Paul Éluard – Ecstasy

Paul Éluard – Ecstasy

I stand before this feminine landscape
Like a child before the fire
Smiling vaguely tears in my eyes
Before this feminine landscape everything stirs in me
Where mirrors mist where mirrors clear
Reflecting two naked bodies season upon season

I’ve so many motives to lose myself
Along this untravelled earth under this endless sky
Beautiful motives a day ago unknown to me
And that I’ll never ever forget
Beautiful keys to looks girlish keys to themselves
Before this landscape where nature is mine

Before the fire the first fire
Beautiful mistress motive
Identified star
On earth and under the sky in and out of my heart
Second bud first green leaf
That the sea shelters under its wings
And the sun at the end of it all coming from us

I stand before this feminine landscape
Like a branch in the fire. 

24 November 1946

Paul Éluard            
 (Translation by John Lyons )

On 28 November 1946, Eluard’s wife, Nusch, died suddenly at the age of 40. 


Je suis devant ce paysage féminin
Comme un enfant devant le feu
Souriant vaguement et les larmes aux yeux
Devant ce paysage où tout remue en moi
Où des miroirs s’embuent où des miroirs s’éclairent
Reflétant deux corps nus saison contre saison

J’ai tant de raisons de me perdre
Sur cette terre sans chemins et sous ce ciel sans horizon
Belles raisons que j’ignorais hier
Et que je n’oublierai jamais
Belles clés des regards clés filles d’elles-mêmes
Devant ce paysage où la nature est mienne

Devant le feu le premier feu
Bonne raison maîtresse
Etoile identifiée
Et sur la terre et sous le ciel hors de mon coeur et dans mon coeur
Second bourgeon première feuille verte
Que la mer couvre de ses ailes
Et le soleil au bout de tout venant de nous

Je suis devant ce paysage féminin
Comme une branche dans le feu.

Paul Éluard

Trout fishing in Kilkenny

Trout fishing in Kilkenny

Fished for trout
      that summer’s day
shallow stream
      huddle of shadows
just below the surface
      teasing us
who had nothing
      but feathered flies
to entice them
      onto the hook

. . .and so I write it
      word by word
line by line
      sifting through the past
what drew her close
      what allowed her
to slip away
       a hunger to touch
to taste that flesh

John Lyons

Wild country of the soul

Wild country of the soul

Wild rhapsody of wind
          through the trees
birds at play screeching
pigeons cooing
          on a neighbour’s roof
prelude to love
          I have a good ear
for such things
          and an arsenal of words
to deploy
          in any event

I imagine a man
          and a woman
          I imagine that it is
you and I
          but where are you ?

The orchestra strikes up
          but where are you ?
your hair floats
          across a distant pillow
you are on stage
          and have forgotten
your lines
          you have forgotten
your place and all the emotions
          we once shared

Beneath the surface
          I know there is turmoil
though not a ripple visible
          on your pale face
but I know your world
          I have a delicate ear
for such things
          the why and wherefores
of where you have chosen
          to live
the wild country
          of your soul

John Lyons

The idle dust of praise


       Hillside, John Lyons (30 x 25 cm, oil on canvas)

The idle dust of praise

Back in the day
       through the mountains
along faded winding paths
       lined with gorse and heather
sheep on the hillside
        marauding hawks
in the air
       scavenging for fresh life

At night an ocean mist
       rolled in to smother
the dreams of those who lay
       awake in their shattered sleep
cursing the owls that counted
       down the loveless hours

So many words
       so much to do
so little done
       all vanity humbled
beneath the dying stars
       soft lullabies of pain
just to stir the idle dust
       of praise

John Lyons

Put the past aside



Put the past aside

What bones to pick
what festering grudges
—let them alone
no purpose is served
by disgruntlement

history is dust
worn moth-eaten fabrics
that fall to shreds
in our hands
and empty victories
all a thing of the past

summer autumn
rain or shine
each will have his day
her day in which
to create something
new and good : face
to the prevailing wind
heart overwhelmed
with love

John Lyons

Love laid

Love laid

I can see her
in silks
her eyes
molten light
her pursed lips
restless as we rode
the underground

I can hear her voice
brief words
her hands
creating patterns
in the air
purr of her breath
slow release
of her sighs

I recall
the turn of her feet
as we strode across
Tower Bridge
the rich scent
of the wild flowers
in Potters Fields
sunlight drifting
on the river surface
and the nights
the endless nights
of love laid
upon love

John Lyons

Time pours salt


Time pours salt

Not even stone
can hold the memory

of Matilda Goode
forever :
moths devoured
her silks
now her dust

lies under earth
in the boneyard
of Christ Church

debris of dry 
leaves and twigs
litter the ground
rock turns to sand
: all things pass
time pours salt
on love’s
open wounds

John Lyons

C’est la vie


Monotone, John Lyons, (30 x 20 cm, oil on canvas)

C’est la vie

Night floats
into day
day floats
into night

all that

all rivers
run down
to the sea

all bodies
or later

love comes
and goes
but not

it never comes
it never goes

c’est la vie
that’s life

John Lyons

Time for breakfast

Time for breakfast

Age is knowing
          what’s going to happen
a sense of it at least
          I’m susceptible
to the ticking clock
          to the sound of my breath
to the stillness around me
          Overnight the final buds
on my pink orchids
          have opened

My mind teems
          with memories
I know what brings me
          happiness and I know
what saddens me
          I’ve known love

I drink kefir
          and eat slices
of fresh peach
          a few golden girolles
sautéed on toast
          Through the window
I watch as the early birds
          feed on the wing
summer has almost gone
          I am still here
living the simple life
          in abundance

John Lyons