The hand of blood and bone

The hand of blood and bone

The hand of blood and bone
           picks roses of dear perfection
things of time
           that pass simply away

The back and forth
           of banter on all
lovers’ lips
           bonded bodies
that slip effortlessly
           into sleep

Sometimes I speak
           for the sake of speaking
and then listen
           to how silence closes in
around my words


John Lyons




Apollinaire, by Picasso


Anemone and columbine
Have grown in the garden
Where sadness sleeps
Between love and disdain

Here our shadows come too
That the night will dissipate
The sun that deepens them
With them will disappear

The deities of breathing waters
Let their hair run free
Go on you should pursue
That beautiful shadow you desire

Guillaume Apollinaire (from Alcools)

Translation by John Lyons

* * *
French original


L’anémone et l’ancolie
Ont poussé dans le jardin
Où dort la mélancolie
Entre l’amour et le dédain

Il y vient aussi nos ombres
Que la nuit dissipera
Le soleil qui les rend sombres
Avec elles disparaîtra

Les déités des eaux vives
Laissent couler leurs cheveux
Passe il faut que tu poursuives
Cette belle ombre que tu veux

Night invention

Thorns 2

Night invention

The darkness is ours
in which I hand to you
you hand me back
all the love

water spreads
through the earth
reaches into
the root of being

in the darkness
as mirrors rest
your secret voice
is revealed

through the blinds
a moon laced with cloud
on white linen
the thorns are removed

one by one
there is no blood
to stain

no tears to dry
your mouth

is an abyss
into which
I willingly fall
and sleep comes

John Lyons

When you’re old – Paul Eluard


Paul Eluard, by Picasso

           I can’t do a thing, I can’t see a thing.

When you’re old, you shouldn’t go out
You should stay indoors by the fire,
With warm clothes and the day tempered
Each evening by the night and the lamplight.

When you’re old, you shouldn’t read anymore.
Words are bad and meant for other lives.
You should stay in, your eyes glazed, resigned
Motionless, in a corner.

When you’re old, you shouldn’t talk anymore
You mustn’t sleep anymore. . . You must remember
That others are constantly thinking:
“When you’ve seen it all, you’re miserable
And when you’re old, you’ve seen it all!”

Paul Eluard (1895-1952)

Translation by John Lyons

French text :

         Je ne peux rien faire, je ne peux rien voir.

Quand on est vieux, il ne faut plus sortir
Il faut rester dans la chambre avec le feu,
Avec de chauds vêtements et le jour adouci
Chaque soir par la nuit et la clarté des lampes.

Quand on est vieux, il ne faut plus lire.
Les mots sont mauvais et pour d’autres vies.
Il faut rester, les yeux perdus, l’air résigné
Dans un coin, sans bouger.

Quand on est vieux, il ne faut plus parler
Il ne faut plus dormir. . . Il faut se souvenir
Que les autres pensent sans cesse:
« Quand on a tout vu, on est misérable
Et quand on est vieux c’est qu’on a tout vu! »

Paul Eluard (from Le devoir et l’inquiétude, 1916-1917)


Eight thorny lines


Eight thorny lines

How soon the petals fall
how soon dawn turns to dusk

how soon this life is over
and all things turn to dust

and memories are piecemeal
and time consumes them all

till love is all that’s left us
that love in which we trust

John Lyons

Nothing at all

Nothing at all

For those who care
and care enough
so as never to pay
lip service to love

to care from the heart
poetry from the heart
not ideas but things
as real as a red rose

things filtered
through feelings
the heart tells us
there’s nothing
like love

John Lyons

All things attract

All things attract

Say that all things attract
           say that there is method
in beauty
           that there is purpose too
and all art is found
           actively discovered
and chosen and pulled out
           from anonymity and displayed
paraded before the senses
           and that there is always
measurement and dimension
           intensities and degrees
of subtlety and that sounds
           and colours and textures
and shapes and tastes
           on the tongue all rhyme
that the eye and the ear
           bind it all together
and have done so
           from the moment
that the mind was born
           and with it love
and the walls of caves
           were filled with
sensual narrative
           and that dance and music
and song are all
           in the nature of breath

John Lyons