In a love poem

why

In a poem of love
there are feathers and fish
and roses and butter
and slow-burning candles
there are tables and chairs
and a sky made of rain
and curtains to be drawn
and sunshine over the horizon

in a poem of love
it is summer and winter
and beaches and sandals
and today and tomorrow
and happily ever after
and blushes and kisses
and words made of silence
and naturally we celebrate
and swim in the mountains
and sweet as a baby
and tall as a castle

in a poem of love
there is time and again
and bells gently ringing
and Saturdays and Sundays
and moons to be baking
and an alphabet of promises
and sharp needles for mending

in a poem of love
there are paintings and photos
and pearls made of wisdom
and sonnets for reading

and beds for the lying
and pleasures for sharing
and songs for beginning
and streets never ending

John Lyons

Of art poetry and love

infancy
Infancy, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas)

Of art poetry and love

Nothing changes
           from generation
to generation
           but the thing seen
and that makes
           composition

writing and painting
           are like that in that
what is observed
           whether internally
or externally
           provides the material
necessary to live
           as an outlaw
in defiance of rules
           and totally open
to the unexpected
           that is why lovers
are always ahead
           of their time
because they create
           something entirely new

a bond composed
           of myriads of affinities
alongside refreshing
           disparities—
love like that
           is always beginning
is never ending
           is a fount of constant
innovation and harmonious
           consolidation
art poetry and love
           are the natural trinity
in which beauty and truth
           are enshrined

John Lyons

 

Stars gliding through space

simple
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

A poem of thank you

stein

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
           occasionally
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


Revised

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

The rose

The rose

The purity
           the clarity
the beauty
           of the rose

the living rose
           grown from seed
proud in its bed
           or snipped and displayed
in a cut glass bowl

the rose that is a rose
           that is a rose
set in stone
           for all time
and for all minds

minds built from
           fragments of mind
snippets of experience
           and knowledge
woven into the mind

by any other name
           I would know a rose
secure in its certainty
           though I may not
always know
           my own mind

sweet unadorned rose
           that never betrays
that never abandons me
           rose unthorned
so dear to my heart

John Lyons

In a natural world

In a natural world

In a natural world dressed
         in such simplicities
the truth is so plain to see
         nothing duplicitous
nothing tendentious
         and no dishonesty :
everything is as it is
         which explains Gertrude’s
rose is a rose is a rose
         though by any other name
it would have been as sweet

Choice and preferment
         single us out—
and then there’s love
         that takes its course
free from ritual and process
         that which in living
outlives the moment
         that inclines towards infinity
and is beyond measure
         which is love’s true measure
not the glint in her eye
         nor the quickening of breath
not the contraction of muscle
         nor the stroke of a hand
not a pouting lip
         nor hair that falls loosely
across her broad forehead
       nor the blush of her cheeks
nor the ache of the limbs
        nor a convulsion of the flesh
but simply a being
       in the moment
moment to moment
       with neither judgment
nor expectation other than to revel
         in that moment
and the untrammelled pleasure
         of pure existence

John Lyons

Uplifting

Uplifting

She loved the stars
       and she loved linen
and fires of burning
       olive branch
with which to keep warm
       Love was all weathers
including storms including
       the thunder and the rain
and the scent of olive wood
       burning in the hearth
She loved neat and tidy
       and a stitch in time
and every night sleep
       saw the danger in boats
and kept her thoughts
       on dry land and perhaps
no moon and a smoking fire

What of the evils of eating
       sweetbreads and figs
and cooking in oil
       what of them indeed ?
A boat could sink
       in troubled waters
Moonlight and darkness
       both in a room
sleep and not sleep
       a great deal
and a great deal
       of pleasure

Why do you always smile
       why do I always smile
why do we always smile ?
       Is it because easily pleased
or too many roses
       a strength or a weakness
a spirit lifted with greater
       ease than a body ?

A wind whistles
       down by the ocean water
in which a long skirt trails
       Lift it lift it my sweet peach
Distance is a cloud
       hanging heavily above a hill
Lift it lift it my sweet peach

An accidental bird takes flight
       a yellow noon bird
and I am not at all surprised
       how pretty you are
my dear canary
       I love cherish idolise
adore and worship you
       and naturally we celebrate
when we come together
       before a smoking olive-wood fire
or just about anywhere
       else come to think

John Lyons


The above text borrows extensively from a love poem written by Gertrude Stein, entitled “Lifting Belly” which Stein composed over a period of two years (1915-1917). Although it centres on the relationship between Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, placing Stein on a par with Sappho, it is set against the backdrop of the Great War, and simultaneously celebrates and transcends Stein’s own sexuality. A great poem, the treasures and pleasures of which are released to the patient reader.