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…

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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

Friday in Lent

Friday in Lent

Friday morning.
The city is busy and tired
under the closely curtained sky.

The headlines shout out:
Things fall apart,
trains, towns,
countries, couples.

Life hurts.

The day is a prison, a lenient one,
with gardens and books as windows
and magical messages beamed onto screens,
with the freedom of speech
and the purple pursuit of the heavens.

Christina Egan © 2001


Purple is the colour of Lent, representing suffering; you will find churches decorated —and their statues covered up — with purple fabrics. Purple (violet, lilac, mauve) is a slightly melancholy colour, but it also has dreamlike and spiritual qualities. My ‘purple pursuit’ has all these shades of meaning; ‘the heavens’ could refer to religious faith or simply to a decent and fulfilled life on earth, as in ‘Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’.

Friday is the time when Christians remember Jesus’ passion and keep some fasting, a miniature Lent within each week… or at least the time when they do remember their faith during Lent. The positive messages on your screen could come from a friend — or from God, if you believe in Scriptures!

For a German and English poem about Lent, go to Fastenzeit / Lent.

Geflecht / Geflechte

Geflecht

Jedes Leben ist verstrickt,
Masche um Masche, Stich um Stich,
in die Leben neben ihm,
ob wir’s wollen oder nicht.

Jede Reihe ist verschlungen,
ohne daß das Garn je bricht,
in das vorige Geflecht,
ob wir’s wissen oder nicht.

Jeder Jahrgang ist der Boden
für die nächste bunte Schicht:
Kaum geboren, sind wir Ahnen
für ein künftiges Geschlecht.

Christina Egan © 2015

Silk cloth dominated by vivid pinks and greens.

Geflechte
(Altstadt von Köln)

Reihen auf Reihen von Häusern,
hell und freundlich im Frühlingslicht,
Reihen auf Reihen von Fenstern,
schimmernd in allen Augenfarben.

Und hinter einem jeden Fenster
Gesichter… Geschichten… Geflechte.
Und unter einem jeden Pflaster
Pflaster… Pfade… Schwellen.

Stockwerk um Stockwerk von Leben,
hinauf ins ausgelassene Blau!
Schicht um Schicht von Geschichte
bis in den unbetretenen Staub.

Ich strecke mich hin auf dem Mäuerchen hier
und höre die Vögel und höre ein Herz –
Das Herz diese Platzes? Das Herz dieser Stadt?
Mein eigenes Herz, wie es schlägt für die Stadt?

Christina Egan © 2016


These poems describe human life as a knitted or woven tissue: every person is a mesh amongst, above, and below others. Every little life is part of a layer of history, as every modest buidling and ordinary street is.

Every life is interwoven with  others. Every single one of us is history!

I wrote the second poem on the way back from Cologne, where I had briefly rested on a little wall, which turned out to be in the area of the ancient forum and which in hindsight reminded me of excavated foundations.

For a poem on weaving words into a poem, see the previous post, Word Weaver.

Photograph: Silk cloth from Madagascar. – © The Trustees of the British Museum