My City Calls (Grey Roofs Grey Walls)

My City Calls

Grey roofs grey walls
Make up this place
A rough and kind
Familiar face

The spires chimneys
Market stalls
Suspended bridges
Station halls

Oh face of walls
So great so mild
My city calls
Come here my child

My city calls
With golden chime:
While winter falls
Stay here some time

The sky is full
Of rain and snow
Of miracles
To fall and grow

So many faces
In the street
Yet far away
The one I need

Far is my dear
So far away
But I am here
Just day to day

My city calls
Me with her charms
My heartbeat falls
into her arms

Christina Egan © 1995 / 2012


 

Like in Heimkehr nach Köln, the big city is seen as a mother. There are other poems or songs where I describe it as a person — man or woman, although I feel that a city is female. It is a personal relationship: my heart beats for the city, as I claim in Geflecht / Geflechte.

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.

There’s Door on Door

There’s Door on Door

There’s door on door of painted wood
with potted plants and polished brass,
there’s row on row of gabled roofs,
there’s brick and plaster, hedge and grass.

There’s floor on floor of balconies,
above the din, above the dust,
inclusive of commodities,
there’s stone and concrete, steel and glass.

There’s door on door, there’s floor on floor,
but not for me, but not for me –
there’s brick and brass, there’s steel and glass,
exclusive of humanity.

There’s door on door, there’s floor on floor,
but not for us, but not for us –
one has a sofa in a store,
one has an archway in the dust.

Christina Egan © 2015

London, This Moment of May

London, This Moment of May

I.

London, this moment of May.
High stately building, lower part in deep shade, upper part brightly lit, with red double-decker bus passing.A Grand Canyon in grey,
imperceptibly turning to purple,
with an orange glow on its battlements –
but teeming in all its cracks,
with foam of blossom and bird-flight,
with currents of people and cars.

Not a city, but a county, a country,
a proud world in itself,
the planet in a valley,
an open oblong fruit,
rich with glistening seeds,
in the giant hand of clay
hollowed out by the Thames.

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2016

II.

It is not mine, this city: I borrowed it.
I borrowed it for a home,
for a while,
I borrowed its language,
for good.

Or it borrowed me,
it borrowed my eyes
to mount this tall bus,
it borrowed my mouth
to sing this new song.

I run through its veins
of walls and windows,
of trees and lanterns…
A Grand Canyon in grey.

Or it runs through my veins,
a pale-purple stream,
murmuring, glittering…
London, this moment of May.

Christina Egan © 2013


 

The title alludes to the famous line by Virginia Woolf:
“… what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.”
I happened to write my poem in May, on a red bus…


 

P.S.:

A year later, the climate across Europe has slid further into resentment towards foreigners or strangers of any description, be they war refugees or your next-door neighbours. There is a lot of blind anger and fear of vague entities like ‘Europe’ or ‘Islam’. This is the road to racism and fascism.

My essay about my identity as an immigrant to England stayed on the front page of trade union UNISON‘s website for weeks: I dream in English. I come from one country, live in another, and plan to move to a third; yet my main identity is European at any rate!

Heimkehr nach Köln

Heimkehr nach Köln

Die türmenden Inseln
der Kirchen,
die aschgrauen Schachteln
der Häuser,
die lärmenden Räder
der Plätze –

Geborgen bin ich
im Schoß meiner Stadt,
die mich die Sprache lehrte,
die vergessene Sprache,
die schlichten Gesänge
verschütteten Glücks.

Ein goldenes Antlitz taucht
aus dem bunten Dämmer hervor.
Wer bist du?
Geh nicht fort, Gesicht
ohne Namen, leihe mir
mein Geheimnis heut nacht!

Christina Egan © 1992

This poem about homecoming to a big city could refer to a place where someone grew up; or where they lived in the past; or where they may have lived in a former life on earth.

Bronze head of a bishop, mediaeval yet classical in appearance.Therefore, the mysterious golden face which is the key to the past could be a late relative; or a lost friend; or else a historical figure. I was thinking of this portrait at the back of Cologne Cathedral.

Photograph: „Grabmal Konrad von Hochstaden Gipsabdruck“ von Elke Wetzig (Elya)

Heimat gibt es doppelt

Heimat gibt es doppelt

Heimat gibt es doppelt: Heimat deiner Jugend,
Kopfsteinpflaster unter den karierten Schuhn;
anderswo vielleicht dann Heimat deines Herzens,
wo gewundne unsichtbare Wurzeln ruhn,

wo die Glocken süß und voll Verheißung beben
wie die frühen fliederfarbnen Azaleen,
wo die vielen flachen blassen Hausfassaden
lächeln, wenn die Wolkenschatten weiterwehn….

wo vor himmelstürmend hohen Kirchentürmen
glutrot oder sonnengelb die Blüten sprühn
und der Teppich der Jahrhunderte darunter
ruft, um deinen Lebensstrang hineinzuziehn.

Christina Egan © 2010

Another love letter to my favourite city, Cologne!

O Heimatland aus Stein und Licht

O Heimatland aus Stein und Licht

O Heimatland aus Stein und Licht,
o Silberstamm und Silberblatt,
o Flammenhimmel, Flammenstrand,
o weiße Mauer, weiße Stadt
und blendendblaue ruhige Bucht!
Mein steiles, karges, klares Land –
o sonnensatte Lebenslust!

Christina Egan © 2015

Ehlers_Kollwitz

The poem was inspired by this woodcut, “Elba –
Land der Esel”
by Ottilie Ehlers-Kollwitz (1955).
For a larger view click here: Galerie Spermann.