falling stars and
on the ground
nimble hands and
curling vines and
on your spade
on your plate
time to wake and
time to think
time to sleep and
time to slow
time to weep and
time to grow
time to rise and
time to hoist your
Christina Egan © 2020
While London closed down to protect itself from the 2020 coronavirus, I was cut off from my job and from the internet for a while. (This blog ran on as pre-scheduled.)
I was very fortunate to spend many hours outdoors, working in my garden or walking under the countless trees and along the hidden rivers of London, and through the suburban roads, cleared at last of traffic and crowds. Spring brought splendid sunshine, as if it were already high summer.
There was time. There was air. There was life. For many who were not ill or caring for those who were ill, this must have been one of the best times of their life.
Tottenham Marshes / Tottenham Cemetery. Photographs: Christina Egan © 2020.
Bloomsbury, on the Ides of May
I will remember: it was on the Ides of May,
the light was lingering late, still bright behind
the fading curtains of clouds, ready to burst
into colourful banners; so were the buds in the parks.
Short were the shades of the columns and those of the crowds
ceaselessly weaving around the corners of concrete.
I will remember the weary assembly of tombstones,
too weathered to count as a witness, the lime-green life
pushing out from the cracks, the benches eager for laughter,
the birds’ unheeded, untiring, Vespers to God.
See: I lay down the unspoken secret in verse.
Christina Egan © 2007
Photograph (taken in Tottenham
in July): Christina Egan © 2013.
Embroidered with orange lights
are the fanned steel wings of the bridge
suspended in the summer night,
a tranquil dragon bringing luck.
Wide is the night and warm,
like the dark wine of old and ardent love.
The sky reads the low, slow river
as my eye reads yours in a dream.
Sparkling with lights is the city,
sparkling with lights is my soul.
Christina Egan © 2003
Dragons, of course, are noble and bring luck in Chinese mythology.
I must have been thinking of Hammersmith Bridge in London.
You can read more poems about suspension bridges at On the Orange Bridge (San Francisco) and Rosenquarzkammern (Malmö).
The Odd Word
In this noise this dust this waste
of the traffic the toil
the relationships the part-time
the remorseless rap from the radio
the news of murder and treason the trash
worth millions of dollars the scraps
of subtle philosophy the divine
passionate percussion solos
something went missing
and the problem is
we don’t miss it.
In a café full of words and music
somebody mentions Hölderlin
(a poet who went mad
after they had treated him
in a lunatic asylum)
and I remember his odd expression
odd isn’t it
must be Classical Greek
I’ll clarify that.
Christina Egan © 1998
The phrase ‘words and music’ allude to
a poetry event where I met my partner!
At a later reading, I presented this poem.
geh aus mein herz
die braunen bauklotzhäuser
die weißen blütenkelche
die sich versonnen rühren
im wind aus samt und seide
die schweren purpurrosen
in Salomonis kleide
die deine finger kosen…
der sommer will dich füllen
die erde lädt dich ein
zu laufen und zu schaffen
zu schauen und zu
Christina Egan © 2011
In Purpur zog der Kaiser einst,
in Scharlachrot der Kardinal,
in Violett die Kaiserin
in einen grüngeschmückten Saal.
So prunken die Geranien
in ihrer Sommerprozession
und rufen in das Gartenrund:
“Wir übertrumpfen Salomon!”
Christina Egan © 2014
The appeal ‘Go out and seek joy’ and the metaphor of King Solomon’s silk are taken from the jubilant hymn and folksong Geh aus, mein Herz, und suche Freud, written by Paul Gerhardt in the middle of the 17th century.
The houses in uniform dull colours with front doors in different bright colours are typical for London. So are the little private gardens with geraniums.
The first poem is contemplative and intense, the second one humorous and light. The last line of the first poem is cut up on purpose: to let the word ‘to be’ resound on its own.
For an English poem about the pageant of summer see Lilac and Lime.
Westminster Bridge, Mitte März
Im Überfluß hingeschüttet, schimmernd
und erstmals wieder erquickend
der Sonnenschein, und schon erstreckt sich
aus silbernen Plättchen gehämmert
das Straßenpflaster, entrollt sich
die hellblaue Teppichbahn
des Stromes, schon stemmen sich,
stumme starke Löwenflanken,
die Brückenpfeiler empor, ragen
lotrecht die Honigwaben
der Sandsteinfassaden, rasselt
endlos das bunte Geröll
der Menschenmassen vorüber…
Und unabwendbar naht sich
die Machtergreifung des Lichtes.
Christina Egan © 2014
The rhythmic stream of words recreates an everyday and vibrating scene: the enlivening flow of the spring sunshine; the rolling-out of a silver carpet and a blue carpet — Westminster Bridge and the River Thames; an avalanche of colourful boulders or pebbles — people from all over the world; and the upward pull of the bridge pillars and mighty buildings — the Houses of Parliament.
Alles drängt vorwärts
Fahrzeug um Fahrzeug,
bunte Menschen, Hunderte,
alles drängt vorwärts.
Durch das Adernetz der Stadt
rollt das Leben, das Sterben.
Kein einziger Stern,
bloß Wolken, Nebel und Staub
über den Dächern.
Doch Funken stieben, golden
und rot, über die Kreuzung.
Christina Egan © 2015/ © 2017
These tanka were written in Bloomsbury, London,
one in summer and one in winter, one bright light
and one in dim light; but the seasons and hours
make less difference in London than elsewhere…
For similar poems in English, go to Ripples of People.
Photograph: Deptford Broadway, London.
Michael Oakes © 2016
Bus Stop Haiku
The full moon captured
in a cage of stone and wood:
a white paper lamp.
on the window sill, turning
into bursts of scent.
Brick wall and bus stop:
in between, seven nations
Christina Egan © 2016
An ancient art form capturing mundane moments from the big city: In Wood Green, London, a crowd from seven nations is squeezing onto the red buses. I looked out for beauty at the bus stop and found it.
The full moon glimpsed turns out to be a bedroom lamp. The luxurious lavender grows in a little tin pot. The third autumn haiku does not even have any image from nature: just a brick wall…
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
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!
Suburban traffic jam
It’s raining, the traffic is creeping,
the morning is seeping away…
The bus windows seem to be weeping
at boundless suburban grey.
Yet should a grenade or a comet
now strike us, as if to sift –
I’d meet my death as a poet,
I’ve smiled and I’ve breathed and I’ve lived!
Christina Egan © 2015
Es regnet… Minuten verrinnen
im Vorstadtstau, Stoßzeitstau…
Die Autobusfenster verschwimmen
im uferlos traurigen Grau.
Und sollte der Tod uns jetzt lichten
– Granate oder Komet –
so hab’ ich gelächelt, gedichtet,
so hab’ ich geatmet, gelebt!
Christina Egan © 2015
These thoughts came to me on a bus near the spot in London where a man was shot dead by gangsters in 2015; no one has been charged with the crime. In 2016, another man was shot dead nearby by police. Later that year, another man was stabbed to death just down the road, near Wood Green Station.
Moreover, many terrorist attacks have happened in Europe, and many more have been prevented in London alone; but more are bound to afflict us.