Japanese haiku for a Japanese banner

On a Japanese Banner: Four Haiku for the Samurai

like spring’s blasting gale:
strike against all walls to crack—
break—thick bulwarks down

like summer’s forest:
stand tall in tranquillity—
grow wise in calmness

like autumn’s tree-fire:
flame up—burn across the land—
devastate your foe

like winter mountains:
hold hard—all cloaked in snowfall—
stay firm in fastness

Words © Lizzie Ballagher.

Image: traditional hata sashimono (feudal war banner) as carried by Takeda Shingen in the sixteenth century

 

 

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Winter Again

We knew it was coming. Yes, it’s true, of course, that a foot of snow is nothing in Scandinavia or North America. Not so in southern England! The camellia tries in vain to blaze its pink from under snow, and it’s too cold to sit long at my desk; the snow shovel calls.

winter clamps its jaws
shuts, clenches, shivers between
chattering white teeth

Words and images © Lizzie Ballagher

 

February

Yes, February may be viewed as the start of spring in some cultures. And, yes, I am writing this post as snow blows in over the North Downs on a below-zero wind. Still, the thought of warmer days and brighter light keeps the winter blues at bay, even so long before the changing of the clocks. Hence this little poem.

Lemon Light                                                           

Day comes up full of willow buds

Yellow as yellowhammers

And dusts the path with daffodils,

With flaring saffron crocuses.

 

Between long cirrus clouds, citrus light shakes out

The splash & flash of goldfinch wings.

 

An early brimstone butterfly ascends

Creamy yellow on skeins of invisible updraft:

Away, it lifts away, drifts away

Over banks brimming with primroses.

 

And now on the morning of the springing clocks,

Here in this first week of a northern spring,

 

The flame has turned,

Sun’s fire has burned

From winter’s crimson plum

To spring’s bright lemon light.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

At the Turn of the Clock

Many countries in the northern hemisphere alter their clocks this weekend. While our cousins in Australasia, southern Asia and South America look forward to spring, we in the north know only too well what lies ahead. Time for another new haiku for you…

breathing nostalgia

we feel the year’s great wheel turn—

smell winter’s bonfire

Words & images © Lizzie Ballagher

Words & images © Lizzie Ballagher

 

Hello summer

For five years I drove to work daily over the old bridge to the Isle of Sheppey. I came to love the island’s wild beauty: its low-lying marshes that mirrored the enormous skies and gleaming light; and its open-hearted hospitality. My work began there in mid-winter and ended in mid-summer – hence the “hail and farewell” of this poem.

Ave Atque Vale

The year’s midnight thickens.

Wind-raked, the island stiffens, tightens

Under the crack of ice;

Soil shrivels, earth dwindles

While the muted sun claws its way

Over a straight horizon.

My own skin shrinks, cold.

 

The year’s noontide widens.

Heat-baked, the island stretches, loosens

Under the weight of light;

Harvest bleaches all land blond

While the sun pounces like a tiger

Bellying its way over flattened fields;

And my own skin smiles, now warm.

(c) Lizzie Ballagher

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