When crows fly

When you see
a flock of crows
fly past

you know
that they know
something you
don’t know

the natural world
holds so many secrets
and everything dances
to a different tune

the fact that most trees
outlive us should
tell us something
about priorities

but only love
can outlast a life
true love that is
there is no other


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

How to reconcile
the syllables of silence
with empty vessels

In my mind
I crossed a Sahara
endless dunes

endless silence
I a passenger
in the wilderness

parched by day
by night shivering
under the stars

love the oasis
of milk and honey
on the eager tongue

at daybreak
the heart calculates
the distance

the horizon
the never-ending

John Lyons


Rosario Castellanos – The absent-minded

Some were unaware.
They believed that the earth was still habitable.
They didn’t look at the crack
that the earthquake opened up; they weren’t there when the cancer
appeared on the frightened face of a man.

They laughed the moment
an apple, instead of falling,
flew off and the universe was declared insane.

They didn’t witness the decapitation
of the innocent. They never distinguished
between an innocent and one who is not.

(On the other hand right from the start
they had approved the death penalty.)

They kept turning up to the places,
demanding a more comfortable chair, a tastier
menu, a more appropriate treatment.

My dear, if they wait on you ungratefully, punish them!

And on the walls there was a strange disorder
and on the tables there was no food but hate
and hate in the wine and hate in the tablecloth
and hatred even in the wood and in the nails.

The absent-minded whispered among themselves:
What’s going on? You have to complain!

Nobody was listening. Nobody could stop.

It was the time of emigrations.

Everything burned: cities, entire forests, clouds.

Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974)

(translation by John Lyons)

Poetry is universal. Rosario Castellanos wrote many poems about the dispossessed of Mexico. When we read her poetry we are all Mexicans, and in our minds and hearts in this tragic moment, we are also all Ukrainians, as Zelensky says : Shakespeare is Ukrainian, Dante is Ukrainian, Cervantes is Ukrainian. All cultures are one human culture and culture, by definition, resists and denounces all tyranny and inhumanity for all time.


Vasyl Stus – The world was hiding



I knew: the world was hiding from me,
behind all things another thing hides
and snaps at my heels. All the while
it refuses to show me its true face,
because the trust and friendship between
man and the world have now been lost.
Not for no reason do the smallest birds
recoil from me, or fish scatter
the moment they recognise a human shape,
or with their fragile beauty do flowers wish
to save themselves from me (the final
shred of hope that human beings
are not entirely beyond redemption). After all,
I thought, the harmony of worlds
has not bypassed humanity, instead
a certain distance has been established:
you belong to the world only thus far.

Vasyl Stus

Version by John Lyons

Vasyl Stus (1938-1985), was a Ukrainian poet, translator, literary critic, journalist, and an active member of the Ukrainian dissident movement. For his political convictions, his works were banned by the Soviet regime and he spent 13 years in detention, until his death in a Soviet forced labor camp for political prisoners.


We kill what we love – Rosario Castellanos

Rosario Castellanos (1925 – 1974) a Mexican poet and one of her country’s most important literary voices in the 20th century. She identified deeply with the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The translation below has been revised from an earlier post.


We kill what we love. The rest
was never alive.
No one else is that close. No one else is hurt.

by a lapse of memory, an absence, sometimes less.
We kill what we love. Let this suffocation of
breathing through anothers lung end!
The air’s not enough
for us both. And the earth is insufficient
for our two bodies
and the portion of hope is tiny

And the pain cannot be shared.

Man is an animal of solitudes,
a deer with an arrow in its flank
that runs off and bleeds to death.

Oh! but the hatred, its glassy-eyed
insomniac stare; its attitude
which is both calm and a threat.

The deer goes to drink and in the waters
a tigers reflection appears.
The deer drinks the water and the image. It becomes
—before they devour him—(complicit, spellbound)
just like its enemy.

We only give life to what we hate.

Rosario Castellanos

(translation by John Lyons)

The sea sorts shells. . .


The sea sorts shells
        on the seashore
while white plumes
        form in the foam
and tonight
        a scattering of stars
will shine down on us
        and we will continue
on the tick tock of our sad

Nobody knows
        where the words
are heading
        but in these times
of war our hearts
        beat for peace
for human nature
        to regain
the upper hand
        for love to rule
in the house
        of verbs

John Lyons