Did she brush her hair
         or powder her nose
pencil her eyes
         apply blush
to her cheeks
         gloss her lips
then check her teeth
         dab sweet fragrance
behind both ears
         and on her wrists
did she cross her heart

did she straighten her skirt
         adjust her blouse
admire her shoes
         and blow a big kiss
to what she saw
         in the glass
before stepping out
         into the wide
world ?

Did she ?


Did she

brush hair
         powder nose
line eyes
         apply blush
gloss lips
         check teeth
dash scent
         behind ears
both wrists
         cross heart

straighten skirt
         adjust blouse
admire shoes
         blow kiss
back to the glass
         and step out
into the wicked
         wide world ?

John Lyons




A summer situation
         and love
such a sensible surprise
         strawberries on a plate
roses in a vase
         a table laden
with welcome guests
         amid air that circulates
lung to lung

Sweet summer
         palpable sensation
risen temperatures
          and an eye  
calibrated for beauty :
         dainty black slippers
and white lace
          A day less weary
hair winnowed
         in the nightbreeze
Moonlight streams through
         open windows
gilds the silver spoons
          A stroll in the park
is never an accident

John Lyons

Hang out the Bunting

Hang out the Bunting

Time and decay
         nothing lasts
a single rosebud
         a thorn in the side
nothing lasts
         Sentences that creak
to the very end – full-stop
         Clutch at straws
in a howling gale
         sooner than trap time

There in the churchyard
         bones gone to dust
stones gone to dust
         names of wife
and husband
         mother and lover
and son and daughter
         all gone to dust
the limestone cracks
         the letters peel
nothing to be read
         of the mason’s craft
weathered away –
         time reduced to rubble

Yet there in the caves
         walls daubed
with the bright blood of berries
         a vivid remembrance
to celebrate the hunt
         and the life lived
for and in the moment
         gathered under a single roof
to share their time—
         that which never lasts
except perhaps in creation
         and in acts of love

A single rosebud :
         and a swallow swoops
and is gone
         like François Villon

And love—
         love is so rare
but it’s all that’s left

John Lyons

In Memoriam

In Memoriam

This fine leafmeal tossed in the air
         by the wild west wind
will sooner or later
         settle into the dust
the dust of all things
         from which all things arise

He is gone
         against the grain but gone
albeit willingly departed
         leaving us to mourn his passing
on this harrowed midwinter night
         that howls at my window
with such a vengeance

He was a boy a man
         a husband then. . .
now gone to dust
         to mingle with the ash
of dandelion
         to dwell in that other place
where no winds blow

See where the damselfly roosts
         above the thorny wetlands
where the kingfishers hunt :
         there flows a river
out of Eden

Out of Eden
         out of place
out of time
         out of the unawakened earth
but in our hearts

John Lyons


Just a Song at Twilight

John McCormack (1884-1945)


Just a Song at Twilight

A fading blue sky
         piled high with clouds
but backed by a red glow
         a promise of days to come
and down by the railway
         shadows gathering
in the tall oaks
         where birds are
straining their throats
         in evensong

I think of the dear dead days
         my father in the lounge
listening to John McCormack
         on the old gramophone
Just a song at twilight
         and the dreams that rose
out of his heart
         that wove themselves
into our lives as children
         the flickering gleam of the firelight
and his gentle reflection caught
         in the gold-framed mirror
his smile unabashed
         Sundays when he would sit
at the piano and sing
         to my mother
one of love’s sweet songs
         with delicate notes
at his fingertips
         enraptured but
neither sad nor weary

And as the train pulls in
         with the ear-piercing grind
of steel on steel
         I note how the chorus
from the trees
         has grown in volume
as though the birds
         in the ensemble
are quite decided
         that they will
under no circumstances
         be outsung

John Lyons


Words for the sake of them

Words for the sake of them

         and the shape of things to come
as seen in the glass
         the slow advance of years
how time sneaks up
         and gets in under the skin
patches of rust around the ankles
         a stiffness in the joints
in need of a little lubrication

No the stars are not numberless
         each and every one
as blades of grass
         or sparrows in the field
accounted for
         and so too the flesh
records it all
         the aches and pains of ageing
the sedimentation
         the laying down of experiences
year on year
         and the subtle changes

Ambition has had its day
         and left no laurels to rest upon
optimism has been sorely tested
         but hope springs eternally
as they say
         and so an accommodation
to the realities is in order
         If only wisdom
were par for the course
         what a wise world
it would be

John Lyons



Neither the gentleness
            of your breath
nor the softness of your skin
            should go unsung
nor the mystery in your eyes
            at the low and splendid
rising of the moon

Five planets
            perfectly aligned
at daybreak
            should cause no greater stir
than your smile
            your curved lips 
at a tangent
            your heart pressed
against my heart

I brush your hair
            away from your temple
and beneath my fingers
            feel the warm flutter
of your pulse
            I stroke your cheek
hold in my arms
            the flesh shaped
from the flesh of stars
            though none ever shone
more brightly than you

This sky that stretches
            away from the earth
is our portal
            into the heavens
whence we came
            and where we belong

John Lyons

The Kindness – Cid Corman

Cid Corman

The American poet, Cid Corman (1924-2004), a translator and founder and editor of the literary magazine Origin, was a key figure in the history of American poetry in the second half of the 20th century. Corman lived for much of his adult life in Japan and maintained his friendship with Louis Zukofsky and Lorine Niedecker, among many others, through extensive correspondence.

A prolific writer, the influence of Japanese poetry is evident throughout his work. Introducing a volume of his poetry entitled Word for Each Other (1967), Corman wrote: “Something in them, in the sounded meanings joined here, should feed something in you that merits sharing—a little life that feels beyond itself, the dying implied in every word, in every thing, in every legend man has devised, in ache in ache in ache, invoking the only judgment man is worthy of: love.”

The Kindness

the man dying
loved red roses
like those he grew

you looked for some
in the city

and finally
brought him the best
carefully so

he shouldn’t know
you picked them
from his own garden

Cid Corman

For an interesting profile of Cid Corman, see the following link



song sparrow
The song sparrow


Rainy day
          In the silence
         yellow warblers
and wild canaries
                  Bushes in bloom
                  Japanese quince

A lawn full of dandelions
Two rows of lettuce
         sown today
I get song sparrows
northern yellow-throats

From the kitchen
casement window
         I see fireflies at night
The shade of the Sugar Maple
                  is a blessing

                  one of many

John Lyons

The above poem draws data from two letters written by Lorine Niedecker to Louis Zukofsky.





Bone by infant bone
     we live it out in the moment
dragging our conscript dust
     from place to place
each daily numbered
     one rush spliced
into the other
     permitting merely
the briefest foxtrot of recollection
      until in restless nightsleep
the day’s untidy dealings
      are unravelled

The miniature rings she wore
     about her neck
the cold dry sand
     accumulated in the gutter
the rapture of dawn to dusk
     Who heard the pounding sea that day ?
Who saw the sun trace
     its weary arc in the molten sky ?
These are the perennials
     breath and the heartbeat
within the singing cathedral
     the rise and fall of it all
as the moon wanes
     and the years draw on
Whatever dice you cast
     the ciphers are known
and the flesh recalls every fibre
     of flesh it ever touched
in tender admiration
     just as the journey
of every tear you ever cried
     is recorded in the journals
of sorrow and dismay
     every moan ever uttered
consoled or unconsoled

In the flat fields where hops
     rise and fall or where
sheep in unwitting innocence
     graze the land
there is our paradise
     if only we knew
Time is our probation
     our trial and our error
: pale pearls
     will outlive us both
life does not abate
     nor unsated love 
even when it is driven 
     deep into the ground

John Lyons