Rain

Rain

A fierce gale is blowing
         rain pounding on the glass
pray that the wind
         does not disrupt the imagination
does not disturb my words

Is the rain any more real
         than my words ?
By the power of words
         I can abstract the rain
turn it into fiction
         or a cinematographic device
a private detective
         out on a case
lurking in a doorway
         as rain falls
tailing a suspect
         waiting perhaps
for one false move
         but the rain
the rain is a character
         a mood-changer
long shot
         along the empty boulevard
the dull glow of a streetlight
         reflected in the wet tarmac
what is happening
         is precisely nothing

Nothing
         but a torrent of words
rains I have known
         over the seas and faraway
Poetry is all
         that includes the weather

John Lyons

Verdun 1916-2016

 

Verdun 1916-2016

One early summer’s day
         driving into Thamesmead
along an empty highway
         that cuts through land
once owned
         by the Royal Arsenal

On the central reservation
         rising above the tall uncut grass
a handful of poppies
         dance in the light breeze

From an ovoid bud
         four bright red petals
burst forth and unfold—
         the characteristic black spot
at their base

One of the simplest
         and prettiest of wild flowers
the long-stemmed poppies
         spring from natural seed banks
buried in the earth

Seeds are living plant embryos
         some of which can survive
for thousands of years
         dependent on the nutrients
stored in the endosperm

Dormant
         until such time that is
that they are stimulated
         to germinate and rise up
in a kind of resurrection
         so frequently observed
in the shattered terrains
         of no-man’s-land
on the Western Front

John Lyons

On the mutability of fortunes

On the mutability of fortunes

The swifts and swallows
         have returned for the summer
only to find themselves displaced
         by squadrons of parrots
sleek-feathered interlopers
         from warmer climes
whose speed and agility in the air
         brings them the richest of pickings
in this pleasant land
         this vast plate of plenty
from which they feed incessantly
         and which they celebrate
in never-ending raucous song

What will be left
         for the native small fry
we can only imagine
         but that’s nature’s business
and the fittest will survive
         you can be sure of that
Agility and flexibility
         and above all adaptability
have stood these exotic visitors
         in good stead whereas
the locals find themselves
         estranged and somewhat at a loss
brooding in their own homes

A heavy downpour last night
         has left the lawn sodden
but I notice that the roses
         have all perked up
they simply adore the rain
         their soft white petals
clinging to every last drop

John Lyons

Idle thought

Idle thought

The sometimes sadness of rain
         on a day made of loneliness
and absence and subdued birdsong
         the tall poplars draped in shadows
barely stirred by a sluggish breeze
         We carry our meanings in our head
and impose them on all around us
         a world filtered through the heart
or through the mind at the very least
         Nature makes no such demands
Last night a fox on the street
         a shade moving through
the thoroughfares of a secure
         parallel world in which I have yet
to establish my existence if ever
         the innumerate illiterate
world of the rose and the raven

That a poem has a beginning
         a middle and an end
is its greatest limitation
         but that is the fate
of all human creation
         locked as it is into the ruthless
narrative of time

The liquidity of language
         these words poured out
onto the page or into
         any other vessel
a bravura of observation
         but is a bee any less appreciative
of the unwritten beauty of flowers
         and isn’t its honey a greater accolade
than any other imaginable text ?

John Lyons

Jackdaw

Jackdaw

Jackdaw

Voluble
voice of
the jackdaw
as it feeds
as it begs
as it calls
for contact :
and the night
chatter of the
roosting flock

Part of the
crow family
with it black
plumage
and grey eyes
the jackdaw
can imitate
the human voice

Though it
will never run
for elected office
its first words
are cheep cheep
cheep cheep
cheep cheep

John Lyons

Occasional verse

Occasional verse

         Downriver
where the gun-metalled waters
flow under Tower Bridge
I stared into her star-kindled eyes
felt love’s blissful palpitation
in the blood

         Crimson fringes
tinged the evening sky
while white gulls whirled above

         Like nothing are the joys
of her lip-lingering kiss
like nothing the saving grace
of her soft breath

         Banished
the mortal lullabies of pain
in this ungainly space
of cruel contraries
and smitten by the blade
of love unmade
I bowed in sweet surrender

John Lyons

Vision

Vision

The poetry
         of unapparent reality
that which before our eyes
          we fail to see
Life in the broad swathe
         and in the fine detail
Cézanne steadied the hand
         trained the eye
learned to see the elements
         that constitute
the whole picture
          rendered
a simplification

          of complexity

Does the earth not
         celebrate itself
with so much beauty
         in sound and sight
and taste and texture ?
          A contemplative art
the form and movement
         of thought

The artist’s responsibility
         to be true to the truth
to have the courage
         of one’s convictions and
to wield an impeccable palate
         with aching precision

John Lyons

Language

Language

Habits of thought
         habit of action
first false friends
         :
an harmonious
         instrument
for what we share
         of the power
and beauty
         of the human
experience
         not to say
world
         universe

expression
         of the earth
voluble clay
         warm breath
that binds one
         to another
and one thing
         to another
so that
         all that can
coheres
         without losing
its charm or
         mystery

participatory
         less to define
more to embody
         sense and
the natural law
         of flesh
that spark of beauty
         in the eye
the innocence
         when innocent
the centered soul
         of unselectedness

John Lyons

Exhumations

Exhumations

All that can be conveyed
         from one mind to another
the medium of thought
         that weaves a world
of the imagining
         that can capture
the living breath
         within a block of marble
that can compose a melody
         in defiance of the nightingale
that can confront
         the hollow masks of night
with dreams that do not
         quaver at first light

stalled the decadence
         of beauty by acts
of immortality
         here where the willow weeps
here among the leaves
         that conceal the fruit
life that is ripe
         for the picking

words as an agency
         of love and adoration
the roar of the clear green waters
         that flow through our history
She raises a hand
         a finger to her lips
to hush all praise

time thirsts
         for these moments
it cannot sustain
         even as it disdains
the shattered hours
         of memories
shrouded in sad shadows

the wind is mute
         it has no message
just as bees are tied
         to their labours
and every garden dies
         every rose pales
and only the body’s beauty
         survives in sacramental flesh
in faith and hope
         and love

John Lyons

Viola tricolor and more

Viola tricolor and more

For those who dote
         for those who fly the flag
of indolence
         of love-in-idleness
soft-petalled potions
         that deliver time’s comeuppance
instruments that calm
         the organs of inflammation
And so salute
         the pansy’s purple patience
if from the earth
         back down to earth
the phytochemicals
         upon which love broods
love breeds
         before all is ash

Cyclotides and peptides
         beneath moontides :
come lay in my bed
         flowers that tease the eye
and ease the heart
         antioxidant and edible
subtle colours
         to enliven the palate
even as they decorate
         the salted summer salad plate

Take a last look at lilacs
         soak in the naked fragrance
the body unlaced that quivers
         in the east wind :
here innocence is married
          to the rugged nights
of aimless desire
         in which soft blooms
are crushed
         in an iron embrace

John Lyons