Henri Matisse

40 x 40_Dance of light
                   Matisse, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas)

Blue is
        the colour

With one leap
        and a bound

Matisse entered
        the room

Matisse means

John Lyons


Two pigeons

I’m sitting in the sun
watching two pigeons perform
        synchronised flying : their wings
almost touching : their wings
        never touching

Such perfect control at every
        sudden twist and turn : as
though they had trained
        for days for months : or
ever since birth : impossible
        to know their age : or whether
before they completely
        found their wings they were
ever clumsy : bumping into
        each other in awkward flight

I’m sitting in the garden
        sun beating on my face
wondering why the rest of us
        make such hard work
of moving around
        each other

John Lyons

Too many to mention

Time draws on
        but what of our memories
what of our dreams ?
        Night stretches into day
and in the mirror I notice
        new lines etched
while I slept

All my past is in that face
        and what’s left of me
is there too

I write and I paint
        the subjects of my life
the moments of my life
        the lips and the hair on her head
the memory of all those kisses
        the knowledge that nothing
is ever lost

Trees I have known from birth
        are still there : oaks and birches
and sycamores and laburnums
        will all outlive me

though age is no accomplishment
        survival of the fittest means little
quite a different matter
        are the paths we tread
the paths we have trodden
        and the indelible memories
of love sweet love

how our hands met
        how our eyes locked
into one another
        how slowly but surely
we began to share
        the same breath

lines cut deeply
        blood-rich memories
curated in our beating hearts
        to have tasted paradise
made it all worthwhile

        too many to mentioned
but not you

John Lyons

A view from my room

A clear day and no memories
        I see the tall overgrown grass
bathed in the grey light and
        here and there the stems
of dandelions waiting for the sun
        before they’ll unfold their flowers
: birds are flying overhead
        but there is complete silence

As the wind rises the branches
        of the trees at the end of the garden
begin to sway to its rhythm
        The picnic table is littered
with dry faded blossom and the empty
        wooden chairs have that forlorn
abandoned look as though none of us
        had ever been here before

John Lyons

Let innocence age

Let innocence age
        how light travels
through the decades
        a young child
on a suburban train
        gazes at me
        across the cosmos
down the tunnel
        of time
seeing his origins
        in reverse

Those early years
        of which so little
is remembered
        life’s preamble
barely off hands
        and knees
and how the hands
        themselves vie
with the eyes
        in the search
for understanding
        and palpable love

John Lyons

Not of words

Not of words
        the poet uses words
to denounce words
        longs for a love
not of ideas but of gestures
        stability of the land
lapped by the sea
        not an expression
but as the sun pulses
        as lilies in the field grow
and as the bees
        collect their nectar

Words are brief
        are soon over
are often lost
        or displaced
by the mind
        but love is strong
and quiet and peace
        and tenderness
are its embodiment
        the kiss its seal

John Lyons

Shoulders bear the weight of the world

Comes a time when we no longer say: my God.
A time of absolute stripping to the bone.
A time when we no longer say: my love.
Because love turned out to be useless.
And the eyes don’t cry.
And the hands only weave coarse work.
And the heart is dry.

Women knock at the door in vain, you won’t open it.
You were left alone, the light goes out,
and your eyes shine enormous in the dark.
You’re full of certainty, can suffer no more
And you expect nothing from your friends.

That old age approaches matters little, what’s old age?
Shoulders bear the weight of the world
and it weighs no more than a child’s hand.
Wars, famines, and conflicts in buildings
Merely confirm that life goes on
And not everyone has yet broken free.
Some, finding the spectacle barbarous,
Would prefer (the sensitive ones) to die.
Time has come when there’s no point in dying.
Time has come when life is an imperative.
Mere life, without perplexity.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade
(translation by John Lyons)

corrected version

Tangled web

Tangled web, John Lyons (70 x 50 cm, oil and enamel paint on canvas)

We have been 
over this ground
a thousand times
she said

This is the tangled web
we have woven—
a landscape 
in which we can
barely distinguish
the wood for the trees

John Lyons

Sea privilege – Carlos Drummond de Andrade


          Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987)

On this tolerably comfortable terrace,
we drink beer and look out at the sea.
We know that nothing will happen to us.

The building’s solid and so too the world.

We know that every building houses a thousand bodies
toiling away in a thousand identical compartments.
Sometimes some wearily enter the elevator
and come up here to breathe the ocean breeze,
which is a privilege of these buildings.

The world really is made of reinforced concrete.

Surely, if there was a rogue cruiser,
anchored in the bay opposite the city,
life would be uncertain. . . unlikely. . .
But in the calm waters there are only trusty sailors.
How cordial the fleet is!

We can drink our beers with honour.


Carlos Drummond de Andrade
(translation by John Lyons)

Privilégio do Mar

Neste terraço mediocremente confortável,
bebemos cerveja e olhamos o mar.
Sabemos que nada nos acontecerá.

O edifício é sólido e o mundo também.

Sabemos que cada edifício abriga mil corpos
labutando em mil compartimentos iguais.
Às vezes, alguns se inserem fatigados no elevador
e vêm cá em cima respirar a brisa do oceano,
o que é privilégio dos edifícios.

O mundo é mesmo de cimento armado.

Certamente, se houvesse um cruzador louco,

fundeado na baía em frente da cidade,
a vida seria incerta.. . improvável. . .
Mas nas águas tranqüilas só há marinheiros fiéis.
Como a esquadra é cordial!

Podemos beber honradamente nossa cerveja.