Glazed Clay

Jar, elegantly curved, with brown and blue glaze.Glazed Clay

Two mighty rivers’ ceaseless flow
beneath a high and cloudless sky;
to either side the ochre glow
of arid countries rolling by;

and here and there a golden maze,
the buildings’ cubes, the cities’ grid:
this jar with blue and brownish glaze
from Babylon still mirrors it.

Christina Egan © 2016

Mesopotamian jar (9th to 7th c. BC) Photograph: © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The city and country of ‘Babylon’ were under Assyrian rule at the time the little jar was made, but I just used the name as the most familiar for all the civilisations of Mesopotamia.

For a German poem about Babylon with the Euphrates and the Hanging Gardens, see Die Hängenden Gärten.

The perfect elegance of this tiny everyday object is an example for the simple beauty I call for in Fewer Things, where you can also see a red Roman bowl. 

By the Brittle Brown Fence

By the Brittle Brown Fence

By the brittle brown fence,
bright, arresting the eye,
an explosion of pink,
pure pink!
Low, silent, intense, incessant,
a pillow of raspberry colour,
triumphant trumpet
of early summer:
my azalea
in May!

Christina Egan © 2006


The shape of the poem emulates the content…
and in this display, it is also true for the colour!

Roof-Tile / Plateau

Roof-Tile
(Béziers)

Lower half shows ancient wall with lichen and moss, upper half houses and roofs with motley tiles

A roof-tile, grooved: a hill, a dell,
in broken ochre, earthy red,
with greenish circles in between;
a piece of world, of time a shred.

And then I see: the whole old roof
is such a patch of orange clay –
the whole old town in weathered brown,
resplendent in a tender ray!

Christina Egan © 2016

Plateau
(Béziers)

Roof with motley tiles - Detail of above photo

Life is a gnarled and narrow hill,
so steep as scarcely to be climbed:
you scramble, stumble, slide or fall,
you stay below, you stay behind.

Then opens, through a hedge or wall,
a gap, a gate, an avenue,
a whole plateau, a spilling well,
a plain beneath your startled view!

Christina Egan © 2016

Round basin in park, with trees, houses and statue mirroredTwo views from the ancient city of Béziers in France, which is piled up
on a couple of steep hilltops: the first view is from
the Cathedral tower; the second, from the park called Parc des poètes / Plateau des poètes.

Well… the respite after struggles and setbacks might be found in enjoying or creating art — or in life itself!

Old Town of Beziers, with red roofs dominating, landscape round horizon.While getting lost and strained in the lanes of Béziers reminded me of nightmares, exploring the Cathedral like a giant Crystal Rock  induced me to create the word ‘lightmare’!

Photographs: Béziers from the Cathedral roof ; Parc des poètes. Christina Egan © 2016

On the Volcano’s Rim

On the Volcano’s Rim

Goldstaub
(Lanzarote)

Hoher blauer Himmel,
weißer Wolkenflug,
ungestüme Winde,
rascher Schattenzug

über rote Halden,
über graue Höhn,
über grüne Matten,
wo schon Sterne stehn:

abertausend Blüten
wie ein Frühlingslied,
Goldstaub, den die Sonne
aus dem Erdreich zieht!

Christina Egan © 2015

Gold Dust
(Lanzarote)

Blue sky, ever higher,
white clouds in full flight,
winds wilful and forceful,
swift change of the light

across the red boulders,
across the grey height,
across the green lichen,
where stars tremble bright:

a flourish of flowers
and spring in a splash,
the gold dust the sun
can draw out of the ash!

Christina Egan © 2015

Dreaming Dragon
(Lanzarote)

Dew-drops sparkling in all colours
on the mighty coal-black craggy
shoulder of a dreaming dragon:
so these tiny tender flowers
perch on the volcano’s terrace –
fire, earth and wind distilled
to a dainty dotted quilt.

Ceaseless gales and sleepless fire,
ashes fed with salty dew –
ocean and volcano brew
flora’s early, lacy layer,
magic carpet in the air,
in the boundless brown and blue…
Dreams are real. Dreams come true.

Christina Egan © 2015

The Hoard
(Lanzarote)

As the mountain bears the flower,
as the giant holds the gem,
so the hour bears my poem:
purple speck on silver stem.

Where a myriad wild flowers
sprout behind the dry-stone wall,
I must gather all my powers
till the heavens hear my call.

Christina Egan © 2015

Valentine on the Volcano
(Lanzarote)

We dance on the volcano’s rim –
although its low and sunken side,
although extinct for centuries –
tossed partly by the wild wind’s whim
and partly drunk with liquid life –
suspended over sky-blue seas!
(I found my love above Teguise!)

Christina Egan © 2015

Plain and mountain range with very dark surfaces, rosy clouds in sky

The little volcano. Photograph: Christina Egan © 2015

These lines all sprang from one of the greatest experiences of my life: climbing a little volcano on the isle of Lanzarote, about which you can find a poetic description in German and English at Isle of Bliss / Insel der Seligkeit.

Gold Dust and The Hoard could equally be set in my native Rhön Mountains, also of volcanic origin, but very far inland and much greener.

The three poems in English only may work quite well in an automatic translator. The first two poems are translations of each other, or rather, parallel creations in German and English, where rhythm and rhyme required some changes in wording. It is better to do it this way, since the message is partly conveyed by rhythm and rhyme!

You could leave out the line in brackets to use the poem for a Valentine’s or anniversary card. Copy that line, though, into your list of places to see — both little towns, Teguise and Costa Teguise, because one has got the history and the other one the beach!

This handful of poems almost sums up my work: they describe plants and mountains and the sea; they refer to most basic colours; conclude with thoughts on art and religion and love; and use the beauty of language to capture the beauty of the world.

Der letzte Tag des Sommers ist gekommen

Der letzte Tag des Sommers ist gekommen

Der letzte Tag des Sommers ist gekommen
mit Tropfen frischen Bluts und Flocken Schnees
entlang des ausgeblichnen Blumenbeets,
mit Sonnenschein, geballt und dann verschwommen,
mit Regenschauern, hart und schon zerronnen,
mit tausendfacher Kraft des Krauts und Klees
und brüchigbraunem Laub entlang des Wegs,
mit Silbernetzen wie aus Luft gesponnen.
Der letzte Tag des Sommers hält die Fahne
von allen Farben in die wilden Winde,
daß sie das Auge ohne Suche finde,
daß sie die Seele ohne Zweifel ahne…
Der letzte Tag des Sommers hängt die Fahne
an gelber Rosen berstendes Gebinde.

Christina Egan © 2014


The first part of this sonnet (8 lines) conjures up scattered petals like drops of blood and flakes of snow, bright sunshine and hard rain, vigorous herbs and brittle leaves and delicate webs. The second part (6 lines) lets the last day of summer hold a colourful banner into the wild winds and hang it onto a lush garland of yellow roses. — See also Poems about roses, life and death (a German and English selection).

Anaconda, Anaconda

Anaconda, Anaconda

Slowly slides the anaconda,
through the thicket, through the grass,
undulating, scintillating,
like a rope of murky glass,
ochre and opaque and glinting,
like a river without name,
or a mountain-range in motion,
powered by a hidden flame.

Such a swerving, sparkling serpent
is the history of man,
each millennium of suffering
but a patch or pattern’s span
and each life of toil and longing
but a gold-rimmed muddy scale,
heaving, weaving through the jungle,
seeing neither head nor tail.

Christina Egan © 2015

Massive stone walls piled upon each other

The Tower of Jericho, around 9,000 years old. Photograph:
Reinhard Dietrich (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
.