The angels live among us

The earth
       so full of life
so full of truth
       another word
for universe
       that which
never lies –
       the riddle
of the sands
       But behind
every paradox
       every mystery
lie explanations
       and meanings

The innocent smile
       of a young child
the purity
      of her message –
as she left the tube
       she turned to thank
all her fellow passengers
       and to bid them goodbye
These are the angels
       true messengers
who speak only
       of goodness and love
the earth so full
       of truth and love

John Lyons

A phrase from Rachmaninoff


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 creating
its usual dusty cacophony
           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

Mike Goldberg’s sardines

                    Sardines, by Michael Goldberg

So I like to keep
tinned sardines
in my cupboard
for a rainy day
and whenever
I think of them
I think of Frank
O’Hara visiting
Mike Goldberg
who is painting
sardines into
his picture
but when it’s
finished Frank
goes back and
says : Where’s
the sardines?
They’re gone
they were too
much says
Mike Goldberg

John Lyons

What words are worth

It all depends
on the time
and the place
a context a language
for all seasons
for all moments
for all emotions

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge
on a sweltering day
heading into Manhattan
picking up some of the vibe
of Walt Whitman
of Frank O’Hara
of Jackson Pollock
and Willem de Kooning

and memories of you
and your desolate life
the fantasies you chase
the abuse you suffered
as a child and all the dreams
that time has swept away
and the lovelessness
in which it has left you

John Lyons

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

        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
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, 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

                                               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

How the eye
has its memory
plays tricks on us
creates a virtual
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

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