The dizzy taste of fresh blackcurrants

Just recently I’ve received the happy news that Poetry Space’s Summer Showcase will be featuring the poem shown below. Here, after a walk through currant fields just last summer, I recall the happy experience of growing up on a blackcurrant farm in Norfolk.


I hold the weight of light upon my palms:

Sprays and strands of wine-dark pearls strung

Perfectly from alchemy of rain & sun,

The pulse of summer’s hot & running blood

Shining, clotting on my fingers.


The heat of August sweetens, stains my hands

With fragrant orbs: purple, jewel-like (however small).


For now, I am summer’s queen again,

High on the handle-bar, riding aloft

Between rows & ripened rows of blackcurrants

On my father’s rotovator: around me the whiff

Of petrol & oil, the comfortable putt-putt

Of the churning motor as it chugs & chews

Through weeds & trampled ground.


With grubby hands I grab for currants,

Snatch at the light between the leaves.


Both escape my clutching fingers.

The dapple & ripple of green-starred growth

Flickers, skitters between them with nothing left

But the crimson smear of juice upon my skin:

The dazzling, fizzing, dizzy taste of fresh blackcurrants.


© Lizzie Ballagher

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The might of the little

In a January storm two years ago (and I take heart from this now that colder weather returns to the northern hemisphere) I heard a wren burst into such loud song that her voice drowned even the roaring wind. And now, happily, this poem was one of two chosen by poet John Siddique as one of those commended in the 2015 Poetry Space national poetry competition.

Storm Wren

Over the whinnying, plunging wind,

The frantic strain of sycamores bent double in anxiety;

Over the thundering train of cloud-carriages

Blundering eastwards in the blast;

Over the heaving spines of conifers uprooted in a tyrant gale,


One small dun wren

Opens her tight brown beak

And with a clear cathedral voice cleaves,

Breaks the blackened heart

Of this relentless western storm:


A shout to crack

The feeble egg-shell

Of the watery world—

Soaring, rolling notes, a mere breathful—to tip

The whirlwind off its antic axis.


Sing, wren, sing!

And let angels, larks & nightingales

Take notes.


© Lizzie Ballagher

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Dancing Day Two

A sad poem today, but watch this space (and Poetry Space‘s Facebook page!) for brighter days to follow. This is the second of five poems featuring a lifetime of dancing days.

Primary School Dancer

“Kiss chase!” “Do that for a dare! Go on—you’ve got to!”
“I’ll tell on you! Tell on you. On you. You.”
I can’t keep up with all the threats, the shouts, the playground promises,
The whispered secrets by the crate of milk-bottle empties,
The pushing, jostling, joking round the dinner ladies.

Shy, I stand quite still unknotting my sister’s skipping rope.
Ball-bearings rattle in the handles, wink & spark their silver mockery.
Conspiracy! I, the one dancer, brush the tears away & count:
Skipping, singing the rhymes, the nonsense words that break no bones
And do not hurt like sticks & stones.

© Lizzie Ballagher

skipping rope grayscale


Motherhood: perhaps not a commonly used word now, but beloved, nevertheless. Because most of my work is about inner and outer landscapes, poems which my children might read when they grew up have rarely come to mind. “The Cry of Birds” (below) is, however, one such. Recently chosen for Poetry Space’s 2015 spring showcase, this poem was in fact written for my daughter over thirty years ago.

The Cry of Birds

I pause for a moment
Weary and still
In the first spring rain
That falls uncertainly on my hair.
The splash and spit and drip
Are all I hear
On this country grey March morning
That hangs thin mist in my eyes.

The child in my arms wakes
From uterine dreams; her eyes
Wondering and still seek mine to explain
The sweet, the shrill, the shriek:
The cry of birds in the rain.
Hush! Never before has my summer-born child
Heard birds sing
In spring rain.

© Lizzie Ballagher



Feast after famine, dew after drought

Sometimes it’s months between publications, and that has been the case from December last year until September this. Then, like buses (excuse all these exuberant metaphors), three come along at once. If you don’t know Poetry Space, the online community I discovered earlier this year, it’s worth a good look. They have featured my poem “Woods in Tapestry” in their Autumn Showcase. Meanwhile, “Tree Rings” (published on this blog not long ago) appears this month on the back of Far East magazine, and “The Blackthorn Speaks” in The Wait anthology. Exciting days!

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Woods in Tapestry – encouraging news

The poem below, written in 1993, has been chosen for its autumn showcase by Poetry Space. Click on the link below to read this and other autumn poems.

You taste the burning of sienna oaks,
The searing smoke of red-hot sumac leaves,
The sweet-and-sour, sharp-tongued chestnuts;
Saffron sycamores,
Turmeric trees
All spiced and smudging into autumn.
Today you taste the full earth dwindling down.

You hear the ringing of a million coins,
Shaking and spendthrift on a silver tree,
And the low weep of yellow-livered willows;
The march of mosses,
The slow seep of water through the stones
All soft and sifting into autumn.
Today you hear the rich earth dropping down.

You see the mass of layering cloud wads,
The turreting flock and fleece of them,
And the banked up brass of fearsome marigolds;
At the back-hand slap,
The black-edged snap of frost
All cruel and cutting into autumn,
Today you see the bright earth darkening down.

© Lizzie Ballagher