The mirrorless genius – Paul Éluard

The mirrorless genius – Paul Éluard

When will books read themselves without the aid of readers?
            We’ve been through tragic times; floods have drenched our bones, the multiplied blazes of the stars and fires have stripped almost the entire body of its hair. Thunder no longer frightens us, we pry open skulls to release the exquisite crystal and gold spiders whose beauty is ignored by fools. But very cunning is he who was able to see his eye without the aid of a glass, the one who was able to run his eyes over the voluptuous hollow of his neck. We have loved flexible idols who still ignore what charm the arch of their backs can have. Ah! bring on the day when we will smash the mirror, this final window, where our miraculous eyes will be able to contemplate the marvels of the brain.


Translation by John Lyons

Le génie sans miroir

Quand les livres se liront-ils d’eux-mêmes sans le secours de lecteurs.
            Nous avons traversé de tragiques périodes; les déluges ont détrempé nos os, les feux multipliés des astres et des incendies ont fait la calvitie sur la presque totalité de notre corps. Le tonnerre ne nous effraie plus, nous ouvrons les crânes pour en faire s’échapper les belles araignées de cristal et d’or dont les sots ignorent la beauté. Mais bien malin celui qui a pu voir son œil sans le secours d’une vitre, celui qui a pu promener son regard sur le creux voluptueux de sa nuque. Nous avons aimé des idoles flexibles qui ignorent toujours quel charme peut avoir la cambrure de leurs reins. Ah ! vienne le jour où nous briserons le miroir, cette dernière fenêtre, où nos yeux miraculeux pourront contempler le merveilleux cérébral.

A daughter’s portrait

                        Daughter, John Lyons (30 x 25 cm, oil on canvas)

A portrait made
       of tables and chairs
and rain and wind
       sketched on fabric
the pigments of life
time and space
       held in shape
by a wooden frame
       the paint still wet
the words still hot
       from the mind
from the heart
       magpie moments
       and ferreted away
the lush grass
       the autumn leaves
strewn across the fields
       where children play

Another year will come
       and then another
and all things will grow
       and fruit will swell
until in its ripeness
       it is released
and there will always be
       life in plenty
colour in plenty
       and love too

John Lyons

What of our dust


What of our dust
who will trample upon it
in generations to come ?

What of our love
who will remember it
when the seas rise ?

What of our stars
who will read them
and make sense

of the lives we lived ?
What of here and now
and how and where

will it end ?

John Lyons

Paul Éluard – 8 lines

signs of life

There were two of us and we’d just lived
A sundrenched day of love
Our sun we embraced together
The whole of life was visible to us

When night came we were left without a shadow
To polish the gold of our common blood
We were two at the heart of the only treasure
The light of which never sleeps

Paul Éluard, from Le phénix (1951)
translation by John Lyons


Nous étions deux et nous venions de vivre
Une journée d’amour ensoleillé
Notre soleil nous l’embrassions ensemble
La vie entière nous était visible

Quand la nuit vint nous restâmes sans ombre
A polir l’or de notre sang commun
Nous étions deux au cœur du seul trésor
Dont la lumière ne s’endort jamais

Fate of the wild rose

wild rose

Fragrant flower
           of the earth
supple mineral mistress
           that rises up
out of the cold-blown
           loveless dust

The burst bud
           from which
the petals unfold
           seeking nothing
but admiration
            ignorant of the thorns
she bears
or pale-white
           her most emblematic
colours : time
           her most mortal enemy
           her greatest fear

John Lyons

In a love poem


In a poem of love
there are feathers and fish
and roses and butter
and slow-burning candles
there are tables and chairs
and a sky made of rain
and curtains to be drawn
and sunshine over the horizon

in a poem of love
it is summer and winter
and beaches and sandals
and today and tomorrow
and happily ever after
and blushes and kisses
and words made of silence
and naturally we celebrate
and swim in the mountains
and sweet as a baby
and tall as a castle

in a poem of love
there is time and again
and bells gently ringing
and Saturdays and Sundays
and moons to be baking
and an alphabet of promises
and sharp needles for mending

in a poem of love
there are paintings and photos
and pearls made of wisdom
and sonnets for reading

and beds for the lying
and pleasures for sharing
and songs for beginning
and streets never ending

John Lyons

Dust of ages


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 words that survive
: 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

beauty and truth
chiselled into stone
or worked
into precious metals
an artist’s honesty
valued for all time
love of life and of love
honoured in all ways

John Lyons

Poussière des âges

La dérive des cendres cosmiques
à travers l’univers
et cette lumière spéciale
à Venise
dans laquelle les artistes
ont aperçu le paradis
un composite de glorieuse couleur 
chaque pouce carré orné

et les mots qui survivent
: couche après couche de foi
dans la promesse
de récompenses à venir
et l’art un rempart contre
le mensonge et la trahison
la conviction et la confiance 

la beauté et la vérité
ciselées dans la pierre
ou travaillées
en métaux précieux
l’honnêteté d’un artiste
appréciée pour toujours
l’amour de la vie et de l’amour
honorés de toutes les manières

Paul Éluard – 4 lines


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

I tie and I untie I give and I refuse
I create and I destroy I adore and I punish
My flower is thought I caress and I sow
I see with my fingers I touch and I understand

From Paul Éluard, Perspectives (1948)

Je noue et je délie je donne et je refuse
Je crée et je détruis j’adore et je punis
Ma fleur est la pensée je caresse et je sème
je vois avec mes doigts je touche et je comprends

Slow drizzle

melting world

Slow drizzle
of time
of memory –
light grey rain
at the window

a confusion
of blackbirds
and magpies
in the air
and settling
here and there

your wild hair
thinner than ever
sleek silver threads
and around the eyes
the years marked
in soft lines

your thoughts
awkward –
clumsy recollections
of a moment
when you knew
that it was love

his words
his touch
his laughter
his love of life
his love of you
and how you
betrayed it all
for the shallow
of fool’s gold

John Lyons