Japanese Anemones

A Japanese haiku for this lovely late-summer flower, I think!

flower flurry five-
petalled pink perfection—stars
low as my shoulders

Words and both images © Lizzie Ballagher

 

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Memories Without Words

Before Words

Before there were words,

Before trees & flowers & birds

Had names

And under morning’s first holy light,

I played below juniper trees

In dry brown dust where no rain fell.

 

Then scrambled out

To where my mother bent, planting lupins

In the fine damp loam

A rake’s length away:

Lupin leaves studded with rain beads

At their hearts.

 

I had no words, no names

For the soft rosettes of leaves

Or the junipers’ incense:

Just the wonder of diamonds on greenness,

With trees’ fronds brushing my face—

The heaven of their scent floating round me.

 

Some say

We have no memory

Until we have vocabulary.

And yet, a mystery:

Before words,

I do remember.

 

© Words, Lizzie Ballagher.  Images: with thanks to Pinterest.

Lupins found in a cultivated bed in Tekoa, Washington

Doorway of Dreams

Joyous family weddings four years in a row now have caused me to reflect about weddings – hence this poem (due to appear in a Poetry Space publication in 2017). All the romance, the flowers, the colour, the smiles, the music: all are just a prelude to the new world on the far side of the door into the wedding ceremony.

Doorway of Dreams

In one over-heated room,

Everything’s been thought of:

Even perfectly matched socks in rows

(For once no holes in toes)

That his brothers and his friends will wear.

All, all are redolent of roses.

 

The trembling fingers of the groom

Reach for the blushing roses’ sweetness:

The wrapped, enfolded buttonhole.

Deeply breathing, he steadies himself.

 

While in another room, and up another stair

Where a fan shifts warm air

And voile curtains lift and stir,

A mother weaves bright buttercups—

Ranunculus asiasticus

Through her daughter’s glossy hair.

 

The bride is trembling, blushing, too.

She knows she’s found her perfect match.

So, reaching for a rose,

Deeply breathing, she readies herself.

 

Around both upper rooms music breaks

In waves, foams, creams

In the whorled shells

Of their hushed and listening ears.

The love-song they have chosen swells,

Calls them to the doorway of their dreams.

© words and image Lizzie Ballagher

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Dandelion Clocks

IMG_5921    Who hasn’t grimaced as the heads of dandelions rear up out of an otherwise healthy garden? There is, however, a part of me that thinks that dandelions have as much right to life as any other flower in the garden, and that it is completely arbitrary to declare one plant a weed while another appears in sumptuous splendour at the Chelsea Flower Show…as if, somehow, a nasty system of discrimination extends even to plant life.

And who, as children, didn’t love watching the seeds be carried away on the wind and marvel at their lightness of being?

Dandelion Clocks

After rain, blurred moon bubbles rise

In the green space of late spring grass.

 

Minutes from the rounded clock-face

Of dandelion hours,

 

Those bubbles burst

In a supernova of wind-strewn stars

 

Floating free on far-off fields,

Seeding next year’s leonine suns

 

In interstellar showers…

After rain.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Blue Earth, Green Light

Cut the earth and it bleeds

Blue blood:

Bluebells among the brutal butchery

Of coppiced beech, of oak corpses

Felled

By cacophonous winds

This winter gone.

 

While heaven’s hue falls

Full

In ocean pools, cobalt

Below the April leaves,

And cuckoos

Brand the air with heartbreak,

Blue earth gives out green light.

 

Cut the earth and it bleeds

Blue blood:

Bluebells under the frill and trill

Of singing green, of winging green,

Feathered

By starry-eyed blackbirds

This slow, slow spring.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

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January Snowdrops

In fact snowdrops began to flower back in December last year. Now they are popping up everywhere to help make the cold more bearable.

Snowdrop Day

 

A miniature arrow fired to the sun,

This tight white bud is no wax vanity,

Nor will it melt like frost.

The innocent flower inches up.

 

Milk-tipped, it drives between

Defeated grass darts (blades all

Blunted on the trodden soil

By blind & plodding footfall)

 

Then turns a corner, silent bell-head

Hanging in the ringing cold.

 

Opening now to January’s stark blue light

(Frail feather down, pale dove wings

Over cloudy olive waters)

This snowdrop floats amid

 

The hostile dreariness, the downright

Winter weariness of yet another

Alien new year’s landscape:

A little ark of hope.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Spring at the start of autumn

Here is the second of two poems recently commended by poet John Siddique in the 2015 Poetry Space international competition: a reminder of spring at the start of autumn. Happy those in the southern hemisphere right now!

View from a High, High Window
Wind stirs the starred uncurling leaves
Beyond this glass, between these eaves,
And the long town settles with a sigh.

Blue twilight pulls a blanket on the day–
The great uneven bed of it–spreading,
Shouldering night across hunched rooftops.

Now night sets out the seedling lights
The way your lover’s hands set out
Spring seeds within the rain-dark earth.

Then lights bloom bright as paths of marigolds
Which I would tread with cool bare feet
To follow to your arms, your sleep.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Those who have walked this way before us

On Old Winchester Hill

High on Old Winchester Hill, I wonder:

Did Victorian archaeologists miss the point

With their methodical measuring tapes,

Their neat white note-cards & their tapping trowels;

Their careful record books & counted shards

Of flint & iron & pottery?

 

The hill is healed now of all diggings: hollows & barrows

Softened by falling rain, by grass & honeyed clover,

By golden gorse & trefoil; by thistledown & scabious;

By poppies’ red splash & purple coils of rampant vetch.

Now rock-hard ramparts, humps & clumps of earth are blurred:

Jumbled by time & tempest, roots & rabbits.

 

What’s left to mark the memory of ancient ancestors

And long-lost clans?—those who lived before the builders of Stonehenge,

Before Romans drove their roads in dead straight lines & marched to ruin,

Before Arthur cantered out with wandering knights

Or Alfred was enthroned in royal halls at Winchester—

What’s left to mark their memory?

 

Only this: a gentle wooden seat to rest upon with you,

To stare back down & through the ages;

And this: our love shall last, not overlords.

We carry seeds of sweetness in our plantings

As surely as feathered corn-cockles flare

Open for another summer & another—

 

As surely as the children born to us

Will walk upon this hilltop once:

Their eyes fixed on the azure glory of the sky,

Their feet sunk deep in kingly blue of cornflowers

And golden hoards of seed-heads where today we go

In tracks of those who settled here six thousand years ago.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

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On this May day

A favourite month for many people, how welcome is May!

On This Day

On this day
When pale cherry blossoms confetti pink from trees,
When bees hum bright from crevices in broken walls,
When aspen seeds and thistledown float soft in air,
When sycamores unfurling drop their tassels—gold—

On this day
When whistling swifts arrive
To scallop and swoop
Quick, dark lightning
Over roofs and under eaves—

On this day
I tread with you through deep bruised skies of bluebells:
The first of May—
On this day.

(c) Lizzie Ballagher

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Bluebell Season Starts

This post is for Sue and for other fellow writers on Poetry Space and cyberspace beyond, with thanks for all the encouragement!

BLUE EARTH, GREEN LIGHT

Cut the earth and it bleeds
Blue blood:
Bluebells among the brutal butchery
Of coppiced beech, of oak corpses
Felled
By cacophonous winds
This winter gone.

While heaven’s hue falls
Full
In ocean pools, cobalt
Below the April leaves,
And cuckoos
Brand the air with heartbreak,
Blue earth gives out green light.

Cut the earth and it bleeds
Blue blood:
Bluebells under the frill and trill
Of singing green, of winging green
Feathered
By starry-eyed blackbirds
This slow, slow spring.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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