Rosario Castellanos – The day-to-day

Rosario_Castellanos

For love there’s no heaven, my love, only today;
this sad hair that falls
as you brush it in front of the mirror.
Those long tunnels
that we traverse panting and breathless;
the walls without eyes,
the hollow that rings out
with some hidden and meaningless voice.

For love there’s no respite, my love. The night,
suddenly, becomes breathable.
And when a star breaks its chains
and you see it zigzagging, wildly, till it disappears,
even then the law doesn’t loosen its grip.
The encounter is in the dark. The taste of tears
mingles with the kiss.
And in the embrace you clasp
the memory of that orphanhood, of that death.

Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974)
(Translation by John Lyons)


Lo cotidiano

Para el amor no hay cielo, amor, sólo este día;
este cabello triste que se cae
cuando te estás peinando ante el espejo.
Esos túneles largos
que se atraviesan con jadeo y asfixia;
las paredes sin ojos,
el hueco que resuena
de alguna voz oculta y sin sentido.

Para el amor no hay tregua, amor. La noche
se vuelve, de pronto, respirable.
Y cuando un astro rompe sus cadenas
y lo ves zigzaguear, loco, y perderse,
no por ello la ley suelta sus garfios.

El encuentro es a oscuras. En el beso se mezcla
el sabor de las lágrimas.
Y en el abrazo ciñes
el recuerdo de aquella orfandad, de aquella muerte.

Rosario Castellanos

Schevchenko – Testament

Schevchenko statue

When I die, make me a grave
High on an ancient hill
In my beloved Ukraine,
Out on the endless steppe:
Where one may see vast fields of wheat,
The steep banks of Dnipro
And hear the wild river’s
Turbulent roar.

Not until Ukraine’s forces
Have swept the enemy’s blood
Into the deep blue sea
Will I depart from these hills
And wheatlands forever :
Leave all behind, and ascend
To the throne of God
Where I’ll make my prayer.
But until that time
I’ll know nothing of God.

Make my grave there—rise up,
Throw off your shackles,
Bless your freedom with the blood
Of the enemy’s evil veins !
Then in that great family,
A new and free family,
Never forget, with kindness,
Speak of me fondly.

Taras Schevchenko

(version by John Lyons)


Taras Schevchenko (1814-1861), is Ukraine’s national poet and the personification of the Ukrainians’ thirst for liberty and independence. The statue stands in Taras Schevchenko Park opposite the National University in Kyiv. 

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Eventual silence

Stones to sand
and bones to bonemeal
and latterly to dust

There is no refuge
from time’s onslaught
the very beginning
is the beginning
of the end

Oak outlives us
blackbirds and starlings
take shelter in the branches
and human energies
dwindle as a matter of course

There is however
much to be said for love
and how the engaged heart
takes delight where it finds it
and turns a blind eye
to transience and decay
and eventual silence

John Lyons

Until the light fades

What without words
        can be said
a silent gesture
        of the hands
a flicker of recognition
        in the eyes

The swans by the river
        elegant and aloof
bow their heads
        as we walk by
side by side

It’s spring again and you are
        more beautiful than ever
and when I glance at you
        you say nothing
there is no need to talk
        and my stream of consciousness
flows on through the day
        until the light fades
and in the darkness
        we merge into one

John Lyons

Groundwork

groundwork
             (Groundwork, John Lyons (40 x 40, oil on canvas)

Marks on the surface
        a splash of colour
here and there :
        the mere suggestion
of a face
        a serious expression

Lines are left suspended
        just as time appears
to stagnate
        What if the figure
could speak ?
        What would it say
about the state
        of the world ?

John Lyons

Chains of memory

The chains of memory
        the shackles the bonds
that bind the beloved
        to the beloved
the all-knowingness
        of love which each day
resurrects and brings out
        into the light

Grace and desire
        hand in hand
something that changes
        so that nothing ever changes
the state in which there is
        no restlessness
and no discomfort

Yes there are words
        but sometimes
they are unvoiced
        each syllable
closely guarded
        latent speech
kept in reserve

this is what I saw
        in her eyes
this what I felt
        when I held her hand
and then the brush
        of her lips on my skin
her breath aligned
        with my own—

and out of love
        all those gestures
that rise into being
        the creativity that battles
against the onslaught of death
        the tenderness that softens
every blow and soothes
        one’s wounded vanity

John Lyons

Working the land

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


Think of it thus
as a garden
as a small plot of land
the soil recently
turned in preparation
for a new crop

In the artist’s mind
the seeds may already
have been sown

Who knows what
may appear—a portrait
of a face once beloved
or a landscape remembered
with affection or
some other grand gesture

Earth colours
will be applied —
this too is the work
of sunlight
and what is born here
will live forever

John Lyons 

Schevchenko – Do not envy

Schevchenko - a peasant family
         The peasant family, Taras Schevchenko (1843)

Do not envy the rich man,
He knows nothing ever
Of friendship nor of love—
For those he must pay.
Do not envy the powerful,
They are obliged to bully ;
Do not envy the famous
For they know well enough
It’s not they who are loved
But their bitter fame

Which in order to please gushes
From the blood and tears of bitter pain.
And to the young they meet,
All is quiet and blissful
As in paradise—but see :
Something is really wrong.

Therefore, envy, no one ;
Look around—and you will never
Find paradise on this earth,
Nor, indeed, in heaven above.

Taras Schevchenko

(version by John Lyons)


Taras Schevchenko, (1814-1861) is Ukraine’s national poet and the personification of the Ukrainians’ thirst for liberty and independence. Schevchenko was born into serfdom, but in 1838, a group of artist friends purchased his freedom with the proceeds from a sale of their paintings. Schevchenko was an accomplished painter of landscapes and historical canvases

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Dance of light

40 x 40_Dance of light
      Dance of light, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas)

She who dances
dances in the light
light dance against
the deep blue
in waves of light
a bold silhouette
against a barren
blue sky

In endless time
she dances
across the canvas
and fills the space
of my heart
her supple slender
arms moving
to the rhythm
of love

John Lyons