Rhymes / Known

Rhymes

No, our names don’t rhyme well,
we come from far-off lands –
but neither rhyme nor reason
can censor our hands,

those hands that seem created
to grasp the chance, to grasp
each other, tight and quiet,
as if two souls could clasp.

Yes, hills from hills are distant
and can’t wed as they would,
they cannot warp and wander –
but people could and should.

Christina Egan © 2004

Silhouette of low silver-blue mountain range against silver-blue sky, just like in the poem.

Known

I’ve smelt the rarest rose of snow,
I’ve tasted of the sun’s last glow.

I’ve met you on a cloud-veiled ridge,
perhaps the planet’s highest bridge.

I’d looked out long. And now I’ve seen.
I’ve once been loved. I’ve known. I’ve been.

Christina Egan © 2004


The thought that people, unlike mountains, can get to each other across distances, goes back to a Greek proverb.

Photograph: “Kegelspiel” by N8mahl at the German language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

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Eat the World (When you get older)

Eat the World

When you get older,
you want to eat the world
for breakfast.

Colourful ancient glass window, prophet in red hat, red shoes, green cloak.When you get older,
you want to consult the radiant prophets
in the high sky-blue windows,
to soak up the tranquil cathedrals
of soaring silvery tree-trunks,
before the acid turns all of this
into sooty ruins.

You want to sprint to the station tonight
and jump on the train, shooting
through tunnels, under the city,
under the ocean, under the mountains,
through to the other side of the earth!

You want to slip into sleek capsules
to float up slopes, up skyscrapers,
up cliffs, up lighthouses,
up towards the clouds and
through the clouds!

When you get older,
you feel as if you could almost fly
into the sun already.

Christina Egan © 2017

Photograph: Prophet Hosea, window in Augsburg Cathedral, around 1100. By Hans Bernhard (Schnobby) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

Ex tenebris (The day is like a daffodil)

Ex tenebris

The day is like a daffodil. Yet
the green garland of the garden,
the golden garland of the sunset
cannot dispel the dark of the depth.

On the crests of the hills,
tiny blue brushstrokes,
you can watch them wander,
the deceased and the unborn.

My heart is a fist in my chest.
My tears are grapes of glass.
No one sees them: no one sees me.
I am alone with the angels.

Christina Egan © 2017

Daffodils and narcissus growing thickly around a fivefold gnarled treetrunk.Photograph: Christina Egan © 2013.

Die blauen Fernen

Die blauen Fernen

Fernab der Meere und der mächtgen Ströme
liegt meine Hügelheimat hingebreitet;
mit jeder Wendung, Steigung, die ich nehme,
wird mir der Blick auf neue Höhn geweitet.

Was braucht es Meere, wenn uns Wald und Wiesen
und Feld und Felsen und die blauen Fernen
wie Wellenberge, Wellentäler fließen,
den Schritt beflügeln und das Herz erwärmen?

Die Luft ist rein, mit Duft und Kraft geladen,
die Glieder und den Geist mir zu verjüngen;
und winters werden Schnee und Nebelschwaden
des Eismeers Zauber in die Berge bringen.

Christina Egan © 2016


One stanza of this poem is printed in the Rhönkalender 2018 with a photo from that part of the Central German Highlands; the whole poem has been published in the Münsterschwarzacher Bildkalender 2019.

The City Lit Up

The City Lit Up

I lived between Ilex and Salix,
just north of Londinium Town,
and sometimes I climbed to the moss-well
between the oaks and looked down.

I looked at the thatch and the roof-tiles,
as red as the embers beneath,
I looked at the timber and marble,
the highways connecting the heath,

the gates, the walls and the broad bridge,
the fields afloat on the clay;
and I wondered if London would stretch
as vast as the valley one day,

Pond in park, surrounded by bare trees, with tiny island

as vast as Rome, which had risen
from marshes and slopes long ago,
with columns touching the heavens
because the gods willed it so;

and if Rome could ever be shrinking
and sinking into the bog,
or London be burning or flooding
and melting into the fog…

The city lit up in the sunset
and faded away in the dusk;
I felt the chill in the oak-wood,
and down to my villa I rushed.

I entered the gate by the willows
and strode through the dolphins’ yard,
I passed the flickering torches
and stopped by my forefathers’ hearth.

Roman mosaic of a mansion

My name was Appius Felix,
an heir to Aeneas of Troy;
I kept the seals and the idols
to pass them on to my boy.

I used the sword and the saddle,
I held the lyre and quill.
I lived between Ilex and Salix,
at the foot of the Moss-Well Hill.

Christina Egan © 2016


As you can see from the 100-metre-high summit of the Muswell Hill, London does stretch for many miles nowadays, filling the valley to both sides of the meandering River Thames.

You will also notice that there are large patches of green everywhere, some of them left over from ancient marshland and woodland. If you know your way, you can walk across London through woods and meadows, across hills and along rivers for miles!

My Roman observer lives in modern-day Wood Green or Bounds Green, near fictitious hamlets or villas called Ilex (holly or oak) and Salix (willow or osier).

This man firmly believes that gods guard his city and his country and that spirits guard his home and his family. He pursues some useful career in the service of the Empire, but he is also a bit of a poet.

I named him Appius after the statesman of the Republic who had contributed so much to Rome’s infrastructure as well as intellectual life, and Felix because he counts himself lucky.


 

You can find more on Londinium’s fortifications at Ode to London Wall  and more about its straight or winding highways at Quo vadis?

Photographs: Country villa, late Roman mosaic, Bardo Museum, Tunis. —  Pond in Tottenham, North London. Christina Egan © 2014

This is the Northern Land

This is the Northern Land

This is the northern land
of loose and juicy ground
where fern and forest glow
and wheat and fruit abound.

This is the continent
where mound responds to mound
and wind resounds on rock –
this is the home we found.

This is the realm of dusk
and star-embroidered night,
of fog caressing lakes…
and then the roaring light!

Christina Egan © 2013

Mountain meadow filling lower half of picture, high trees right behing and mountain range in the distance along the middle, pale blue sky above.

Dammersfeld mountain ridge, Rhön (Central German Highlands).
Two of my great-grandparents grew up with precisely this view. —
Photograph
 by GerritR via Wikimedia Commons.


 

This poem was inspired by the Czech national anthem, Kde domov muj, which entirely refrains from politics and warfare and mainly describes the lush landscape of Central Europe. The Czech Republic abounds with hills and lakes, forests and fields.

My lines cover the whole of Central Europe or the whole continent (including the British Isles): my home is my region, or my country, or Central Europe, or all of Europe — none more so than the other.

The claim that even those who were born there ‘found’ their land may sound strange: yet their ancestors did immigrate one day, even if it was a thousand years or two thousand ago. No one just grew out of the ground. Moreover, most people are arguably of mixed ethnic origin, in our case, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Jewish, Hungarian, and more. No nation is an island.

The Mechanics of Love

The Mechanics of Love

the mechanics of love
have tolled the hour
have chained my heart
are pulling me towards you

the sunlit hills
of your guileless face
the turquoise surf
of your quiet voice

I cannot distinguish
what determines my steps
the mechanics of love
or your silvery forcefield

Christina Egan © 2012


These lines record some of the fundamental insights of my life: that falling in love is always a blend of true fascination with another person and of sheer emotional and physical need; and that one of the main factors attracting a woman to a man is his voice — utterly underrated throughout history! Perhaps because history has largely been written by men, and so have science and literature ? Well, I hope men are at least subconsciously drawn to a melodious voice, too!