April Rules the Land

April Rules the Land
(April haiku)

April rules the land,
leaden and golden in turns,
wayward as we are.

*

Oxford Street, busy,
a splintered rainbow, patterns,
shaken and broken.

*

The white narcissus 
sings with a voice as sweet as
her brother blackbird.

Christina Egan © 2000

The last haiku originally referred to ‘the ivory rose’, although in England, outdoor roses do not blossom yet in April. When I changed the wording to ‘the white narcissus’ to link it to the season and month, I did not know that the flower’s official name is Narcissus poeticus, or Poet’s Narcissus!

The ivory rose
sings with a voice as sweet as
her brother blackbird.

Die Perle im Acker

Die Perle im Acker

Die eine runde Stunde
in deinem Zauberkreis —
Das Licht im Augengrunde,
von dem du selbst nicht weißt —
Musik aus deinem Munde,
die Seligkeit verheißt —
Die Perle ist gefunden,
ich zahle jeden Preis!

Christina Egan © 2016

Wiederum gleicht das Himmelreich einem Kaufmann,
der gute Perlen suchte, und als er eine kostbare Perle
fand, ging er hin und verkaufte alles, was er hatte, und
kaufte sie.

Mt 13, 45-46

These lines may work in a translation software…
although I would not claim to find ‘salvation’ in
a human being, only ‘bliss’ (but this indeed)!

Ode to London Wall

Ode to London Wall

Moss is conquering your broken stones,
weeds are rooting between your bricks;
but you still stand tall, Wall,
facing the winds, the seasons, the years.

The round foundations of your towers
harbour herbs now, neatly labelled;
but your walkways bore watchmen once,
to guard the goods going round and the people.

You lie at my feet now, tall Wall,
I look down from the walkway above you;
but when I step down by two thousand years,
I see you could shelter me still or crush me.

And then I seem to remember –
we have met before, Wall –
you guarded me indeed –
and I guarded you!

On the treacherous clay we erected you,
in the obnoxious fog and sleet:
even and straight and strong as a rock,
forming a line in the marshy meadow,

forming a square along the vague river,
forming a knot in the net of roads,
from London to Chester and York,
from Paris to Sousse and Palmyra.

O Wall of soldiers and explorers,
O Wall of merchants and accountants:
yes,
you still stand tall and you talk,
you tell me to tell your story to all.

Christina Egan © 2015

High wall of neatly piled stone and brick in the midst of the city

You can see a section of the Wall of London and learn more about it in the Roman Galleries of the Museum of London. A visit there inspired me to write these lines. I talk to the stones as they talk to me; and I pass their story on.

Photograph: Roman city wall near Tower Hill Tube station,
by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz).

London Wall Had Fallen Down

London Wall had fallen down,
brick by brick and stone by stone;
in the crenellation’s crown,
storks and starlings built their home.

London Wall stood in the mud,
but we fixed it brick by brick,
and we filled the wasteland up
with new lanes across the grid.

London Wall was melting down,
but we used it stone by stone;
and we built a bigger town
on the ground of proud old Rome!

Christina Egan © 2015

After the end of the Roman Empire, the Roman City of London was left uninhabited for generations, while a new city sprung up next to it; later, the original precincts became the centre again. This area is now known as ‘The City of London’, although it forms only a small part of the centre of town.

Musical score of 'London Bridge is falling down'

 

This little song alludes to the nursery rhyme London Bridge is falling down.

Proteus / Daedalus

Proteus

Your beauty is the beauty of the clouds:
as grand and graceful, as remote,
from silver changing into gold,
and changing shape, and changing whereabouts.

Your beauty is the one of Proteus:
I’m bound to watch it swirl and stay,
afraid your heart will likewise sway,
innocuous and gay and treacherous.

Your beauty is the one of Morpheus:
I’m bound to drink it in a dream,
afraid of stumbling on that stream,
with ghostly flowers studded, murderous.

Your beauty is the beauty of the clouds.
your ever-present smile the gleam
behind their soft and tousled seam…
Your soul is what your face reveals and shrouds.

Christina Egan © 2012

Daedalus

I watch the condor pass:
lofty and lonely,
steady and strong,
improbable like Daedalus…

I watch the condor pass
and want to follow him
across the barren peaks –
I want to touch the clouds…

Christina Egan © 2012

Heimkehr nach Köln

Heimkehr nach Köln

Die türmenden Inseln
der Kirchen,
die aschgrauen Schachteln
der Häuser,
die lärmenden Räder
der Plätze –

Geborgen bin ich
im Schoß meiner Stadt,
die mich die Sprache lehrte,
die vergessene Sprache,
die schlichten Gesänge
verschütteten Glücks.

Ein goldenes Antlitz taucht
aus dem bunten Dämmer hervor.
Wer bist du?
Geh nicht fort, Gesicht
ohne Namen, leihe mir
mein Geheimnis heut nacht!

Christina Egan © 1992

This poem about homecoming to a big city could refer to a place where someone grew up; or where they lived in the past; or where they may have lived in a former life on earth.

Bronze head of a bishop, mediaeval yet classical in appearance.Therefore, the mysterious golden face which is the key to the past could be a late relative; or a lost friend; or else a historical figure. I was thinking of this portrait at the back of Cologne Cathedral.

Photograph: „Grabmal Konrad von Hochstaden Gipsabdruck“ von Elke Wetzig (Elya)

Heimat gibt es doppelt

Heimat gibt es doppelt

Heimat gibt es doppelt: Heimat deiner Jugend,
Kopfsteinpflaster unter den karierten Schuhn;
anderswo vielleicht dann Heimat deines Herzens,
wo gewundne unsichtbare Wurzeln ruhn,

wo die Glocken süß und voll Verheißung beben
wie die frühen fliederfarbnen Azaleen,
wo die vielen flachen blassen Hausfassaden
lächeln, wenn die Wolkenschatten weiterwehn….

wo vor himmelstürmend hohen Kirchentürmen
glutrot oder sonnengelb die Blüten sprühn
und der Teppich der Jahrhunderte darunter
ruft, um deinen Lebensstrang hineinzuziehn.

Christina Egan © 2010

Another love letter to my favourite city, Cologne!

Ashen Land (For Syria)

Ashen Land
(For Syria)

The only offspring left calls from the eaves.
Some houses have a hundred hollow wounds,
and hamlets of a dozen centuries
surrender to contending winds their rooms.

The olive-trees stretch out their silver leaves
like angels’ feathers in a cry for peace.
Where is the comfort for a bird that grieves,
the peace for ashen land? Is it beneath?

It is beneath the nettles and the shards,
beneath the venom seeped into the field;
it is above the silver heaps of stars,
seed of unimaginable yield.

Christina Egan © 2016

Olive grove, trunks and tree-tops silvery grey, like ashes.Photograph: ‘Olivenbäume in Umbrien’ by Adrian Michael.

I found this marvellous illustration on Wikimedia Commons long after I wrote the poem. I had not even thought of the silver bark and leaves resembling ashes…

In the past few years, millions of Syrians have lost their homes and possessions, or their jobs or studies, or their health or their limbs, or their loved ones or their own lives. The national liberation movement has turned into an apparently bottomless civil war, a literally insane religious war, and a vicarious war of outside powers. This conflict will change the face of the Near East and the face of Europe. Meanwhile, the suffering continues.

Let us pray for peace in Syria. All together.