Captivity

I.

looking through the lofty glass door
I feel the faint sun on my forehead

I press my hands against the glaze of ice
I grasp the slender handle to crack it

I must lean out of it
I must step out of it

into the sparkling garden below me
into the buzzing street beyond it

I must follow the clouds to the edge of the land
I must follow the winds to the edge of the earth

 

II.

Iron railing in brick wall, like a gate without lock, with view onto green riverbank.tomorrow I will open my eyes
as if I saw the sun for the first time

tomorrow I will get up and go
as if my steps were guided and guarded

I will step out of my mind
into someone else’s mind

I will step out of my eyes
into someone else’s eyes

then I shall touch beauty
then I shall taste life

 

III.

Heavy rusty gate, decorated with swirls, with keys in lock.the summer was short
and long was the winter

I witnessed neither
I looked upon bricks

that was when I realised
how glaring lamps are and how bland

how pages are made of paper
and screens stay stubbornly flat

that was when I faded
from a flag to a shadow

I chewed on the bare bread of hope
turning sweet on my tongue

Christina Egan © 2012

Photographs: Christina Egan © 2018 / 2014.

die unterseite der ahornblätter

die unterseite
der ahornblätter

die unterseite
der ahornblätter
zu entziffern
bin ich bestellt

die verästelungen
der äderchen
die lebenslinien
und altersflecken

pergament
durchsichtig
gegen das licht
liebesgedichte

bettlerschalen
dankbar und demütig
bischofskelche
frohgemut hochgemut

die unterseite
der ahornblätter
zu besingen
bin ich geboren

Christina Egan © 2019

Die Unterseite der Möwenflügel

Die Unterseite der Möwenflügel
läßt mich die sinkende Sonne erahnen,
das ragende Raster der Fensterspiegel
darf mir ihr blendendes Angesicht rahmen!

Dies ist die Kreuzung voll Hast und Getöse,
Räder und Füße wie wirbelndes Laub,–
dies ist der Augenblick, den ich erlese,
Blitzen und Blinzeln im zehrenden Staub.

Christina Egan © 2019

The Green Dress / Im grasgrünen Kleid

The Green Dress

This green, this green! The purest of greens,
the softest of silk, the smoothest of greens!
It’s mellow and creamy –
and glossy and hard –
it’s distant and dreamy –
and sudden and sharp –
It’s got all the earth in it, fields in full plume,
the glow of the sun and the snow of the moon!
There’s birch in it, ivy –
there’s lemon and lime –
and oceans and icebergs –
and olives and pine –
And the lady beneath the shimmering screen
bears the soul of the earth in the secret of green!
In the gold of her hair
and the blue of her eyes,
in the lines of her limbs
and the flow of her voice
there’s the glow of the sun and the snow of the moon:
a creature of night and a creature of noon.

Christina Egan © 2009


Im grasgrünen Kleid

Ich stehe am Fenster und schaue hinaus,
und niemand bemerkt mein bescheidenes Haus,
und niemand bemerkt mein grasgrünes Kleid,
und niemand bedauert mein aschgraues Leid.

Die Dämmerung wogt, und es rauscht der Verkehr.
Ich stehe und schaue. Und niemand schaut her.
Zuletzt ist es still, und es rauscht nur die Zeit.
Ich weine allein in mein grasgrünes Kleid.

Und einst werd ich fort sein und einst sogar tot,
und nur dieses Liedlein bezeugt meine Not:
Mein Kleid wie der Sommer, mein Haar wie der Herbst,
mein Leben, das niemand als du, Leser, erbst.

Christina Egan © 2016


The woman in the green dress stands for life, fertility, plenty, joy — like the Green Man or Green Woman of ancient pagan traditions, I suppose…

ich sammle das goldblatt / Scant Scent

ich sammle das goldblatt

ich sammle das goldblatt vom himmel
wer hat es gemalt?
den lapislazulischimmer
wer hat ihn bezahlt?

ich sammle den pfeil jener elster
ein schrei und ein flug
ich schneide das bild aus dem fenster
der glanz sei genug

ich fange den wind in den zweigen
bevor er verweht
ich schreibe mit purpur das schweigen
das späte gebet

Christina Egan © 2017

Bare branches against sunset in mauve and apricot; high mountains along horizon.


Sunset over the Bay
of Carthage, Tunisia,
around New Year’s Eve.

Photograph:
Christina Egan © 2013

 

 

 

Scant Scent

The incense of my prayer
turned damp in this dark place,
where layer upon layer
of cloud obscures the grace
of light and breath and warmth,
of ease and joy and strength —
O Lord of Hosts, accept
my incense with scant scent…

Christina Egan © 2017

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.

The Ship’s Spirit

The Ship’s Spirit

*

A sail,
out in the wind,
white, vast, and fast,
like a cloud in the currents
of the sky and the sea, flowing,
fluttering, flying – what could be better
than being a sail? I will tell you: being a flag! I
bear the colours and I bear the crown,
the crescent, the dragon, the skull;
I dance more nimbly; I spy,
I spot the lands, I am
the ship’s spirit:
a flag!

*

The Ship’s Servant

*

High
above me
the bright dot
of the flag laughs,
while I unfurl, white
and wide like the dawn,
I hurl myself into the wind,
the world, pulling the mighty
ship along!          When it is calm,
I drift… watch…        let the sky smile
through the window in my midst; I swap
stories with my mates, you hear us whisper,
hear us rustle if you listen; and sometimes I rest,
I sleep curled up, in the sweet sleep of a proud sail!

*

Christina Egan © 2016

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