A colourful love affair


           Gestation, John Lyons (50 x 70 cm, oil on canvas)

This is how it begins
       less an idea than an embryo
what it is and what it will be
       who knows ?
What colours and shapes and textures
       remain to be seen

As it stands
       the easy stage is complete
where anything can go right
       because there’s everything
to play for : the black mixed
       with two shades of blue
the cadmium yellow cut
       with a little burnt umber

I now need to hold back
       to listen to the canvas
to turn it this way and that
       scrutinise it
from every angle for days
       or even weeks on end
before further decisions
       are taken

In time it’ll tell me
       what it wants to express
and I trust
       as always
that it’ll keep me
       in the frame

Can one fall in love
       with cadmium yellow
or the cadmium red
       that is currently absent
making the heart
       grow fonder ?

Playful or serious
       there’ll be a message
but it’ll string me along
       keep me on my toes
until it finally decides
       to reveal all

John Lyons


The self all at sea

       that sense of wonderment
when the mind
       not to say the body
is blown away
       by beauty

That she is rose
       and flesh
all woven
       from light

Here in the place of birth
       her hair tangled
by the brisk breeze
       her eyes damp
with remembrance
       with loss

At night she grinds her teeth
       the lost innocence
the years misspent
       in pointless pursuits
the child in her
       a figment of the imagination

She who was once rose
       on the threshold of dust
at the dissolution of time
       where the sea thrashes
the ocean’s edge
       and peace alone
comes to creatures
       that swim with the tide

John Lyons

Coffee bones

Coffee bones, John Lyons (30 x 30 cm, coffee grounds and oil on canvas)

Bones that yearn
for other bones
out of the earth
into the earth

coffee grounds
and yellow cadmium
eyes turning
one toward the other

only love heals
the scars left
by love

her hazel eyes
her lips
a celebration

love woven
on the loom
of her life

and the echo
of other bones
long gone

Venus sidles up
to the moon
and for a brief

it illuminates
their love
their bodies turning
in unison

time will one day
sweep them away
for ever conjoined
their dust

their bones
laid to rest
for a single

John Lyons

With my emerald eyes

The chestnut the oak
       the elm the ash
have soaked up
       the night’s rain
So easy on the eye
       their lush green leaves
so peaceful and majestic
       as they winnow the wind

Eloquent in their intelligence
       they speak of the beauty of life
that never really fades
       With exemplary endurance
they guide us through
       the deepest tests of time
Ever present ever faithful
       they line our horizons
circumspect and generous
       and absolutely undemanding

Under willow one evening
       I lay and looked up
through the slender branches
       and saw my star trace
a path across the sky
       and that night I dreamt
of you and all the love
       we once shared

John Lyons

Bed of roses


The long green
       leafy tongues
of this plant
       peering through
the undergrowth
       lapping up the light

Its four-petalled
       flower little bigger
than a pinhead
       proud to exhibit
itself amid the tangle
       of blackberry canes

All life
       out of this soil
this rich clay
       from which your lips
were formed
       minerals that fed
your blood your breath
       and shaped your limbs

Here birth and death
       coexist as one
feeds the other
       in the eternal cycle
of resurrection
       And so I say
: make of your love
       a bed of roses
so as to be sure that
       it will never die

John Lyons

How her garden grew

A poem about the space
       that we create
in our lives
       distances and proximities
boundaries we set
       permissions we grant or deny
allowing someone into our lives
       or keeping them at arm’s distance

inner and outer space
       the preservation of territories
of the heart and mind
       as much as bodily

a bed of roses with thorns
       beneath the blooms
but nothing ventured –
       traceries and markings
the vertical soul
       tattooed with experience
what came with her kiss
       what necessary words
and how did they live
       and how did they die ?

The oblique blue sky sustained
       between the branches
of oak and elder
       and at night in the blackness
a crown of constellations
       a whisper of winds
shuffles the leaves
       I remember her breath
brushing against my cheek
       I remember how we put
time to the sword
       and how her garden grew

John Lyons

Paul Éluard – I told you. . .

Told you for the clouds
Told you for the sea’s tree
For each wave for the birds in the leaves
For the pebbles of noise
For the familiar hands
For the eye that turns face or landscape
And sleep endows it with the sky of its colour
For the whole night imbibed
For the grid of roads
For the open window for an uncovered forehead
I told you for your thoughts for your words
Every caress every confidence endures

from Paul Éluard, L’amour la poésie (1929)

(translation by John Lyons)

Je te l’ai dit pour les nuages
Je te l’ai dit pour l’arbre de la mer
Pour chaque vague pour les oiseaux dans les feuilles
Pour les cailloux du bruit
Pour les mains familières
Pour l’œil qui devient visage ou paysage
Et le sommeil lui rend le ciel de sa couleur
Pour toute la nuit bue
Pour la grille des routes
Pour la fenêtre ouverte pour un front découvert
Je te l’ai dit pour tes pensées pour tes paroles
Toute caresse toute confiance se survivent.

The kiss


            Lovers, John Lyons (50 x 50 cm, oil on canvas)

An aerial view
of the lie

of the land
lovers locking

into a kiss
a port of call

a docking
one delicately

poised above

a passage
through time

a navigation
of narrow straits

John Lyons

Why sparrows sing

That they love the sound
of their own voices
why sparrows sing
that they dance
during courtship
for no other reason
than to enthral a mate

and why poets have words
to sing of the life of being
of crocuses that emerge
out of the winter soil
and how the earth wraps itself
in bridal blossom
with desire running
through all things
and memory
as Marcel said
is resurrection
the past that trails
behind us but never dies

Smoke dissipates
in the pale sky
and nature’s appetite
knows no surfeit
enough is never enough
Through green growth
we rise up towards the sun
our bodies burning
our breath panting
our arms outstretched
our souls aching for love

John Lyons