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.

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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.

Ripe Apples and Pears

Ripe Apples and Pears
(Rhön, September)

*

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

Green field in the foreground, flat top of wooded hill with chapel in the distance, much blue sky above.

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.

Three Stars / Drei Sterne

Three Stars

Three stars in the sky…
Three lines only to tell you
all my hopes for us.

*

Sneeze

Your sweet face – a sneeze –
as sudden and explosive
as your sweet haiku.

Christina Egan © 2013

Stamp with bright artistic impression of spaceship flying between planets and stars.

Drei Sterne

Drei Sterne am Himmel…
Drei Zeilen für dich, für
all meine Hoffnung.

*

Nieser

Dein liebes Gesicht
– ein Nieser – plötzlich, heftig
,
wie deine Haikus!

Christina Egan © 2016


A haiku is a Japanese poetic form; each poem has only three lines and seventeen syllables, which amounts sometimes to only a dozen words, even with a title. Yet you can say a lot in three lines… The word game is more difficult in German than in English, since the words are longer; translation can be a challenge.

A traditional haiku starts with an image from nature indicating the season; you will see on my haiku pages that I largely follow this rule. These here are different: one is simply romantic and one humorous, and both are about reading and hearing haiku!


 

Illustration: Stamp of 1963. (Scanned by Darjac) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Ship’s Spirit

The Ship’s Spirit

*

A sail,
out in the wind,
white, vast, and fast,
like a cloud in the currents
of the sky and the sea, flowing,
fluttering, flying – what could be better
than being a sail? I will tell you: being a flag! I
bear the colours and I bear the crown,
the crescent, the dragon, the skull;
I dance more nimbly; I spy,
I spot the lands, I am
the ship’s spirit:
a flag!

*

The Ship’s Servant

*

High
above me
the bright dot
of the flag laughs,
while I unfurl, white
and wide like the dawn,
I hurl myself into the wind,
the world, pulling the mighty
ship along!          When it is calm,
I drift… watch…        let the sky smile
through the window in my midst; I swap
stories with my mates, you hear us whisper,
hear us rustle if you listen; and sometimes I rest,
I sleep curled up, in the sweet sleep of a proud sail!

*

Christina Egan © 2016

Water-Lilies and Reed

Water-Lilies and Reed

Waterlilies with half-open luminous pink and white flowers.White water-lilies,
opening with a pink glow,
like eyes of new-borns,
like the dawn rising and
looking at itself in wonder.

*

The reed unfolding,
tall green screen, finely woven,
around green water.
A forest of reed, towering
above ducks, children, yourself.

For Liu Sun Ye

Christina Egan © 2016

Photograph: Liu Sun Ye (Ye Liu) © 2016.