The dizzy taste of fresh blackcurrants

Just recently I’ve received the happy news that Poetry Space’s Summer Showcase will be featuring the poem shown below. Here, after a walk through currant fields just last summer, I recall the happy experience of growing up on a blackcurrant farm in Norfolk.

Blackcurrants

I hold the weight of light upon my palms:

Sprays and strands of wine-dark pearls strung

Perfectly from alchemy of rain & sun,

The pulse of summer’s hot & running blood

Shining, clotting on my fingers.

 

The heat of August sweetens, stains my hands

With fragrant orbs: purple, jewel-like (however small).

 

For now, I am summer’s queen again,

High on the handle-bar, riding aloft

Between rows & ripened rows of blackcurrants

On my father’s rotovator: around me the whiff

Of petrol & oil, the comfortable putt-putt

Of the churning motor as it chugs & chews

Through weeds & trampled ground.

 

With grubby hands I grab for currants,

Snatch at the light between the leaves.

 

Both escape my clutching fingers.

The dapple & ripple of green-starred growth

Flickers, skitters between them with nothing left

But the crimson smear of juice upon my skin:

The dazzling, fizzing, dizzy taste of fresh blackcurrants.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

2015-08-02 11.17.22

 

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New poem for late summer

Straw to Gold

 

Skedaddle! Out with you, Brothers Grimm—

You and your scheming scimitars,

Your poisonous pouch of nightmares,

Your wicked sickle blades—get out, grim reapers!

Don’t peddle any grimy story near us here:

Of a nameless miller’s daughter dusty with corn husks,

Hair bleached fair as finest barley flour

Repeating her father’s shameless lie

To greedy royal ears that she could turn

The common straw to golden thread

When not one stalk could she so spin.

Go! Wind your broken spools of goblin yarn & take them off

Down stifling alleyways to other village inns

Where gullible fools believe such tales.

 

The boot’s now on the other foot, you know. It’s not

Poor womenfolk who spin the straw to gold these days:

Not mincing, soft-shoed cobblers’ lasses;

Not singed & sparky blacksmiths’ girls;

Not doe-eyed, millers’ daughters;

Today the hayfields’ wealth is spun to gold

By sinewy, sunburned men with furrowed brows

And crinkled eyes below a denim baseball cap,

Who sit aloft in spacious air-con harvesters

That thresh unbroken narratives

Down satellite-mapped alleyways of grass

And then spill out, spin out

The half-ton reels of gleaming bales:

Fine gold from summer’s yellow fields.

 

No Rumpelstiltskins spoil the party now:

Only a surly storm or two, glowering, scowling over downland cliffs & folds.

And—in between the hedges and the cottages—

Great curving, curling rolls of gold.

© Lizzie Ballagher

The photo below appears with grateful thanks to Lee Abbey, North Devon, just on the edge of Exmoor National Park. It is one of the most lovely places in Britain.

Lee Abbey fields