You who in winter sit

You who in winter sit
behind frosted panes
your breath vanishing
before your eyes
observe that the moon
is no longer beneath
your feet but high
in the dark empty sky

You who in winter sit
sat upon the sadness
of your dreams or
the loss of your love
observe the sun rising
in the east shedding
its warm light across
the cold day

You who in winter sit
waiting for life to appear
recognise that it is never
anywhere other than
within your heart and
yours to administer
like the loyal and faithful
servant tasked with
spreading the good news

John Lyons


A world fit for love

A world fit for love

Emerson was right

      : thought makes things
fit for use
      and Zukofsky echoed

There is no life

      without purpose
no exalted rose
      no winedark Aegean Sea
no beauty or truth
      no love

The poet’s task
      is to tell itas it is
to denounce the tyrant
      to laud good governance
to align with the poor
      with the aged
with the weak the infirm
      to petition for justice
to abhor each criminal act
      whatever its provenance

So Homer blindly sang
of Helen’s beauty

and of the strength and wit
      of Ulysses
and in poetry

      Dante delivered Beatrice
from hell’s depths
      Kosmos equals beauty
so thought makes a world

      fit for use and together
we make a life

      fit for love

John Lyons


A taste for words

A taste for words

A taste for words
           for the energies of poetry
for artless time
           and timeless art
What shall we do
           with this world
but sing its praises
           and denounce
the human corruption
           of beauty and truth
the dry bones interred
           or the ashes placed
in the urns
           but the poetry
with a life of its own

who has a taste for roses
           for the rise and fall
of the sonata
           for the light and darkness
on a Caravaggio canvas
           And let’s be objective
facts are not symbols
           no meaning
where none intended

Dante asks :
           Was there ever a love
not tinged
           with eternal beauty
and nothing loose
           about his line
A taste for the craft
           for workmanship
for the construction
           of rhythms that harness
the full power
           of verbal energies

Let me tell you a tale
           of Shem and Shaun
and sweet Anna Livia
           and the river
that never runs dry
           . . .and of love

Musings of the third order

Musings of the third order

Through the grey rain
         comes light
that gently lifts the sky
         the sun mirrored on wet leaves
that rock back and forth
         in the soft breeze
fingering its way forward
         I hear the howl
as it finds its way
         around the taller structures

If nothing lasts forever
         then hope never dies
eternity and infinity
         are after all
words of condemnation
         no Dante to rescue Beatrice
no Virgil to lead us
         through the Elysian fields

Age is upon me
         but I shrug my shoulders
turn a blind eye
         to failing sight
Life is not a matter
         of combustion
it is the exercise
         of the imagination
to take each day
         by the throat
and to be in it
         while there is
still a breath
         and a beating heart
Weather is simply
         a wakeup call
nothing lasts forever
         unless you so desire
and nothing outlasts

John Lyons

In the midst of a great forest

Armando Morales, oil on canvas (click to enlarge)

Armando Morales (1927–2011) was an internationally renowned Nicaraguan artist, a contemporary and friend of the poets, Ernesto Cardenal and Carlos Martínez Rivas.

Morales was famous for his voluptuous still lives, in particular, sensual studies of apples and pears that evoked the softness of human skin. He later moved on to the painting of the female form, and in 1971, at the Galeria Bonino in New York, he showed a series of stunning nudes in which the fine detail of every muscle, of every inch of skin, reveals an unsurpassed sensuality.

I visited Armando at his studio in Vauxhall many years ago during a brief period he spent in London. On that day he was preparing a huge canvas, and in the course of our conversation many times he climbed a ladder to access the top of the canvas. In one hand he held a magnifying glass and in the other a razor blade, poring over the surface in search of the most minute imperfections, meticulous to a fault.

I have chosen his beautiful woodland study to illustrate the poem below, the title of which is based on the opening line of Dante’s Inferno.

In the midst of a great forest

What treasures I have amassed
        are immune to fire and theft
though I have indeed known loss
        loss of the body and loss of the soul
and live now in a quiet space
        catching the drift of birdsong
of the splenetic spider that plays
        upon its frosty web
I can resist all things
        better than my own changeability
I breathe the air
        but do not breathe it all
I am not proud
        and know my place :
the moth and the fish-eggs
        are in their place too
so too the bright suns
        and the wide golden moon
that shone last night
        so too the phantom dawn
that creeps through the mist
        to smother dreams
What is palpable
        is in its place
What is impalpable
        is in its place
Whether we fall by ambition
        blood or lust
like diamonds we are cut 
         with our own dust
I seek the grail of laughter
        a life that will turn
upon the axle of devotion
        a kiss not singed
by the eventual flame

These are the lanes of death
        where our footfall falls
Here love is a moment
        and pain another
and our mutual friends
        are ash and dust
moth and termite
        here time runs amok
wields a thirsty blade
        cuts to the very bone

John Lyons