The leaves upon the water

A ballad for the dverse prompt.

Dead leaves fall on the pool beneath the willows,
Red gold just like the colour of your hair,
As it lay against the linen of the pillows,
While the wind blows through the branches stripped and bare.

The wind blows through the branches sighing sadly,
A song of summer past, the swallows flown,
Of storm and gale and sea swell crashing madly,
And those who left, while I sit here alone.

I sat and watched the leaves drift on the water,
Too happy to see how some men deceive,
When I was full of pride in our first daughter,
And you were thinking of a way to leave.

You left, before the budding of the sallows,
The fever struck when came the winter cold,
The fever took the child too at all Hallows,
And I am left with naught but to grow old.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

43 thoughts on “The leaves upon the water”

  1. Jane, this is incredibly, incredibly dark and so evocative to grief in relationships and death of a loved one. This is chilling and very solemn in the mood and execution of this piece. The second stanza is my favorite set in this ballad, as it foreshadows to me the changes in the season to winter, where death can often occur. Very beautifully entwined with chilling imagery. I love it.

  2. A wrenching lyrical ballad of betrayal and loss – the compounding darkness against the background of leaves and water is so beautifully done!

  3. Lovely piece Jane – I liked the sense of potential cut off in this- and that final plain short-syllable line ‘I am left with naught but to grow old.’ like a bag of spuds falling down.

    1. That’s a good way of putting it. Life must have felt like that for so many women, only any use if you had a husband and produced babies, and if you lost your man, well, you only had yourself to blame, didn’t you?

  4. Sarah’s right – you know your ballads, Jane! This one reminds me of the art of the Pre-Raphaelites. I love the steady pace of it, the repetition of the ‘wind blows through the branches’, which moves the poem back and forth in time. Unfortunately, the third stanza was too close to home for comfort for me:
    ‘When I was full of pride in our first daughter,
    And you were thinking of a way to leave.’
    Such a tragic ending.

    1. Thanks Kim, I enjoy writing in this style. I forgot it was meant to be dark, just got into the ballad mood, which is often simply low-key sad, the sadness of ordinary people. I’m glad you like it 🙂

  5. So sad, dark, and well done! I get the comments about pre-Raphaelites, too.
    I couldn’t read yours till I wrote mine. I almost wrote a similar tale (of course I did) 😀, but I went for a variation.

  6. Hi Jane,
    I came from Michelle’s blog and your ballad is so beautiful, yet heart wrenching. The loss and sadness in those last two lines is palpable. Beautiful writing, Lauren

    1. Thank you! I’m so pleased you enjoyed the poem. It’s a style that’s gone completely out of fashion, but it works, like old films still ‘work’ despite not having any special effects 🙂

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