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

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Let innocence age

Let innocence age
        how light travels
through the decades
        a young child
on a suburban train
        gazes at me
smiles
        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

Jack11
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

drummond

          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.

1940

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.

With our ash

A clear day
        and no memories
a birth at dawn
        in the heart of the woodland
where foxes and squirrels
        roam timelessly
where owls sit out
        the sunlight scarcely
stirring until dusk
        where the air is dank
from decaying vegetation
        damp soil out of which
new growth new life
        the sting of nettles
and the beauty
        of blue bells
we who are of the earth
        must pay our dues
with our love
        with our ash

John Lyons

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

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

John Lyons


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