I waded ankle-deep in spring-like grass
Under a burnished tree to gather horse chestnuts:
Rich globes of silky wood still varnished
With the oil of their thick satin casings.
I chose the glossiest, the shiniest,
Just as your parents chose you, too, you two:
A pair of bright stars in their loving eyes—
And in mine four thousand miles away.

Look—take them! In your baby hands you hold
The world & all your two sweet lives. You could
Dry them, preserve them in vinegar & bake them,
Knot them on strings & bash them in that old playground sport
Until they split & you can’t play for giggling.
Or you could open up your mother’s precious oil paints
And portray each chestnut’s singular loveliness
On a field of springy grass & autumn leaves.
Or you might turn them into castanets
And dance a tarantella in a swirl of skirts.

Or else, like me, your wordsmith grandmother,
You could grow a shiny conker
From the chestnut tree
Into happy poetry.

Words and image © Lizzie Ballagher

 

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Nine Days – Day Nine

This evening sees the end of this nine-day blog. Writing the poem has been a good way of looking back with love and affection and looking ahead with hope and humour. If you’ve enjoyed following these nine days, please share the link or send me a comment.

My Mother’s Book of Hours: Novena

IX

But keep the beech-wood box itself for memory—

For our two grandmothers’ sakes, even for poetry’s sake—

And maybe take

One small bright thimble

For faith & hope & love (all three).

Go on—

It fits your finger—see?

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Nine Days

My mother was no more enthusiastic about sewing than I am, but she sewed well and encouraged me to learn from her. It’s only now that she’s not around any more to support and advise that I appreciate just how knowledgeable she was, and just how many hours she spent each week sewing because – in a time of scarcity – there was no choice but to sew one’s own clothes and furnishings…and mend them, too.

Over nine days, I’ll be publishing short extracts from a new nine-part poem. It begins here.

My Mother’s Book of Hours: Novena

I

Double beech-wood covers yawn wide as a cathedral bible

To yield their treasures,

And suddenly we’re unearthing from the sewing box

The scriptures of our family history—

Here, in all their muddled glory.

(c) Lizzie Ballagher

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Advent – an underestimated season?

In spite of the gloomy northern weather that usually plagues December, I like this time of year: not just because Christmas is around the corner, but for its own sake. Advent makes me stop and take stock of where I’m heading and why; who’s going along the journey with me and why. I love getting those unexpected phonecalls from cousins and friends far away (New Zealand, Boston, Somerset, Melbourne…); I love the electronic and card greetings from people who’ve taken time to acknowledge that I might matter to them as much as they matter to me.

 So here’s a poem I wrote a while ago to celebrate this unique, wonderful time of year. It appeared this month on the back of Far East magazine. Christmas poems will follow…at Christmas!

Advent poem

© Lizzie Ballagher

 

Roots

I’m guessing many followers of this blog have felt, at least once, that strange sense of belonging in a particular place—usually without fully understanding why. It’s a curious sensation, one I’ve revisited recently in this new poem: “Roots”.

Before long buried great-grandmothers knew to count the years,
We here took root. I know it in my bones
As I rustle over hawthorn leaves’ brown layers,
Or over opalescent beads of churchyard snowdrops,
Or as I roam across the uplands’ sky-flecked flint,
The clifftops & the chalk-striped fields of home.

From burnt-out stars, my dust, my DNA, my ashes—
All are here: the past, the present & the yet-to-come
In future generations’ tales already traced
And tracked on winding trails where, deep below,
Our roots run long & strong beneath the downs;
For miles—millennia & miles—they mine these hills.

From trunks, from tibias they spread their metatarsals
Drawing water from the pools & wells of rain,
From springs in folded clay & shale beds.
Their dry roots tangle, cleave & cling; turn & twine;
Drive fibrous fingers, thin phalanges in
Through waves and weaves of moss-stained greensand.

I feel the pulse and push of heart & foot,
The thrum of sap, the throb of blood,
The rise of hope without the reasons
While lives deep-rooted round me grow,
While trees green-shooted round me know
The stream & surge of changing seasons.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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TOMORROW and SUNDAY! Christmas Poems and Christmas Gifts

To all who live in South-Eastern England: bring your family and come to the wonderful annual Christmas Fayre at The Friars, Aylesford, Kent on 29th or 30th November, entry between 10a.m. and 4p.m. both days. Full of all sorts of Christmas present ideas, including framed poetry by Lizzie Ballagher and watercolours by Jackie Trinder. Not to be missed. Oh, and bring your ice skates, too!

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