Summer on the South Downs

We’re about to set out on more summer walks along the ridge of the South Downs Way – probably in the rain! Today, though, the sun is baking most of southern England.

 

Grasslands

Before these fields turn yellow as a Van Gogh reverie,
Before those rooks descend and cast
Dark shadows squawking on the grain,
Stand here & watch the meadows grow:
The longed-for greening of the naked ground.

Before the harvester rolls down with sharpened shears,
See arrowed spears dart up—
Fescue & timothy in chalk & loam;
See blade tips bristle, soft as painters’ brushes,
A watercolour haze on fallow-field horizons:
Tufted, wafted, wavy in the mill-wheel of the wind;
Brush-stroked with milky strands of corn-silk,
Sap-streaked, gingered with bees, rain-washed—
A veil of sprouts & stalks (& later seed-heads)
Rising, cresting in a tide, a sea of green.

And afterwards, look! Grasses are studded
With thistle & poppy, spectrum-ends flashing
Violet, scarlet in the blaze of August’s arc-lamp:
Pixel-thin stems stripe an Impressionist landscape,
Luminous with absinthe light on grasslands’ stretching canvas.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Spring is nearly here!

Spring Comes to the Island

At the parting of the choking seas,
Between the banking up of alien blooms,
The chariots of philistines
Rage and roar and ride across
As a raw wind stipples the water,
As a blue wind ripples the rape–
And their blinding road is frilled
With foaming flowers.

Those rape fields slash and burn the innocent countryside
With streaks
Of oily yellow:
A gallery of violent Van Gogh canvases,
A brainstorm of suicidal painters,
And the live earth smokes and smolders

While a sharp hawk shoulders
That wind, menacing
The feathered sky,
The bright-eyed, whiskered ground–
Then swoops
Plumb straight
To snatch
A little pollen-dusted vole.

© Lizzie Ballagher

Oil-seed rape may not be everyone’s favourite crop, but after the greys of winter, how wonderful to see the light of spring reflected in the colours of the landscape.

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Night and Stars

Antiphon

Through the ringing dark,
Shivering stars rain down
Arrows, dazzling showers of silver
To turn the steep night white.

Genuflecting in obeisance to those higher lights,
Small solar lamps, garden bling,
Flicker, dwindle, fade to silence
Beside the benighted lawn.

Breathless shadows blacken, lengthen
In the answering bleach of frost.

Over us, rising from the deep,
A chalk-sailed galleon—
Ghost-ship of the spectral moon—
Looms soundless, mute.

It leaves a white lace wake,
A fleece and glaze of hoarfrost
Across the grieving grass.
Midnight. Moonlight. Earthlight.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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