The Blackthorn Speaks

In spite of what some people seem to think, there is no such person as one with nothing to offer to human society. All of us have strengths, and all of us manifest weaknesses. That thought prompts me to repost this poem, which, despite its title and the pretty photo, obviously isn’t just about trees.

The Blackthorn Speaks

Before you lift the shaft
Of your bright blade on the bare bones of my black bark;
Before you come with the craft and crack
Of that cruel axe;
Before you take the cold-hearted hack
Of cheerless haste to chop me down—

Stop. Hold, & heed:

My roots run deep & steep.
Their old fingers, scrabbling & scratching, find treasures
In the filth, redeeming soot & soil
For lustrous pearls of blue-black sloes.
O, bitter they may be; while my spines
Stab out the scarlet sap of your dear blood—

Still. Show mercy:

Let me bloom among the greenwood trees
Another spring, another & another.
Let me unfold from twisted twigs the starry spray—
The foam & spume, white-frothed—of perfect flowers
To crown your head, your brow, though
Gathered, garlanded on such imperfect boughs.

Stand. Do your worst:

Cut my broken branches, if you must,
But let me long outlive you;
For you will surely turn as knotted, contorted, stunted as I,
Yet full of sweetness in the honeyed heartwood;
So shall I grow to be the prop of your old age,
A thorny shillelagh, if you will—

Stay. I, ancient blackthorn,
Plead for my life.

© Lizzie Ballagher


Angels and Strangers

Sometimes it’s the small acts of kindness that keep you going. This was true for us recently on one of England’s hot days (rare so far this year), when a young couple at the sign of the Hoodener’s Horse in Great Chart – a small village deep in Kent – shared their hospitality with us.

Angels & Strangers

Knotted, footsore, eyes gritty with greensand,
Mouths parched as shattered pot-shards,
We tread the weary pilgrim track, eyes reaching
For the bastion of the box-towered church:
For sanctuary stalwart on the horizon.

And then along that ancient path we come
To a welcome watering hole.

No beasts are here, but a young pair
With quiet, clear eyes and kind hands:
Cake freely brought, coffee bought: both served
With smiles & stories at a wooden table top
Under the swinging sign of The Hoodener’s Horse:

Rare resting place for thirsty souls
Past the bend of bridge & brook & village high-road.

Written with thanks to the staff at The Hoodener’s Horse, Great Chart, Kent

© Lizzie Ballagher2015-05-04 09.54.06