Beetles on the Ark / Urban Copse

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The Dance of the Sacks

The Dance of the Sacks

There’s the war tax and the peace tax
There’s the core tax and the fleece tax
There’s the fish tax and the spice tax
There’s the poll tax and the vice tax!

There’s the whisper of a tax-plan
There’s the whistle of the tax-man!

There’s the old tax and the new tax
There’s the wool tax and the wheat tax
There’s the old tax for the new sacks
And the new tax for the old sacks!

There’s the tax-man with his tablet
It’s a state-protected racket!

Christina Egan © 2011

Small clay tablet with cuneiform text.

This comical song for a jig is taken from my stage play The Bricks of Ur  (© 2011) set around 2000 BC.

The tax collectors could wield either Sumerian clay tablets or 21st century electronic tablets!

I must have been inspired by a hilarious jig in one of the first seasons of Shakespeare’s Globe in London…

Receipt for 13 woolen garments, ca. 2038 BC. Photograph by Rama, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr [CeCILL or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr] via Wikimedia Commons.

Der Erde Auge / Dragon Island

Der Erde Auge
(Kaali, Estland)

Hier ist der Wald nur Wimpernkranz
um jadegrünen Augenglanz,
der immer träumt
und immer wacht,
der nimmer weint
und nimmer lacht.

Der Erde Auge schaut hinauf
in tausendfachen Sternenlauf:
Ein schwarzer Stein
mit Feuerschweif
schlug donnernd ein
und schuf den Teich.

Und um den runden Kraterrand
gehn hundert Menschen still gebannt:,
Sie schlendern her
zu eitlem Schaun
und schreiten schwer
in grünem Traum.

Berührt vom fernen Sternenschlag
sind tausend Jahre wie ein Tag.
Die Sonne fülllt
das Himmelsrund,
und urgrün quillt
der Augengrund.

Christina Egan © 2016


Dragon Isle
(Iceland)

Dark is the mid-morning sky,
shaded the treeless land,
granite the road of the sea,
burnt the abandoned strand.

Dragons looming like hills
have stirred from a century’s daze
to spew some sparks and some ash
before they set glaciers ablaze.

Christina Egan © 2010


The first poem, ‘The Earth’s Eye’ describes a startlingly green and perfectly circular lake in Estonia — a timeless, mythical place, caused by a meteorite crashing several thousand years ago, but within human memory.

The second poem was inspired by the news of a volcanic eruption on Iceland. Mythical creatures take on real life: not that hills look like dragons, no, dragons disguise themselves as hills…

I have also written a sonnet about the twin crater lakes of Sete Cidades (Azores). and a number of poems about the volcanoes of Lanzarote (Canaries).

Auf dem Purpurteppich / Royal Purple Rug

Passionflower with bee, colours inverted to create psychedelic purple structure.Auf dem Purpurteppich der Musik

Auf dem Purpurteppich der Musik,
dichtbepflanzt mit immergoldnen Ranken
und mit himmelfarbner Saat bestickt,
flieg’ ich ohne Angst und ohne Schranken!

Denn der Purpurteppich der Musik
trägt uns mächtiger als die Gedanken
über Wogen, Wolken und zurück,
löst uns Leib wie Geist von allen Banden…

Christina Egan © 2014

 

Passionflower, colours inverted to psychedelic purple tones.On the Royal Purple Rug of Music

On the royal purple rug of music,
thick with tendrils, ever-golden, high,
strewn with seeds the colour of the sky,
limitlessly, fearlessly, I fly!

For the royal purple rug of music
raises us, more powerful than thought,
carries us away, aloft, abroad,
frees both mind and body, frail and fraught…

Christina Egan © 2017


You can find another poem about the incomparable power of music at Quest / Suche  (in English and German). Music is not disembodied; it is palpable and all-pervading.

When I described music as a flying carpet, I was thinking of the deep red of oriental rugs, which in German is called ‘purple’; but the English idea of a lilac ‘purple’ is also very appropriate for music.

Photographs: Passionflower with bee; Passionflower with fruit; colours inverted. Christina Egan © 2016.

Bus Stop Haiku

Bus Stop Haiku

The full moon captured
in a cage of stone and wood:
a white paper lamp.

*

Wilting lavender
on the window sill, turning
into bursts of scent.

*

Brick wall and bus stop:
in between, seven nations
squeezing together.

*

Christina Egan © 2016


An ancient art form capturing mundane moments from the big city: In Wood Green, London, a crowd from seven nations is squeezing onto the red buses. I looked out for beauty at the bus stop and found it.

The full moon glimpsed turns out to be a bedroom lamp. The luxurious lavender grows in a little tin pot. The third autumn haiku does not even have any image from nature: just a brick wall…

Sonnenuhrzeiger / Sundial Garden

Sonnenuhrzeiger

Die Sonne gleißt auf grüner Flur:
Ein jeder wird zur Sonnenuhr.
Der Schattenmensch liegt lang im Gras,
der Abend schrumpft in gleichem Maß.

Die hingestreute Sternenzier
ist mürbes Laub wie Packpapier.
Die weißen Blumen tanzen stumm
um einen dicken Stamm herum.

O trink das Licht mit Haut und Haar:
Noch ist der Himmel hoch und klar!
O trink das Licht mit Aug und Sinn:
Es liegt die Kraft des Alls darin.

Christina Egan © 2016

Top of wall covered with lichen and tree with patchy bark, mirroring each other.

Sundial Garden

The sun will gain ground,
conquer inches of lichen,
of leaves and of lawn.
Across the square garden creeps
the shade of the steep gable.

Christina Egan © 2005


In these poems, a whole gardens turns into a sundial: in the first one, each person in the park is a sundial hand, and in the second, a house with a pointed roof fulfils this function, casting its shadow over a north-facing yard.

The first poem is set in late summer or autumn and in the late afternoon or evening, the second one in late winter or spring and possibly in the morning. The yearly and daily descent of the light is as inevitable as its subsequent rise.

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2016.

A Window will be Thrust Open

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.

halkett_1938_ohnetitelYou 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.