Simplicities of being

Simplicities of being

Behind the complexities of life
         there are the radiant simplicities
the single cells that divide
         and the multiplicities of divisions
that lead to the complexity
         of our singleness
and to the robust biochemistry
         of carbon and hydrogen and oxygen
the supple atomic chemistry of the rose
         of the robin’s winter song
and the dandelion that dances
         in the summer breeze
not to mention her pale skin stretched
         against her high cheekbones

flushed by the fine flow
         of her handsome blood

And so within the complexity of our minds
           and the million upon million cells
that keep our consciousness together
         it’s the simple things we hanker for
—the notes of a pure Chopin melody
         move us like no other
so too Matisse colours and textures and shapes
         in fact the simplicities of any medium
however complex their contrivance

We are creatures of simple tastes
         happiest when our lives are focused
on the essence of what it is to be—
         a stroll in the green park 
or a day on the beach

         lived in and for the moment
the simplicity of the human touch
         the subtle sensitivity of skin on skin
and the engaging warmth of word 
         upon word upon word

the tender and irreducible mathematics 
         of love : that essential integer
the couple that lies behind
         every single simplicity

John Lyons



Gross domestic profit

Gross domestic product

The politics of platitude
         with which they would smother us
that this is a great country
         the fifth largest economy in the world
but that the poor must be chased
         into the ground / the disabled hounded
the weak trodden further down
         so many thousand more children
being raised in poverty
         evictions and homelessness on the rise
thorns trimmed from the rose
         before it is sold into slavery

Read back in time : a king is a thing
          What drove Ophelia to distraction
was utter madness
         the parameters are all wrong
the indices askew and beside the point
          Something rotten on the streets of London
prejudice and intolerance and greed
          We have a duty to care so that the child
may be protected and prosper
         so that the elderly may be treated
with dignity and respect
         so that a hand may be extended
to those who suffer persecution

These are indeed austere times
         in which the public discourse
has been hijacked by the corrupt
         pilferers of the commonwealth
Money buys a very big lie
         trumping the truth at every turn
: a king is a thing is the thing
         and enough is enough is enough

John Lyons

States of Mind


The poem below was inspired by a visit last Saturday to the States of Mind exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in Euston, which follows on from Ann Veronica Janssens’ astounding installation ‘yellowbluepink’, in which visitors entered a room to be immediately immersed in coloured fogs of such a density that all bearings of consciousness were suddenly lost: an eerie and yet very exciting experience, forcing the individual to readjust to a totally disarming environment. The secret was to keep cool, not to panic, and to feel.

The current States of Mind exhibition, which runs until 16 October, examines perspectives from artists, psychologists, philosophers and neuroscientists who question our understanding of the conscious experience. Using a whole range of media, it embraces a variety of phenomena such as somnambulism, synaesthesia, sleep paralysis, and the disorders of memory and consciousness. Ideas around the nature of consciousness are explored, and in particular, what can happen when our typical conscious experience is interrupted, damaged or undermined. Well worth a visit!


States of Mind
Where is her beauty held
         if not in my mind
her eyes her lips her hair
         her slim frame
the elegance of her hands
         her voice and her turn of phrase
the pace at which she walks
         decisive and determined
always to arrive and to depart
         and back to the darting eyes
the light that flickers there
         curiosity alive and eager
to absorb the world around her

Where is her beauty held
         if not in my thoughts
conscious and unconscious
         my feelings for her
are a state of mind
         and in that state
there are London streets
         we have walked together
held hands and kissed
         if only so fleetingly
and thoughts and impressions
         have passed loosely between us
from one to the other
         artful opinions
and points of view
         separate knowledges
and experiences that shape
          our knowingness
of each other and how we
         begin to size each other up
a tantalising tangle
         a dance of consciousnesses
two material minds
         holding and releasing arms
and twirling and reeling
         in the delight of the company

Where is her beauty held
         if not in the touch of her skin
the brush of her smile
         against my lips and captured
in the coordinates we share
         the realization that we are
neither body nor soul
         but absolutely mindmatter
we are the unity
         of sense and sensibility
such that in order to advance
         in this atomic world
we must feel our way
         through life and admit
that in love at least
         we are not two but one
and dichotomies and dualities
         be damned

John Lyons

Love story – chapter seventeen laid bare

Love story – chapter seventeen laid bare

Mousy brown hair
          neither short nor long
thin frame thin legs
          a pretty face

lips thin ears unseen
          modesty prevailed

A fast walker
          a fast talker
an inquisitive mind
          but softly spoken

Did he hear what she wanted
          or did she want what she heard ?
Was there ice on the road perhaps
          a quick flurry of snow 
just not enough to get excited ?

Did he kiss or she kiss him
          or did they not kiss at all
or did they hug or embrace
          or the arms merely entwine
or did they part with no word
          at all ?


Did she care if he cared
          or even know
what he might feel
          and if she did
did she care really care
          I mean
                    at all ?

John Lyons

Love story – chapter three

Love story – chapter three

Did she hear
              and if she did so
did she ever understand
              and if she did so
did she even ever care
              at all

Did she want him
              or did she need him
or did she know
              what she wanted
or know
              who she needed
or anything
              at all

did she feel
              what he felt
and if she did so
              did she care

did she know
              what he needed
know exactly what he wanted
              and if she did so
did she care did she really ever care

              at all

and if she knew
              what she wanted
and felt she knew
              what he needed
and felt she wanted
               what he needed
did she care
              if he really cared
about her
              at all

Saturday Sunday
               all above board
and all below ground

              a train to the market
and a gallery performance 
              and eating for two
come hell or high water

              So be happy
go lucky

               for with a hug
and a kind kiss

              all is forgiven
and all is forgotten

And so back home to sleep
               perchance to

John Lyons

Mornfull moon

Mornfull moon

Mornfull moon
a filigree of frost

upon the pane
streaked with tears

of melting ice
cold comfort

from a cold heart
Birds sing to me

for want of a better
the air clear and dry

silvered by the sunlight
So much promise in a day

life converging on life
all at such a pace

their song
is one of innocence

one of jubilation
The simple truths

we are schooled in
everywhere apparent

yellow and purple
and white crocuses

refuse to be beaten
to accept defeat

We live in a world
of wonderment

everything on course
to be as it should be

but for the loss
of love’s labour

John Lyons


A confused love story

A confused love story

Did she hear
              and if she heard
did she understand
              and if she understood
did she care

Did she want
              or did she need
or did she know
              what she wanted
or know
              what she needed

did she feel
              what he felt
and if she did
              did she care

did she know
              what he needed
know what he wanted
              and did she care
at all

and if she knew
              what she wanted
and knew
              what he needed
and felt what
              he wanted
did she care
              if he cared
about her

Saturday Sunday
              above and below ground
a train by the market
              a museum platform 
eating for two
              come rain or come shine
be happy go lucky
              with a hug and kiss
all is forgiven

And so home to sleep
               perchance to

John Lyons

A kiss out of kindness

A kiss out of kindness

a kiss out of kindness
              red lips and a red coat
and a blue sky
              and green leaves
and a long walk
              at a healthy pace
and a breathless arrival
              sweetness and light
the fingers are short
              the nails trim
and with the markings
              that belie her age
the eyes are sandy brown
              and they dart
from side to side
              restless and enquiring

and a kiss out of kindness
              and the river flows
and the swans ride it
              and the ducks
come and go as if
              owning the place
and the wind lifts her hair
              and she talks a good talk
says that roses are elegant
              but violets are true
that she will light a candle
              so that our love will prosper
and the ivy clings
              to the old college walls
and he holds her hand tightly
              pressing the warm flesh
and she smiles at the shadows
              and lowers her voice
makes the train feel at home
              and says love be not shy
love be ever so bold
              and the streets hear her coming
her heels on the stones
              there are two on the table
and dust on the floor
              they could make love forever
and always want more

John Lyons


When I think of you

When I think of you

When I think of you
I think of the rose

without the thorns
the long green stem

the petals so red
and soft to touch

the aroma that wafts
through the air

that fills the room
and stirs my heart

When I think of you
I think of the rose

a thing of beauty
to be held and

to be admired
a moment in time

and all too brief
of how the petals

will fall and the dust
will gather and the light

will fade and how our
love will pass

and only the memory
will remain

until that too

John Lyons




At dawn stars tumble
              from the black sky
leaving us with a single
              champion to cast light
into the whispering abyss

The wind and birdsong
              send conflicting messages
as consciousness struggles
              with the challenges of the day

A heavy bombardment
              of thoughts and feelings
assails the mind and competes
              for the old territory
the battle-torn stamping ground
              of empty conquest

 Here the fears and the hopes
              the unseemly obsessions
refuse to form a line and so
              overrun the inadequate
undisciplined mind
              that simply knows no better

In our absence the spider
              has constructed its web
it is a thing of beauty
              a causeway that farms the air
tougher and yet more gentle
              than any iron or steel
an emblem of self-sufficiency

We in turn
              set about reconstructing
our terrible systems of belief
              the day reassembled
              until once again
it resembles pretty much
              the one that went before
like all our days
              the vast custom concatenation
of segments that alienate us
              from who or what
we are supposed to be

Night knits the rose
              the day unravels it
its brief beauty
              perishing in the midst
of our unflagging denials

John Lyons