Tie a red ribbon in her hair

Tie a red ribbon in her hair

A change of day
           a change of colour
a change of sky
           billowing white
and grey clouds
           swept along
on a brisk wind
           I see magpies
hopping onto
           the garden wall

I never saw
           an overweight magpie
nor one underfed
           I wonder how they do it
feeding and playing all day
           in their handsome uniforms

On grey days
           the air is heavier
it can weigh on the heart
           if you let it
           best to be active
and not sit at home
           counting the hours
until the next dawn
           Out and about
you may meet a kind soul
           with a warm heart
and a willing disposition
           and if you do so
tie a red ribbon in her hair
           to celebrate and
to let the whole world know
           that she is yours

John Lyons

Lamplit lines

Lamp, John Lyons (oil on wood)

Lamplit lines

In the darkness

In the silence

In the coldness

In their minds
certain memories

of certain shapes
of certain gestures

of certain colours
and certain textures

and certain  
sweet sensations

as they sheltered
in each other’s arms

John Lyons

Summer awakening

Summer awakening

           month of swarming
           mating birds
the bumble-bee month
           the month of the flowering lilac

As I jot this down
           I am out just after sunrise
heading towards the creek
           The lights
the perfumes the melodies
           blue birds and grass birds
and robins in all directions
           the noisy vocal natural concert

For undertones,
           a neighboring woodpecker
tapping his tree
           and the distant clarion of chanticleer

Then the fresh-earth smells
           the colors
the delicate drabs and thin blues
           of the perspective
The bright green of the grass
           has received an added tinge
from the last two days’
           mildness and moisture
How the sun silently mounts
           in the broad clear sky
on its day’s journey!
           How the warm beams bathe all
and come streaming
           kissingly on my face

Now the golden dandelions
           in endless profusion
spotting the ground everywhere
           The white cherry and pear-blows
the wild violets
           with their blue eyes looking up
and saluting my feet
           as I saunter the wood-edge
the rosy blush of budding apple-trees
           the light-clear emerald hue
of the wheat-fields
           the darker green of the rye
a warm elasticity pervading the air
           the cedar-bushes profusely decked
with their little brown apples
           the summer fully awakening
garrulous flocks of blackbirds
           gathering on some tree

Walt Whitman

Adapted by John Lyons from Specimen Days (1882)

Notes from my window

Notes from my window

Green upon green upon green
           this skyline filled with mature
oak and elm and horse chestnut
           and hazel and birch and yew

I admire the chiaroscuro
           the shifting shades of colour
as the light plays upon the foliage
           This is ancient woodland
deep-rooted in the hillside
           tightly packed to deliver
strength in numbers
           when storm winds blow

and within its shadows

           a safe haven for all manner
of creatures : for chiffchaffs
           and lesser spotted woodpeckers
and for bats and owls
           and foxes who fill
the night air with their cries
           for insect life that barely sees
the light of day
           for bluebells and wild garlic
for lily-of-the-valley
           for primrose and wood anemone
for pre-historic ferns
           and creeping ivies

here where light
           is transformed into life
here where we once walked
           hand in hand in love

John Lyons


A cocked snook

A cocked snook

An occasion of love
           is seeing eye to eye
sitting side by side
           hands joined
engaged in
           a single thread
of conversation
           or of silence
both irrelevant
           his breath
her breath
           a common pulse

An occasion of love
           may be roses red
a glass of champagne
           lamps lit low
a clear view of the river
           or of the sea pounding
the pebbled shore
           anticipation in the air
eloquence of the moment
           a rhythmic stillness
and words for the sake
           of words in the course
of a single climb
           a snook cocked at time

John Lyons

Melt in the mouth

Melt in the mouth

What is the difference
           between a fig
and an apple
           she asks
in colour and texture
           in shape and size
in taste and in culture
           in climate and location
what is the difference
           between an apple
and a fig and why
           should we care ?

So much in common
           so what is the difference
the differences
           that separate
           from another ?

Once in a while
           we have the answer
or many or none
           once in a while
the differences
           are reconciled
the withered fig
           and the dried apple
a thing of the past
           food for parables

One is creamy
           and one is tart
and there are so many
           culinary implications
at breakfast at supper
           at dinner at lunch
and difference is a matter
           of mathematics
soft to the touch
           melt in the mouth
juice on the lips
           the milky flesh
squat in the palm
           of his hand

A chair in which to breathe

Breathless, John Lyons (oil on wood)

A chair in which to breathe

An open window means
           a stiff breeze is blowing
means knowing you’re alive
           means painted flowers
will never fade
           means the books
in their cases are there
           to be read

and when love
           becomes a stranger
it might rain
           and the summer
may end prematurely
           and the birds will fly south
while honey is harvested
           and the wax is turned
to candles that burn
           at the midnight hour

and dreams
           may lose their way
and the days
           may accumulate
until there is nothing left but time
           and an empty chair
where she once counted
           her fingers and toes

John Lyons

A loving tongue

A loving tongue

She saw that breakfast
           could be a loving tongue
and that eggs and salmon
           and coffee were all welcome
at the table and that silence
           was often a favoured guest
and that imitation
           was the enemy of delight

Freshness in a jar
           or honey poured
from a spoon
           it should all be a matter
of choice determined
           by one or the other

The porcelain egg cups
           were from Cannes
and decorated
           in the Provençal style
with pretty blueberries
           and the only custom
at this hour was
           the kindness of leisure
or perhaps vice versa
           because the heart neglects
           no detail is too small
or too insignificant
           where love is present

So while everything changes
           the language remains the same
and each moment is
           an affectionate occasion

John Lyons

A piano is a universe

A piano is a universe

Time is a piano
           that you play
at certain speeds
           it has a signature
and a key
           to unlock its silence

Maple and mahogany and spruce
           take time to grow
in the forest
           just as moonlight
takes time to arrive
           on a summer’s evening
adding a subtle sheen
           to the polished wood

Time is furniture
           at our disposal
a stool on which to perch
           arms outstretched
paper from which
           to read the notes
fingers that caress
           the keys to produce
timeless melodies
           A baby too takes time
and families make
           a concerted effort
to sing in unison :
           not a speck of dirt
nor a misplaced pin
           should defile the beauty
of the instrument
           A piano is a universe
all of it own
           and pianists too
take time to grow and
           a moonlight sonata lends
food for thought
           to the music of love

John Lyons

Previous posted, revised

Stars gliding through space

Simplicity, John Lyons (oil on wood)

Stars gliding through space

A light blue and a dark blue
and a faded pink
what do they make ?

An arrangement of shapes
suggestive of other shapes
an odd kind of ornament

There were swans on the Serpentine
on Monday resplendent in the sunlight
their plumage a deep titanium white

Swans are never careless
they know exactly what they are doing
at all times without fail

Most flowers have their season
but once they are cut
their days are numbered

So what is the lesson?
That some things last
and others do not ?

It’s hard to believe that the stars
are gliding through space
they seem so fixed in the heavens

Lovers who would be guided by their stars
can very often lose their path
they must trim their sails to the cosmic wind

John Lyons