War and Peace (Red Fog / Green Shoots)

War and Peace

I.

Red Fog

Red fog rose
from the bloody river
when Baghdad’s proud walls
crumbled to dust.

The sobbing, the gasping
rose with the fog,
scratched the blank sky
till it wept blood.

High soared the blinking blades,
higher the cries of triumph,
down on the broken timber,
the toys forlorn in the ash.

Red ran the Tigris,
bearing pots and books and bodies
down through the desert,
frayed crimson silk.

Decorative brick with symmetrical floral motiv, deeply incised.

II.

Green Shoots

Green shoots, vibrant,
blue buds, brilliant,
climbing the trellis
of ten thousand tiles.

The tall white walls,
the wide white courtyards,
the shimmering basins:
those were the flags of peace.

Not the carpets of ash
which the conquest leaves,
nor the polished parchment
where the truce is signed.

Peace is the pomegranate
in the smooth wooden bowl,
peace is the spinning-top
on the deep-green glaze.

Christina Egan © 2003 (I) / © 2018 (II)

These poems were inspired by the massacre of 1248 when the Mongols took Baghdad, but they can be applied to any war Mesopotamia has seen in the course of the millennia, or indeed to any other part of the world…

Brick from Baghdad, mid-13 century. Photograph: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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August Night / Nur Asche zu essen

August Night

The night is short and moist and sweet,
with secret sprouting life replete…
and stark and bitter all the same.

There is no peace on golden wings,
there is no peace from silver limbs…
only a tiny steady flame.

Christina Egan © 2012


In the midst of abundant midsummer,
the narrator has not found peace — neither
through prayer or meditation nor through
the presence of a beloved person.

The following poem laments the unborn dead,
whose graves are nameless and forgotten and
who never saw the light of the sun although
angels may have taken them elsewhere…


Nur Asche zu essen

Nur Asche zu essen,
nur Lehm statt Brot,
nur Erde zu wissen:
der bitterste Tod.

Den Leib ohne Atem,
das Aug ohne Licht,
das Grab ohne Namen:
das schärfste Gericht.

Die niemals Gebornen,
fast ohne Gewicht,
von Engeln Verborgnen:
Vergesset sie nicht.

Christina Egan © 2018

Solstice Scroll

Solstice Scroll

I break some rare and short-lived flowers,
I sacrifice some sunshine hours
for Melpomene’s altar steps.
Since Phaeton’s horses thunder higher
with ever more abundant fire,
I’ll finish ere the day-star sets.

I’ll call upon Apollo’s powers,
I’ll stand amongst the cypress towers
around my children’s hidden tomb.
I’ll write my elegy and sing it,
I’ll scroll it up, stand up and fling it
into the bright barge of the moon.

Christina Egan © 2018

Straight Roman road with ruins and trees to the left and right, in the dusk

Roman road in Carthage, Tunisia.
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2014

au jour des ténèbres

au jour des ténèbres

Three tall gothic windows with modern stained galss, abstract and subdued.au jour des ténèbres
une chandelle dansait
au jour des funèbres
une fleur étincelait

à l’heure de silence
une voix m’a touché
à l’heure de souffrance
une main m’a brossé

à l’aube très lente
une étoile est surgie
dans l’âme patiente
la lueur s’élargit

comme si la souffrance
se tintait de bleu
ô douce espérance
qui baigne les yeux

Christina Egan © 2018

This poem was inspired by a French church service where the words ‘souffrance’… ‘silence’… ‘patience’… seemed to echo in the dark church on a dull Good Friday…

Windows in St Nicholas, Ghent. Photograph: Christina Egan © 2018.

Obituary (I Think I Died Last Night)

Obituary

Deep-pink rose over, bent in the snow, with pond in background.I think I died last night,
but none of you noticed.

You talk to me as if
you were talking to me!

The clocks are ticking,
the coffee is dripping…

Even the sun is smiling
while I pretend to carry on.

I was a fount of life,
never looked at, never listened to.

I was an orphan on earth.
I have to write my own obituary.

Christina Egan © 2012

Tottenham Cemetery, London.
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2017.

Weißer Schnee auf roten Rosen

Weißer Schnee auf roten Rosen

Graue Gänse, grauer Himmel
Stumme Stämme um den Teich
Ungewohntes weißes Flimmern
Und ein Schimmern im Gesträuch

Weißer Schnee auf roten Rosen
Hingesunken über Nacht
Stengel von der Last gebogen
Späte Knospen überrascht

Glowing roses, golden with red rims, standing in thick snow amongst bare trees.Weißer Schnee auf bunter Mütze
Und dein Lachen wie Gesang
Häherschrei von Tannenspitze
Glockenruf minutenlang

Weißer Schnee auf roten Rosen
Weißer Hauch auf rotem Mund
Ja, auch ich hab dich erlesen
Niemals tat ich es dir kund

Erster Schnee auf grauen Gänsen
Jede Flocke wie ein Stern
Weißer Schnee auf roten Rosen
Und ich weiß: Du hast mich gern

Christina Egan © 2017

White snow melting on red roses.
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2017.

This is the second of two love songs which could stand alone or be sung by a woman and a man — from opposite ends of a stage or hall, though…

In White snow on white roses, the first person confesses she (or he) still secretly wishes they had got together a long time ago, and wonders if her friend feels the same.

In White snow on red roses, the second person reveals that he (or she), too, has longed for this relationship all along, but he never lets his friend know… not now either.

Each of them sings into the wind, into the snow… The ‘years that flew away’ like the wild geese in the first poem and the ‘late buds surprised’ by the snow in the second poem show that the pair are at a later stage of life.

Weißer Schnee auf weißen Rosen

Weißer Schnee auf weißen Rosen

Wie die grauen Gänse zogen
Mit dem schneegeladnen Wind
Sind die Jahre uns entflogen
Erst gemächlich dann geschwind

Wie die Flocken niedertaumeln
Daß die Welt zu Weiß gerinnt
deckt die Zeit die bunten Träume
Erst gemächlich dann geschwind

White rose, pink buds, hawthorns, all covered by melting snow.Stehst auch du am stillen Fenster?
Rührt der wilde Schnee auch dich?
Haschst auch du noch Luftgespinste?
Denkst auch du noch stets an mich?

Blumenflammen sind vergangen
Und die Welt wird farbenblind
Niemals hab ich dich umfangen
Niemals gab ich dir ein Kind

Wilder Schnee: ein stummes Tosen
In dem strengen reinen Wind
Weißer Schnee auf weißen Rosen
Erst gemächlich dann geschwind

Christina Egan © 2017

White snow melting on white roses.
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2017.

This is the first of two love songs which could stand alone or be sung by a woman and a man — from opposite ends of a stage or hall, though…

In White snow on white roses, the first person confesses she (or he) still secretly wishes they had got together a long time ago, and wonders if her friend feels the same.

In White snow on red roses, the second person reveals that he (or she), too, has longed for this relationship all along, but he never lets his friend know… not now either.

Each of them sings into the wind, into the snow… The ‘years that flew away’ like the wild geese in the first poem and the ‘late buds surprised’ by the snow in the second poem show that the pair are at a later stage of life.