Suburban traffic jam / Vorstadtstau

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


Vorstadtstau

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.

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

A Quilt of Light and Shade

A Quilt of Light and Shade

A quilt of light and shade,
a quilt of wind and heat
this solstice has become:
half fervour, half fatigue…

A quilt of sun and rain,
a quilt of green and grey,
brick red and blinding white
this city is today.

The boulevards are streams,
the roundabouts are whirls –
and fleetingly this seems
to be the best of worlds.

Christina Egan © 2012


In London, and in northern Europe in general, the weather is unsteady and unpredictable, even in midsummer. London has got a very great number of buildings in red brick, usually with window frames and decorative features in white, and plenty of trees, gardens, and parks. And it is very, very busy…

The summer solstice is also the subject of the previous post, This Day of June. As I am putting these poems online, there should be daylight till ten at night in England and some blue left in the sky even towards midnight — instead, there is not a ray of sunshine all day, and the sky is dark grey in the afternoon…

London, This Moment of May

London, This Moment of May

I.

London, this moment of May.
High stately building, lower part in deep shade, upper part brightly lit, with red double-decker bus passing.A Grand Canyon in grey,
imperceptibly turning to purple,
with an orange glow on its battlements –
but teeming in all its cracks,
with foam of blossom and bird-flight,
with currents of people and cars.

Not a city, but a county, a country,
a proud world in itself,
the planet in a valley,
an open oblong fruit,
rich with glistening seeds,
in the giant hand of clay
hollowed out by the Thames.

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2016

II.

It is not mine, this city: I borrowed it.
I borrowed it for a home,
for a while,
I borrowed its language,
for good.

Or it borrowed me,
it borrowed my eyes
to mount this tall bus,
it borrowed my mouth
to sing this new song.

I run through its veins
of walls and windows,
of trees and lanterns…
A Grand Canyon in grey.

Or it runs through my veins,
a pale-purple stream,
murmuring, glittering…
London, this moment of May.

Christina Egan © 2013


 

The title alludes to the famous line by Virginia Woolf:
“… what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.”
I happened to write my poem in May, on a red bus…


 

P.S.:

A year later, the climate across Europe has slid further into resentment towards foreigners or strangers of any description, be they war refugees or your next-door neighbours. There is a lot of blind anger and fear of vague entities like ‘Europe’ or ‘Islam’. This is the road to racism and fascism.

My essay about my identity as an immigrant to England stayed on the front page of trade union UNISON‘s website for weeks: I dream in English. I come from one country, live in another, and plan to move to a third; yet my main identity is European at any rate!

höhlenmenschen / cavemen

höhlenmenschen

die treppe rollt
hinab hinab
die u-bahn grollt
fährt ein fährt ab

der tunnel biegt sich
durch die nacht
der aufzug hebt sich
aus dem schacht

die masse schiebt sich
durch die schlucht
ein wabern webt sich
in die luft

ein sonnenstrahl
blitzt auf vom glas
ein vogelschwarm
stiebt auf vom gras

der rest ist schatten
stahl und stein
dies ist die stadt
tritt ein tritt ein

Christina Egan © 2015

cavemen

the staircase bores
into the ground
the tube train roars
goes round and round

the tunnel bends
through rock through black
the lift ascends
the narrow gap

the masses heave
through deep ravines
fumes waft and weave
through all these streams

a glint of sun
reflects off glass
a pigeon swarm
explodes from grass

the rest is shadow
steel and stone
this is the city
welcome home

Christina Egan © 2015


This poem — created in parallel in both languages — questions the notion of progress by observing its epitome, the world city, with its underground tunnels and dark gorges between skyscapers.

You can read more laments about the strain of our urban environment in the previous post, Amidst the rush / Schrumpft die Welt, and find some relief in When Webs of Steel / Von stählernen Waben.

Amidst the Rush / Schrumpft die Welt

Amidst the Rush

Amidst the rush, the silent crowds,
the glaring lamps, the blaring sounds,
I sink into a narrow seat,
a circling thought, a fleeting sleep…

Christina Egan © 2015

— 

Give me Two Minutes in the Sun

Give me two minutes in the sun,
give me two minutes in the breeze,
above the roofs, above the trees,
above the dust, above the din –
Give me five yards to stretch and spin,
give me a bench to look and breathe
before I must descend again –
Give me two minutes in the sun!

Christina Egan © 2015

Schrumpft die Welt

Hängt man vor dem Bildschirm
wie im Schattenreich,
wird das Auge müde
und der Rücken steif,

sieht man von der Weltstadt
eine Backsteinwand
und vom Erdenrunde
einen Rasenrand,

schrumpft die Welt zum Rechteck,
klickt man hin und her,
werden Leib und Seele
rastlos oder schwer…

Streift ein Strahl dein Fenster,
stürzt ins müde Aug –
Pflück den Blick des Himmels,
pflück den Tag und saug!

Christina Egan © 2015

By contrast to the previous post, On the Volcano’s Rim, which evokes an extraordinary experience at an exotic place, these poems describe the most mundane and repetitive of actions: commuting in a big city, working in a modern building, typing on a computer…

Schrumpft die Welt, or Shrinks the World, shows how, squeezed in front of a screen for hours, a person may only feel alive for one moment — when a ray of sunshine brushes his or her desk…

This criticism of contemporary life continues in höhlenmenschen / cavemen, where the tunnels and canyons of a world city resemble the rock dwellings of our distant forbears.