Solstice Scroll

Solstice Scroll

I break some rare and short-lived flowers,
I sacrifice some sunshine hours
for Melpomene’s altar steps.
Since Phaeton’s horses thunder higher
with ever more abundant fire,
I’ll finish ere the day-star sets.

I’ll call upon Apollo’s powers,
I’ll stand amongst the cypress towers
around my children’s hidden tomb.
I’ll write my elegy and sing it,
I’ll scroll it up, stand up and fling it
into the bright barge of the moon.

Christina Egan © 2018

Straight Roman road with ruins and trees to the left and right, in the dusk

Roman road in Carthage, Tunisia.
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2014

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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.

Hollow Oak / feuerrad

Hollow Oak

Two round brooches with circular ornaments in gold and garnet, also glass and shell.Under the circle of branches,
under the tent of the tree,
inside the ring of the brambles,
sit on the roots with me!

Sit on the roots emerging
under the perfect round,
crouch by the tree-trunk surging
hollow from hallowed ground.

Under the circle of oak-leaves,
under the tent of the sky,
blue like the lakes in the valley,
come and sit closer by.

Very bright painting of the earth and universe in concentric circles on a golden background.Sheltered by tangled brambles,
held by the hollow oak,
tingled by ancient prayers,
kiss me and kindle hope!

Christina Egan © 2018

(Epping Forest, Essex)

 

feuerrad

das eichenlaub vergeht in goldesglanz
als sich das feuerrad der sonne senkt
die eiche hebt die wurzeln wie zum tanz
indes sie ihre hundert äste schwenkt

der eichenstamm rotiert als starke nabe
in jenem reigen zwischen tag und nacht
sein hohlraum bildet eine honigwabe
vom drachenzahn des brombeerstrauchs bewacht

die eiche streckt sich stolz am waldessaum
der sich zum wasserreichen tale neigt
wie gold und kupfer loht der alte baum
der tagstern sinkt das mondrund aber steigt

Christina Egan © 2018

(Epping Forest, Essex)


Illustrations: Anglo-Saxon disc brooches. Author: BabelStone [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons. — 12th century depiction of the world, illustrating a work by 11th century author Hildegard of Bingen.

A Window will be Thrust Open

A Window will be Thrust Open

A window will be thrust open
where you forgot there was one,
a glow as of noon will be thrown
over your working hands, over your tired face.

You will look into the mirror
and find upon yourself the gaze of an absent one,
you will look into the eyes of a stranger
and find there your face as if steeped in sunset.

halkett_1938_ohnetitelYou will run down the road
to overtake your shadow,
you will push through all your doubts
to hold that hand, to clasp it tight.

Christina Egan © 2003

 

No title. René Halkett (1938).
Image with kind permission
of Galerie Klaus Spermann.

Sunface

Sunface

Orange clouds on blue sky, mirrored in windows of terraced houses to the left, with silhouettes of large trees to the right.

I smile at the sunface
and soak up the rain
I gather a garland
and wait for the grain

I forage the forest
and furrow the earth
I gaze at the sunset
and wait for the bird

I follow the swallow
its call and its course
it cries and it circles
it sinks and it soars

Christina Egan © 2016

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2014.

This was the tree the bird sang from so sweetly… It has since been felled, so that my garden gets much more light and thrives; so the tree behind it, the bird’s new home! 

 

 

Ripples of People

Ripples of People
(Spring Equinox)

*

Ripples of people,
uneven waves, sudden whirls,
fast currents of cars:
a wayward river within
a canyon of grand buildings.

*

These neat white windows,
row upon row, road after road,
a thousand eyes
trying to catch light, praying
to touch the feeble sunset.

*

Christina Egan © 2013

Busy junction in the dusk, with red and yellow lamps of cars and buses glaring.

These tanka were written in Knightsbridge, London,
in the last days of March — after equinox! —
when after months of dull and dark skies,
you may still be desperate for light and warmth.
For similar poems in German, see Alles drängt vorwärts.

Photograph: Deptford Broadway, London.
Michael Oakes © 2016

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