Acrobatics

Acrobatics

When I think of Pollock’s
‘Number One’ I think
of Frank O’Hara’s digression
________________________
both are balancing acts
on a tightrope
and in Pollock one sees
the twisted narrative
almost impossible
to unravel as he tiptoes
across the ravine
on a perfect day for it
as Frank writes :
warm for winter

cold for fall—
do you see ?

John Lyons

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Digression

Digression

When I was a child
           all the talk was of
how to grow the best roses
           and what types of soil
make for a better lawn

I remember those roses
           with their savage thorns
their soft petals
           dripping with morning dew
but nobody told me
           anything about the challenges
I would face in later life

I was not a sickly child
           and I learned most things
with relative ease
           I played out on the streets
my feet dragging home the dust
           only when the sun set

Life seemed in those days
           to be administered
by perfect hands and reality
           was representational
Had someone shown me
           a Jackson Pollock
I might have had an inkling
            of what was to come

No I am not ill today
           or any other day
not even tired
           simply perplexed
by the mystery of the stars
           scintillating above
an empty ocean

and yet I know exactly
           what I need to make
a perfect day and so do you
           so why don’t we ?

John Lyons

Plus ça change

O'Hara_de Kooning.jpg
Frank O’Hara, by Elaine de Kooning (1962)

Plus ça change

Being lost for words
             and being speechless
is not the same
             nothing is ever the same
things are or they are not
             but they’re never the same
similes are absurd
             as no one thing
is like another
             Gertrude Stein taught us
that not even repetitions
             are the same
a rose is a rose is a rose
             is an equilateral triangle
of competing energies
             each rose qualifying
the other ones
             one after another

When Elaine de Kooning
             portrayed Frank O’Hara
standing in her studio
             first she painted
the structure of the face
             above the tall lean body
and when she had finished
             she wiped out the face
so that the portrait
              would more closely
resemble the subject
             the portrait and the subject
were not the same
             nothing is ever the same

John Lyons

The last clean shirt

The last clean shirt

So Monday morning
             I look into the closet
and there it is
             hanging there
the last clean shirt
             and it’s ironed
and ready to wear
             but it’s the last clean shirt
and I have a whole week
             ahead of me

It’s a white shirt
             and for some reason
I think of Othello and Shakespeare
             and wonder if he
was ever in this situation
             or Walt Whitman or John Donne
or any of the other metaphysicals
             for that matter —not that I would ever
compare myself to any of them
             it’s just a thought
but who did wash and iron
             their shirts for them ?

and so I watch the short film
             by Alfred Leslie with subtitles
written by Frank O’Hara
             and I discover that
the last clean shirt
             is a metaphor
for ashes to ashes
             and dust to dust
and please see that my grave
             is kept clean

John Lyons

Materiale grezzo

Ecco una versione italiana del poema “Raw material” .

Materiale grezzo

Visto l’ultima volta la notte
           attraverso il trapezio
del lucernario
           nero come la pece
una sola stella
           impassibile e immobile

chi ha cercato attraverso
           le ombre di questo mondo
per un’anima palpabile
           per un angelo di saggezza
che lo potrebbe portare
           illuminismo

è quello che facciamo
           la vita in parole
stringendosi suoni randagi
           a immagini e profumi
e sensazioni
           tutto ciò che è grezzo
e radicato nella terra
           inchiostro nero attraverso il quale
il mondo possa splendere
           interno ed esterno

oggi gloriosa blu
           danza luce
come si posa
           sulle foglie verdi freschi
l’ebbrezza del sole
           tutto in pace
e pieno di promesse
           la mia mente piena di parole altrui
echi di amori sconosciuti
           e le osservazioni

le strade polverose di New York
           la punta di diamante della poesia
sulle labbra di Frank O’Hara
           gatto nero con la pancia bianca
la vita in tutta la sua ricchezza
           tempo con tutte le possibilità
offre
           scopo il taglio di un percorso
attraverso la confusione
           amore dove si può fidare
un bacio a costo zero
            ma un bacio a tutti i costi

John Lyons

Triplets

Triplets

what is more beautiful
than the night
and to lie in your arms

because you are beautiful
you have broken
perfection’s heart

here where the air is clear
the moon low and the sun flat
nothing can go wrong

so as to honour your beauty
roses will soon bloom and
hives will be filled with honey

grapes will be gathered
and pressed into wine
to toast your beauty

in the deep dark night
in awe of your beauty
stars may go astray

and poets could lose their minds
as they struggle to contain 
your beauty within their lines

what is more beautiful
than the day when I may
lie in your arms again

John Lyons

Conundrum

Conundrum

The thought occurs to me :
           would a bird want to be
a butterfly or vice versa ?
            How attractive
are the featherless
           paper-thin wings
how appealing
           the more robust plumage
: each to his own
           I suppose

Wallace Stevens was
           obsessed with numbers
John Ashbery can be
           a little snooty about some
of Frank O’Hara’s poetry
           but Frank’s verse
is so full of friends
           it’s like a party on a page
and Ashbery’s pales
           in comparison

Today the rain has returned
           and I observe
the drizzle’s delicate lament
           for lost time
for the sad poetry of our being
           for the exuberance of our love
lately so neglected
           and for so much
of our lives
           gone to waste

John Lyons