Parting at morning

Parting at Morning 1891 by Sir William Rothenstein 1872-1945
Parting at morning, William Rothenstein (1890)

Parting at morning

The beauty of beauty
innocence in an age
of experience
a fresh wistful face
as yet unlined by life

a body scarcely knowing love
details yet to be added
language without words
she on the verge
of womanhood
the purity of the body
as yet unveiled
in the rite of love
simplicity of the pose
the dress and hair
an almost boyish look
slant of the shoulders
her top rolled down
but barely revealing
the simplicity
of the pleated skirt
elegance of the arms
relaxed by her side
we wonder what
became of her
with her quizzical smile
and where she went
when she left
the painter’s life

John Lyons

This painting may be viewed at Tate Britain.


In praise of peace

A clear day
and no memories
I sip coffee at daybreak and
stare out at the ragged horizon
drawn by the ancient woodland

Overnight it rained gently
but enough to subdue
the giving earth—
summer is its busy season
so much bloom and blossom
so much fruit on the vine
so many nests to find
for new arrivals
from distant lands

I hear the constant coo
of pigeons and the thin
trill of the dawn chorus
as nature stakes its claim
to a life of peace

there is war in this world
the birds will always
rise above it

John Lyons

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Shared hours

The mineral voice of the earth
        the breeze that moves
through the fresh
        green leaves of summer
leaves that sustain
        the patter of rainfall
and are soon dry
        once the sun appears

And how her mood changed
        how her body grew lighter :
the step of a dancer
        as she made her way
through the warmer days
        clear days with no memory
other than the pattern of love
        drawn across shared hours

John Lyons

Compass of my day

Not least because the sun shone
the air clear of memories
did I find myself the compass
of my day

Small birds sung their morning hymns
and I listened to their world in awe
and pondered the great mystery
of why such accidental beauty
was granted to us on all sides

This being the world in which I walked
and heard and saw and felt for myself
the western day into which I descend
each morning from my dreams of a love
brighter than any star above

John Lyons

A clear day and no memories

A clear day and no memories
        a young summer’s day
expected to fulfil all the rituals
        of the season : a magpie
proclaiming its matey boasts
        from the summit of a garden conifer

In the live living air
        knowledge of this day
is there to create
        since none of us
has ever been here before
        nor will ever return

But the poet throws down
        a trusty gauntlet : how
might we transform the shallow
        spectacle of our lives
and endow our activities
        with lustrous meaning

John Lyons

With poetic licence – Adélia Prado

Adélia Prado

When I was born a slim angel,
the type that blows trumpets, announced:
she’ll carry the flag.
Very heavy load for a woman,
even today a downtrodden species.
I welcome the tricks that suit me,
without having to lie.
Not so ugly I can’t marry,
I think Rio de Janeiro’s beautiful and
do and don’t believe in painless childbirth.
But, what I feel I write. I’m true to my stars.
I inaugurate bloodlines, found realms
—pain is not bitterness.
My sadness has no pedigree,
but my longing for joy,
its roots go back a thousand years.
To limp through life is man’s fate.

Women are flexible. I am.

Adélia Prado

(translation by John Lyons)

Brazil’s greatest living poet, Adélia Prado was born in 1935 and lives in Divinópolis, Minas Gerais.

Com licença poética

Quando nasci um anjo esbelto,
desses que tocam trombeta, anunciou:
vai carregar bandeira.
Cargo muito pesado pra mulher,
esta espécie ainda envergonhada.
Aceito os subterfúgios que me cabem,
sem precisar mentir.
Não tão feia que não possa casar,
acho o Rio de Janeiro uma beleza e
ora sim, ora não, creio em parto sem dor.
Mas, o que sinto escrevo. Cumpro a sina.
Inauguro linhagens, fundo reinos
—dor não é amargura.
Minha tristeza não tem pedigree,
já a minha vontade de alegria,
sua raiz vai ao meu mil avô.
Vai ser coxo na vida, é maldição pra homem.

Mulher é desdobrável. Eu sou.

Time out at Wapping

A clear day
        and no memories
sun glistening
        on the water’s surface
of Spirit Quay where a grey wagtail
        is hopping from one
lily pad to another—
        a yellow-bellied male
with a black throat and
        whitish moustachial stripes

Barges moored by the riverside
        are flying the Ukrainian flag
and people are sunning themselves
        in the Hermitage memorial garden
: the tide is out and time
        is taking a break

John Lyons

Fallen roses

A clear day
        and no memories
the treeline in the distance
        dappled with sunshine
Today I will walk and ride
        and sit and dream
by the riverside
        where our life flowed
so sweetly

All those years
        that meant so much
the many bridges
        we crossed
the many sunsets
        we shared
the laughter
        and the love
the many petals
        of fallen roses

John Lyons

I cannot speak your thoughts

I cannot speak your thoughts
        no more than I can read
the mind of the stars
        That fear possessed you
I know this :
        that your courage failed
at the point of decision
        and so you withdrew

I know that in that moment
        whole cities faded out of sight
and certain ardent words were lost
        as you hid your heart from me

We are of the world but
        we cannot fix it unless
we’re prepared to defend
        love’s innocence and carry
our convictions to the grave
        and never betray our kiss

John Lyons

Under the full moon

Under the full moon
        down by the Thames
I said to her— Be the voice
        of my night
of my day
        of my love

Let us share the sunrise
        the silent hour at dusk
and together
        let us scan the sky
for shooting stars
        Let us travel
down to the shore
        to hear the sea-sound
to be lulled by
        its timeless serenade

John Lyons