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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Another memory – of my grandmother’s house

My grandmother lived during most of my childhood in East Sussex, southern England. We often visited her for a few days in her old cottage (which, sadly, is no longer standing); and in this poem I recall one of the memories I have of her house.

Pantry

On the north side of Granny’s house

A timbered door was always shut,

Wrought iron latch dropped neatly in its heavy catch.

 

The silent message was loudly eloquent:

Do not enter. But we had to know

Its mysteries, the marvels beyond that threshold.

 

So when her back was turned

We crept along the polished passageway

Treading softly as we could, barefoot,

 

Then two stone steps down

To the icy dimness of quarry tiles

And piles and banks and ranks

 

Of jellies and jams, hams and jars of Seville marmalade

All tightly sealed with wax, perhaps

Beside a loaf of new-baked bread or dome of cheese—

 

Don’t let the mice in please

 

All just barely visible in fitful light

That filtered through the wire-mesh fly-screen

Over a granite slab

 

Where, sometimes, in spite of Granny’s

Industrious housewifery, tidy domesticity,

The summer rain came slanting in.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

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 – Day Five

Who would have thought that the clearing out of an old family sewing box would discover so many trinkets, bits of trash, and treasures? Here is the fifth poem of nine for you.

My Mother’s Book of Hours: Novena

V

Granny’s antique cigarette tins (tightly shut

For forty years) still smell—so faintly—of tobacco.

You inhale; you read the lid & scoff,

Will not affect your throat—ha-ha!

Inside: a hook that Allison & I both used

To crochet curly, swirly tea-cosies:

It rests with Granny’s lethal hat-pins.

How often Mum derided those!

Hats? Not for me! So daft. And hat pins?

Murder weapons, more like!

While we (who love to wear huge hats

And wild, exotic fascinators for a laugh)

Would never think of pinning them.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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It’s National Poetry Day today!

Paper Dolls

Scissored, yet not severed,

Hand in hand, paper dolls unfold
In concertina form:
Heads & hands all level,
Shadow hearts beating between;
Feet all dancing the same straight floor,
If not to the same time,
If not to the same dance.

Hands stretch in telespace.
I speak to you, & you, by text & telephone & Skype:
Daughter to mother,
Mother to grandmother
In the miracle of melting miles,
No daughter without a mother.
Holding hands to heaven, we tread

The endless Eden dance.

© Lizzie Ballagher

Paper Dolls

Still Dancing: The Cream of the Sixties’ Crop!

Of Zumba & Grannies Born in the Naughty Forties –
(Still Dancing, of Course)

Zumba, mambo, rumba, zumba!
The bhangra blares and bounces: Baby Boom-ba!

Zumba skirts swingle.
Gold pieces jingle.
Arms & legs tingle.
Bangles, bracelets all go ringle.

We reach & we skip,
Shake, sway & slip; shimmy, pull & dip;
Slide to the side, tap, high clap!
Single, single, double, travel—
Box & little hops,
Hunch, punch, lunge
Until we stop—
Then laugh till we drop.
Oh, we are the cream
Of the Sixties’ crop!

And afterwards I dream of dancing seas,
Of dancing barefoot on my mother’s knees.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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