Iceland’s Gullfoss

Iceland (during the week of the midnight sun) has won my heart. There was bound to be a poem…this time about Iceland’s Golden Falls (in Icelandic, Gullfoss).

Gullfoss

Rain drives into my face horizontally,
plasters my hair to my head,
bounces back to drench
ankles, shoes:
rain from sky, from earth, and more rain
(as if water were needed
when the cataract of thunderous Gullfoss
rushes,
gushes,
surges thick      and in a roar).

Before I reach the scarp-staired falls
on surreal, nightmare flights of wooden steps
I am soaked
silenced
newly alive…

Water curls, rolls up, around and over,
veils all in gossamer,
in gauze and the haze
of water-mist, then,
magnificent,

drops.

© Lizzie Ballagher

Image © Lizzie Ballagher

 

 

 

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One Woman’s Daily Commute

For five years I made a daily round trip from mainland Kent to the Isle of Sheppey, in those days accessible only via a small, narrow,  vertical-lift bridge. I loved the long views across the marshes as I travelled, as well as the bird life I saw each day.

Island Run

Dawn:
Sun slices open like a bloody orange.
Marsh mirrors flash mischief
(A little Indian magic)
To ward away the sky’s so evil eye.
Beside them, the long, dark finger of the train
Unpicks the stitching of the railway line;
Beyond, pylons pierce and thread that sky
And great cranes cut its calico,
Scissoring coldly through the cloth,
Ripping through the motley rags of clouds
To part the heavy fabric of the day.

Dusk:
Muscovy and moorhen tack their way
Through roosting reed-beds homewards.
An overweight old moon is gathered
Into the new moon’s hammocked arms.
Motorists, tyred and tired, drag hems of smoke behind them
While long white chimney fingers quilt
Cotton wool on cambric blue; and mist uncoils
Like dragon appliqués from hill and water
Until . . . fog shrouds and silences all.
Then seagulls swoop and loop embroidery
To mend the rending tear of worn-out day.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Skipping Stones

Does this childhood memory of skimming stones ring any bells with you? Growing up near the North Sea, I often watched as my father skimmed stones over water. A marine engineer by trade, he taught me about Barnes Wallis, the much more famous marine engineer whose invention of the  bouncing bomb made such a contribution to Allied efforts in World War II.

 

With a flick of wrist & finger, my father—

Ankle deep in shallows or in shingle—

Sent those round, flat pebbles

 

Bouncing, scudding, skimming, skipping

Over the waves’ grey curls and ribbons,

Over their fleece-washed foam and crashing combs

 

While I—well, all I could do was stand

Marooned on sand, marvelling at his skill;

Or play at hopscotch on the sea-wall.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

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A little light in darkness

In all the years of walking beside water, I’ve never managed to capture a swan on camera. Does this poem do the trick?

By Black Waterside (on Romney Marshes)

Clouds lower, doubled in still water. Above,
Beneath, an iron-clad heron leaves its feasting ground,
Flaps skyward, neck retracted, clanking. Fierce
Yellow eyes, yellow beak pierce the predatory wind.

Pattering madly in the mud, its shy white egret
Cousin searches for a fishy morsel then, hearing us,
Takes to immaculate wings. How
Such perfection’s born of river slime, who knows.

Where water brims, grasses stir, rushes skirr
To the ripple of wind’s fingers, to the whisper of wave rings
Flung wildly: marsh and air and water linked—
As wedded as the bride and bridegroom swans.

Swans! Now silkweed parts, and under a lazy sun
Bending to horizontal in stark November light
Great birds sail, murmur and whistle; stretch pale necks
Like candlefire into the dark, inverted arcs

Of gothic lancets formed of sedge and reed.
Just so … swans’ down blows down, snows down.
Curls, swirls of feathers rest, nest and turn on brown silt banks.
By black waterside, swans flex white wings like seraphim.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Even a hill path has to start near a beach!

Walking the South Downs Way (and we’re half way along it) has been at once demanding and full of surprises. The start of the walk, at the foot of Beachy Head’s great white chalk cliffs, is no exception.

Please have a look at the Christmas post from the South Downs Way trail manager’s blog, including the poem “Beach Book, Bird Book”:

http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/south-downs-way/blog/christmas-coming

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Ashdown Autumn

Earth:
Pleat after crease of hillside and heath blends
Into the long indigo distance
Where earth becomes

Air:
Coil after curl of cumulus & cirrus ascends
Into the fleece-frothing emptiness
Where air becomes

Water:
Drop after drip of rainsquall & dewfall descends
Into the cloud-shadowed wilderness
Where water becomes

Earth
Becomes air
Becomes water, yet still
No radiant heat until

In the forge of the forest
Brawny-limbed blacksmith beeches
Strike out sparks & kindle flames
On autumn’s fearsome anvil:

Fire!

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Submerged

I am floundering under

water
shoals of deep-down fear
rising subterranean nightmares
the weightiness of endless work
books & the reading of many books
papers & the writing of many leaden papers:
the gravity of muddles

but I am drowning, too, in

slabs of buttered sunlight
lark-flights of soaring joy
the mood & magic of wild dreams
waves of unexpected, bright imaginings
the unrolling of a spool of story like a silken thread stretching & spinning from my mind
the blossoming of poems in my head:
creation turning chaos into craft

that springs up like a sapling birch-tree
under beaming logs of light &
under western rains where still I may
follow gleaming unnamed paths
into the untamed
wilderness  &
lose myself:

submerged.

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