By Lizzie Ballagher
Learn to know this broken, cracked old world anew.
Think of walking city walls in dancing shoes
as dawn turned night all inside out.
Listen now to bells across the treeless town
from All Saints’ tower, and bells on shoes
along the high street on a silver day with staves
and swirling skirts and handkerchiefs,
with Jim on squeezebox, Paddy on the violin.
Hear wrens crack through an eggshell sky
as you stare up at mayflower sprays—petals
changing vicious hawthorn to a bridal wreath.
Recollect hot days of stepping barefoot
onto sand under scimitars of seagulls.
Tread salt-flat undulations left by tides:
the crush and crunch of small whorled shells.
Learn to listen to this broken world anew.
Clasp the soft skin of your newborn
on your breast—savour that sweetness.
Look up! Gaze as chestnut chandeliers
light blazing wicks when leaves uncurl.
Once more, pitch hay, those slippery stalks
of gold, the rhythm of the turn and toss,
the scent of summer haloing your hair.
Watch bluetits build, knowing nests
will not outlast long rains, yet they in hope
will line a dusty gutter with bright moss.
Then praise, praise the peacock butterfly
that spreads its wings on the roof
of the hearse awaiting its load
in shadow, by the church’s door.
Learn to love this broken, cracked old world anew.
Breathe out to see the mist of frost,
and then inhale it all again before
your lungs have turned to lakes,
before the steady throb of your own heart
has pumped its last: has ticked the final beat
of time and left you to eternity.
This poem first appeared in Poetry on the Lake’s Lockdown Anthology in June 2020.
You break into our house
and empty cupboards,
clap doors shut,
and suck all air out.
You rampage in to squawk
and crack and pick
through the building’s bones,
eating life alive.
Virulent invader—you leach
the life out of us, remorseless,
vicious, our foe for whatever
of our lives you leave to us.
If ever we did, we no longer
tremble over little green men
from the red planet: no, invisible,
you are, into infinity, much worse.
Now get out—go blurt
your filthy coughing
in a black hole on the far side
of the universe.
And let us
You are a curse
too close for comfort.
This poem first appeared in Poetry Space’s September 2020 Autumn Showcase.
Ballagher’s first collection of poetry, for a UK charity, was published in April. Her work has appeared in magazines and webzines on either side of the Atlantic.
The theme has been inescapable for six months or more. What I’ve written so far has allowed me to look at the pandemic from several different angles, and to search for hope as I do so.