Beetles on the Ark / Urban Copse

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My Pack of Cards

            My Pack of Cards

My pack of cards, when it was new,
was green and yellow, red and blue:
            from grass and leaves
            to golden sheaves,
            from glowing grapes
            to frosty flakes!
The leaves peeked out, unfurled, and grew,
flared up, fell off, when they were due.
            The fruits were round,
            the ice was sound.
            My year was clear,
            my joy was sheer.
My pack of cards is worn and torn –
my world is pale, and I’m forlorn.

            Christina Egan © 2016

Buds and fresh leaves on top of shoots above a parkIn children’s picture books, the four seasons are sometimes painted in four basic colours; everything is in its place, everything is perfect. Of course, it has never been like this: the weather is always unpredictable, particularly north of the Alps.

However, at the place where I grew up — Central Europe — the seasons were more clearly marked and more stable than on the British Isles. I also believe they were more regular: they seem confused and shifted just now. It is disorientating and worrying…

You can find an impression of undefinable weather at Cimmerian Summer whether it is due to the British climate or to global changes, I do not know.

The poem also expresses nostalgia for childhood, when everything on earth seems in its place. It was inspired by children’s picture books, which often allocate four basic colours to the four seasons.

Photograph: Schloßpark Fulda. Christina Egan © 2014.

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 !

This is the Suburb

This is the Suburb

The houses lined up like birthday cakes:
brick cubes covered in cream-coloured paint,
brick cubes covered in brick-coloured paint,
giraffe-neck chimneys as quaint decorations.

The gardens stretching like flower-boxes,
each bush in blossom a witness to life,
the trees at the corners picked from a toy box,
perfectly round and perfectly green.

This is the suburb. If only you saw it
the very first time, descended from Mars,
flown in from the desert, arrived from abroad,
you’d clap your hands in wonder and joy!

Christina Egan © 2017

Front gardens with brick walls, flower pots, rose tree.

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2013.

England’s endless rows of terraced homes and front gardens, the brick walls and painted ledges and long chimneys — insignificant or actually invisible to their inhabitants beg to be photographed by the strolling visitor or newcomer.

The all-year-round greenery and the abundant flowers in England — even around the giant capital city — will amaze those whose home countries are hotter and drier or else colder and harsher, or whose cities have less green and more stone.

I have read that an immigrant from Bangladesh asked herself if English people are poor because many did not paint their brick houses! I have heard of other Central Europeans who, like myself, took the spring flowers in front of public buildings for artificial ones!

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.

Zugewogen


One year later:
My 125th post!


Zugewogen

Altar, bright golden, in church, Neo-Gothic, with plenty of lit candles beneath.In den Gezeiten des Lebens,
in dem Getriebe der Stadt
suchst du verzweifelt, vergebens
Liebe, die Zukunft hat.

Tritt ins Portal einer Kirche,
schau’ in die flackernde Flut,
entzünd’ eine winzige Kerze
und wisse: Alles wird gut.

Alles ist zugewogen,
Liebe und Freude und Leid;
niemand wird je betrogen
um Sinn und um Seligkeit.

Christina Egan © 2011

St Ludwig, Berlin (near Ku’damm).
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2016

“Everything is weighed for you, love and joy and suffering; nobody will ever be cheated out of meaning and of bliss.”

I believe this beyond any doubt, although not everything will come all right this side of death. Lighting a candle in a place of worship in the midst of our busy lives gives us comfort and peace at any rate.

This poem on faith and destiny was published in a previous edition of the  Münsterschwarzacher Bildkalender. The 2017 calendar is available now, with 52 photographs and 52 poems and addresses (one of them by me: psalm für dich).

psalm für dich / The Charm

psalm für dich

ein schwebender lebender planet
ist dein auge
ein schimmernder sternennebel
dein haar

manche menschen drehen sich nach dir um
und auch manche engel
Gott hat dich erfunden
um sich zu erfreuen

Christina Egan © 2012


This poem has just been published in the Münsterschwarzacher Bildkalender 2017.

The person described may be someone the speaker is in love with or someone else, like a young child. Ultimately, it could be each one of us. I imagine that God feels as passionately about each human being as we feel only about very few others… and of course, still never as passionately.


The Charm

I want to rest my stormy eyes
in yours to find a moment’s calm;
I want to rest my wounded hands
in yours to find their strongest balm.

I need to lay my heart by yours,
which cast this fast and forceful charm,
I need to hear your heart tune in
to sing a brief and burning psalm.

Christina Egan © 2003