Embryo

embryo
Embryo, John Lyons (30 x 40 cm oil on canvas)

Embryo

In painting as in music and literature
what is often called abstract
is little more than a figurative representation
of a more delicate more difficult reality
less visible to the naked eye

Clarice Lispector

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Perros-Guirec, 1966

Perros-Guirec

Perros-Guirec, 1966

And so the remains of memory
           the rabbits fed on wheat husks
mackerel fished
           throughout the summer
to provide for the winter
           paddling out to the island
in the kayak
           we had built in the garage

soaking up the sun
           on those endless innocent days
the first taste of conger eel
           the first taste of wine
the first taste of a girl’s lips
           an inkling of what love might be
in the years to come
           the pleasure and the pain

John Lyons

John Cage does painting

mustard wash
Mustard, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

John Cage does painting

Contemplate in silence
           a rectangular canvas
washed in mustard yellow
           there is nothing there
but the surface
           and the dimensions
and a few imperceptible
           flaws in the fabric
nothing to distract the eye
           no composition
nor any relationships
           other than with the space
crowded around
           the four sides
of this object
           of artistic intention

Make of it
           what you will
it took almost a lifetime
           to complete
Make of that
           what you will

John Lyons

 

Enigma of the imagination

two figures
Two figures, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas)

Enigma of the imagination

From a blank canvas
           two ghostly figures emerge
nameless
           faceless —
we know nothing
           of where they’re coming from
know nothing
           of where they’re heading

Heaven and earth appear to be aligned
           but what is
this couple’s relationship
           and what would they say
if they had words to tell ?
           Brushed in ochre
shrouded in space
           surrounded by silence
they are an enigma
           of the imagination

John Lyons


Revised

Mysterious space

Mysterious space

The vastness of it
           the silence that occupies it
and yet there’s nanospace
           the emptiness of it
the whiteness of it
           the noise that fills it
the measurement of it
           the distance between objects
present in it
           the relationships between
those who inhabit it
           the blank page or canvas
the soundless concert hall
           dancers at rest

The Pequod sailing the South Seas
           the white whale lost in it
Ahab too
           the sperm oil that illuminated
the darkness of it
           Samuel Enderby and General Wolfe
asleep in a Greenwich crypt
           our lives an interval in it
our love a moment in it
           our hearts lost in it

John Lyons

Till daylight comes

St Paul's
St Paul’s Church, Deptford

Till daylight comes

And so to Deptford to St Paul’s
           where death lies buried
in the empty grounds
           where fresh-blown roses
are washed in the dew
           petals gone as a gust of breath
Here in the broken darkness
           the birds fly silently
from oak to ash to sycamore
           and strands of light
filter through the dying leaves
           Here we remember her hair
her lips and the shape of her smile
           the taste of her kiss
the gentleness of her voice

What lies beneath the ground
           is love and beauty
held on a threshold
           by the water’s edge
ready to be launched
           into a new infinity
built of stardust
           Smoke and shadows rise up
from neighbouring houses
           where bone to bone
young lovers lie
           locked in sweet converse
frail dust
           frail autumn dust
caught in the swirl of light
            Here the dreaming flesh cries out
the deathless voice of all the world :
           out of my love
her heart will not stir

These stones to praise thee :
           tall and lovely tender she is
a fabrication built of autumn roses
           of words that hover
light as leaves in the silence
           silks and cashmere
against my aching skin
           the warmth of burning coals
the ebb and flow of the river
           that carries our days
down to the sea

Search not my lips love
           unbind my hands
rise up to my caress
           let us stretch our bones
till daylight comes