The Odd Word

The Odd Word

In this noise this dust this waste
of the traffic the toil
the relationships the part-time
part-heart commitments
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
like lightning
somebody mentions Hölderlin
(a poet who went mad
after they had treated him
in a lunatic asylum)
and I remember his odd expression
‘the God’
odd isn’t it
‘the’
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.

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Alles drängt vorwärts

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

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

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

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!