Ripples of People

Ripples of People
(Spring Equinox)

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

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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

Mer de miel

 Clouds in hte sunset, looking like a bright yellow sea, an orange coast and purple sky. An optic illusion above a real coast (not visible here).

Mer de miel
(Sète)

Levez vos yeux vers ce vitrail doré,
d’un jaune plus doux, d’un jaune plus pâle possible :
une baie cernée de hauts rochers
d’un bleu brumeux… Un crépuscule paisible.

Clignez vos yeux à ce vitrail distant,
mer de miel, montagne mauve, sauvage :
tout flotte au dessus de l’horizon –
des eaux de feu, une terre de nuages !

Ce paysage d’un or incomparable
s’évanouit et passe, une image…
Ou serait ça la côte impérissable
et notre terre et mer le grand mirage ?

Christina Egan © 2016


This poem takes up an idea from ancient pagan and Christian philosophy: our world may be only a pale reflexion of a higher, perfect, world. Those ‘heavens’, however, are an inaccessible and unimaginable place — beyond our universe — for which the visible sky is only an image.

The fiery sunset which took me quite literally ‘out of this world’ occurred in midwinter on one of the northernmost beaches of the Mediterranean, at the outskirts of Sète. For a daytime poem and photograph on the sea around Sète, see La Mer, enfin.

Clouds in the sunset, looking like a bright yellow sea, an orange coast and purple sky. An optic illusion above a real coast (also visible here).

Photographs: The sky above the coast in Sète, France. Christina Egan © 2016

Rosen wie Splitter

Rosen wie Splitter
(Juli-Haiku)

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Rosen wie Splitter
von Mittagsglut, Mondnacht
und Sonnenuntergang.

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Warm und schwer von Düften
schwappt die Luft durch den Park,
lacht lautlos der Teich.

*

Goldene Blüten,
tausend Trompeten, hörbar
nur für die Engel.

*

Christina Egan © 2001

Two large orange roses in the sunshine, yellow in the middle, with large healthy leaves.

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2014

Der bunte Staub / The Multi-Coloured Dust

Der bunte Staub

Der bunte Staub auf meinem Fensterbrett
– ein Häufchen Blütenblätter, ausgebleicht –
verwandelt sich im Abendsonnenlicht
in einen Schatz, dem kein Geschmeide gleicht.

Christina Egan © 2014

Little vase with flowers in lemon yellow, pale blue, deep pink and red; some petals scattered beneath; garden in background.

The Multi-Coloured Dust

The multi-coloured dust flocks on my desk 
– a heap of petals fading gradually –
gets now transformed by sunshine from the West
into a hoard surpassing jewellery.

Christina Egan © 2015

You can also find petals decaying to dust in the
German hymn Spiritum Sanctum vivificantem.

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2013

Sommergewitter am Meer

Sommergewitter am Meer

Das Meer lag wie ein Teppich,
die Sonne sank mit Prunk.
Die Nacht fiel lau und lieblich,
der Mond stieg stolz und rund.

Der Himmel rührt das Wasser
und zaust den Wald – und jetzt –
ein Tropfen, Klopfen, Prasseln –
und jetzt – der erste Blitz!

Doch in die wilden Zacken,
Licht sonder Maß und Zahl,
dreht eine Leuchtturmfackel
den stillen breiten Strahl.

Christina Egan © 2015

This composition of bright moonshine, wild lightning,
and flashing lighthouse fire recalls the Darß (Darss) at
the very edge of Germany.

You can find more verse on the Baltic Sea in summer
at ostseeschlaflied and Midsummernight Far North,
and when you type ‘Darss’ into the search box.

First Autumn Days / Erste Herbsttage

First Autumn Days
(September Haiku)

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Fiery flower,
still sucking sunshine, still scaling
the wooden fence.

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The sky turns deep pink
above the first rusty leaves
and burning berries.

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The moon, low and large,
a knob of solid silver
on heaven’s sceptre.

***

Erste Herbsttage

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Feurige Blume,
noch saugst du die Sonne ein,
kletterst den Zaun hoch.

*

Tiefrosa Himmel,
erste rostrote Blätter,
brennende Beeren.

*

Der Mond, niedrig, groß,
solide Silberkugel
am Himmelszepter.

*

Christina Egan © 2015

*

Haiku have 5 + 7 + 5 syllables.
The German haiku are translated
from the English ones.