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

The Lavender’s Splendours / dachterrasse

The Lavender’s Splendours

On brittle grey walls,
find brittle grey sheaves
on wire-thin stalks
with tired long leaves…

Lavender with fresh and wilted blossom, next to pale-golden grass.

The lavender’s splendours
of indigo spikes
are ashes and embers:
dull grey with mauve lights.

Yet grasp its pale grains
and grind them to flakes –
and dazzling white flames
will rise when it wakes!

Christina Egan © 2016


dachterrasse

dachterrasse
traumgehege

der straßenkreuzung den hinterhöfen
den baustellen enthobenShrub with bright-red berries on a roof-terrace, with deep-red ivy below.

lavendel und rosen
wuchern und welken

der feuerdorn verheißt
lautlose feuerwerke

Christina Egan © 2016

Photographs: Christina Egan © 2016

ostermorgen

ostermorgen

der schwere aschenfarbne vorhang
aus wolken zerrissen und weggefegt
spätmärzhohe morgensonne
ergießt sich als murmelnde orgelfuge

etwas ist geschehen
etwas ist dennoch geschehen
etwas
ist

lösende
lockende
gegenständliche
gegenwart!

Christina Egan © 2013

This poem about Easter morning was published in a previous edition of the Rhönkalender. It does not work in translation machines because the language is unusual and innovative.

For Christians, the resurrection of Jesus is not a myth or symbol but a historical and cosmic event; and God is not a distant force but a living presence.

For more on the symbolism of Lent and Easter, see my previous post Fastenzeit / Lent.