Never-ending things

The silence of things
        that have no voice
no means of expression
        above and beyond
their physical shape
        and characteristics
things so often
        in the backdrop
that we barely notice

And yet they are
        presence and context
where what we talk of
        takes place or unfolds

Our fascination
        with the stars
and the sea
        with lakes and rivers
all of which have motion
        and deep purpose
and speak to us
        on their own terms
in their own language
        devoid of syllables
but full of meaning

And we speculate
        constantly about
never-ending things
        the chain of life and death
and all that happens
        in between

Love should be
        a never-ending thing
and sometimes it is
        but all too often
there comes a speech
        and the conversation
dries up and
        it no longer is

John Lyons

ee cummings testament

in thy beauty is the dilemma of flutes

The wOrds saD and beauty, the
woRds thORN and desIRe;that si-
lence that is anathemA to musicke, you-
r loVer torn betwEEn a rock and a
hard place;body of love laid snug
to rest;inTemPerate riSe and faLL
of quickSilver.Stay A while and I
will take your baroMetriC press-
ure;a feBrile finGer strays upon y-
our impulse.O lord, lead us into temp-
tation,bEforE it is tOO late.But for
the worDs,beTimes, all is dusT.

18 April 2005

John Lyons

A clear day

A clear day :
        fresh leaves on the trees
have brought the ancient woodland
        to life : school has yet to begin
but soon the young
        will be making their way
along the path through the woods
        to their classes

the youngest will hop and skip
        and chatter their innocent
knowledge full of the excitement
        and anticipation of what
the day holds
        the new meanings
that their activities
        will create

Today the air is clear
        and this small world
is touched by sunshine
        The young have inherited
this part of the world
        this spectacle lived previously
by others long gone

And the woodland’s understory
        is alive with new growth
holly and dogwood
        ivy and nettles
saplings fighting for their share
        of the light

John Lyons

End of the affair

From seed to flower
        to fruit to flesh
to love and to love’s
        heartless betrayal

Here at the water’s edge
        the hand drops
petals of memory
        where the grey river flows
swollen by recent rains

Time and time again
        remembered
woven into the faded
        opulence of our dreams

White-winged gulls
        were our chorus
wheeling above us
        riding the wind’s wild waves
filling the crisp air
        with their raucous cries
in the secular light

For a brief spell
        unfettered feelings
and paged perfections
        perishable beauty
fleetingly held
        in the palm of the hand

Then
        a seismic shift
Words hewn from silence
        the silhouette of a lone tree
standing in the midst
        of a denuded field
baked beneath the sun
        shaken by the vortex of dust
that rises up
        from the land

Here the hawk feeds
        the eagle too
and at night
        owls prowl the fields
so that the ungodly earth
        knows no rest

John Lyons

Us no matter where – Paul Éluard

The bird halts observes an invisible prey
He hunts he provides for his young
The wherewithal to sing fly sleep

To the harsh contact with the dense forest
He prefers the damp fields
Teeming with the day’s last straws

The fine web of life
Gently covers your face
And you hold in this basket
Our means our reasons for living
You’re as wise as you are beautiful
You attract the most beautiful words

We will talk tonight about us and the birds
We won’t listen to the long and sorry history
Of people driven from their homes
By golden-jawed death
Men with less pride than beasts
Who track misfortune everywhere
May they not appear quite naked then
In a haven of clarity such as our own

We take care of each other
Day by day we preserve our life
Like a bird his hatched form
And his pleasure
Among so many birds to come

Paul Éluard (from Le livre ouvert, 1940)

(Revised translation by John Lyons)


Nous n’importe où

L’oiseau s’arrête guette une proie invisible
Il chasse il donne à ses petits
De quoi chanter voler dormir

Au dur contact de la forêt fermée
Il préfère les champs humides
Chargés des derniers brins du jour

La fine trame de la vie
Couvre doucement ton visage
Et tu tiens dans cette corbeille
Nos moyens nos raisons de vivre
Tu es aussi sage que belle
À toi vont les mots les plus beaux

Nous parlerons ce soir de nous et des oiseaux
Nous n’écouterons pas la longue et sourde histoire
Des hommes chassés de chez eux
Par la mort aux mâchoires d’or
Des hommes moins fiers que des bêtes
Qui suivent le malheur partout
Que n’arrivent-ils donc tout nus
Dans un asile de clarté comme le nôtre

Nous prenons souci l’un de l’autre
Jour après jour nous gardons notre vie
Comme un oiseau sa forme éclose
Et son plaisir
Parmi tant d’oiseaux à venir

A complex of occasions

A complex of occasions
        a life
three score and ten
        : to have known love
more than once
        and for the memory
to burn as a flame
        in the mind

Yesterday in April still
        the first white butterfly
of the season
        gliding above the debris
in the railway cutting

All things are measures
        of other things
some trees now in flower
        others with foliage
about to burst forth

Beneath the complexity
        the cycles that drive
the natural world
        the song of the nightingale
and the manmade beauty
        of the Grecian urn

and the web of words
        that binds us together
in communities and
        in our homes and
in our hearts
        and in our beds

John Lyons

Fibres of our being

The light the air
the dust falling
gently back
into the earth

How detached we’ve become
from the peace of stars
and the cycles
that gave birth
to the very fibres
of our being

How divided the world
split off from the universe
by arrogance and pride
by blind ambition
and by anger and violence

But life is the truth itself
the supple flesh that glows
in the darkness
the warmth of blood
the warmth of affection
the warmth of desire
that hungers only
to serve love

The sun the moon
the stars : these are
neither myth nor metaphor
they are our kith and kin
our brethren ever since
mass first exploded
into energy and created
time

Time time time
with its subtle taste
of eternity

John Lyons

Bone dust

Cosmic ash drifting
           through the universe
and that special light in Venice
           in which the artists
caught a glimpse of heaven
           a composite of glorious colour
every square inch adorned
           and the word that survives
: layer upon layer of faith
           in the promise of rewards
to come and the art
           a bulwark against
falsehood and betrayal
           trust and steadfast belief
truth cut into stone
           or worked
into precious metal
           honesty of the artist
valued for all time
           love honoured in all ways

John Lyons

Best foot forward

Three score and ten
        summers
to my name
        since I first breathed
the breath of life

Time’s pastime
        is to pass
All that remains
        is what we create
out of feelings

At best
        a sense of structure
the art of the fugue
        melody rhythm
harmony
        all give shape
to the silence

the square root
        of it all
is love

So best foot forward—
        what touches the heart
the play within
        the play
the truth
        of universe

John Lyons