The necessary rose

The necessary rose

What Wallace took
           from Emerson
that the beautiful rests
           on the foundations
of the necessary
           the poet’s fidelity
to his office
           to the announcement
and affirmation
           of the beauty of things

All form is an effect
           of character
all condition
           of the quality of life
The soul is the form
           that makes the body
: the beauty of a rose
           is not arbitrary
it is the embodiment
           of a truth and only as such
does it enter our spiritual world
           and love is the higher beauty
to which our human souls
           necessarily aspire

John Lyons

The age of innocence

The age of innocence

The age of steam
had not ended
when I was born

I remember
thick plumes of smoke
that trailed
behind the locomotives

and the acrid air
that hung
in the soot-stained platforms

I remember
the piercing whistles
that trumpeted warnings

as the engines roared
through the station
at full throttle

and the rhythmic chug
and pant
and the grinding
of wheels of steel on steel

I was a child then
and I remember
all my innocence
and my love of life

John Lyons

The default setting

The default setting

When the poem
           doesn’t come together
I put down the words
           and pick up the paints
and when the colours disobey me
           and run riot all over the canvas
I never know what to do
           Someone once told me
Just let them be
           the colours and the words
they will find their own way
           if you just let them be

At the moment my fingers
           are reeking of turpentine
and I don’t know
           whether to paint
or to write
           or do neither

I had a thought
           that the default setting
of our souls
           is love
and that we are to live
           as roses do
rooted in the soil
           aspiring to beauty

John Lyons

Autumn days

autumn
Autumn, John Lyons (oil on wood)

Autumn days

A clear crispy day
           dry and breezy air
full of oxygen
           So I go wrapt
in the beauty of things
           trees water grass
sunlight early frost
           the silver glaze
of light on the river
           colours beyond
any painting ever made

Sometimes I think
           I never saw the skies before
their still motion in the heavens
           day after day
sunrise and sunset
           so often tinged
with reds and golds

What is happiness
           if not moments like this
when I abandon myself
           to nature’s moods
the impalpable
           evanescent beauty
of the spirit in breath
           that drips endlessly
subtly through the air ?

John Lyons


Adapted from Walt Whitman, Specimen Days

Landscape

Landscape

This is the way it is
           beyond the rows of rooftops
I see a landscape of trees
           their leaves in various states
of decline from green to gold
           and from a distance
it appears that nothing
           is moving

Clusters of birds move into
           and out of my field of vision
and in a neighbouring garden
           the bushes are being flailed
by strong gusts of wind
           which I can also hear
as it curls
           under the eaves

I have nothing to add
           nothing to subtract
from the beauty of being
           alive in this moment

John Lyons

Remembering Tralee

map of the world
Early map of the world, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm oil on canvas)

Remembering Tralee

My mother was born
           in the shadow of mountains
her old bones long since
           laid to rest
I know the place
           the house the houses
where she was a girl
           I know the school
I know the shoreline
           where she would go
in the summer to bathe
           and walk along the beach

My bones
           out of her bones
have grown old too
           but my muscles retain
their youthful vigour
           I know many things
and yet am ignorant
           of so much more

Perhaps I long to return
           to that place
in the shadow of mountains
           where calm waters
run down to the sea
           Perhaps is a word
I have used too often
           in my life perhaps

John Lyons

 

Living in the lap of luxury

Living in the lap of luxury

At nobody’s beck and call
           the foxes lounge
on the shed roof
           sunning themselves
on this beautiful
           autumn day

Ownership
           they might say
what is that ?

And time
           and space ?

They are so familiar
           with the lie of the land
they want for nothing
           which explains
the dark orange beauty
           of their luxurious pelts

Luxury
           they might say
what is that ?

John Lyons

Keeping it simple

red moon
Red moon, John Lyons (oil on wood)

Keeping it simple

Simple I said
whenever you love me
it goes straight to the heart

I need all things
less than love

I want all things
less than love

material physical love
your finger brushing my lips
gently

your eyes
looking lovingly
into mine

all other purposes
are less than love

there is
no greater reason
no greater sense
than love

John Lyons

What is it to love ?

What is it to love ?

The poet asks
           what is it to love
what is it that moves
           two people
to take one another
           as their own
to have and to hold
           to exclude all others ?

that love
           clear and bright
seen in the intersection
           of their eyes
and in the shared pattern
           of their movements
in the harmonies
           of their breath
in all their geometries
           and in the rhythms
and the intricate narrative
           of their dance

What beauty arises
           from their unmuted concentricity
from the steadfast enactment
           of their most intimate dreams
As circles of darkness
           are kept at bay
by circles of light
           so their souls shine
in the singularity
           of their conjoined flesh
: time is the dust
           that love outlives

John Lyons

A walk in the woods

A walk in the woods

Through the woodland
           we walked hand in hand
heard the rustle
           of a baby squirrel
in the undergrowth
           saw crows pecking
at the rich pickings
           in the damp soil
and magpies going silently
           about their business

and in the open field
           a dog fetching a ball
only for it to be thrown again
           All nature falls yes
but life bounces back
           the hollow trunk
decaying down into the soil
           will rise again
in fresh limbs
           that will proudly withstand
the rain and the wind
           nature is par excellence
a survivor and love
           is in our nature

John Lyons