A musical air


What rules the roost here –
large blackbirds and magpies
and at night pipistrelle bats

with a name like that
you’d imagine them
to be musicians
but their song is silence
to our ears at least
and their shadows invisible

on the edge of woodland
or over ponds or streams
they trawl the dark air

so slight with their brown hair
and black wings they barely
tip the scale – but lacewings
mayflies midges and mosquitoes
beware when they’re about

John Lyons


Frail flower of winter


Frail flower of winter
there is a hardy truth
to your solitary beauty
all weathers resisting

a survivor in the midst
of so much decadence
and decay : I salute
your proud courage

surrounded as you are
by the barbed thorn
of blackberry canes
amid dense beds

of nettle that thrive
in this godforsaken scrub
where no licit love
has ever been known

John Lyons

The mirrorless genius – Paul Éluard

The mirrorless genius – Paul Éluard

When will books read themselves without the aid of readers?
            We’ve been through tragic times; floods have drenched our bones, the multiplied blazes of the stars and fires have stripped almost the entire body of its hair. Thunder no longer frightens us, we pry open skulls to release the exquisite crystal and gold spiders whose beauty is ignored by fools. But very cunning is he who was able to see his eye without the aid of a glass, the one who was able to run his eyes over the voluptuous hollow of his neck. We have loved flexible idols who still ignore what charm the arch of their backs can have. Ah! bring on the day when we will smash the mirror, this final window, where our miraculous eyes will be able to contemplate the marvels of the brain.


Translation by John Lyons

Le génie sans miroir

Quand les livres se liront-ils d’eux-mêmes sans le secours de lecteurs.
            Nous avons traversé de tragiques périodes; les déluges ont détrempé nos os, les feux multipliés des astres et des incendies ont fait la calvitie sur la presque totalité de notre corps. Le tonnerre ne nous effraie plus, nous ouvrons les crânes pour en faire s’échapper les belles araignées de cristal et d’or dont les sots ignorent la beauté. Mais bien malin celui qui a pu voir son œil sans le secours d’une vitre, celui qui a pu promener son regard sur le creux voluptueux de sa nuque. Nous avons aimé des idoles flexibles qui ignorent toujours quel charme peut avoir la cambrure de leurs reins. Ah ! vienne le jour où nous briserons le miroir, cette dernière fenêtre, où nos yeux miraculeux pourront contempler le merveilleux cérébral.


blood moon

Blood moon, John Lyons (oil on wood)

Tweel twill tweed—
           think of the jacket

I once wore
           the rough comfort
of its wool weave
           think of herringbone
and a school of fish darting
           through clear
coastal waters
           the pulse of life
expressed in a single
           powerful flex
of the muscle :
           that the fish swim
in a grid should come
           as no surprise
the distance between them
           the same
as the jump length
           of their prey

John Lyons

Happy days


Acorns and sycamore seeds
glass marbles and conkers

the things a small boy
might collect when in season

return home pockets bulging
with an afternoon’s spoils

having tramped through
woodland and across fields

oblivious to the squirrels
and to the raucous magpies

I was that boy once – long ago
How well I remember it all !

John Lyons

A daughter’s portrait

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

A portrait made
       of tables and chairs
and rain and wind
       sketched on fabric
the pigments of life
time and space
       held in shape
by a wooden frame
       the paint still wet
the words still hot
       from the mind
from the heart
       magpie moments
       and ferreted away
the lush grass
       the autumn leaves
strewn across the fields
       where children play

Another year will come
       and then another
and all things will grow
       and fruit will swell
until in its ripeness
       it is released
and there will always be
       life in plenty
colour in plenty
       and love too

John Lyons

What of our dust


What of our dust
who will trample upon it
in generations to come ?

What of our love
who will remember it
when the seas rise ?

What of our stars
who will read them
and make sense

of the lives we lived ?
What of here and now
and how and where

will it end ?

John Lyons

Time and the river


                                          The five arches at Footscray

Time and the river
       the five arches
that my father painted
       when we were children

Time was young then
       but time has grown old
much water over the weir
       many generations of geese
and ducks and swans
       and moorhens
and many seasons
       of acorn and sycamore seed
all ground to dust
       I feel the damp earth
under foot as I stroll
       across the meadow

A field of memories
       where lovers
of every age come
       hand in hand
to parade the undying bonds
       that bind them

John Lyons

Paul Éluard – 8 lines

signs of life

There were two of us and we’d just lived
A sundrenched day of love
Our sun we embraced together
The whole of life was visible to us

When night came we were left without a shadow
To polish the gold of our common blood
We were two at the heart of the only treasure
The light of which never sleeps

Paul Éluard, from Le phénix (1951)
translation by John Lyons


Nous étions deux et nous venions de vivre
Une journée d’amour ensoleillé
Notre soleil nous l’embrassions ensemble
La vie entière nous était visible

Quand la nuit vint nous restâmes sans ombre
A polir l’or de notre sang commun
Nous étions deux au cœur du seul trésor
Dont la lumière ne s’endort jamais