Grace to be born

And so it goes       the story tree still stands
in the park where as children we first heard
tales from the Arabian Nights      Ali
Baba and the forty thieves    Aladdin
with his magic lamp      Scheherazade
One night one day at a time      life lessons
this too will pass
                      and the slow pulse of that
oak tree and a universe expanding
beyond my childhood dreams     Apple blossom
and the smell of freshly cut grass can take
me back to those innocent days when all
seemed right with the world
                     Grace to be alive
when the final curtain falls and you are
there to send me on my way
                                             with a kiss

John Lyons

Fading photos

Under a blue sky    fields of barley stretch
beyond the horizon      I’m a city boy
but country air    from time to time    is good
for the soul
            Sunday mornings we’d come here
to pick wild mushrooms       for a champion
breakfast       on the edge of fields where cattle
grazed     the rich smell of the damp soil carried
home with the fruits of our labour      the taste
that lingered on the tongue
                                          Nobody gets
out of here alive     How strange that you are
gone      back into the dark earth from which all
life      to be dust again     and memories
your smile    your loving words      your zest for life
caught in fading photos
                                 in fading minds

John Lyons

And so it goes. . .

And so it goes   the hours   the days   the years
the rise and fall of tides chasing the moon
dogs howling in the backyards     while lovers
toss and turn having burnt the night away
Patsy says that had she never met me     
she’d have had to invent mon semblable
my look-alike      my be-alike
                                     and I’m flattered
When I see my reflection in her eyes
—and I know the mirror never lies— I
see love        How wonderful to be such a
special person in someone’s life      Blood is
thicker than water but love wins heads down
I say the cow with the crumpled horn can
take a hike
                I’m not going anywhere

John Lyons

Time and the river

A whisper of wind in the sycamores
dense clusters of seed about to take flight
the rose of youth faded      the memory
of love     long gone   :   autumn light shimmers
on the river’s surface where salmon pike
and eel skulk
                   and to no avail anglers
cast their baited lines into the shadows
The seagulls and oyster catchers have
seen it all before         Time and the river
You can never bathe in the same stream twice
so Patsy says       and she’s right     life travels
in a single relentless direction  :
give a dog a bone       it will chew it un-
til it is gone
             and there are no returns

John Lyons

The sonnet’s not dead

I make my own salt beef but I buy in
the bagels—nothing better with pickles
and coleslaw     Some say that the sonnet is
dead and that too many winters of dis-
content have passed
                   that the form has become
an unshapely ragbag full of the dross
of modern life     In the house that Jack built
we take a different view     Patsy tells me
she has no time for Shakespeare’s courtly love
“That talk of the loveliness of roses
leaves me cold,” she says, “and he’s forever
counting the hours for this and that—it drives
me mad. . . talking of which the chicken will
be ready in half an hour.
                               You hungry?”

John Lyons

Pumpkin pie

Where are the sea-blue skies of yesteryear
where is Flora in her white floral dress ?
My ears are filled with the grinding sound of
machines      of motors belching noxious fumes
into the atmosphere
                            A lugubrious cloud
hangs over the doomed city         acid rain
will fall across the land and stunt the growth
of oak and elm and roses will wither
and die. . .      “Happy Thanksgiving,” Patsy shouts
as she enters the room bearing pumpkin
pie.      “Now come into the kitchen and help
me with the turkey.”       I do as I’m told
Patsy’s a good soul and I have so much
to be grateful for
                         why should I complain

John Lyons

What the west wind brings

What the west wind brings is rain    lots of it
but not today   dry as a bone    Patsy
calls it the change   El Niño
                                  I take her
into my arms       a tsunami of love
pours out of me : : : neutron stars are about
to explode     Patsy showers     I open
my books     My thoughts fly up—it’s 8 a.m.
Out on the street a black dog is barking
An omen       Now it’s rolling in the dust
somebody please give it a bone to chew
on    My teeth need fixing but I cannot
bear my dentist.
                    “So get another,” Pat-
sy says, “and change that awful shirt it makes
you look old.”
              “I am old, sweet child of mine.”

John Lyons

Roses are shining in Picardy

Roses are shining in Picardy       alongside
the graves of those who fell at the Somme—rolling green
hills amid patches of ancient woodland    Patsy
and I drove through the region one summer under
a glorious sea-blue sky
                                   the pity of war
palpable on all sides—vast fields of white crosses
neatly corralled within beds of blood-red roses
Outside young children are bouncing on trampolines
adults are preparing to light their barbecues
the charred flesh of pork of lamb and chicken will soon
be on the menu       the air will fill with laughter
A song stirs in the silence
                                Remember Ypres
Remember Gallipoli—the past is another country
               Remember the bygone tears

John Lyons

I wake in the early hours

I lie awake in the early hours listening
to Patsy’s gentle breathing as she drifts on through
her dreams 
             Sleep is another country    Patsy is
another country      I remember
                    What does not
change is the will to change     I remember the birds
the empty cage     the day they escaped    As a boy
I played soldiers I played cowboys and I fought
to save the planet from aliens from outer
space     I know now that the aliens are within
and what endures when everything changes is
love.    Love.     Each one of us is another country
and what remains when all imperfections are stripped
away is love. In the house that Jack built that is
all he ever thinks about
                           and he remembers

John Lyons

Rosario Castellanos – Presence

Some day I’ll know. This body that has been
my refuge, my prison, my hospital, is my grave.

Whatever I have clustered around an anxiety,
a pain, a memory,
will desert in search of water, a leaf,
the original spore, even inert matter and stone.

This knot that I was (inseparable
from anger, betrayals, hopes,
sudden insight, abandonments,
hungers, cries of fear and helplessness,
joy glowing in the deep darkness,
and words, and love and love and loves)
the years will sever it.

No one will see the destruction. Nobody
will take up the unfinished page.

Among this handful of disperse
acts, scattered to chance, not one
will be set aside as a precious pearl.
And yet, brother, lover, child,
friend, ancestor,
there’s no solitude, there’s no death,
though I may forget and I may be done.

Man, where you are, where you live,
we all remain.

Rosario Castellanos

(Translation by John Lyons)