Sometimes I think. . .

Sometimes I think I’m just too clever for words
I read poems by Ted Berrigan       by Frank O’Hara
by Charles Olson  by Guillaume Apollinaire      and the big earth 
floats on under the blue sky       till one day Patsy says
“But they’re all guys.      
                                    How come you don’t read
the girls?”     So I dip into Emily and Lorine and Alice
And Anne and even give Elizabeth a run around
the block, but sooner or later
                                        it’s back to the boys
Sometimes on a Wednesday      when it’s not raining
I’ll put the books down      and take a hike into the city
I love to watch the river flow      and ponder its destiny
I’ll stay there until the sun sets and the stars appear
I count them as friends     :    they’ve stayed with me
all my life, kept the faith,
                             peppered my dreams with light

John Lyons

How strange – a sonnet

How strange to be gone       the earth floating
through space and you are little more than
a memory      around which the dust is gently
settling     How strange to be silent      how ghostly weird  
to be not a word     not a breath      not a sigh      not a
sign of life       although somewhere under this blue sky
you continue to exist       How strange to be gone
and the way  you went       like a thief in the night      
upon which the stars shuddered      when they learnt       
of your coldness      How strange to be gone     when
everything else remains       the streets      the river
the theatres    the markets   the pubs     the office
where you once worked       and all those  places where

we once made love our own      How strange

John Lyons


The day blossoms
        sun searing the grass
crisping the summer leaves
        the future is streets ahead
all that fruit will fall
        so many salads
will be devoured
        April May and June
are but memories
        and even as we love
our bodies turn to dust
        fragments of time
dissolve into thin air
        nothing but chaff
on the granary floor
        nothing but chaff

An offensive
        that’s what’s required
a counterattack
        to recoup lost ground
take back the freedom
        to fail or to succeed
unclench the fist and
        release seven white doves
as a sign of signs to come
        as a sign of days to come

John Lyons

Love that moves the sun

Love that moves the sun
         and the other stars
Dante and Einstein
         poets of the cosmos
the articulate cosmos
         in which we live and love

Light that is energy
         that may be expressed
in mass and which is
         never lost
Light feeds and moves
         and caresses love

Nothing on the face
         of the earth that is
not moved by light
         Dante’s Paradiso
which formulated
         the light-love equation
Beatrice retrieved
         because no love is lost

Silence and stillness

         are figments of
the imagination
         the music of the spheres
not metaphor but reality
         noise that is articulation
is all around us
         the Big Bang caught
in the net of our most
         powerful telescopes
energies lapping
         on the shores
of deepest space
         on Brighton beach

All that is is expression
         the word from light
the illuminated text
         the poetry of birdsong
her beating heart
         her breath
the smacking of her lips
         however soft her footfall
or discreet her ecstasy
         love that is thought
and word and deed
         and light all in motion
all emotion nothing silent
         nothing still
nothing ever
         ever nothing

John Lyons

Poetry will absolve me

It is daybreak. The city that never sleeps
has been sleeping. My dream was of trains
moving silently through the night. I must
wake the city and feed it with poetry.
I must get the world moving. I must dry
its tears and dress it with poetry. From
the Capital of Pain, Paul Éluard will assist me
with his hymns to freedom and to courage.

It is daybreak and I will never forget the beauty
of your eyes as you looked into my eyes.
Birds are singing sotto voce and a blue
silk skyline is unfolding as the city stirs.
It’s no disgrace to have loved you nor to love
you still : poetry will absolve me.

John Lyons

A kind body

A kind body
not a beauty
but a loveliness
there is a difference

Being in truth
and seeing so
feeling so
ageing alongside
the earth

Summer’s come
and gone and winter’s
bearing down
and still the breath
still the hope
and the belief

the fingers
that she lifts that she
runs through her hair
the beacon of her smile
in times of storm
or when the rain drips
as the clock runs down
and all you have is her kiss
and all you need is her kiss
and enough is enough

John Lyons

It was winter in Greenwich

It was winter
down by the river at Greenwich
an old seafaring clipper
in dry dock was being used
as a film set
actors in costume
an assortment of barrels
and wooden trunks
and bales of hemp
on the quayside
and snow flakes falling

It was winter
and the light fell
in shadows
as the snow fell
and the river was silent
and we turned a corner
and I caught the light
in your eyes
as your breath rose
before you
in the frosty air

It was winter
and snow flakes falling
and we dragged our heels
along the cobblestones
your hair a radiant blond
your skin paler than the snow
and we entered the market
where you bought mementoes
to remind you of your journey

It was winter in Greenwich
and snowflakes were falling
lightly dusting the cobblestones
and I reached out
and pulled you towards me
and when we kissed
I could taste the dust
on your lips

John Lyons

Words that bind


                  Seascape, John Lyons (oil on wood)

I think of the turbulent sea
        I think of fierce flames on
the burning white sand
        I think of sunrise and sunset
of spheres and circles
        of the beauty of wood
its rough surface to which
        the paint clings

I think of pools of light
        and the beauty of colour
and how surfaces entice
        I think of the calm waves
after the storm subsides
        I think of soft clouds
that gather on the horizon
        and how every image
is an image of other images
        just as one love echoes another

I think of words that move
        back and forth—words
that bind the world together
        words that once bound
you and I together
        in a single breath

John Lyons

Adélia Prado – Marriage

There’re women who say:
My husband, if he wants to fish, let him fish,
but let him clean the fish.
Not me. At any time of the night I get up,
Help with descaling, slitting open, filleting and salting.
It’s so good, just the two of us alone in the kitchen,
from time to time our elbows bump,
he says things like “this one was tricky customer”
“he flashed his silver tail in the air”
and he makes the gesture with his hand.
The silence of when we first met
flows through the kitchen like a deep river.
Finally, the fish on the platter,
we go to bed.
Silver things blossom:
we are bride and groom.

Adélia Prado

From , Terra de Santa Cruz (1981)

Translation by John Lyons


Há mulheres que dizem:
Meu marido, se quiser pescar, que pesque,
mas que limpe os peixes.
Eu não. A qualquer hora da noite me levanto,
Ajudo a escamar, abrir, retalhar e salgar.
É tão bom, só a gente sozinhos na cozinha,
de vez em quando os cotovelos se esbarram,
ele fala coisas como “este foi difícil”
“prateou no ar dando rabanadas”
e faz o gesto com a mão.
O silêncio de quando nos vimos a primeira vez
atravessa a cozinha como um rio profundo.
Por fim, os peixes na travessa,
vamos dormir.
Coisas prateadas espocam:
somos noivo e noiva.

Terra de Santa Cruz (1981)

A nightingale sang

What will people say of us
        when we are gone
what do they say now ?
        they say that we were
meant for each other
        they mean I was meant
for you but you meant
        for me not to be the one
meant for you because
        I meant nothing to you

It just shows how meaning
        can be so confusing
and far less certain
        than it’s cracked up to be
William said doubt truth
        but we all doubt truth
we all turn our back on it
        at some time or another

In the midst of this forest
        or this woodland we long
to be in open ground
        on the heath for example
where the burning stars are
        more clearly visible
our stars : the ones meant
        for you and me and who
on earth has a kingdom
        to exchange for a horse ?

Chance is a rare fine thing
        and love too and all the
beauty associated with it
        the endless feelings
of satisfaction and content-
        ment     Once I heard
a nightingale sing on a warm
        summer’s night and I
remember that the moon
        was full and I took you
in my arms and kissed
        you and then there was
silence and I held you
        for an eternity but
you never returned
        will never return

John Lyons