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!
Before you lift the shaft
Of your bright blade on the bare bones of my black bark;
Before you come with the craft and crack
Of that cruel axe;
Before you take the cold-hearted hack
Of cheerless haste to chop me down—
Stop. Hold, & heed:
My roots run deep & steep.
Their old fingers, scrabbling & scratching, find treasures
In the filth, redeeming soot & soil
For lustrous pearls of blue-black sloes.
O, bitter they may be; while my spines
Stab out the scarlet sap of your dear blood—
Still. Show mercy:
Let me bloom among the greenwood trees
Another spring, another & another.
Let me unfold from twisted twigs the starry spray—
The foam & spume, white-frothed—of perfect flowers
To crown your head, your brow, though
Gathered, garlanded on such imperfect boughs.
Stand. Do your worst:
Cut my broken branches, if you must,
But let me long outlive you;
For you will surely turn as knotted, contorted, stunted as I,
Yet full of sweetness in the honeyed heartwood;
So shall I grow to be the prop of your old age,
A thorny shillelagh, if you will—
Stay. I, ancient blackthorn,
Plead for my life.
© Lizzie Ballagher, 2013
The Blackthorn Trust in Maidstone, UK, is a charity which offers medical care, specialist therapies and rehabilitation through work placements in the Blackthorn Garden. The Trust offers help to people with mental or physical health difficulties or learning disabilities.