The measure of life


What sparrows know –
       that everything is timed
to perfection
       that once the cusp is passed
the green leaves
       will start to droop
their colour will seep away
       and they will gather dust
and hang yellow and lethargic
       in the late summer air

What sparrows know –
       that there’s a time to nest
and a time for fledglings
       to find their wings
and to take flight
       and that only love
across all seasons
        has the measure of life

John Lyons


How angels descend

angel descending
                     Angel descending, John Lyons (50 x 70 cm, oil on canvas)

This is how angels descend
       out of the blue into the pink
when least expected
       free-falling through the universe
time and distance no object
       space an illusion at best
at worst a failure
       of the imagination

I defy you to say
       that your life is complete
that there are no ragged edges
       no moves you wish
you’d never made :
       art affirms all things
it can declare love
       and it can express regret
for a love that has
       slipped away

art is a way of life
       just as poetry is
and just as love is
       hence the shoulder
on which we bear
       all things
all our joys
       and all our sufferings
and art brings colour
       and warm words
and delight in the beauty
       of shapes that take on
a new energy
       when placed on canvas
or within the perimeters
       of a poem : angels descend
when we are willing
       to celebrate the rough patches
the incomplete journey
       never the end

John Lyons

To outshine the stars

Again I ask
       how many dawns ?
I wake to rain
       pelting the roof tiles
to a dawn chorus
       sung slightly off-key
to a damp world
       and the muffled sound
of trains rattling
       through the distance

We all have places to go
       and places to stay
and bridges to cross
       before we put the past
behind us and seek
       to atone
for all the errors
       all the mistakes

Only in the immaculate darkness
       do the stars shine
and last night before I slept
       I counted them and felt
at peace with their pulse
       running through me :
imperfect though we are
       they are there to guide us
to fill us with a necessary
       sense of purpose – namely
to make love and in so doing
       to shine

John Lyons

A sparrow’s breath

What looks the same
       is never the same
the rose the butterfly
       the tall poppies
swaying in the breeze
       the sparrow alighting
for a moment
       on the garden fence

All things are in flux
       from the subatomic
universe to the stars
       motion and emotion
what moves us literally
       and in the heart
what’s set in stone
       moves in time

Love struggles
       against the tide
but love too in time
       will fade will wither
under the weight of years
       surviving solely
in the hope
       to be reborn

John Lyons

Faith in my hands


                       Simplified, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas)

My hands tanned
       mottled and freckled
have aged but not grown old
       an absurdity I know
but it is as if
       for reasons unknown
they have been spared
       the ravages of time

I observe them
       this way and that
hold them up
       to the light
relieved that they are
       still fit for purpose
secure too in the knowledge
       that neither the right
nor the left one
       will ever betray me

John Lyons

Killer instinct

brown trout

A brown trout moves
through shallow waters
drags its shadow
across the fine gravel

Doused in sunlight
its plump dappled body
thrusts as a single muscle
mouth wide and gills flared

In the stillness
in the silence
the young mayfly
stands no chance

John Lyons

Ancient history

It is time to make
some history
to turn a few clocks
forwards a few others

Observe how all things
in creation moves
with ease
how all things know
their place

the artists at Altamira
knew their place
This was long before
doubt entered the world

To hesitate has become
a human trait
but it was not always so

who dared to offend
the hunter ?
who dared to mistreat
the gatherer ?
who dared to question
the sun and the moon ?

John Lyons

That’s life

As always
comes the reminder
that things change
that all things are
forever in flux

not a single star
is fixed immobile
in the heavens
neither do the heavens
as such exist

our lives are a curve ball
thrown by who knows whom
and each moment is a tussle
between retention and loss

today rain
tomorrow sunshine
the grass greener
the birdsong softer
and love in the air

John Lyons

Sacrament of praise

Breath and pulse
       the warm flesh
the light in her eyes
       the laughter on her lips
and a poet skilled
       in the sacrament of praise

a champion of life
       around whom
wild winds spin
       and oceans lap
at shifting sands
       and willows are
whipped by the rain
       and time weaves
its eternal mysteries
       : beauty

that is momentary
       in the mind
frail as the tissue
       of poppy blooms
torn on the briar’s thorns
       a sparrow’s song
a robin bobbing
       on the garden fence
a dragonfly that hovers
       over the shallow pond
how soon our summers
       are spent
our loves
       never so

John Lyons

From ash to dust

Under the sycamore
the dry seeds
worn to dust
thousands of them
from a single tree

I sit in the shade
and look out
across the meadow
where away
in the distance
a young couple
is sunbathing

This is still summer
and the leaves
are still green
and their flesh
is still supple
and unmarked
by time

A universe of light
and cinders :
all things turn to ash
and ash to dust
and every memory
will be forgotten

Salad days pass
the young grow old
even language tires
of endless repetition
All things are senseless
all life unless
imbued with love

John Lyons