Memories Without Words

Before Words

Before there were words,

Before trees & flowers & birds

Had names

And under morning’s first holy light,

I played below juniper trees

In dry brown dust where no rain fell.

 

Then scrambled out

To where my mother bent, planting lupins

In the fine damp loam

A rake’s length away:

Lupin leaves studded with rain beads

At their hearts.

 

I had no words, no names

For the soft rosettes of leaves

Or the junipers’ incense:

Just the wonder of diamonds on greenness,

With trees’ fronds brushing my face—

The heaven of their scent floating round me.

 

Some say

We have no memory

Until we have vocabulary.

And yet, a mystery:

Before words,

I do remember.

 

© Words, Lizzie Ballagher.  Images: with thanks to Pinterest.

Lupins found in a cultivated bed in Tekoa, Washington

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The tricky business of finding a (print) publisher

No craft is learned quickly.

Old wisdom declares that it’s an insipid thing that falls into place too easily. All the same, I still hope (growing greyer by the week) to find a publisher one day for my poems. Meanwhile, I just keep writing. To the select band of followers of this blog: thank you for your encouragement, wheresoever you may be!

Even So

Like a wren without its mate

Singing against the darkness of a late spring dawn

And trusting that another bird may hear,

may yet reply;

 

Or like a wife on the harbour wall alone,

Yearning for a shadow on the summer sea,

Who waits in weary hope for the fisherman’s return:

For the curved white bow of his sail,

the heave and haul of silver darlings;

 

Or like a thirsty, burnt-out farmer

Squinting at the ruthless sky to spy

A speck or fleecy strand of cloud

Promising longed-for rain—autumn’s relief

Over wilted wheat & drooping barley,

over shrivelled yields & pod-cracked fields;

 

Or like that old beloved chestnut mare

They kept for kindness’ sake,

Believing she was barren,

Who wickers for joy at the winter hay-net,

Nudging twin colts as they nuzzle her:

The first soft-eyed foals on stilted legs

she ever bore.

 

So, even so, I set these poems before you.

 

And while only the frailest faith survives:

that a pair will be born to a barren mare,

that drying grain will know sweet rain,

that love will burn on a seafarer’s return,

that—like the music of all the love-lorn

in the greenwood’s darkest springtime morn—

these poems may take wings and fly,

I shall continue writing by and by.

Words and image © Lizzie Ballagher

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Nine Days – Day Four

“Make do and mend” was a favourite saying of my parents and others in Britain who lived through World War 2. The ingrained attitude meant that in my teen years I spent many hours in a sort of darning purgatory. So I feel nothing but dismay as I review the darning paraphernalia that was left in our family sewing box. Yes, I can still “mend hosiery” (as the cards used to say so quaintly), but it will certainly never be a favourite occupation. Give me a poem to mend any time!

 

My Mother’s Book of Hours: Novena

IV

From just below the open lids

A humble darning-mushroom surfaces—

Rough-scuffed by all the years of cloth stretched

Over it by Granny, Mum & me (& now perhaps by you)

And scratched by needles flashing in & out

Tugging miles of Mending Thread for Hosiery

Unreeling yarn from those quaint darning cards

That no one uses in this century.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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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

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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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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