Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship: Lisa Ballantyne

Lisa Ballantyne
Category: Writing

Lisa Ballantyne was one of four writers awarded the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2014. The Nature of Influence was written by Lisa during her time at the Hôtel Chevillon International Arts Centre at Grez-sur-Loing in France.

 

The Nature of Influence

To Robert Louis Stevenson, on a visit to Grez-sur-Loing

 

I read you were woken by doves

and here, too, so am I.

 

I read in the small, worn book

(size of my palm, smell of skin)

written by your cousin, published seven years after

you died.

 

This here the ninth edition, 1911,

in which I found a four leaf clover

pressed; its green matured inside the closed book

to dark spring, potent, owning its power,

a well-kept secret.

Four tiny veined leaves, perfect and precious

as baby’s fingernails.

It is a gift from the past I have received,

but I know not from whom.

 

The river is ever changing and yet I see it as the

Self-same river you called ‘pellucid’

but also ‘choked with sedge’.

I have walked over cobbles the soles of your feet have tread,

and now I slip into your water to swim.

The current is strong and your sedge shackles my ankles.

 

You are everywhere here:

in the sycamore seeds parched on the old stone

in the poise of the gecko that listens to my thoughts

in the whirr and beat of the invisible wings

of aquamarine dragonflies - heard but not seen -

as your enduring voice.

 

The tug of the river makes my strokes stronger.

I swim hard for shore, uncertain where I’ll end up.

 

And then, basking, skin drying,

I watch bees thin as wasps work the clover.

On my stomach, in the forest of short weeds

I find my own: can you believe, larger and greener?

I press it on the self-same page where I first found you.

 

For updates on the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship and other opportunities, please sign up to our Writing newsletter.