Grand Canyon Psalm


Grand Canyon Psalm

I.

Nothing prepares you
for the heart of the world
lying open before you:
luminous layers
of rosy rock,
jagged and rounded,
leading down, down,
right into the earth.

In the silver silence
of night, you hear
how this heart beats:
it trembles and rumbles,
it nudges your bedstead,
unsettles your cottage,
reminds you of death
and life and the earth.

Undulating layers of pink and mauve rocks and peaks, with trees in the foreground.

II.

Nothing prepares you
for the ear of the world,
always wide open,
always upturned,
listening out
for the thud of the pine-cones,
the dance of the deer hooves,
the chant of the milky-way.

You have arrived
at the mouth of the world,
its voice of thunder,
its eloquent silence.
Here you stand, struck,
quiet at long last,
as tiny as an ant,
anointed like a king.

Christina Egan © 2018

 

A tiny fraction of the immense expanse of the Grand Canyon.
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2008.

Do Diamonds Die?

Do Diamonds Die?

Even diamonds die.
Empires erode,
battlements decay,
skyscrapers melt.

Not so what locks
your look into my look,
my heart into your heart.
Love will live.

With or without a night
or even a day,
a confession, a vow.
Love is born love.

Diamonds have grown for us,
as rare in the vast dark soil
as stars in the fathomless void.
Heaven does happen.

Christina Egan © 2004Engraving of hot-air balloon between layer of clouds and starred sky with moon.Illustration from a children’s book of 1896.
Image provided by British Library
through Flickr.

P.S.: Reader, he married me!  ;o)

Quiet Fire

Quiet Fire

In balmy darkness
I was floating
over sand and salt,
along the garland of lights,
below the curtain of stars…

One fell.
In a flash, I thought of
my distant beloved one,
in a flood, it came back,
the impossible future.

Decorative paper, black with ripples in grey, white, purple.He, too,
had come like a shooting-star,
fair, fast, in a sweeping curve,
with careless grace,
like a message from life.

Cold is the sea now and rough,
with dullness tainted the days
and the sparkling tent of the night.
The quiet fire has passed:
the face that mattered.

Around me is autumn,
and I know that spring will return
and my youth will not.
The voice that struck me is silent;
and my heart eats death.

Christina Egan © 2012

A memory of the Mediterranean Sea, where one can swim, and swim even in after dark, even into autumn…

Decorative paper. Image provided by British Library through Flickr.

Daedalus on the Battlements

Daedalus on the Battlements

You drag your baggage through the crowd,
and from the loud and glaring maze
you spill into the heavy haze
of autumn fog and stifling fumes,
into a tube you crawl through tubes,
into a bullet aimed at space –

You soar, you blink, anticipate
some mellow light, some subtle blues –
And then you float above the dunes
of salty sand, the plains of ice,
the shadow of a sheet of cloud –
You sail above the blazing skies!

Christina Egan © 2016


Another return to Greece with winter sunshine even before I arrived: a sunset above the clouds! — Daedalus escaped the labyrinth by flying from its walls; the flaming sun plays a key role in this myth. 

You may get the sense of this poem quite well in a translation software.

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.

Brown Butterfly / Brauner Schmetterling

Brown Butterfly

 

Found, found on sandy ground:
bronze brooch from an unknown age,
bright map of an unknown land,
O quivering flower,
brown butterfly!
Where have you flown…?
Little butterfly,
your mirroring wings
are dust lifted up from the earth
and assembled to beauty of heaven.
Grace, grace beyond a name.

Bright admiral butterfly, maroon with 'eyes', on purple cone of flowers.

 Brauner Schmetterling

 

Gefunden auf sandigem Grund:
Bronzebrosche verlorener Zeiten,
bunte Karte ferner Gefilde.
Du erbebende Blume,
du bräunliche!
Wo flogst du hin…?
Schmetterling,
deine Spiegelbildflügel
sind Staub, der Erde enthoben,
gesammelt zu Himmelsschimmer.
Anmut, namenlose Anmut.

Huge tropical flower, orange and wide open, with human hand for comparison.

The shape of the poems — and their
colour — emulate those of a  butterfly.

English poem: Christina Egan © 2005. 
German poem: Christina Egan © 2017.
Photographs: Christina Egan © 2013.

Tranquil Dragon

Tranquil Dragon

Embroidered with orange lights
are the fanned steel wings of the bridge

suspended in the summer night,
a tranquil dragon bringing luck. 

Wide is the night and warm,
like the dark wine of old and ardent love.

The sky reads the low, slow river
as my eye reads yours in a dream.

Sparkling with lights is the city,
sparkling with lights is my soul.

Christina Egan © 2003


Dragons, of course, are noble and bring luck in Chinese mythology.

I must have been thinking of Hammersmith Bridge in London.

You can read more poems about suspension bridges at On the Orange Bridge (San Francisco) and Rosenquarzkammern (Malmö).