Another memory – of my grandmother’s house

My grandmother lived during most of my childhood in East Sussex, southern England. We often visited her for a few days in her old cottage (which, sadly, is no longer standing); and in this poem I recall one of the memories I have of her house.

Pantry

On the north side of Granny’s house

A timbered door was always shut,

Wrought iron latch dropped neatly in its heavy catch.

 

The silent message was loudly eloquent:

Do not enter. But we had to know

Its mysteries, the marvels beyond that threshold.

 

So when her back was turned

We crept along the polished passageway

Treading softly as we could, barefoot,

 

Then two stone steps down

To the icy dimness of quarry tiles

And piles and banks and ranks

 

Of jellies and jams, hams and jars of Seville marmalade

All tightly sealed with wax, perhaps

Beside a loaf of new-baked bread or dome of cheese—

 

Don’t let the mice in please

 

All just barely visible in fitful light

That filtered through the wire-mesh fly-screen

Over a granite slab

 

Where, sometimes, in spite of Granny’s

Industrious housewifery, tidy domesticity,

The summer rain came slanting in.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Doorway of Dreams

Joyous family weddings four years in a row now have caused me to reflect about weddings – hence this poem (due to appear in a Poetry Space publication in 2017). All the romance, the flowers, the colour, the smiles, the music: all are just a prelude to the new world on the far side of the door into the wedding ceremony.

Doorway of Dreams

In one over-heated room,

Everything’s been thought of:

Even perfectly matched socks in rows

(For once no holes in toes)

That his brothers and his friends will wear.

All, all are redolent of roses.

 

The trembling fingers of the groom

Reach for the blushing roses’ sweetness:

The wrapped, enfolded buttonhole.

Deeply breathing, he steadies himself.

 

While in another room, and up another stair

Where a fan shifts warm air

And voile curtains lift and stir,

A mother weaves bright buttercups—

Ranunculus asiasticus

Through her daughter’s glossy hair.

 

The bride is trembling, blushing, too.

She knows she’s found her perfect match.

So, reaching for a rose,

Deeply breathing, she readies herself.

 

Around both upper rooms music breaks

In waves, foams, creams

In the whorled shells

Of their hushed and listening ears.

The love-song they have chosen swells,

Calls them to the doorway of their dreams.

© words and image Lizzie Ballagher

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Nine Days – Day Two

You can read the first part of this nine-day poem on a post made yesterday. I hope you will enjoy this entire series.

My Mother’s Book of Hours: Novena

II

From the first drawer we pluck out a little basket, full

Of buttons, beads & even dried-out melon seeds.

I treasure still those bracelets that you made for me,

While Mum, it seems, kept samples of the tatty trinkets

Allison & I created out of seeds

Then painted with our poster paints

In lurid pinks & purples.

 

(c) Lizzie Ballagher

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Nine Days

My mother was no more enthusiastic about sewing than I am, but she sewed well and encouraged me to learn from her. It’s only now that she’s not around any more to support and advise that I appreciate just how knowledgeable she was, and just how many hours she spent each week sewing because – in a time of scarcity – there was no choice but to sew one’s own clothes and furnishings…and mend them, too.

Over nine days, I’ll be publishing short extracts from a new nine-part poem. It begins here.

My Mother’s Book of Hours: Novena

I

Double beech-wood covers yawn wide as a cathedral bible

To yield their treasures,

And suddenly we’re unearthing from the sewing box

The scriptures of our family history—

Here, in all their muddled glory.

(c) Lizzie Ballagher

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