Poetry apologises

Poetry apologises

Okay I’m sorry
         a bit late today
late night
         what can I say
bleary-eyed
         searching for a subject
I’ll get there
         don’t worry
it’s not easy
         a path I’ve chosen
but give me a break
         day after day
crack of dawn
         hoping for inspiration
praying
         begging
crying out
         for a new idea
for something to say
         to those who are
sick and tired
         of the dawn chorus
tired of all the roses
         the falling rain
of the errant foxes
         that live by the tracks
and forage in bins
         and back gardens
tired of reading
         about hazel eyes
and silky skin
         and tender lips
and flesh on flesh

Well sorry
         what are dreams
but appetite for a difference
         I’ll get back to you
in the meantime
         I apologise. . .

John Lyons

Paul Éluard – Poems for Peace (1918)

Paul_ÉluardThe French poet Paul Éluard (1895-1952) was mobilised during the First World War. In June 1917, he was dispatched to a military evacuation hospital at Hargnicourt, 10 kilometres from the front line.

There he was tasked with writing to the families of the dead and wounded. He wrote more than 150 letters a day. At night he dug graves to bury the dead.


from Poems for Peace (1918)

A world dazed
a world stunned

I

All the happy women
Have their menfolk home – such warmth
as though back from the sun.
He laughs and says softly hi
Before kissing his darling.

II

Gorgeous, your breast slightly arced,
My blessed wife, you’re more mine than back in the day
Where with him and him and him and him,
I once clutched a rifle, a billy-can— our life!

III

All the comrades of the world,
O! my friends!
Not worth my wife and my kids
Sat around the table,
O! my friends!

IV

When combat was over amid the throng,
You fell asleep amid the throng.
Now you’ll feel but single breath on your face,
And your wife sharing your bed
Will bother you more than a thousand mouths.

V

My child’s capricious –
All these tantrums are an act.
I’ve a beautiful spoilt child
Makes me die laughing.

VI

Work.
My ten fingers work and my brain works,
God’s work, beast of burden work,
My daily life and our hope,
Food is our love.
Work.

VII

Darling, we need to see the white rose
of your milk bloom.
Darling, you must soon be a mother,
Make a child that looks like me…

VIII

For a long time I’d a good-for-nothing face,
But now
I’ve a face to be loved,
I’ve a face to be happy.

IX

I need a lover,
A virgin lover,
A virgin in a light dress.

X

I dream of all the beautiful women
Who go out walking at night,
Very calm,
Under a roaming moon.

XI

Fruit blossom brightens my garden,
Trees of beauty and fruit-bearing trees.
And I work and I’m alone in my garden.
And the Sun singes my hands with dark fire.

Translation by John Lyons

Eight lines

Eight lines

Knowledge and experience and expedience
These are the supposed touchstones

but it’s really all about the blood
about how mineral became sense

how breath became expression
about how the world was made

to sit up and take notice :
about the emergence of truth

and how beauty captivated the emotions
in the evolution of this human universe

John Lyons


 

Short poem

Short poem

Years amid the frailty of fallen blossom
of winters that have come and gone
dust and ash blown across the universe
a little less pain when love allows
life bled from the earth
breath blown into a new body
the confusions of physical desire
my life in the shape of a soul
and all the time that nagging doubt
that root curiosity that propels me on
summer when spring is dead
autumn when all growth is gone

John Lyons

Dawn chorus

Dawn chorus

First rays of the day
         stream through the skylight
and with them
         the first sounds
as my mind slowly
         scrambles for some
semblance of consciousness

A family of pigeons
         nests nearby
and this morning
         I discover the gift
not of tongues
         but of ears
I hear the loose
         vocals of a female
belting out 
         with great gusto
One day I’ll fly away
         and in a slightly higher
less perfect pitch
         an angelic adolescent
You’re gonna miss me
         when I’m gone
and there unmistakable
         in the background
a baritone smooth
         as you like coos
Can’t get enough
         of your love

John Lyons

Sketch

Sketch

The trees are weary
         see their tired leaves
drooping on this grey morning
         already hints of autumn shades
have blighted the green foliage :
         it could be an early winter
and yet summer
         has barely begun

What’s needed
         is a little sunshine
to perk up the chlorophyll
         to get the old sap rising
to reinvigorate the landscape
         to reignite nature’s love affair
with itself—to put the birds
         and the bees back on track

John Lyons

Or do I digress

Or do I digress

That root curiosity
         that drives us on
to know who we are
         to know our purpose
and to know our end
         self-explorers
and self-doubters
         more question
than answer
         to know ourselves
let alone another
         to see through
the eyes of another
         to know how it feels
to be as another
         our lives laced with song
fragments of knowledge
         picked up along the way
experience eating away
         at our innocence
the parade of years
         the lilacs that once bloomed
the hands once held
         the lips once kissed
pile it on
         all the pressure
all the accumulated selves
         the days and nights
when we loved
         and were yet unloved
the moonstones that burned
         through our dreams
all hope against hope
         and then a breakthrough
the root of it all
         that germinal moment
out of which love rose
         fully formed and perfect
the blushing petals
         under an adoring sun

Such is the process
         that sometimes 
though we may not be aware
         the words know
what they mean
         and will out the truth

John Lyons

Vortex

Vortex

Now in the still point
         in the soft-petalled silence
the slow rain
         falling falling
a blessing
         on the parched land
now in the absence
         that feeling
of abandonment
         now in the pointed stillness
leaves standing up
         to the cool wind
acceptance with
         a shrug of the shoulders
now in this otherworldly
         world
in which words are
         of importance
are necessary
         in the binding
of body to soul
         now amidst the engagement
of stars and fairweather
         sentiments
a bleak sense of history
         plagues me
a road too often travelled
         a cycle
a syndrome
         a vortex
an unwarranted
         resolution

John Lyons

Dante and Einstein

Dante and Einstein

Love that moves the sun
         and the other stars
Dante and Einstein
         poets of the cosmos
the articulate cosmos
         in which we live and love

Light that is energy
         that may be expressed
in mass and which is
         never lost
Light feeds and moves
         and caresses love
nothing on the face
         of the earth that is
not moved by light
         Dante’s Paradiso
which formulated
         the light-love equation
Beatrice retrieved
         because no love is lost
Silence and stillness
         are figments of
the imagination
         the music of the spheres
not metaphor but reality
         noise that is articulation
is all around us
         the Big Bang caught
in the net of our most
         powerful telescopes
energies lapping
         on the shores
of deepest space
         on Brighton beach

All that is is expression
         the word from light
the illuminated text
         the poetry of birdsong
her beating heart
         her breath
the smacking of her lips
         however soft her footfall
or discreet her ecstasy
         love that is thought
and word and deed
         and light all in motion
all emotion nothing silent
         nothing still
nothing ever
         ever nothing

John Lyons


Cosmic Canticle, a poem by Ernesto Cardenal, translated by John Lyons, is available from Amazon.co.uk.