Lockdown

Lockdown

How many dawns
           how many bridges
draped in mist
           how many gulls
gliding namelessly
           through the air
how many thoughts
           and hopes
and expectations
           as the sun rises
into a panoramic
           crimson sky

Soon cinematic streets
           will fill with purpose
the bustle of daily life
           the wheeling and dealing
of commerce and work
           as across London Bridge
a speechless caravan
           of souls drifts towards
offices set in towering
           structures
of steel and glass
           and from their windows
the idly occupied will gaze
           down into the streets
and dream of love
           as the hours leak away
How many dawns
           how many bridges

John Lyons

 

Nocturne in broad daylight

Jules Supervielle
Jules Supervielle

Jules Supervielle (1884-1960) was born into a French-Basque family living in Uruguay. Aged ten, he was sent to Paris, where he completed his education at the Sorbonne. For the rest of his life, he divided his time between Uruguay and France. He was friends with André Gide, Paul Valéry and Jacques Rivière, and in 1923, he met the Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, a crucial influence on his later work. The poem below is a fragment from La fable du monde, published in 1938. See also “I dream you from afar.”

Nocturne in broad daylight

The slowness around me
Casts its net over the furniture
Imprisoning the light
And familiar objects.
And Time, its legs crossed,
Looks me in the eye
And sometimes it stands up
To examine me a little closer,
Then it goes back to its place
Like a satisfied prince.
And here in my whole body
The Feeling of Life,
Red and white ants
Composing a human being.
And Space revolves around me
In which everyone finds their place
From the high stars
To those who observe them.
And every day that I endure
Under my shadowy thoughts
I live among these figures
Layered around me
Like between Pyramids.

Jules Supervielle

(translated by John Lyons)


Nocturne en plein jour

La Lenteur autour de moi
Met son filet sur les meubles
Emprisonnant la lumière
Et les objets familiers.
Et le Temps, jambes croisées,
Me regarde dans les yeux
Et quelquefois il se dresse
Pour me voir d’un peu plus près,
Puis il retourne à sa place
Comme un prince satisfait.
Et voici dans tout mon corps
Le Sentiment de la Vie,
Blanches et rouges fourmis
Composant un être humain.
Et l’Espace tourne autour de moi
Où chacun trouve sa place
Depuis les hautes étoiles
Jusqu’à ceux qui les regardent.
Et chaque jour que j’endure
Sous mes ombreuses pensées
Je vis parmi ces figures
Comme entre des Pyramides
Autour de moi étagées.

In the dark hour

flowers2
Nocturnal Flowers, John Lyons (oil on wood)

In the dark hour

In the dark hour
           flowers
that come and go
           the bright beauty
and the fragility
           of their life

flowers that cast
           no shadow
that simply are
           to be admired
to be treasured
           love of flowers
that never leaves us
           love

John Lyons

Meditation in times of emergency

Meditation in times of emergency

This has been a beautiful day
           unbroken sunshine
and young families strolling
           in the park and down by the river
and everyone subdued
           and yet determined
to enjoy every minute

I walked past the magnolia
           with its splendid votive blooms
and once again
           heard the woodpecker
tapping to its own code
           a day not to be deconstructed
but to be lived for the moment

I thought of Apollinaire
           standing on the Mirabeau Bridge
watching as the waters passed
           beneath him
I thought of Frank O’Hara
           never one to be lost for words
I thought of all the love
           that passes by and of the love
that alone endures

John Lyons

In the Jersey woods

In the Jersey woods

Home again
           in the Jersey woods
Mornings between eight and nine
           a full concert of birds
from different quarters
           In keeping with the fresh scent
the peace
           the naturalness all around me
I am lately noticing the russet-back
           size of the robin or a trifle less
light breast and shoulders
           with irregular dark stripes
long tail
           these days sits hunched up by the hour
top of a tall bush or some tree
           singing blithely

I often get near and listen
           as he seems tame
I like to watch the working
           of his bill and throat
the quaint sidle of his body
           and flex of his long tail

I hear the woodpecker
           and at night and early morning
the shuttle of the whip-poor-will
           noons
the delicious gurgle of the thrush
           and the meo-o-ow of the cat-bird

Many I cannot name
           but I don’t particularly seek information
You need not be too precise or scientific
           about birds and trees and flowers
and water-craft —
           a certain free margin
even vagueness or ignorance
           helps your enjoyment of these things
and of the sentiment of feathered
           or wooded or river or marine nature

Walt Whitman

(adapted from Specimen Days by John Lyons)

So too the angels

So too the angels

Purity of breath
           stripped of time
stripped of place
           no here or now
no looking on
           being not
in the moment
           rather
being the moment
           free from past
free from future
           intensity of the moment
that destroys time
           lovers locked
in an eternal embrace
           the fox has no plans
lives on the edge
           of its instincts
knows no failure
           bids nothing farewell

so too the angels
           who move silently among us
pure light unseen
           pure uncorrupted life
boundless
           unfathomable life
the unfolding flower
           that never fades

John Lyons

Aldo Pellegrini: The subversive effect of poetry

aldo-pellegrini_bwThe Argentinian poet, Aldo Pellegrini (1903-1973), was the founder of the first Surrealist group among Spanish-speaking writers. In his writing he called for a poetry “free from the schemes of reason, free from social norms, free from prohibitions, free from prejudice, free from canons, free from fear, a poetry free from its own preconceptions.” 

Below, along with two poems dating from 1952, I have translated the first two paragraphs of an essay he published in Buenos Aires in 1965 which outlines his poetic manifesto.


Aldo Pellegrini: The subversive effect of poetry (extract).

There is a force in man, that comes from the simple fact of living, it conditions his destiny fatally. This force is visible at every turn through the manifestations of love, which tends to transcend the individual in communion with the whole, has its own laws that are irreducible to rational schemes. Poetry appears as an expression of that impulse toward fulfilling a vital destiny, and the inevitability of that fate is revealed in poetry as an indisputable fact. Poetry is not, therefore, an amusement or luxury, but a necessity, just as love is. All other needs, even the most urgent, are subordinate to those two, which ultimately are the two aspects of the same primordial energy that gives true meaning to life. If we penetrate deeply into the meaning of the old saying “Man does not live by bread alone,” we will see that the lucidity of popular wisdom reaches a similar conviction. To go without poetry would be to renounce life.

Considered thus, the poetic exists not only in words; it is a way of acting, a way of being in the world and existing with people and things. Poetic language in its different forms (plastic form, verbal form, musical form) merely objectifies in a communicable manner through the appropriate signs of each particular language, the expansive force of the vital. As a result, the poetic world is in everyone, to the extent that every individual is an integral being. Lautreamont’s clear slogan, “Poetry should be made by everyone,” has no other meaning. Whoever ignores poetry is a mutilated being, as is whoever ignores love.


No subject

He who sings out of not knowing
he who saturated with ignorance
runs along the belly of the dark Fridays
he who throws fingernails into the street
and hides his life in corners
who enraged chews on silence
seeks his subject.

A subject
a subject that changes
a subject that changes with the steam of digestions
a subject illuminated by the glow of parched tongues
a subject pursued by the rumble of empty eyes
the subject of luminous hunger, the subject of the cry of ecstasy
the subject of resounding brows
the subject of ears where words are liquefied.

The eyes out of their sockets
a shaft of light that causes the gaze to bleed
staring in the direction of microscopic subjects
hands outstretched
that reach the final disintegration of subjects.

Subject that changes in a man who doesn’t change
in the cave of subjects, unchanging man
I am condemned by the time of times
to be myself.

*

The spiders’ feast

O so you’ve woken up?
a prodigious morning opens wide the windows
last night’s tree has left a mark
on the skin of your forehead.

Yes, you’ve woken up
shaking off your mantle of cobwebbed sleep
You’ve put to flight the crowd of blind rats
that gnawed at you as you slept.

You’re awake, where you off to now?
you abandon your night wealth for the great void of day
and with pale weakness you build your aimless march.

You’re awake, let’s mount
the narrow stairs to the end of time
there to surprise the lost minutes
life escapees.

No
a sudden discouragement holds you back
before a heavenless space where terrified mists
of inexplicable gentleness
transform those who advance into wind.

Marine algae of hope
pointless hours lurk behind the golden door
words chained to a deep secret
diamond discouragement shines inwardly
those who dare to smile lose their place in the world.

Where’re you off to without me? looking for your solitary feast
your drunkenness of signs and cataracts
your cage of freedom
where unknown friends sup your fluid gestures
and poison glares at you with phosphorescent eyes.
Prepare for your feast
the feast of hands that crush each other
the feast of creaking sweat
there where the lethargy of your flesh
throws itself into a dark dance.

Your feast is the feast of spiders
that ferociously devour your night wealth
to feed their endless misery
there submerged in boundless oblivion
you’ll buy reasons to laugh
You’ll purchase a roar to fill your silence

Aldo Pellegrini

(translation by John Lyons)