Life teeming with life

Life teeming with life

How to be silent
           to live within the word
to be still and at peace
           with the world
to want for nothing
           to want nothing
but to be still and silent
           to grow
as within a woodland
           in which life and death
are a constant routine :
           the fungi that feed
on dead timber
           the rich mulch
from the death
           of organic material

High up in the canopy
           one bird calls
patiently to another
           the same song
over and over again
           and as it flies off
its shadow crosses my path
           All ages of this ancient woodland
within one circumscribed space
           life teeming with life and death

Here and there patches
           of wild flowers
primrose and dog’s mercury
           lesser celandine and figwort
all offered unconditionally 
           a lesson in love and beauty

John Lyons



At break of day

Dawn, John Lyons (oil on wood)

At break of day

Nobody teaches us
           the simplest things
that for example
           time and love move
at their own pace
           neither can be hurried
but their rhythms
           must be respected
at all costs

           the gift
that life offers us
           the capacity to receive
as much as to bestow
           but unthinkingly
           as the wind moves
through the bones of trees
           as the rain seeps deeply
into the soil of our birth
           as the sun feeds
every movement
           every caress
as one body binds
           to another

John Lyons

The immeasurable sky

The immeasurable sky

Love deals in absolutes
           in the beauty of truth
and the truth of beauty
           immeasurable as the sky
or the blue ocean depths
           the thorn that protects
the scarlet rose
           the summer songbirds
and the winter’s lament

Would that she had
           kept the faith
and loved me as deeply
           as I her
and these my poems
           songs of innocence
and experience
           though all in love
are blameless

I have seen
           the mottled trout
rising through
           unblemished waters
soaked with sunlight
           a gentle summer breeze
in my hair and youth
           in my veins

all those years now gone
           and many who were with me
on that day gone too –
           the beauty of love is
that it remains
           true to itself
for all time

John Lyons

The Cave of Hands

Cave of Hnads

The Cave of Hands

Those hands
           on the cave wall
in Santa Cruz
waving to us
           from 9000 years ago

Silhouettes created
           by blowing paint
through bone-made pipes
           : and such warmth
in these gestures
           as if to say
we’re here and in our art
           we salute you
our friends
           to come

John Lyons

Revised from an earlier post on 2 April 2018

Dancing with my shadow

Dancing with my shadow

My shadow is a shadow
           of its former self
though age
           has not defeated me
I’ve known love
           and I’ve known beauty
and tasted all things
           that are good for the soul

Let’s not say
           that beauty passes
rather that it matures
           in time’s fullness
but there are times
           when time itself
does not pass
           when life is lived
in the ecstasy
           of the moment

I’ve known that too
           when we shared our love
equally and our kisses
           were more than emblematic
Such is the lie of the land
           that all things run down
rivers to the sea
           lovers to the grave
but love
           love itself
outlives life
           love itself

John Lyons


Down by the Thames

Down by the Thames

The flow of language
that runs down to silence
: the rivers that bury
themselves in the sea

just as today at Erith
Thames waters glide away
into the distance
out of my sight and mind

Farewell to the idea
to the passing moment
to the creatures that live
within beneath or above

these tidal reaches
to times marked
by the sun and the moon
A lone fisherman casts a line

into the deep unknown
What passion lurks
within his heart what loves
has he known and lost ?

His head is in his dreams
his hope in the bite of a fish
his life has brought him
to the pier where for a while

he will be

John Lyons

Portrait in years


Portrait in years

I’m standing
           in the middle
of a bridge
           over a small river
that runs through
           a small town
           in Germany

I’m no longer sure
           who took the photo
but the year is 1974
           I’m holding a bottle
of what is probably
           some sort of soda
my hair is longer
           than it should be
and I am slimmer
           than I will ever be
           I have the whole
of my adult life
           ahead of me

The photo is so
           poorly focused
it reveals
           next to nothing
about me or what
           I was thinking
on that summer’s day
           at that precise time

John Lyons


The brave man

new growth
New growth, John Lyons (oil on wood)

The brave man

And so to live
the warm antiquity of self
in a world grown cold
green eyes that look
to the forgiving sky

and in the night
fresh stars appear
– the wine is good
and love is always
a prospect

That brave man
looks and learns
and is not afraid
to relinquish the past

to distance himself

from all that is false
or faint-hearted

John Lyons

This revised poem is based on a reading of two poems by Wallace Stevens, ‘The Brave Man” and “A Fading of the Sun” from an early seminal collection, Ideas of Order (1936). The accompanying painting is an old camembert lid splattered with leftover colours so as not to waste.

Fragments of time

Fragments of time

Through our veins
           the blood of stars
from which all warmth
           from which all passion
from which all life
           from which all love

her hand within mine
           is universe touching
           flesh upon flesh
feeding upon
           eternal energies

these words
           are star script
temporal equations
           of eternal expression
the earth populated
           with fragments of time
that burn to coalesce
           to embody a single soul

Orpheus descends
           through her open eyes
into the heart
           of her love

John Lyons

Ruskin Park, Lambeth

lady's bedstraw
Lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum)

Ruskin Park, Lambeth

The stillness
           the silence
the magic of sunlight
in the flowering orchard
           – quince and medlar
apple and pear
           a medley of berries

and in the meadow
           greater knapweed
ragged robin
           lady’s bedstraw
and ox-eye daisy
           all flourish

A common coot
           slips lazily into the pond
when it hears my step
           on the grassy path
is lost
           among the tall reeds
in the stillness
           in the silence

The days of dragonfly
           will soon be upon us
winter a distant memory
           love in the air

John Lyons