Poetry will absolve me

It is daybreak. The city that never sleeps
has been sleeping. My dream was of trains
moving silently through the night. I must
wake the city and feed it with poetry.
I must get the world moving. I must dry
its tears and dress it with poetry. From
the Capital of Pain, Paul Éluard will assist me
with his hymns to freedom and to courage.

It is daybreak and I will never forget the beauty
of your eyes as you looked into my eyes.
Birds are singing sotto voce and a blue
silk skyline is unfolding as the city stirs.
It’s no disgrace to have loved you nor to love
you still : poetry will absolve me.

John Lyons

A kind body

A kind body
not a beauty
but a loveliness
there is a difference

Being in truth
and seeing so
feeling so
ageing alongside
the earth

Summer’s come
and gone and winter’s
bearing down
and still the breath
still the hope
and the belief

the fingers
that she lifts that she
runs through her hair
the beacon of her smile
in times of storm
or when the rain drips
as the clock runs down
and all you have is her kiss
and all you need is her kiss
and enough is enough

John Lyons

It was winter in Greenwich

It was winter
down by the river at Greenwich
an old seafaring clipper
in dry dock was being used
as a film set
actors in costume
an assortment of barrels
and wooden trunks
and bales of hemp
on the quayside
and snow flakes falling

It was winter
and the light fell
in shadows
as the snow fell
and the river was silent
and we turned a corner
and I caught the light
in your eyes
as your breath rose
before you
in the frosty air

It was winter
and snow flakes falling
and we dragged our heels
along the cobblestones
your hair a radiant blond
your skin paler than the snow
and we entered the market
where you bought mementoes
to remind you of your journey

It was winter in Greenwich
and snowflakes were falling
lightly dusting the cobblestones
and I reached out
and pulled you towards me
and when we kissed
I could taste the dust
on your lips

John Lyons

Words that bind


                  Seascape, John Lyons (oil on wood)

I think of the turbulent sea
        I think of fierce flames on
the burning white sand
        I think of sunrise and sunset
of spheres and circles
        of the beauty of wood
its rough surface to which
        the paint clings

I think of pools of light
        and the beauty of colour
and how surfaces entice
        I think of the calm waves
after the storm subsides
        I think of soft clouds
that gather on the horizon
        and how every image
is an image of other images
        just as one love echoes another

I think of words that move
        back and forth—words
that bind the world together
        words that once bound
you and I together
        in a single breath

John Lyons

Adélia Prado – Marriage

There’re women who say:
My husband, if he wants to fish, let him fish,
but let him clean the fish.
Not me. At any time of the night I get up,
Help with descaling, slitting open, filleting and salting.
It’s so good, just the two of us alone in the kitchen,
from time to time our elbows bump,
he says things like “this one was tricky customer”
“he flashed his silver tail in the air”
and he makes the gesture with his hand.
The silence of when we first met
flows through the kitchen like a deep river.
Finally, the fish on the platter,
we go to bed.
Silver things blossom:
we are bride and groom.

Adélia Prado

From , Terra de Santa Cruz (1981)

Translation by John Lyons


Há mulheres que dizem:
Meu marido, se quiser pescar, que pesque,
mas que limpe os peixes.
Eu não. A qualquer hora da noite me levanto,
Ajudo a escamar, abrir, retalhar e salgar.
É tão bom, só a gente sozinhos na cozinha,
de vez em quando os cotovelos se esbarram,
ele fala coisas como “este foi difícil”
“prateou no ar dando rabanadas”
e faz o gesto com a mão.
O silêncio de quando nos vimos a primeira vez
atravessa a cozinha como um rio profundo.
Por fim, os peixes na travessa,
vamos dormir.
Coisas prateadas espocam:
somos noivo e noiva.

Terra de Santa Cruz (1981)

A nightingale sang

What will people say of us
        when we are gone
what do they say now ?
        they say that we were
meant for each other
        they mean I was meant
for you but you meant
        for me not to be the one
meant for you because
        I meant nothing to you

It just shows how meaning
        can be so confusing
and far less certain
        than it’s cracked up to be
William said doubt truth
        but we all doubt truth
we all turn our back on it
        at some time or another

In the midst of this forest
        or this woodland we long
to be in open ground
        on the heath for example
where the burning stars are
        more clearly visible
our stars : the ones meant
        for you and me and who
on earth has a kingdom
        to exchange for a horse ?

Chance is a rare fine thing
        and love too and all the
beauty associated with it
        the endless feelings
of satisfaction and content-
        ment     Once I heard
a nightingale sing on a warm
        summer’s night and I
remember that the moon
        was full and I took you
in my arms and kissed
        you and then there was
silence and I held you
        for an eternity but
you never returned
        will never return

John Lyons

What dies of the day

What dies of the day
        is dust is past
is long gone
        serves no purpose
cannot be retrieved
        is not worth retrieving

two crows in a field
        gingerly hounding
a fox off their territory
        two steps forward
one step back
        the fox nonchalant
devil may care
        the crows determined

all that lives in the day
        lives forever
all that love in the day
        love forever

and poetry is timeless
capsules of sound
        of meaning of feeling
preserved against
        the grain of life

poetry and love
        go hand in hand
care for the fox
        and the crows

John Lyons



                      Underworld, John Lyons (80 x 60 cm, oil on canvas)

And so I continue
        to map out my map
this is my world
        your world too
a world of colour
        of land and sea
and time and distance
        and a chance to know
where we stand and
        where we come from

All the time I’m thinking
        of textures and one hue
overlaying another and
        the currents created
by different brush strokes
        the transition from warm
to cold and light to dark
        and I know too that
in the future all this
        will be buried beneath
skeins of black and white
        applied at random and
as the mood takes me
        My under painting
is intended to be
        an underworld
a crude organisation
an orchestrated chaos
        a warm living breathing
world in which all things
        are possible including
peace including justice
        and including love

John Lyons

A world view

                Worldmappe, John Lyons (80 x 60 cm, oil on canvas)

A view of the world

        an artist’s impression
how I see it
        drawn from memory
some anomalies
        some distortions
some aspects
        out of proportion
basic and schematic
        a work of fiction
based on the loosest
        of all possible perceptions
I’m not a satellite
        I’m located somewhere
within these dimension
        it’s a self-portrait

Apart from the ocean
        the colours are notional
this is how I work
        creating an underpainting
with a clear narrative
        the north and south
of my knowledge
        and nothing left to chance

These words are a draft
        of other words as yet
        In the final painting
earth pigments will abound
        actions will be recorded
representational actions
        and the canvas will be
stained forever
        my right hand holding
a thin stick will trace
        the motion of currents
around this two-dimensional
        globe upon which the sun
appears to always shine
        I cannot literally
paint on your wall
        much as I would love to
this is the best I can do 
        : hang it !

John Lyons