The lie of the land

         The lie of the land, John Lyons (9 x 13 cm collage)

This is what it’s like

       to be caught
in the warp and weft
       of being
the fabric of our existence

We have needs
       beyond our means
dreams that may be
and we fear above all
       the loss of love

Our lives are filled
       with equipment and devices –
so many things we no longer
       know how to do for ourselves
our homes have become
       territories which we guard
with our lives
       we have become investments
and pander to so many idols
       blinding ourselves
to the work of angels
       who move constantly among us

Perfection is there
       in the webs of spiders
in nature’s silk
       in the beauty of roses
or the soaring flight
       of sparrowhawks

But there are no vacancies
       in the natural world
and none need apply
       creation has its work to do
its solar systems to build
       while we are tasked
with something quite simple
       merely to love and
to allow ourselves
       to be loved

John Lyons

In calm waters

The thing you are after
       may lie around the next corner
: chance is a fine thing
       down to your last fly
when suddenly you feel a bite
       on the end of the line
a blue sky strewn with thin cloud
       and the sun slowly sinking in the west
and the fish tugs and the rod bends
       and you know that the tussle is on

That we should have what we require
       to get through our days so that the body
is sustained and the soul can breathe
       and there is time to nurse all
that is dear to the heart and that love
       should no longer be a stranger

John Lyons

The beauty of life

It’s so beautiful
the power of it
       the frailty of it
the five-petalled primrose 
       quality of it
the balance of it
       how we are always
only a breath away
       from love or death

how so much and yet
       so little is held
in our hands –
       we have words
to breach the silence
       and silence to sustain
our words and images
       all that is expressed
out of us calmly and urgently
       all that speaks
to the heart
       and to the soul

So beautiful
a hand pressed
       to lips or the sound
of a child’s laughter
       her thin hair
caught in the wind
       blowing across her face
her defiant smile
       her eventual kiss

John Lyons

The self all at sea

       that sense of wonderment
when the mind
       not to say the body
is blown away
       by beauty

That she is rose
       and flesh
all woven
       from light

Here in the place of birth
       her hair tangled
by the brisk breeze
       her eyes damp
with remembrance
       with loss

At night she grinds her teeth
       the lost innocence
the years misspent
       in pointless pursuits
the child in her
       a figment of the imagination

She who was once rose
       on the threshold of dust
at the dissolution of time
       where the sea thrashes
the ocean’s edge
       and peace alone
comes to creatures
       that swim with the tide

John Lyons

Coffee bones

Coffee bones, John Lyons (30 x 30 cm, coffee grounds and oil on canvas)

Bones that yearn
for other bones
out of the earth
into the earth

coffee grounds
and yellow cadmium
eyes turning
one toward the other

only love heals
the scars left
by love

her hazel eyes
her lips
a celebration

love woven
on the loom
of her life

and the echo
of other bones
long gone

Venus sidles up
to the moon
and for a brief

it illuminates
their love
their bodies turning
in unison

time will one day
sweep them away
for ever conjoined
their dust

their bones
laid to rest
for a single

John Lyons

Bed of roses


The long green
       leafy tongues
of this plant
       peering through
the undergrowth
       lapping up the light

Its four-petalled
       flower little bigger
than a pinhead
       proud to exhibit
itself amid the tangle
       of blackberry canes

All life
       out of this soil
this rich clay
       from which your lips
were formed
       minerals that fed
your blood your breath
       and shaped your limbs

Here birth and death
       coexist as one
feeds the other
       in the eternal cycle
of resurrection
       And so I say
: make of your love
       a bed of roses
so as to be sure that
       it will never die

John Lyons

How her garden grew

A poem about the space
       that we create
in our lives
       distances and proximities
boundaries we set
       permissions we grant or deny
allowing someone into our lives
       or keeping them at arm’s distance

inner and outer space
       the preservation of territories
of the heart and mind
       as much as bodily

a bed of roses with thorns
       beneath the blooms
but nothing ventured –
       traceries and markings
the vertical soul
       tattooed with experience
what came with her kiss
       what necessary words
and how did they live
       and how did they die ?

The oblique blue sky sustained
       between the branches
of oak and elder
       and at night in the blackness
a crown of constellations
       a whisper of winds
shuffles the leaves
       I remember her breath
brushing against my cheek
       I remember how we put
time to the sword
       and how her garden grew

John Lyons

Why sparrows sing

That they love the sound
of their own voices
why sparrows sing
that they dance
during courtship
for no other reason
than to enthral a mate

and why poets have words
to sing of the life of being
of crocuses that emerge
out of the winter soil
and how the earth wraps itself
in bridal blossom
with desire running
through all things
and memory
as Marcel said
is resurrection
the past that trails
behind us but never dies

Smoke dissipates
in the pale sky
and nature’s appetite
knows no surfeit
enough is never enough
Through green growth
we rise up towards the sun
our bodies burning
our breath panting
our arms outstretched
our souls aching for love

John Lyons

The mirror’s daily challenge

The face the skin the eyes
       the receding hairline
it’s not what it used to be 
       : the mirror’s daily challenge

Olson called it a civil war

       the unique appearance
that fades into sameness
       distinctive features lost
over the years so that familiar
       perhaps cherished blemishes
are now disguised under
       the general depredation
of time and exposure
       to relentless sunshine

so that you’re no longer

       who you thought you were
a stranger gazes back at you
       from the flawless silver
and you wonder who
       let this guy into your life

John Lyons

What’s known in the memory

What’s known in the memory

Of all that passing life
           what remains
is what’s known
           in the memory : a river
in County Waterford
           flows through my mind
the heathered bank where I stood
           with my cousin Paul
under the summer sun
           so we cast our hooks
and watched as they drifted

that youthful day the trout
           were too shy
or too cunning
           and they avoided our bait
and so we returned home

but Paul
           who has passed
along with that day
           lives in the memory
and I am always
           who I was
going to be
           just now