Vincent in Arles

sun_shot
Sun, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

Vincent in Arles

Under the scorching sun
           in Arles Vincent painted
fields of ripe wheat
           before the harvest

Wheat he discovered
           is the very same colour
as the sunlight
            whence it comes
confirming
           that the sun is
a deep-hued
           cadmium yellow

John Lyons

Sweet consolation

Sweet consolation

Beneath my feet
           the fallen leaves
once green
           now gold
now crimsom
           burnt sienna
edges curled and dry
           and crumbling into dust
as the year fades
           We were lovers
bone by bone
           slept through a dream
of unblemished time
           scourged
by the whirling strands
           of her hair
and new anatomies
           that the night brought
to the body bare
           Youth burned
in the mind
           no birth no death
no tangled time
           no sun
candescent
           love alone

John Lyons

Before the fall

Before the fall

And so to soft September
           warm days and cool nights
slow wintering of the soul
           and time the custodian
of our fractured memories
           of our kisses

Here were mountains
           here was sea
a sandy beach lapped
           by white-laced waves
here we loved our life away
           to the chatter of parrots
high up in the palms
           life feeding upon life
the frigate birds
           back and forth
scouring the ocean 
           for food

And all that fades
           as footsteps fade
across Brooklyn Bridge
           one place to another
from time to time
           and love a survivor
or so we hope
           stubbornly

John Lyons

In Bruton at fifty

detail 5

Detail 5, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

In Bruton at fifty

We are what the sea has made
           into and out of it—
and starflakes falling
           on a Saturday night
along with long threads
           of fine frozen fire
and a kiss and a cuddle
           to our heart’s desire

and age seems so trivial
           fifty years on
with all that’s gone well
           with whatever’s gone wrong
fifty years and a day
           and a day
who would have thought
           it would work out that way

on Lusty Hill
           where the dovecote stands
and love so disruptive
           to all of our plans
here where the river
           runs down to the sea
what is and what was
           and what’s bound to be

John Lyons

 

The giraffe house

The giraffe house

It’s Saturday
       and the temperature
has dropped with winds
       blowing in from Siberia

Thick flakes of snow
       are falling and a giraffe
is peering out of the house
       its long-lashed eyelids
are blinking furiously

Africa seems so far away
       and its warm winds
never reach us
       I struggle to read
the giraffe’s mind
       but I would suggest
that it is thinking :
       this is not what I
signed up for,
       at all !

John Lyons

The Big Bang

big bang
Big Bang, John Lyons (oil on plastic)

The Big Bang

In the beginning
           nothing : no colour
no light no movement
           no space just
boundless darkness
           though even then 
there was nowhere 
           for the darkness to be

There was no warmth
           no cold no life
no kiss no love
           nothing
just an aching emptiness
            infinitely empty
 even of emptiness
            even of heartache

And then there was light
            and with it came
art and the explosion of colour
            throughout the cosmos
irremediable darkness  
          banished forever
quite simply put to death
         by the act of creation   

John Lyons

The care of souls

The care of souls

In the midst of plenty
           the pain of poverty
scarcity and need
           a culture averse
to the care of souls
           blind to the beauty
of silence
           of poetry

The soul is in her eyes
           the bright gleam
in her lips and the words
           that tumble from them
in her hands and the magic
           that they work
how they soothe
           how they create
how they wave away
           my cares

the soul beneath
           her cotton dress
the fact not the fiction
           of her womanhood
the beingness of it
           as her limbs guide her
from place to place
           scattering love
as she comes and goes
           wherever

the soul is in her body
           that welcomes me
into her embrace
           that holds me and is
a place where I
           take comfort away
from the woes of
           the world

the soul is in her breath
           that I feel warm
against my cheek
           the rise and fall
of her breast
           that carries her
from day to night
           and back : the allness
that her soul
           embodies

John Lyons

 

Unsoiled in love

Unsoiled in love

Think of the perfectness
           of the rose unchallenged
never called into question
           a rose of no virtue
knowing nothing
           of the speed of life
with all its vexatious
           complexities

The beauty that drives the rose
           derives from the fecund
mineral soil
           and from the pedigree
of its earthly stars
           a tight knot of molecules
shaped from the simplicities
           of sunlight
the radiance of its petals
           lives on in the kiss
in man and woman sexed
           in the coalescence
of their flesh
           unsoiled in love

John Lyons

El mono

El mono 

Es casi humano,
                        casi,
            pero no tanto.
Cuando duerme parece un niño.
            Paco lo llaman:
Paco Paco.
(A veces se llaman Paco
                        a veces no,
a veces otra cosa).
            Dormido
seguro sueña con ser grande
                        como los grandes.
Pero de día
                        se lo pasa jugando
            como niño:
da vueltas y volteretas,
                        se agarra de un palo
                        y se columpia,
o sube en el árbol
                        y se cuelga
            bocabajo
de la cola
            o de las dos piernas,
                        que parecen
brazos.
            Mas lo que más le gusta
                        es saltar
de una bancada
                        a otra
            así no más,
sin criterio
            pero con una gran agilidad
que a uno le da envidia,
            de veras,
                        envidia:
vive en circo
            permanente.
Y cómo come
                        ¡dios mío cómo come!
            y no parece engordar:
es que parece mentira.
                        Será el
            ejercicio y todo,
supongo yo,
            los brincos
                        de un lado
            a otro,
¡qué maravilla!
                        Y se rasca,
            como un niño,
se pasa todo el día,
            rascándose,
                        o agarrándose
del ombligo
            o de otra cosa
            ¿qué sé yo?
                        sin pena,
o aparentemente sin pena
            aunque es penoso
cuando uno se le acerca,
            y tapa la cara
con las manos
                        o con la cola
            o con las dos
y no te mira
            para nada
                        sino de reojo
como si algo bien
                        vergonzoso
            sintiera,
aunque pronto se le pasa
            y en seguida está
otra vez
            brincando
                        de una bancada a otra
como si nada.
            Monterroso me dice
                        que en Guatemala
hay unos monos
            muy sabios
                        ¿qué sé yo?
Políticos,
            por lo menos
            ¿verdad?

John Lyons, Managua, 1992


Note: Paco was the name that Ernesto Cardenal gave to a monkey he once bought from a poor family, thinking perhaps to give it a better life. The monkey was kept in the back garden and his antics were an endless source of entertainment.