Grief and Hope

So many people face bereavement at this time of year, and in the past few months three friends or close family members of friends have died. Remembering them, both in giving thanks for their lives (two short and the other long), I am today sharing a poem I wrote two years ago. Perhaps this poem comforts only me; but so many light candles to reflect and remember, all over the world, that I hope this poem reaches out to others, as well.

Seven Candles

Light me a candle for sorrow:
For the one on a journey with no returning
And pennies on his eyes for the burying.

Light me a candle for tomorrow:
For the tug of longing & the loss of hope,
For the winds of war & the stuttering of prayer.

Light me a candle for blissful memories
In the darkest hours of night:
For sunlit colours & the laughter of friends.

Light me a candle for thankfulness:
For the holy moments of marrying,
For childbirth & the first faltering prayers of children.

Light me a candle for blessedness:
For bread & wine on a sacred table—
To stand & burn in beauty & in tenderness.

Light me a candle for gladness:
For a welcome at windows late in the evening,
For the hush & stillness of soft sleep.

Light me a candle for peace:
For the swansdown drift of dreams;
For the gift of Christ at Christmas,
And for His rising on Easter’s radiant morning.
Yes, light me a candle for the breath of day’s dawning.

The hiss of a flame, the flare of a spark
Will raise us soon against the dark.

Words and image © Lizzie Ballagher

 

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November: a time to reflect, a time to remember

Seven Candles

Light me a candle for sorrow:

For the one on a journey with no returning

And pennies on his eyes for the burying.

 

Light me a candle for tomorrow:

For the tug of longing & the loss of hope,

For the winds of war & the stuttering of prayer.

 

Light me a candle for blissful memories

In the darkest hours of night:

For sunlit colours & the laughter of friends.

 

Light me a candle for thankfulness:

For the holy moments of marrying,

For childbirth & the first faltering prayers of children.

 

Light me a candle for blessedness:

For bread & wine on a sacred table—

To stand & burn in beauty & in tenderness.

 

Light me a candle for gladness:

For a welcome at windows late in the evening,

For the hush & stillness of soft sleep.

 

Light me a candle for peace:

For the swansdown drift of dreams;

For the gift of Christ at Christmas,

And for His rising on Easter’s radiant morning.

Yes, light me a candle for the breath of day’s dawning.

 

The hiss of a flame, the flare of a spark

Will raise us soon against the dark.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher – words and image

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On the Margins

Read this as you will. Sometimes, walking along the side of a wide piece of land, I start thinking about as much about the metaphor of the path as about the path itself.

Hedges & Edges

We go ever on the margins:
On the dusky ways between dawn & day,
On the tracks between grieving and dancing,
On the paths between sunlight & starlight.

We travel along the wheat field’s edges:
Between burned-out grasses & ripened grain,
Between plough-blades’ brutal mastery & the distant
Good intentions of flooded ditch & broken gate.

We tread beside the beguiling bind & twine
Of wildflowers blowing in the hedgerow;
Under birdsong murmuring from bramble arches
And the babble of skylarks in clouds of barley.

We step beside hazel-wands bent, laid & woven
Into ancient hedge tapestries by men with cunning hands;
Beside the shrewder wisdoms of song-thrushes & wrens
That build their nests in secret twig-forks.

Always we walk on the margins, on the edges
Of doubt, despair & giddy exaltation—
Any time & every time we climb the steep, slow hills of hope
Above, beside, those sunlit starry hedges.

© Lizzie Ballagher

new hedge laid to hornbeam, hazel and birch nr Hothfield2015-05-25 13.10.26IMG_1045

Leaving Home

IMG_0022Morning moves like a lover:
Slow, and arching over.

Day comes grey as a dovewing,
Patient and soft as the breast
Of a thrush on its nest—
The beating down of birdwing.

No moon, no stars, no bite
Of winter yet in paling light,
But no, no mercy either
In this eastern earliness.

Now you breathe the rhythm of my dawn,
Skin damp on mine; close, warm;
But far away from us
A cold bird summons, calls,

And the veiled air curls,
White, already autumn chilled:
Deep clouds dip down, hang fullness.
The loud cock crows, cracks stillness.

Wet grasses rise to my face’s hollows;
Willow and elder stand beaded and bowed,
Damsoned and drooping
As I must leave you sleeping.

How morning breaks
My heart!

© Lizzie Ballagher

 

Willow in Yellow

Disabled tree: once
You stood at my gate, your boughs, near bare,
Dissecting the air,
Cross-hatching the sullen spring clouds
With runnels of rough bark, all
Water sculpted.

Disabled tree:
Your thinning leaves
Made Chinese characters on the parchment light:
Pale willow patterns on the white,
Shifting and weeping
In the chafing wind.

Disabled tree:
Only the ivy drew you;
And grey moths dusty as graphite,
And slow black mould, coldly
Inscribing final words
On vainly rising roots.

Disabled tree:
Your sap had stopped,
The well of your ink dried up.
Knotty, wild and old, you were,
Yet not so cunning as to gainsay the stinging sentence
Of blade and bow-saw.

Disabled tree: once
You stood at my gate.
How I lament the loss
Of your feathered brushstrokes on the sky.
Now I lament your loss
To green-singing leafy thrushes.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Although I Do Not Speak

Although I do not speak the language of trees,
Still, I hear them murmur their low rumours of sorrow,
Now that the storm’s at last gone past.

All around me, tall trees have toppled:
Trunks swung & hung in others’ arms;
Angled, tangled, switched vertical for horizontal.

Bursting gusts have stripped their bark
And flayed away the shelter of the woods:
Laid bare branch sinews, strings & strands.

Their roots have hauled up broken chalk, have heaved up
Flint, have made earth’s floor tremble with tender sympathy
While I, so young in trees’ time-reckoning,

Child without root, my feet as yet unplanted
In knee-deep bluebells, ran, swerved below
Branches that clawed the roaring sky in frenzy.

Still, now, I hear them keening:
Those lingering laments, the eulogies of sapling sons
Who mourn the bare, stark skeletons of woodland forebears;

Still, now, I hear them grieving
Long, long after the howling storm’s gone over…yes,
Although I do not speak the language of the trees.

© Lizzie Ballagher 2014

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