Another New Year: the mystery of future time

How can we know what’s ahead in 2017, or indeed in any year? We can’t, but time (the enemy, as some call it) can also be merciful. As I approach the mystery of another new year, I do so as much with hope and comfort as with doubt.

Of Time & Tide: fourth in a series of new posts: here’s another Reculver poem for the first day of January. May the fog lift to bring hopeful, joyful and peaceful days!

IV        Sea Fog                    1805 – 1945 AD

 

Bound for oblivion,

Walls crack, heave up, subside, give way.

Tower windows widen like vacant eyes—

No one now watching the derelict Wantsum—

Just shafts of sky above the boiling tide.

 

Today’s towers stand, though broken,

As tokens & signs for sailors & airmen.

Two thousand winters of history,

Two thousand cloaks of summer weeds

Settle like sea fog over the ruins.

 

Words and image copyright © Lizzie Ballagher

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Nine Days – Day Seven

Unravelling muddles isn’t always good, and sometimes the memories are as sharp as the hat-pins of a previous blog. Equally, though, there are corners full of colour and joyful remembrance…

My Mother’s Book of Hours: Novena

VII

This box, I tell you—with all its forlorn jumble-jangle of bright stuff,

Its tangled pick-up-sticks of hooks & needles,

Of buckles & bangles & dancing-skirt spangles,

Of patchwork pieces—is all yours now.

No longer shall I calculate with frayed measuring tape

(It lies, for sure);

Or cut with rusting shears,

Or mend with reels or spools or bobbins

From this box.

No longer shall I read my mother’s Book of Hours—

This needlebook bibled in downy blue felt.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Resurrection Sunday – Joyful Easter!

This is the last in a 15-poem sequence I wrote for the Via Crucis or Way of the Cross – a meditation on the events that led up to the joyful morning of the first Easter Day. I hope I’ve captured the joy of the Resurrection. A happy Easter to all who follow this blog, and may joy and hope come to those longing for change and new life.

XV JESUS RESURREXIT SICUT DIXIT –
JESUS HAS RISEN AS HE PROMISED

After the long shadows of a darkened Friday,
After the sorrows of a Sabbath tasting of bitter herbs,
Now leonine light bursts out roaring in a blaze of untamed joy,
In the brazen fire of angels trumpeting over the empty tomb:
For Christ the Lion of Judah has arisen from the gloom.

Proclaim it now across the blank,
Closed rooftops of Jerusalem; shout it now
Over the whitening wheat-fields past the town:
Dry river beds all dusty now shall run with rippling streams;
Young folk shall see visions, old folk dream great dreams.

The grain that the sower planted has sprung up for the harvest;
The bread they broke on Calvary has fed all hungry, humble mouths.
Olives bud to life; once withered branches now grow fruit.
The barren shall bear their babes at last; the Shepherd
Shall find his sheep. The weak—the lame—shall walk and leap.

Our Father’s voice: the deaf shall hear it now unsealed.
Those with deep wounds, with blood congealed,
Those who are frail—all shall be healed.
The tongue of the dumb shall loudly praise him.
For Jesus our Lord from death shall raise them.

Shout it loud across the rooftops of Jerusalem;
Proclaim it over the whitening wheat-fields past the town:
The promise he wrote on our broken hearts,
The promise he made on our inmost parts:
This new-made Covenant—now, even now it starts!

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Landscape’s Memory

Recently it’s struck me that human beings and animals aren’t the only ones with a memory. If there can be such a thing as inorganic memories, then surely some landscapes are proof that there’s a kind of memory in stone, shale, sand, and even soil… though perhaps not! Still, at least the scientists, seismologists and climatologists who dig into the earth’s crust to make sense of the past can read a marvellous sort of archive that serves a similar function. I find it consoling to think that when we’re all, as the song says, “dust in the wind”, there will remain parts of us in the composition of the earth that now we walk on.

Memory  

Somewhere in the hemispheres’ tight folds,
In the cavernous enormity of inner space:
Certainty, bedrock.

Above it, a warm inland sea,
Uncharted reefs, shoals shifting in unseen currents stoked
By the blazing core;
And over these again, the stratigraphic record
Of shale & soil. And of sacred soul—
Lost foot- and fingerprints, frond and feather-prints,
Fossils ossified, lithified in the lowest ledge, all hidden
Under drifting dunes, dissolving marl; the scoured sandstone
Of inner deserts, abandoned coastal plains;
All hidden under mountain ranges worn
To dusty stubs by time & tide & tempest.

A heave of memory
And the earth churns up, turns over:
Lifts, tilts, dips, jack-knifes, splits, is cloven
Until my spirit quakes.
But springs, lagoons soak through;
The subterranean groundwaters of joy
Bubble out, well up
Carving channels & runnels for light,
For comprehension of the unfathomable
Chaotic & uninhabitable world
Of what is past.

Here the level ribbon of time
Is rinsed & crimped, furled & unfurled,
Pulsed, pushed, hurled
As life’s pyroclastic flow sheds out,
Spreads out another layer
And another & another.
All strands & faults are weighed
Down, pressed down: overflowing
Far beyond a full measure
Where vaults & galleries echoed once
With emptiness.

Still, deep below the landscape long grassed over,
Somewhere in the hemispheres’ tight folds:
Steadfast bedrock.

© 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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A Happy Easter holiday to all who follow this blog!

Belief that a man rose from death doesn’t come easily. In the poem that follows I try to chart my own spiritual journey to the place that is Easter.

A Doubter’s Creed

Why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d meet a keen-eyed king
Come to redeem his people
After all the years of prophecy & promise.
Instead I saw an infant in an ass’s stall
And cows lowing piteously over a starlit manger
Where yet there was no grain,
No corn, no sweet green summer grass,
But only a weeping newborn boy
And his quiet mother in a dusty cloak,

Her womb suddenly empty of her child.

Why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d greet a loyal lord
Riding in triumph over festal palms
Where massing crowds would bay for him.
Instead I saw a broken hillside
Naked as a dead man’s skull; soldiers dicing
And three men crucified, one bloodied
With a crown of thorns. ‘Jesu, King of the Jews,’
The mocking sign above him read.
And, later, a cave-pocked place they called

His tomb—suddenly empty of his body.

Why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d hail a ravening ruler
With resolute arm upraised in battle:
With two-edged sword to smite them left & right.
Instead they led me to a back-street house
Where cowering men & weary women
Met secretly for breaking bread,
For dipping bitter herbs & sharing wine;
And where that quiet woman sat with them,
Woebegone, still in her pilgrim cloak,

The room suddenly empty of the man they loved.

So why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d see the kingdom come.
I see no cunning kings.
I see no lordly leaders.
I see no raging rulers.
Instead I hear a voice that bids me
Put my hand into his side
And touch the nail-wounds in his bloody palms.
He lives! this Son of Man.
He lives! the King of Heaven.

Filled suddenly with grace, I cry, ‘My Lord. My God!’

© Lizzie Ballagher

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May peace and joy be yours this Christmas

I know I’m not alone in finding winter a difficult time of year. But when I look closely at what’s around us, I feel hope for what’s to come.

No Death in Winter

Whoever says these trees are dead
Come here, and see upon the brown
The small bud swelling.

And you, who say the birds have gone,
Stand still, and hear the thrushes’ song,
The wild birds’ calling.

Who says the frost will kill and chill?
Who says the ice has drawn its dagger?
Who says the wind will pierce the seed?

I say that sun will come again,
That melted ice will feed the seed,
That warming winds will draw the shoot,

That bud will break; that green will grow,
That flower unfurl—for winter shall conceive the spring.
© Lizzie Ballagher

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