A cocked snook

A cocked snook

An occasion of love
           is seeing eye to eye
sitting side by side
           hands joined
engaged in
           a single thread
of conversation
           or of silence
both irrelevant
           his breath
her breath
           a common pulse

An occasion of love
           may be roses red
a glass of champagne
           lamps lit low
a clear view of the river
           or of the sea pounding
the pebbled shore
           anticipation in the air
eloquence of the moment
           a rhythmic stillness
and words for the sake
           of words in the course
of a single climb
           a snook cocked at time

John Lyons

Melt in the mouth

Melt in the mouth

What is the difference
           between a fig
and an apple
           she asks
in colour and texture
           in shape and size
in taste and in culture
           in climate and location
what is the difference
           between an apple
and a fig and why
           should we care ?

So much in common
           so what is the difference
the differences
           that separate
           from another ?

Once in a while
           we have the answer
or many or none
           once in a while
the differences
           are reconciled
the withered fig
           and the dried apple
a thing of the past
           food for parables

One is creamy
           and one is tart
and there are so many
           culinary implications
at breakfast at supper
           at dinner at lunch
and difference is a matter
           of mathematics
soft to the touch
           melt in the mouth
juice on the lips
           the milky flesh
squat in the palm
           of his hand

A chair in which to breathe

Breathless, John Lyons (oil on wood)

A chair in which to breathe

An open window means
           a stiff breeze is blowing
means knowing you’re alive
           means painted flowers
will never fade
           means the books
in their cases are there
           to be read

and when love
           becomes a stranger
it might rain
           and the summer
may end prematurely
           and the birds will fly south
while honey is harvested
           and the wax is turned
to candles that burn
           at the midnight hour

and dreams
           may lose their way
and the days
           may accumulate
until there is nothing left but time
           and an empty chair
where she once counted
           her fingers and toes

John Lyons

Stars gliding through space

Simplicity, John Lyons (oil on wood)

Stars gliding through space

A light blue and a dark blue
and a faded pink
what do they make ?

An arrangement of shapes
suggestive of other shapes
an odd kind of ornament

There were swans on the Serpentine
on Monday resplendent in the sunlight
their plumage a deep titanium white

Swans are never careless
they know exactly what they are doing
at all times without fail

Most flowers have their season
but once they are cut
their days are numbered

So what is the lesson?
That some things last
and others do not ?

It’s hard to believe that the stars
are gliding through space
they seem so fixed in the heavens

Lovers who would be guided by their stars
can very often lose their path
they must trim their sails to the cosmic wind

John Lyons

When times are hard

Looking glass, John Lyons (oil on wood and paper)

When times are hard

A table means
           necessary places
means presence
           and necessary absence
in times of war
           in times of peace
a table means steadiness
           a strong line in life
a surface upon which
           plates and glasses
and knives and spoons
           and silver-plated forks
look their best :
           sometimes there is jam
and sometimes cream
           and sometimes milk
and sometimes honey
           and sometimes bread
or toast in a rack
           or scones or cake
and a pot of tea
           with cups and saucers
a sugar bowl
           and yellow daffodils
in a porcelain vase
           casting their light
on the crisp white linen cloth
           and sometimes
people come together
           to commemorate a life
and to celebrate
           their love

John Lyons


An odor from a star

An odor from a star

Sunday evening fades
           by an open window
summer has danced
           the day long
and it’s time to read
           the words in my heart
to spell out the compendium
           that I am of dreams and how
at this point in time
           it would be wrong
for rain to fall
           through my universe

Imagine that there are lilacs
           here on the page
and that their heady aroma
           hangs heavy in the air
imagine a room teeming
           with the scent of roses
and that a proud thorn has drawn
           a trickle of my blood

I call every atom of myself

           my own and yet how
to distinguish them
           from all others
that have made the journey
           to this day ?

Atoms are blue and countable
           if we put our hands together
: with needle and thread
           she sewed the tender buttons
onto the soft fragrant silk
           a shadow bent
in the silence of her words
           of her love

John Lyons

Some of the above words were drawn from the poem below by Wallace Stevens

Carnet de Voyage

An odor from a star
Comes to my fancy, slight,
Tenderly spiced and gay,
As if a seraph’s hand
Unloosed the fragrant silks
Of some sultana, bright
In her soft sky. And pure
It is, and excellent,
As if a seraph’s blue
Fell, as a shadow falls,
And his warm body shed
Sweet exhalations, void
Of our despised decay.

Wallace Stevens, Uncollected Poems

A poem of thank you


A poem of thank you

It was a very pleasant day yesterday
           and it is pleasant that today
is as warm as yesterday
           a blue sky is always welcome
long hours of sunshine
           the birds were in good voice yesterday
and today is no different
           I heard the foxes in the early hours
they were planning their day
           they sensed it was going to be
a very pleasant day
           a day as warm as yesterday
it was no surprise to me
           it is no surprise to me

naturally the world is never
           always full of bad news
there is always some light
           some hope to cling on to
and there is always room
           for love and gratitude
and so I gave my love a kiss
           and she agreed that it was
a very pleasant day yesterday
           and that so it would be today

John Lyons


Gertrude Stein – a portrait

gertrude stein
Gertrude Stein, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

Gertrude Stein – a portrait

Neatly folded napkins
           and freshly cut roses
in a cut glass vase
           a long oak table
guests to populate it :
           amid the wealth of words
silences cultivated
           in every nook and cranny

Alice and her embroidery
           Gertrude with hers
a carafe of red wine
           sparkling silverware
shining porcelain 
           At the window
heavy drapes
           to keep out the dust
and for the world
           to know its place

Sometimes always
loving glances
           often exchanged
time under orders
           and life
on its best behaviour :
           a dog with a name
a stern smile
           the making of history
word by word
           line by line

John Lyons


Gertrude Stein – a memoir

Gertrude Stein – a memoir

Behind these mortal bones
           a beating heart
a nicety and a name
           and an ear to the ground
She knew the purr of love
           and all the finesse of needlework
hers truly was a wonderland
           in which words came to dine
wore a shawl with assorted hats
           and sat in Picasso’s frame

Suppose the eyes saw
           the lips would tell
and the hand would carve
           snippets of silence
the bed linen spick and span
           and time at the window
looking on
           with mathematical delight

See she said
           see how the light curls
how it drips into darkness
           at the end of the day
and nightime
           is a small price to pay
for a loving tongue
           and a cup to drain
Poetry she said
           is just lines of words
that start and then stop
           stop and start

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