The Ice-cream Van is Coming

The Ice-cream Van is Coming

(Nice, Bastille Day 2016)

The ice-cream van is coming
It’s huge and fast and white
And filled with little portions
Of summerly delight

The ice-cream van is coming
It’s driving round the bend
Along the cheerful sea-front
Towards the feast-day’s end

The pretty bunting’s dancing
The solemn banners too
The fireworks are sparkling
Above the silver moon!

The ice-cream van is coming
It’s huge and fast and white
Dispersing now at random
Its freight into the night

It hisses metal bullets
An evil dragon’s breath
A sinister last drumroll
A fireworks of death

The ice-cream van is coming
It’s huge and fast and white
A giant metal bullet
Right into Europe’s side

A land of stone has brandished
The whip of slavery
Against the joy of living
The land of liberty

It will now stand up stronger
In grief and unity
It will now last yet longer
In joy and liberty

Christina Egan © 2016

Vive la France !
Vive l’Europe !
Vive la Liberté !

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La Mer, enfin

La Mer, enfin
(Cimetière marin, Sète)

Ô vagues de vers sincères et idolâtres…
Ce vaste pan de verre d’un vert bleuâtre
Entre cieux et ombres suspendu,
Et cet essaim neigeux de tombes en marbre
Parmi les flammes géantes noires des arbres :
La Mer, enfin. J’ai vu et j’ai vécu.

Ces fleurs en bas, comme lèvres entrouvertes,
Impérissables certes, mais inertes,
Moulues de cet argile du Midi ;
Ces fleurs en haut, rosées et scintillantes,
Ces tressaillantes et minces, mais vivantes !
Le Cimetière. J’ai vu et j’ai écrit.

Christina Egan © 2016

Light-blue sky and light-green ocean in the background, white tombs in the foregrund; in the front, a flat marble slabs decorated with two large pink flowers, one in clay and one in plastic.

 

Paul Valéry’s tomb on the Cimetière marin, which has become famous through his poem. It is shown and played all day in the neighbouring art museum erected as a homage to him.

These lines are closely related to Valéry’s. The durable but lifeless flowers are of clay and plastic; the perishable but living ones blossom on the bushes around. My picture and poem were created in early January!

An automatic translation into English may convey the meaning of  my French homage to Valéry quite well — but not the music of the words!

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2016

Moment dans la mare

Moment dans la mare
(Boulogne-sur-Mer)

À la plage immense, vidée de la mer,
le vent est trempé du soleil et du sel :
caresse chanceuse de l’univers,
regard maternel rempli d’étincelles.

La mare autour des chevilles surprises,
le sable mouillé, moulé de soleil :
tout ça – l’océan et la boue et la brise –
tout est mêlé et tout est pareil.

Tout est tiède et tout est limpide,
tout est liquide autour des doigts…
Tout est un rêve réel, et le vide
commence à se combler de joie.

Il n’y a pas de bataille, il n’y a pas de triage
de quatre ou cinq éléments lumineux :
plutôt une étreinte éternelle, mariage
de plage et marée, bénit des cieux.

Christina Egan © 2016


The poem refers to the four or five elements which make up the universe, an ancient philosophical concept found in variations in many civilisations.

Greek philosophers held that war, or conflict, between the forces of nature generate everything and challenge us to greatness. I propose that the Greek elements of fire, air, water, earth — and spirit — exist, but work through interaction and union, and that humans grow most when working within and with nature.

This makes harmony instead of conflict the driving force of the universe. It is also a female philosophical approach rather than a traditional male one.

In French literature, the ‘void’ is essential, marking loneliness, mortality, and the pointlessness of life; I want to hold up the ‘void’ or ‘silence’ as an experience of peace and fulfilment, communion with the universe, and a foretaste of eternal life.

When I stood on the beach of Boulogne at sunset, the sky and the sea and the sand were gleaming in streaks of otherworldly purple and orange.

An automatic translation into English may convey the sense of these lines well, but in the original French, they are conceived to sound like music… like waves.

Arles im Winter

Arles im Winter

Die Fensterläden wie ein Farbenkasten,
kornblumenblau und flieder und türkis;
die goldnen Wände, die im Wind verblaßten,
die Gasse, die den kurzen Schnee verschlief.

Die Bogengänge wie bestickte Bänder,
die Krippenbilder wie ein Glockenspiel…
Und das Theater wechselnder Gewänder,
wo nie – seit Rom – der letzte Vorhang fiel.

Die weiche Luft am weiten Strom von Norden,
wo beißendkalter Wind bis eben blies,–
er wälzt sich meerwärts, kostet wohl schon morgen
Kornblumenblau und Flieder und Türkis!

Christina Egan © 2016

Lane with old houses, window shutters in various shades of turquoise and green.The Old Town of Arles is huddled together within the precincts of the Roman city, next to the vast River Rhône  and close to its mouth into the Mediterranean Sea – with the churches built of the stones of the temples and the houses built with the stones of the theatre.

Down the funnel of the river valley, there is a forceful and often icy wind, the Mistral; but there is also a mild wind from south, the Wind from the Sea, which may warm up the city in the midst of winter, so that you can sit in the Roman ruins…

Model village on steep hills as backdrop to a nativity scene

There are exhibitions of nativity scenes and figurines in all styles, even contemporary, at Saint-Trophime; in another mediaeval church, a whole side-chapel is filled with a model village with rocks and trees, running water and flickering fire, and hundreds of tiny local people.

I have written another poem on Arles and the Vent de la mer  in French and English. This one here may work quite well in a translation software.

Photographs: Arles. Christina Egan © 2011.

Mer de miel

 Clouds in hte sunset, looking like a bright yellow sea, an orange coast and purple sky. An optic illusion above a real coast (not visible here).

Mer de miel
(Sète)

Levez vos yeux vers ce vitrail doré,
d’un jaune plus doux, d’un jaune plus pâle possible :
une baie cernée de hauts rochers
d’un bleu brumeux… Un crépuscule paisible.

Clignez vos yeux à ce vitrail distant,
mer de miel, montagne mauve, sauvage :
tout flotte au dessus de l’horizon –
des eaux de feu, une terre de nuages !

Ce paysage d’un or incomparable
s’évanouit et passe, une image…
Ou serait ça la côte impérissable
et notre terre et mer le grand mirage ?

Christina Egan © 2016


This poem takes up an idea from ancient pagan and Christian philosophy: our world may be only a pale reflexion of a higher, perfect, world. Those ‘heavens’, however, are an inaccessible and unimaginable place — beyond our universe — for which the visible sky is only an image.

The fiery sunset which took me quite literally ‘out of this world’ occurred in midwinter on one of the northernmost beaches of the Mediterranean, at the outskirts of Sète. For a daytime poem and photograph on the sea around Sète, see La Mer, enfin.

Clouds in the sunset, looking like a bright yellow sea, an orange coast and purple sky. An optic illusion above a real coast (also visible here).

Photographs: The sky above the coast in Sète, France. Christina Egan © 2016

Crystal Rock

Crystal Rock
(Béziers)

View from Gothic cathedral, almost vertical, onto structures forming a pattern

You follow a hidden winding staircase
and step down inside a crystal rock.

You have become very small and dark
or the space around you tall and light.

You stand on the ground of a tower of ice,
a polygon of translucent stone.

Is it a cavern? Is it a glacier?
No, it’s a chapel beneath a chapel!

Gothic cathedral in winter, dark grey against light blue

It is a cell in an ancient cluster:
a grey cathedral crouched on a rock.

Your soles touch a surface beneath the soil,
your eyes reach a tent of light like the sky.

This staircase does not lead to a nightmare:
it should be baptised a lightmare instead.

That era should not be known as Dark Ages:
it ought to be honoured as Ages of Light!

Christina Egan © 2016

Photographs: Christina Egan © 2016

These lines refer to the same ancient town of Béziers as the last post, Roof-Tile / Plateau. There, you can see more views from the roofs of the Cathedral.

 

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