By the River I was sitting
By the River I was sitting
Watching barges floating by
Like the clouds so full of promise
In the blue and burning sky
Bearing jewels, bearing silver
From the mountains crowned with snow
Bearing spices, sweet and fiery
From the jungles down below
By the River I was waiting
For a boat to pick me up
Till the oars were folded inward
And the city-gates were shut
On my roof-top I was watching
Night like lapis-lazuli
While the stars were slowly rolling
Round the tiny lonely me
By Two Rivers I was dwelling
In a house of golden bricks
In my dress of snow and silver
Waving to intrepid ships
When the stars had come full circle
Strangers broke my city-gate
And my boat lay by the palm-trees
Finest date-wine was its freight
And it flew against the current
And it floated with the storm
Till I climbed the purple mountains
Where the River Twins are born
Christina Egan © 2011
This song of the woman by the river is taken
from my stage play The Bricks of Ur (© 2011).
Place: City of Ur, Mesopotamia — Time: 2000 B.C.
Photograph: Assyrian jar (9th to 7th c. BC).
© The Trustees of the British Museum.
The Palms and the Poet
The palm-trees where the poet lingers
stretch out a thousand feathery fingers
and offer sweetest dates.
The shoulder-high ones’ shining tresses
give to the passing knight caresses,
the tall ones, sprinkled shades.
They weave their silken wings together
to shield him from the weighing weather
and point him to the wells.
He seems to smile, but does not notice
the leaves nor fruits, for in his throat is
a spring of syllables.
Christina Egan © 2005
The weeping willow
is smiling in the sunshine,
dancing in the wind.
You sit by the pond beneath,
as if inside a huge harp.
Christina Egan © 2017
The tanka’s image of the poet beside a large harp or lyre, as if he were sitting inside, was inspired by stained-glass windows or illuminated manuscripts showing King David performing the psalms he is said to have composed.
Photographs: Christina Egan © 2014 / © 2018.
a flock of birds turns them into
three lines of verse.
No flowerbeds here –
but a line of bright washing
dancing in the wind!
A palm-tree appears
in the rear mirror, and huts
in the still lagoon.
Christina Egan © 2018
These haiku about haiku were written looking at three picture postcards, where I instantly perceived patterns and metaphors.
Poetry – and painting or photography – are like rear mirrors which make hidden things visible and ordinary places special.
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2016.
All these proud palm-trees,
a thousand and one, now bow
before your beauty.
A road of roses,
an avenue fit for a king –
just right for you.
Desert dust reaches
for your ankles of marble,
envied by my hands.
Christina Egan © 2016
This is actually a set of winter poems: Morocco in midwinter is like northern Europe in midsummer! Marrakesh welcomes you with warm sunshine, thousands of palm-trees and tens of thousands of roses in all colours… Around the city, wherever the ancient irrigation system does not reach, the land stretches dry and dusty.
Photograph: Orange-trees and rose-trees within the rose-coloured walls of Marrakesh. Christina Egan © 2012
Palmenhaus am Wolfsweg –
Palm House at Wolves Lane
wölben sich die Palmblätter
hier im Gewächshaus.
Green sails, filled with light,
with sap, the palm leaves billow
here in the greenhouse.
antworten dem Wasserfall:
Kannst du’s vernehmen?
The flutes of flowers
answering the waterfall:
can you perceive it?
Dieser Tümpel ist
dem Schöpfer ein Tropfen,
der Schildkröte die Welt.
This round pond is
a drop to the Creator,
the world to the turtle.
Im schwarzen Wasser
das Spiegelspiel des Himmels,
der Blitz des Goldfischs.
In the black water
quivering of heavens,
lightning of a goldfish.
Aus nachtgleichem Naß
unter der grünen Brücke
schießt der rote Fisch.
From the night-like wet,
from under the bright-green bridge
the red fish shoots out.
Photographs: Christina Egan © 2013
German texts: Christina Egan © 2014
English texts: Christina Egan © 2015