Glazed Clay

Jar, elegantly curved, with brown and blue glaze.Glazed Clay

Two mighty rivers’ ceaseless flow
beneath a high and cloudless sky;
to either side the ochre glow
of arid countries rolling by;

and here and there a golden maze,
the buildings’ cubes, the cities’ grid:
this jar with blue and brownish glaze
from Babylon still mirrors it.

Christina Egan © 2016

Mesopotamian jar (9th to 7th c. BC) Photograph: © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The city and country of ‘Babylon’ were under Assyrian rule at the time the little jar was made, but I just used the name as the most familiar for all the civilisations of Mesopotamia.

For a German poem about Babylon with the Euphrates and the Hanging Gardens, see Die Hängenden Gärten.

The perfect elegance of this tiny everyday object is an example for the simple beauty I call for in Fewer Things, where you can also see a red Roman bowl. 

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My City Calls (Grey Roofs Grey Walls)

My City Calls

Grey roofs grey walls
Make up this place
A rough and kind
Familiar face

The spires chimneys
Market stalls
Suspended bridges
Station halls

Oh face of walls
So great so mild
My city calls
Come here my child

My city calls
With golden chime:
While winter falls
Stay here some time

The sky is full
Of rain and snow
Of miracles
To fall and grow

So many faces
In the street
Yet far away
The one I need

Far is my dear
So far away
But I am here
Just day to day

My city calls
Me with her charms
My heartbeat falls
into her arms

Christina Egan © 1995 / 2012


 

Like in Heimkehr nach Köln, the big city is seen as a mother. There are other poems or songs where I describe it as a person — man or woman, although I feel that a city is female. It is a personal relationship: my heart beats for the city, as I claim in Geflecht / Geflechte.

Acherons Mund

Acherons Mund
(São Miguel, Azoren)

Das Inselreich spricht
in zitterndem Licht,
in zischenden Quellen,
in schwefligen Schwaden,
in schlaflosem Raunen
aus rissigem Grund
am Unterweltsschlund.

Vast surface of rough black rock to the left, gleaming pools of water and steam rising up to the right, mountains in the far background.Das Erdreich bestellt
am Rande der Welt
dem arglosen Wandrer
die Botschaft der Flammen,
die Mahnung der Schatten
aus Phlegetons und
aus Acherons Mund.

Christina Egan © 2016

Hot springs in Furnas, Sao Miguel Island, Azores.
Photograph
by Henryk Kotowski via Wikimedia.

Acheron is the River of Pain and Phlegeton the River of Fire around Hades.

I believe that some Greeks or Phoenicians sailed to the Canary Islands and others may have reached the Azores; this might have influenced their mythology, describing the realms of the dead as a cave of shadows and as a blissful archipelago. More of the latter at Sonett der drei Seen!

Sonett der drei Seen

Sonett der drei Seen
(São Miguel, Azoren)

Der Teich war gelb, und gelbe Dämpfe stiegen
ins heiße Blau, umringt von dunklen Ranken,
als müde Glieder sich im Gelb entspannten
mit Blättern, die wie Schlick im Strudel trieben.
Der See war grün, und grüne Schimmer hingen
in steilen Hängen und in flachen Tiefen,
worunter ungeheure Feuer schliefen,–
zur rechten grün und himmelblau zur linken.
Und um die gelben, grünen, blauen Kessel
und buntbestickten Ufer lief ein Band
von schwarzen Felsen und von schwarzem Sand;
und darum – ohne Grenze, ohne Fessel
und ohne Form – das Meer, das Element…
O selig, wer die sanften Inseln kennt!

Christina Egan © 2016

Sete_cidades_(14267780070)

 

Sete Cidades, (São Miguel, Azores). Photograph by Aires Almeida from Portimão, Portugal, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

The colours of the water are really like in the photo! See also my verse Acherons Mund  for the darker aspects of these isles.

These poems may work in a translation software, although you only get the meaning, not the sounds, which are like music and like the sounds of nature itself!

You Want to Read This Poem

You Want to Read This Poem

You want to read this poem
time or no time
rhyme or no rhyme.

You want to know
that your face is a flame
in the hidden temple
of someone else’s heart
trembling and steady.

You want to dwell
on the deep-blue dusk
of her dress
of her eyes
of her soul.

You want to believe
one last time
that three hours are enough
to fuel three years of delight
and from there three thousand.

You want to be sure
she will never be too close
never too far
like surges of birdsong
like surf.

You want to read this poem
as if it were a prayer
as if it were a promise.

Christina Egan © 2011


You Do Not Want to Read this Poem

You do not want to read this poem
however much sunlight
however much midnight.

You do not want to plough
through luminous ciphers
of your own beauty
you want to hear it in someone’s voice
you want to see it on someone’s lips.

You want to lift your eyes from the paper
onto her face
you want to lift your hand from the paper
onto her arm
let it rest.

You want to step through this poem
as if it were a secret gate
to the tiered garden
of an ancient manor house
you heard of in a novel.

You do not want a host of poems
a pavement of paper
a quilt of hopes
you want a host of moments
a quilt of memories.

You do not want to read this poem
you want sudden life
before the sun has sunk.

Christina Egan © 2011

Gelbes Licht

Gelbes Licht

Statue of young man, unfinished, as if the figure were wrestling itself free of the stone.

I.

Du trittst aus dem Beton hervor,
als trätest du aus einer Wand
und durch ein großes goldnes Tor
in blühndes dufterfülltes Land…

Dabei ist’s bloß ein Platz, ein Park
und gelbes Licht und gelbes Laub;
doch wirst du wieder froh und stark
von etwas Wärme auf der Haut.

 

II.Table surface of bright yellow mosaic, with café chairs on the grass, sunlit.

O milder honiggoldner Wein
im Riesenkelch aus Bergkristall:
Noch fließt das Herbstlicht süß und rein.
O Augenblick! O Sonnenstrahl!

Noch fließt die Kraft, noch fließt der Trost,
solang der Himmel zaghaft blaut.
Man weiß nicht, was das Auge kost:
Ist’s gelbes Licht? Ist’s gelbes Laub?

Christina Egan © 2016


‘Young Slave’ by Michelangelo.  Photograph by Jörg Bittner Unna (own work) via Wikimedia Commons.

Roadside café in Morocco in midwinter. Photograph: Christina Egan © 2012.


 

“Still the autumn light flows, sweet and pure… I felt it in England this afternoon, on top of a high building! Yet the line of the last pleasant sunshine is moving inexorably downwards from the northernmost regions through the temperate ones, its duration is shrinking, and so the space you can catch it at… When the light is lowest, though, it starts rising again, growing again.

By the way: “No matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning, and America will still be the greatest nation on Earth,” President Barack Obama announced during election night 2016. Not so: the United States have definitely exposed themselves not to be the greatest country on earth; and the sun would be darkened on an occasion like 9/11, or a nuclear bomb anywhere in the world, or a natural disaster due to technologies like fracking.

Die Störche entflohen dem Norden

Die Störche entflohen dem Norden

Die Störche entflohen dem Norden,
Und nie mehr ziehn sie zurück:
Mir ist mein Kindlein gestorben,
Und nie mehr find ich mein Glück.

Mein einziges Kind ist gestorben,
Und niemand hat es bemerkt –
Denn niemals sah es den Morgen,
Und niemand hat mich gestärkt.Two storks in a nest, standing very close together, surmounted by a triangular tree and a steep roof, in the dusk.

Mein Lächeln muß ich mir borgen,
Wenn Frühjahr die Täler doch färbt:
Mir ist es, als wär ich gestorben,
Und niemand hätt’ mich beerbt.

Mir ist es, als wär’ ich im Norden,
Auf Nebelinseln, daheim:
Der Sommer hatt’ mich umworben
Und ließ mich dann achtlos allein.

Die Störche sind immer geborgen
In Kreisen von Sonne und Wind…
Doch ich erwache in Sorgen:
Mir lachte im Traume das Kind.

Christina Egan © 2013

Nest with two storks in North African city with crumbling walls and palm trees.

This is the story of a woman who lost her only child before birth or at birth, or who never had one at all and will never have one.

This poem sounds like a folksong and could be set to music.It may also work well in a translation software.

 

Photographs: Wyk on Föhr, Germany / Marrakesh, Morocco. Christina Egan © 2014/2012.