The passing of age

To be older is not
to be aged or antique
or ancient or passé
or frail or forsaken
or to be dyed
in the wool

or to be mutton
dressed as lamb

To be older is neither
to be forgotten
nor remembered
nor to have lines drawn
across the forehead
or circles under the eyes
or to be a big noise
or to suffer in silence
or to be seated
in the corner
with curtains closed
nor to eat bread
without crust
nor to be butter
without jam

To be older is neither
to deny nor to affirm
nor to chatter without teeth
nor to put duty before love
nor to sleep with all the angels
nor to rearrange the stars
nor to believe in the past

to be older is not a vocation
nor a vacation nor an excuse
for a reason
nor a missed opportunity
nor an opportunity
not to be missed
to be older is to be younger
as time goes by 

John Lyons

Corrected version

A love song

In the thousand small places
       of myself and of my name
in the growth of passions
       of interests and abilities
of successes and failures
       in all the one-by-one days

and the one-by-one nights

       when flowers bloomed
and before those flowers faded

       in every moment of intimacy
and despite the solitary pain
       of unfolding distance

in every meadow crossed

       and upon every river sailed
at every waking hour
       whether observed or deep
into my dreams I have
       heard you in the song

of sparrows and finches

       and held you in my heart
and will do so for however
       many months and years
remain knowing that in love
       all things are for the best

John Lyons

The business of love

                         Table, John Lyons (70 x 50 cm, acrylic on paper)

A steadfast table

Icelandic blue
on an arctic white
chequered cloth
that cannot contain
every object
the shoes and plates
and tickets to ride

A table
a tenderness
a place in time
an invitation to all
who are absent
a necessary space
where laughter
and silence may

A table where chance
would be a fine thing
and intimate moments
may be played out
or where a hat may be left
or a bunch of keys
and a dog may bark
off camera

A table fit
for the business of life
or the business of love
or to address the appetite
or to say grace
before a meal
or to lay or to clear
or to be in between
or to bear the weight
of a cool red rose
in a cut glass bowl

John Lyons

Gateway to love

        Gateway to love, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas)

Sometimes the best poetry
       for the moment is composed
of silence : just as sparrows
       do not sing all day long
a pause a respite a lull
       is always welcome
rather than
       a glut or an excess

Broad margins
       of white space
a huge empty sky
       blue by all accounts
waves of transparent air
       shifting imperceptibly
a kind of nothingness
       of fulfilment

What I want to tell you
       is. . .
but it can wait
       just allow me to be
the one beside you
       basking in your beauty
loving you wordlessly without
       so much as a sigh

John Lyons

The passing of flowers


There is no aim
       to clean cut flowers –
to be frank they are
       an unnecessary need
We place them
       upon pedestals
we water them
       with affection
we say we love them
       we admire them
from all angles
       they centre our rooms
and light up the hours
       of our lives that are
themselves mere petals : and
       when their stems droop
and their blooms
       fall apart we mourn
their passing just as
       we mourn the passing
of our loves and all things that
       must necessarily pass

John Lyons

The red ball gown

How the words fall
       the occasion of words
or words for an occasion
       words that tell a story
or words that are the story
       pivotal words not merely
yes or no but found to be
       at every inflection of our lives
words in the midst of silence
       intriguing or decisive words

A widow in a wise veil
       a careless colour applied
to a carefree canvas
       a meal consumed
without animosity
       words measured so as
not to cause offence
       or precisely the opposite
: if a silence is not observed
       does it exist does it ?

A luscious red ball gown
       laid across a bed –
who will wear it and
       will she or won’t she ?
And if love is not observed
       does it exist does it?

John Lyons

Love is the only hope


                 Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas at home

Winter is closing in
       I read Gertrude Stein
to cheer me up –
       a cushion
a seltzer bottle
       a long dress
a red hat a blue coat
       a piano a chair
white lilies in a vase
       on a table upon which
particles of fine dust
       are clearly visible
or perhaps not dust
       but withered pollen

       the silence is singing
I can hear the sea
        where we bathed in July
I can hear the birds
       who have kept us amused
all summer
       their shadows gathering
on the wires overhead
       soon to be on their way
I think of our lives
       trimmed by the light
trimmed by time
       and how slowly
but surely our days
       spread into nothing
and how love
       is the only hope

John Lyons

Love’s faded flowers


         Trash, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, mixed media on canvas)

the faded flowers
       of friendship
heaped in a pile
       of sweepings
of yesterday’s news
       to which everyone
turns a blind eye
       as though
it never happened
       forgotten smiles
kisses consigned
       to ancient history
who lives by the sword
       dies by the word

John Lyons

Faded flowers


Faded flowers, John Lyons (25 x 30 cm, oil on canvas)

These are the raw months
       of north winds
of incessant rain and snow
       trees stripped to their bones
faded all but a few 
       of the flowers 
of friendship
       when skeins of ducks
fly west
       in tattered v-shapes
while other flocks
       simply flee the country

and in my heart stillness
       a longing for sunshine
to warm the cold stones
       to soften the edges
of the brutal horizon
       I watch foxes dance
within circles of magpies
       their days one long string
of unbridled entertainments
       : these are the raw months
a time to dig trenches and wait
       for these times to pass

John Lyons

Corrected text

In a love poem


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