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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Lilac and Lime

Lilac and Lime

Vase with small but very bright flowers, mainly raspberry-pink and lemon-yellow, like fireworks, against turquoise table and turquoise sheet.It is coming at last! With the singing wood
of luminous lutes, with trumpets and drums,
in garments and feathers of lilac and lime,
of honey and rose, with stately stride,
with canter and caper, the pageant of summer
is wending its way and filling the valley
with birds and butterflies, blossom and breeze.

Christina Egan © 2008

Little tree with apple-green leaves in a park in average summerly green

For a German poem about the pageant of summer, see geh aus mein herz.

 

Photographs: Christina Egan © 2013 / © 2014.

Yellow Fire (April Haiku)

Yellow Fire
(April Haiku)

*

Little rust-red leaves,
no, blood-red in the sunlight,
there, throbbing with life!

*

White stars are floating,
above the ancient tombstones,
on the slanting tree.

*

Little lime-green leaves
running along the hedges,
look, like yellow fire!

*

Christina Egan © 2017

Drawing of three old-fashioned spinning tops.Illustration from
‘Children’s games throughout the year’ 
(1949) by Leslie Daiken.

The Spell of Spring

The Spell of Spring

Japanese laquer picture: two flying geese above river in gold, full moon in silver.When seven geese arise and fly
in magic patterns through the sky,
the silver rings of cloud will blush,
the orb of sparse young green glow lush.

When seven geese cry out and glide
from wintertide to summertide,
we’ll pass an arbour like an arch
and be transformed by mighty March!

You have become my you, and I,
your you, and our hearts float high,
when seven geese sail out of sight
into the secrets of the night.

Christina Egan © 2015

Image from: Japan nach Reisen und Studien by J. J. Rein (1881-86). Provided by the British Library through Flickr.

Cascades of Light

Cascades of Light

Cascades of light,
of mild, corn-coloured fire:
the sun pours itself out, down,
down across the black gulf
of space and time,
a flame, a smile,
onto the open rose,
the waiting face of the earth.

Christina Egan © 2004

Two large orange roses in the sunshine, yellow in the middle, with large healthy leaves.

Psalm

As warming as the sun’s first touch
after an age of ice.

The last love tastes like the first one:
radical, innocent.

No need to confirm with fire,
no need to confirm with words.

The world suspended in your eyes –
then life rolling out like a yellow-green valley.

Christina Egan © 2004

Vast lush meadow, with blue creek in the middle, under blue sky.

Photographs: Roses on the small island of Föhr, meadows on the tiny island of Hooge, both in the North Sea. Christina Egan © 2014.

An Average Life / And All My Youth

An Average Life

The admiral butterfly
a map of happiness
on the burnished green
of the ivy in May

its glamour
its poise
its place in the sun
imagine you had it

bright as a bracelet
fine as a feather
strong as a storm
imagine you were it

and you practised your movements
studied your speeches
turned up in good time –
and your part has been cancelled

the play goes ahead
with you as a servant
in black in the background
required to smile.

Christina Egan © 2010

 

And all my youth I have been old

Amidst the wealth of my existence
I suffer hunger dark and cold
I am invisibly imprisoned
and all my youth I have been old

On narrow shoulders I must carry
my illness like an awkward cross
I am inexorably burdened
by frailty and its offspring loss

Christina Egan © 2010

 

The Green Dress / Im grasgrünen Kleid

The Green Dress

This green, this green! The purest of greens,
the softest of silk, the smoothest of greens!
It’s mellow and creamy –
and glossy and hard –
it’s distant and dreamy –
and sudden and sharp –
It’s got all the earth in it, fields in full plume,
the glow of the sun and the snow of the moon!
There’s birch in it, ivy –
there’s lemon and lime –
and oceans and icebergs –
and olives and pine –
And the lady beneath the shimmering screen
bears the soul of the earth in the secret of green!
In the gold of her hair
and the blue of her eyes,
in the lines of her limbs
and the flow of her voice
there’s the glow of the sun and the snow of the moon:
a creature of night and a creature of noon.

Christina Egan © 2009


Im grasgrünen Kleid

Ich stehe am Fenster und schaue hinaus,
und niemand bemerkt mein bescheidenes Haus,
und niemand bemerkt mein grasgrünes Kleid,
und niemand bedauert mein aschgraues Leid.

Die Dämmerung wogt, und es rauscht der Verkehr.
Ich stehe und schaue. Und niemand schaut her.
Zuletzt ist es still, und es rauscht nur die Zeit.
Ich weine allein in mein grasgrünes Kleid.

Und einst werd ich fort sein und einst sogar tot,
und nur dieses Liedlein bezeugt meine Not:
Mein Kleid wie der Sommer, mein Haar wie der Herbst,
mein Leben, das niemand als du, Leser, erbst.

Christina Egan © 2016


The woman in the green dress stands for life, fertility, plenty, joy — like the Green Man or Green Woman of ancient pagan traditions, I suppose…