A Window will be Thrust Open
A window will be thrust open
where you forgot there was one,
a glow as of noon will be thrown
over your working hands, over your tired face.
You will look into the mirror
and find upon yourself the gaze of an absent one,
you will look into the eyes of a stranger
and find there your face as if steeped in sunset.
You will run down the road
to overtake your shadow,
you will push through all your doubts
to hold that hand, to clasp it tight.
Christina Egan © 2003
No title. René Halkett (1938).
Image with kind permission
of Galerie Klaus Spermann.
Der Sommer verglüht
Der Sommer verglüht
in Purpur, Gold und Lapislazuli.
Die Straße erhebt sich
wie ein Tempel der Vorzeit.
Die Dinge sind rund und reif,
getränkt mit Regen, gesättigt mit Licht.
Feuchtes Gras flammt grün,
üppiges Moos überkleidet den Stein.
Wie Weihrauch steigt
der weiche Atem des Lavendel.
Die Wolken gleißen, gleiten,
Flotte ins offene Blau.
Brüchiger Backstein, zerknitterndes Laub:
Altes blättert ab, zerfällt in tausend Brauns.
Herbst, Kelter des Jahres,
Zeit, Fest der Verwandlung.
Christina Egan © 2001
A very descriptive and colourful poem with a philosophical note:
“Autumn: wine-press of the year.
Time: feast of transformation.”
Ripe Apples and Pears
Ripe apples and pears,
plenty, between the pebbles
in the nimble stream.
The forest, still green,
whispers and rustles and taps
with dropping acorns.
The gilded beech-tree
stretches out one long arm
towards the morning sun.
Christina Egan © 2013
These haiku were written on walks around the Florenberg, a steep little hill in Germany, clothed with forest and crowned with a one-thousand-year-old chapel. The Fulda area was covered with beech-trees and oak-trees once.
Summit of Florenberg in spring, seen from another hilltop. Photograph: Christina Egan © 2014.
Folgte ich eilends.
Und stand da und schaute
Und wusste: Ich war.
Saugte ich ein
Christina Egan © 2003
Brodtener Ufer, near Travemünde on the Baltic Sea. Photographs: Christina Egan © 2014.
The couple are holding on to a sign warning of the cliff; the view downwards proves how dangerous the lower path is, where hikers have indeed got killed.
This is not a poem about Nature alone, though: it could be about life, about love, about faith… The colours of the sea, for instance, could also refer to a pair of eyes. I do not think I had seen such a sign when I wrote the poem!
Nächster Halt: Bahnhof Zoo
Schließ ich den Koffer und zähle die Gleise,
gleitet durch gleißende Weiten der Zug,
findet durchs Vorstadtgestrüpp eine Schneise,
bohrt sich in Schleuse um Schleuse sein Bug.
Zittert das Herz zwischen zahllosen Dächern,
lauscht auf die Stimme: “Berlin, Bahnhof Zoo” ––
Irgendwo hier muß die Zukunft doch lächeln,
winken das Glück,– aber wo, aber wo?
Aus den Kanälen und Seen muß es sprudeln,
aus Boulevards und aus Marktplätzen sprühn…
In das Gewühl taucht mein lautloses Jubeln:
Heute is heute, und hier ist Berlin!
Nächster Halt: Flughafen Schönefeld
Liegen die Häuser gewürfelt, gehäufelt,
liegen die Häuser gefädelt, gereiht…
Fortgerollt wird man, hinübergeschleudert,–
aus ist die schillernde, schäumende Zeit.
Häkeln die Züge die Orte zusammen,
kreuzen die Grenzen und flicken das Land;
häkelt die Liebe die Herzen zusammen,
fügt in die harrende Hand eine Hand.
Häkeln die Flugzeuge schneeweiße Spitze
über die Dächer, die Flüsse, den Wald;
häkelt das Abendrot goldene Spritzer
voller Verheißung und Heilung und Halt.
Christina Egan © 2016/2017
These two poems about arriving in Berlin and departing from Berlin form, together with the round-trip Nächster Halt: Potsdamer Platz, my Berlin Triptych. For English poems about the same railway station, go to Berlin Zoo Station.
When I describe how trains and planes sew towns together and mend countries, I am naturally remembering how my country and its capital city were divided for almost half a century. The family members or lovers waiting for each other at the railway stations and airports may be separated by this fate or a different one.
Photographs: Railway station and airport in Berlin. Christina Egan © 2016.
My Pack of Cards
My pack of cards, when it was new,
was green and yellow, red and blue:
from grass and leaves
to golden sheaves,
from glowing grapes
to frosty flakes!
The leaves peeked out, unfurled, and grew,
flared up, fell off, when they were due.
The fruits were round,
the ice was sound.
My year was clear,
my joy was sheer.
My pack of cards is worn and torn –
my world is pale, and I’m forlorn.
Christina Egan © 2016
In children’s picture books, the four seasons are sometimes painted in four basic colours; everything is in its place, everything is perfect. Of course, it has never been like this: the weather is always unpredictable, particularly north of the Alps.
However, at the place where I grew up — Central Europe — the seasons were more clearly marked and more stable than on the British Isles. I also believe they were more regular: they seem confused and shifted just now. It is disorientating and worrying…
You can find an impression of undefinable weather at Cimmerian Summer — whether it is due to the British climate or to global changes, I do not know.
The poem also expresses nostalgia for childhood, when everything on earth seems in its place. It was inspired by children’s picture books, which often allocate four basic colours to the four seasons.
Photograph: Schloßpark Fulda. Christina Egan © 2014.
This lifeless gloom: is it the dusk?
This pale white disc: is it the moon?
Is this a mild day in November?
No: in the land of ceaseless mist
this is the sun; the afternoon;
the lightless first day of September.
Christina Egan © 2015
“ἔνθα δὲ Κιμμερίων ἀνδρῶν δῆμός τε πόλις τε,
ἠέρι καὶ νεφέλῃ κεκαλυμμένοι.”
“There are the land and city of the Cimmerians,
wrapped in mist and cloud.”
Homer, Odyssey, 11:14-15
“Britain is set in the Sea of Darkness.
It is a considerable island. This country is most fertile,
its inhabitants brave, active and enterprising….
but all is in the grip of perpetual winter.”
Muhammad al-Idrisi of Sicily, ca. 1154
Homer never ceases to inspire us. Incidentally, I saw a retelling of the Odyssey last night, at a London playhouse, or rather, amphitheatre! (On this first day of September, the weather is in fact glorious.)
The memory of four clearly marked seasons, full of bright leaves and fruits, and the sorrow about the apparent confusion of the climate are depicted in My Pack of Cards.