Seen on the radio

Summer Couch
Willem de Kooning, Summer Couch, 1943

You get the picture
it’s a shut-in weekend
pale drizzle out on the streets
and Frank is home relaxing

after a hard few days
at the museum office
and he’s listening
to Grieg and to Prokofiev

to relieve those feeling-
sorry-for-oneself feelings
and he’s dreaming
of the painting

Dutch Willem de Kooning
has promised him
and because he’s Dutch
it has an orange bed in it
and Frank muses that it’s
more than the ear can hold

John Lyons

A bad marriage

Scott4
        A bad marriage, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas)

There are no abstracts
I paint what I see
sometimes what I see
in the paintings of others

There are no sardines
nor were there ever
but what looks like
some sort of seafood

though there is no blue
nor water no shade of sky
and the composition
is trapped within

a narrow palette
There is a continent
of white and a patch
of dark leather and yet

it amounts to nothing
that we can define
Words and colours
are poor relations

each one jostling
hopelessly
to out-express
the other

John Lyons


The painting illustrated is an unfaithful copy of a painting by William Scott (1913-1989) which can be viewed in Tate Britain.

Forever in my life

rainfall

Rainfall, John Lyons (70 x 50 cm, oil on canvas)

The rain perhaps
the rain as it used to rain
in my childhood
slow steady rain
an ablution of the earth
the damp air heavy
with the scent of soil

The rain perhaps
tiny droplets of memory
falling through the universe
and my mind wanders
to far forgotten places
and the faces
that I knew there

The rain perhaps
when we first built a shelter
and called it love
and we huddled there
together tightly and listened
to the rain and wind
and were content

The rain perhaps
that is neither a beginning
nor an end in itself
as though I had
always known you
always wanted you
forever in my life

John Lyons

it’s meaningless

General Sherman, NYC

                      General Sherman, NYC

So the weather takes a dip
       the wind retrieves its bite
tears at the fresh spring leaves
       gusts under the eaves
drives the rain hard
       against the skylight
displacing the Saharan dust
       that blew up days ago

Last night I counted the doors
       featured in an Antonioni movie
Sometimes it’s meaningless
       to watch films or to eat
or to drink coffee
       out of a paper cup

This morning
       I’m reading Frank’s poems
wondering about how many
       daydreams I will see today
whether any of them
       will notice my lavender lips
will talk to me
       will listen to me

Tonight promises to be
       a clear sky with stars :
nobody owns them
       as far as I know
though I am tempted
       to add the word yet

John Lyons

Covid-19 – a meditation

flowers
                                               Covid-19, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, mixed media)

From newsprint
these flowers
standing in a vase
daubs of red paint
against a blue
background

How the eye
has its memory
plays tricks on us
creates a virtual
reality
fools us into thinking
fools us into feeling

Take a closer look
news of the pandemic
Covid-19 in faint type
and how the unconscious
brings colours
to the surface
creates unexpected
associations

and there is the light
reflected from the canvas
the bright cadmium hue
that captures today’s
glorious sunshine
tells of the happiness
in my heart

this art
this simple meditation
in times of emergency
is an agent of life
there is hope in shapes
cut with scissors
glued to a surface
that will hang forever
in my heart

John Lyons

Relaxin’ at Camarillo

Charlie Parker

I’ve been listening
       to Charlie Parker
for most of my adult life
       I never tire of the riffs
the sweet melodies
       the effortlessly inventive energy
he applies to the saxophone
       the awesome power of his breath
that lives on in the recordings :
       masterworks indeed

Like the poetry
       of Frank O’Hara
who is alive and well
       in the Lunch Poems
his tone of voice too
       captured for all time
in a poetry that positively
       sings of friendship and love

‘My words are love’
       Frank wrote
and Charlie might well have said
       the same about his notes
Stepping away
       from the world of work
Frank worked the world
       into his verse
His poems – as with all art –
       are affairs of the heart

John Lyons

The ministry of works

I think how different
       the world would be
if the gasmen
       digging up the road
outside my house
       had taken a vow of silence

But no – it’s early morning
       and they gather
and their excited chatter
       is as though
they had not seen
       each other for years

The foreman arrives
       at eight on the dot
and sets them to work
       : only the drills and
the mechanical diggers
       finally silence them

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