Blogging for Dear Life

Driven out by war, forced marriage, famine, political and physical oppression, the migrants of the Mediterranean have slipped from view: not only beneath the waves, but also from news headlines. Numbers of those who died in their attempt to make the perilous crossing reached over 5,000 during 2016 alone. But the disaster and the horror go on; already, at the time of writing (August 1st, 2017), the number stands above 2,380 for this year.

Many NGOs are working hard and with broad financial support to rescue and help the refugees. It’s not hard to name them: the Red Cross, Caritas International, Christian Aid, UNICEF, CAFOD, Oxfam, CTBI…I am bound to have missed many. But will such interventions be enough? I have no answers, for sure; yet when I stop to think about what’s happening, I have to do something.

This poem, “Not Walking on Water”, is one of the somethings I’m trying to do. Last year I read about the Sicilian carpenter Francesco Tuccio and was struck by how one small person doing one small thing could change so much in a wide and watery landscape, as well as in the interior landscape of the many who are contributing practically and financially to relief work in the Mediterranean.

Not Walking on Water                                        © Lizzie Ballagher

Because they could not walk on salty water,

The Mediterranean drank them in hundreds.

Then swallowed hard. Few

Survived.

Print truth:

Sharp death.

 

Because they could not walk on salty water,

They drank the Mediterranean in hundreds

And drowned in the dark.

They died.

Blunt truth:

Stark bed—

 

And all because of greedy men

In leaky fishing boats,

In dinghies with outboard motors,

Who abandoned them on salty water,

Turned away, their ruthless pockets filled with money—

Or sailed by on the other side.

 

Yet there was a carpenter,

A plain man in Lampedusa,

Francesco Tuccio, who, walking the beach,

Found washed-up driftwood—

Flaking-paint flotsam of a thousand vessels—

Timbers of the boats that sank.

 

Weeping, he took and fashioned some of them

Into a battered cross of welcome, of hope for migrants:

Not nicely planed but bashed together,

Rough wood,

Unvarnished—

Grave truth.

 

Rugged, the Lampedusa Cross stands sentinel

Now in a wealthy capital, where weeping pilgrims

Keep on coming: to see not jewel-decked marquetry

But coarse-grained carpentry; to fall to their knees on the gallery floor—

Even as migrants keep on coming in their leaky boats

And fall to their knees on Italy’s shore.

 

By good grace Francesco makes more crosses,

Their lamps of anguish flashing across our benighted continent.

Let them teach us to show more mercy,

Teach us to offer at the very least a cup of sweet water.

These crosses: surely they will drive some nails of pity into us,

Shine some splinters, shafts of light into our darkness.

 

Oh, blunt yet sharp-toothed truth:

The heartless death of brothers and sisters—

Even as all of us are drowning.                                  © Lizzie Ballagher

This image of Francesco Tuccio’s Lampedusa Cross is © Trustees of the British Museum only.

This image of Francesco Tuccio’s Lampedusa Cross is © Trustees of the British Museum only.

 

Advertisements

More on Music & Poetry

For those who love music AND poetry, please paste into your browser the link below to be taken straight to a recording by Amemptos Music Limited of Simon Mold’s  piece “Chaconne for the Fallen”…which is also my poem “Merciless Day”. Simon’s work has earned him the accolade of Composer of the Month for the Central Composers Alliance. Now enjoy a few minutes’ thoughtful music that expresses a longing and hope for peace.

http://www.composersalliance.com/composers/work.cfm?work=1390

A Treble's Voice amendedartwork

Music and Poetry!

A Treble's Voice amendedartwork

Merciless Day

 

The world wakes with a chip on its shoulder –

Reluctantly. Too chill, too soon

Between cold clouds the stars grow colder.

By the light of a cruel, one-eyed moon

 

The iced ribbon of road runs into the sky,

As merciless day cracks open:

A grudging window of heavy-lidded grey.

Now soft night shatters; sleep is broken.

 

Rooted in earth, black trees stand, darkly

Bearing the weight of recrucified Christ.

Suspended from stars, stiff branches hang starkly

On thousands of Calvaries where soldiers have diced,

 

On thousands of mountains where troop tanks have rolled,

In thousands of valleys where armies have moved

To thousands of Bethlehems where peasants untold

Have given up first-born and babes they have loved.

 

Kyrie eleison! O, deliver the war-torn.

Christe eleison!

O when will be your true morn?

Kyrie eleison!

O bring us your new dawn.

© Lizzie Ballagher

This poem has been set to music by composer Simon Mold as part of a 100th anniversary World War 1 commemorative requiem mass. It was performed in various UK venues in 2014 and in 2015 and is now recorded by Amemptos Music Ltd

http://www.amemptosmusic.co.uk/ourstandard.asp?pageid=82

on the album A Treble’s Voice sung by Oliver Barton.

Appeal for the Aged

In the West, many people (including some in the media) seem to delight in denigrating old people. That makes me sad, and not just because I’m more than 65 myself.

 In “The Blackthorn Speaks”, published this week on the back of Far East Magazine, I’m appealing for a more merciful view of the aged. Looking at blackthorn trees near home in England, and remembering many more in Ireland, I wrote this poem some years ago and have copied it here for you now.

blackthorn speaks

Thanks to the Columbans for the beautiful photography.

 

Advent – an underestimated season?

In spite of the gloomy northern weather that usually plagues December, I like this time of year: not just because Christmas is around the corner, but for its own sake. Advent makes me stop and take stock of where I’m heading and why; who’s going along the journey with me and why. I love getting those unexpected phonecalls from cousins and friends far away (New Zealand, Boston, Somerset, Melbourne…); I love the electronic and card greetings from people who’ve taken time to acknowledge that I might matter to them as much as they matter to me.

 So here’s a poem I wrote a while ago to celebrate this unique, wonderful time of year. It appeared this month on the back of Far East magazine. Christmas poems will follow…at Christmas!

Advent poem

© Lizzie Ballagher