Apart from love

Apart from love

I read Frank O’Hara
           who never made it
to the twenty-first century
           but I imagine
he would have loved it
           and all the people in it
all the artists and musicians
           and poets and writers
busy inventing it
           just as they always did
in centuries gone by
           time immemorial

Listen to Duke Ellington
           and you can appreciate
Frank O’Hara’s ear
           or to Rachmaninoff
and you get a real sense
           of O’Hara’s nimble fingers
shuffling along the keyboard
           or slip into the gallery
to cast a cold eye over
           a Rauschenberg or a Pollock
and it will tell you something
           of what it was like
to see the world through
           O’Hara’s blue-tinted eyes

and then in a poem
           he uses the phrase
apart from love
           and you realise that
that line is a great divide
           a real line in the sand

that apart from love
           to Frank at least
nothing else really mattered
           not culture not wealth
not status not ambition
           not age not youth
nothing really matter
           apart from love
his poetics
           in a nutshell
and I guess
           I just have to agree

John Lyons

Crossing the Pont des Arts

Pont_des_Arts
Le Pont des Arts, Paris

Crossing the Pont des Arts

You wouldn’t think it
           but it takes real guts
to love someone
           I read Frank O’Hara
and he talks of coffee
           in the morning
and how all the tears
           in America cannot
dampen the joy
           of sharing life’s
simple pleasures with
           the person you love

Frank once walked alone
           across the Pont des Arts
and when he reached
           the other side there was
no one there waiting
           for him and he was
distraught despite the fact
           it was only a bridge

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

This is a quiet poem

This is a quiet poem

This is a quiet poem
: it’s New Year’s Day
and the streets are silent
the party’s over
the birds are relaxing
in their respective nests
there’s virtually no traffic

It’s as though

the previous twelve months
have been erased
the world is giving itself
a chance to freshen up

Lovers repeat their vows
their promises and stare
into each other’s eyes
It’s the newborn year
it doesn’t wish
to be disturbed
There are expectations
of peace and a resolution
to all conflicts

This is a quiet poem
and I’m sitting here
in Vienna awaiting
the orders that only I
can give myself

I love the sound
of certain voices
and their silence too
I love the gentleness
of the day and the ease
with which my lungs
fill with air and empty
each time I take
a deep breath

John Lyons


With corrections

My sentiments exactly

My sentiments exactly

I was born under my stars
           you were born under yours
and though we share
           the same universe
there are still silences between us
           that stretch out across space
my quietness and yours
           imponderable
as cracked autumn leaves
           tumble through the galaxy

If we dig deep enough
           we will hit upon
pockets of the past
           your childhood and mine
our parents now long gone
           dreams that are ripe
for resurrection
           the lust for love

In Spitalfields market
           I bought black leather gloves
to keep my fingers warm
           those fingers
that know your body
           so well

When you blush
           your blood vessels fill with desire
I can read your face
           like the back of my hand
Never forget that we share
           the same minerals
nor that the shadows
           that trailed behind us
on the edges of the Grand Canal
           will be there for all eternity
I own the light in your eyes
           just as you own the light in mine
: we are a constellation of two
           our nights know no darkness

John Lyons

 

A belated Christmas card

A belated Christmas card

I’ve seen the tree
           in the Rockerfeller Plaza
mine is smaller
           much
and its decorations
           are sparse
but it is green
           as Christmas should be
and it can grow
           in the imagination
since it has roots
           and needs to be watered
and fed like any living
           creature

My blood is a refined red
           adding colour to my festive
persona
           and there are fluffy white clouds
trailing in the distance
           under a flickering sun

I wish I had thought
           of the phrase
the lipstick of life
           but I didn’t
nevertheless I saw you
           the last time you took it
from you bag
           and applied it to your lips
intimately
           and when you’d finished
you looked so divine
           I thought I might kiss you
forever but I did not
           because I didn’t want
to disturb
           your perfect beauty

John Lyons

Beauty and perfection

Beauty and perfection

It’s Saturday once again
           and I feel
I’ve been here before
           low-lying cloud
and drizzle at the windows
           and a sense
that in my pursuit of perfection
           I have failed once again

not that that will ever
           stop me trying
what else is there to strive for
           but beauty and perfection
and the skill to know it
           when you see it
to enjoy it while you can
           if you can

A rose is perfect
           whoever bought
a bouquet of imperfect roses
           : beauty and perfection
supported by a life
           of trial and error

The rain intensifies
           and I just know
it’s settling in for the day
           throwing me back
on my resources
           Today I’ll try
not to think of love
           I’ve been drowning
in that word for so long
           Let’s say that
my words are love
           and leave it at that

John Lyons

The power of one word

FrankO'Hara

The power of one word

I have a mental picture
           of the poet Frank O’Hara sitting
in his apartment
           on a glorious New York summer’s day
He’s wearing a crisp
           white shirt and new sneakers
and is nervously tapping his fingers
           on his desk in time
to a phrase from Rachmaninoff
           that has been running
through his head
           ever since he woke

Through an open window
           he can also hear the city making
its usual cacophonous dust
           he also has an eye on the clock
: the friend who is giving him
           the ride to the beach is late
and he has so been
           looking forward to the trip

Just then the doorbell rings
           and at once
he is overcome
           by the sudden surge of love
in his heart and struggles
           to get to his feet
fearing he might drown
           in the emotion

John Lyons

 

I too have lain under trees

I too have lain under trees

 It’s our duty
      to be attentive
consciousness
      that sets us apart
that brings us
      together
not just in times
      of emergency
but as we gaze
      into a pair
of pale blue
or green 
      or hazel eyes
and whisper

      words of love

Where would
      the universe be
without us ?

John Lyons

 

 

I sometimes paint

I sometimes paint

I’m a poet and a patriot
            but I sometimes paint
though I make no claims
            for my artistic skills
I simply try to lay down
            the colours and shapes
of the words I carry around
            in my head along with
whatever energies
            I can bring to bear

If I was a painter
            I would strive to be
a de Kooning or
            a Jackson Pollock
or wherever the action is
            but there’s no hope
of that so relax
            it’s Saturday
and my mind’s on
            the walk we are about
to take over the river to Spitalfields
            to try a Philadelphia
cheese steak sandwich
            and on Sunday
I will be watching the Superbowl
            and cheering on the Eagles
even though I have
            only the vaguest
understanding of the game :
            it’s just not my game

John Lyons