Boston’s Freedom Trail

Even I Revere the Freedom Trail          

Here I am on the eve of July Fourth—

Yes, that Stars & Stripes Forever day—

But the irony’s not lost on me:

A Brit walking Boston’s Freedom Trail.

Thinly the path of red bricks going two by two

Like a column of starved colonial infantrymen

 

Frog-marches me past churches & graveyards

Where men fought & died—from the gold-leaf dome,

Past that bronze beast bearing Revere, the coppersmith

Riding to warn when two lanterns swung high,

Swung high in the loft of Old North Church,

That our Georgian forebears were coming—

 

Marches me past cold-hearted cobbles

Commemorating the massacre of foolhardy youth,

To the Revere-plated hulk rebelliously hunched

In dry dock, the one they named ‘Ironsides’

When shocked British cannonballs

Bounced back, bounced back off the metal hull—

 

Ensnares me, tugs me

All the city miles it snakes its way,

Makes its way—although, whisper it,

I am shamed by ugly history…

However, still I bounce back,

Bounce back through time’s twisting mystery

 

And I’m a mother now to young Americans—

More: a grandmother, too. My line

Of British sight, of independent British fight

Streaks up with a flare of firework sparks

Bursting in free American air in stripes & stars

Over the city the following night.

 

My life, my line, my freedom staked upon it,

Here: I sign my John Hancock.

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Roots

I’m guessing many followers of this blog have felt, at least once, that strange sense of belonging in a particular place—usually without fully understanding why. It’s a curious sensation, one I’ve revisited recently in this new poem: “Roots”.

Before long buried great-grandmothers knew to count the years,
We here took root. I know it in my bones
As I rustle over hawthorn leaves’ brown layers,
Or over opalescent beads of churchyard snowdrops,
Or as I roam across the uplands’ sky-flecked flint,
The clifftops & the chalk-striped fields of home.

From burnt-out stars, my dust, my DNA, my ashes—
All are here: the past, the present & the yet-to-come
In future generations’ tales already traced
And tracked on winding trails where, deep below,
Our roots run long & strong beneath the downs;
For miles—millennia & miles—they mine these hills.

From trunks, from tibias they spread their metatarsals
Drawing water from the pools & wells of rain,
From springs in folded clay & shale beds.
Their dry roots tangle, cleave & cling; turn & twine;
Drive fibrous fingers, thin phalanges in
Through waves and weaves of moss-stained greensand.

I feel the pulse and push of heart & foot,
The thrum of sap, the throb of blood,
The rise of hope without the reasons
While lives deep-rooted round me grow,
While trees green-shooted round me know
The stream & surge of changing seasons.

© Lizzie Ballagher

2015-01-27 11.43.44  2015-01-25 13.56.25