The body of love

After a harsh frost
warm sunshine
casts the world
in a fresh light

the southern wind
moves effortlessly
through the trees
that stand expectantly

clusters of birds
disperse and wheel
in all directions
in the pale grey sky

before returning
to settle once again
on the same treetop
to sing to the same tune

And so I say to her
that we are bound
by all our words
by all our actions

bound as one
in the body of love
that separates and then
again comes together

John Lyons


Fabulous stars

Shapes and patterns
the fabulous arrangement
of stars in the winter sky
and all that we read
into them
how we befriend them
and look to them
for answers

How did I get to this place
and what will become of me
will I find love and if so
will it remain true
forever and a day ?

Fine filigree of frost
on the window panes
this morning
ferns furred with ice

the excited chatter
of children on their way
to school their warm breath
emerging in the air

Then silence

I am awake in the world
to capture this silence
to carry it with me
to keep it close to my heart
a wordless wisdom
I know that it will serve me well
in good times and in bad

John Lyons

A kind of Thanksgiving

We are into winter
       and it’s early morning
and in the distance
       there is sunlight
on the trees reflected
       in the leaves that remain
of copper and gold parchment
       soon to fall

I wonder about photosynthesis
       in the winter months
and what sense the trees
       make of their seasonal loss

This morning too
       I observed a cat sitting
on a ledge beside a light-
       coloured wooden fence –
the cat was adjusting its posture
       by studying the clear silhouette
of its shadow on the smooth slats
       posing for my photo shoot

It’s the integrity
       of the natural world
that I love – how one thing
       feeds inevitably into the other
the joined–up writing
       that underlies the script
behind the universe in which
       love is the fundamental law

John Lyons

The restless heart

Let’s face it
       the universe is about travel
matter and energy
       that simply cannot
stay still under
       any circumstances

Stillness is an illusion –
       all things are in constant motion
the atomic and subatomic structure
       of stone proves this
as though proof were needed
       Nuclear fission is based
on these principles
       and the power it generates
in some modest way mimics
       the Big Bang of our origin

And so the nuclear sparrow
       perches on the garden fence
and through its open throat
       one of the many songs
of the universe
       emerges to reassure us
to help us cope with the silence
       and dark nights of the soul
and thus our thoughts turn
       constantly to love
and to all the affairs
       of the restless heart

John Lyons

What they don’t know – Juan Gelman

Juan GelmanThe great Argentine poet, Juan Gelman (d. 2014) was born in Buenos Aires on May 3, 1930. On August 26, 1976, his children, Nora Eva, 19 years old, and Marcelo Ariel, 20, were kidnapped by the security forces, along with their daughter-in-law María Claudia Iruretagoyena, 19 years old, who was seven months pregnant. On January 7, 1990, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team identified the remains of his son Marcelo, found in a river in San Fernando (Greater Buenos Aires), inside an oil drum filled with sand and cement. The poem translated below describe the plight of individuals on the run during Argentina’s so-called Dirty War (1976-1983).


dark/luminous times/the sun
shrouds in sunshine the city rent
by sudden sirens/the police on the hunt/night falls and we
we will make love under this roof/the eighth

in a month/they know almost everything about us/except for
this plaster ceiling under which
we will make love/and neither do they know
the old pine furniture under the previous ceiling/nor

the window that the night pounded while it shone like the sun/nor
the beds or the floor where
we made love this month/surrounded by faces like the sun that
shrouds the city in sunshine

Juan Gelman, from Hechos (1974-1978)
Translated by John Lyons

tiempos oscuros/luminosos/el sol
cubre de sol la ciudad partida
por súbitas sirenas/la policía busca/cae la noche y nosotros
haremos el amor bajo este techo/el octavo
en un mes/conocen casi todo de nosotros/menos
este techo de yeso bajo el cual
haremos el amor/y tampoco conocen
los viejos muebles de pino bajo el techo anterior/ni
la ventana que la noche golpeaba mientras brillaba como el sol/ni
las camas o el suelo donde
hicimos el amor este mes/rodeados de rostros como el sol que
cubre de sol la ciudad

Recipe for a poem

Today I will go into the woods
and gather sweet chestnuts
just as I did when I was a boy
on my way home from school

At home I’ll place the chestnuts
in boiling water
and when they’re done
I’ll peel off the tough shells
and allow the fruit to cool

meanwhile I’ll gently warm
some dark chocolate to which
I’ll add little cream : inserting
a toothpick into each chestnut
I’ll dip them in the chocolate
and once fully coated I’ll place them
on a baking sheet to cool

When later I eat them I know that
the taste will be of childhood

John Lyons

A feast of locusts

A feast of locusts
and wild honey
or fish freshly
pulled from the lake

nothing is lost
nothing ever fails
words that outlive
the memory

the speech of truth
the intelligence
of love the breath
of freedom

the scent of lilacs
fills the transparent air
a table is laid
for guests

a beam of sunlight
through the curtains
the slow descent of dust
fine particles of time

a woman with a cloud
on her shoulder sits
under an old oak
in which blackbirds perch

life is the colour of love
wherever the sun rises
a bravura of the heart
an unending kiss

John Lyons

We are of the sun

Let’s be clear
we are of the sun
and our essence
is to shine

we of the bare day
and of the bare night
are of the sun
in our actions

and when we rest
when we speak or
when we are silent
just as angels

so it is said
are modulations
of stars that have
descended to earth

I in her beauty
saw sunlight
and truth and love
her golden coinage

John Lyons