Words from the bridge

Words from the bridge

And again we ask
           how many dawns
and what lasts
           unbroken
on the wheel of time
           what is built to last
a bridge or a cathedral
           or a castle in the sky
yet what outlasts them all
           is the word

Even though the language dies
           the words remain
intact somewhere
           in the collective mind
What lasts
           is what returns
time and time again
           promises and vows
and declarations
           of love

its ebb and flow
           amid the light
and the darkness
           Love lasts
love the word
           verb and noun
the love forever
           on lovers’ lips

John Lyons

 

January moon

January moon

Anonymous moon
           half-moon
globe of dust
           and dreams
and measurement
           of my life

Sleepless moon
           empty of promise
empty of time
           empty of love

Tunes played
           on a fractured harp
amid the mist
           and at times frost

But for your breath
           I would be cold stone
But for your palpable breath
           I would not be

John Lyons


Januar Mond

Anonymer Mond
            Halbmond
Kugel aus Staub 
          und Träumen
und Messung
            meines Lebens

Schlafloser Mond
            leer von Versprechen
zeitlos
            leer von Liebe

Melodien gespielt
            auf einer gebrochenen Harfe
inmitten des Nebels
            und manchmal Frost

Ohne deinen Atem
            wäre ich ein kalter Stein
Ohne deinen fühlbaren Atem
            ich würde nicht sein

(German version by John Lyons)

End of the affair

End of the affair

How many dawns
           did we wake to sunshine
and to the chill fresh air
           down by the river
In my thoughts
           you are everywhere
you are your very likeness
           but there is within you
a hidden voice that is distracted
           that reaches for words
but cannot find them
           Love you say
flies on faded wings
           it has no meaning
once you surrender
           to your mirrored fate
and so your heart tears
           into thin strips
the linen of your soul
           rent to tatters

The bridge was a monument
           to tenderness
to boldness
           a place to defend
with your life
           should you so desire
but in darkness you prefer
           to fritter away your tears
and to make your mouth
           absent from mine

And so silence
           that arises from the calm
slop of sleep
           and caprice has done
your destiny to death
           in dishonoured time

So be it
           loveless there is no joy
indecisive
           you serve no one
not even yourself
           and all that you have
to give and to share
           goes unspent

John Lyons

 

Hart Crane to his mother May 1924

Hart Crane to his mother May 1924

I am told that this section
         of Brooklyn Heights
is very much like London
         Certainly it is very quiet and charming,
with its many old houses
         all a little different
and with occasional trees
         jutting up an early green
through the pavements
         I have just come back from breakfast
and saw some tulips
         dotting the edge of one of several
beautiful garden patches
         that edge the embankment
that leads down to the river.
         It certainly is refreshing
to live in such a neighborhood
         and even though I should not succeed
in acquiring a room that actually
         commands the harbor view
I think I shall always want to live
         in this section anyway

A friend who has such a back room
         in this house has invited me
to use his room whenever he is out
         and the other evening
the view from his window
         was one never to be forgotten
Every time one looks at the harbor
         and the NY skyline across the river
it is quite different and the range
         of atmospheric effects is endless

But at twilight on a foggy evening
         such as it was at this time
it is beyond description.
         Gradually the lights
in the enormously tall buildings
         begin to flicker through the mist
There was a great cloud
         enveloping the top
of the Woolworth tower
         while below in the river
were streaming reflections
         of myriad lights
continually being crossed
         by the twinkling mast and deck lights
of little tugs scudding along
         freight rafts and occasional liners
starting outward

Look far to your left
         toward Staten Island and there
is the Statue of Liberty
         with that remarkable lamp of hers
that makes her seen for miles
         And up at the right
Brooklyn Bridge
         the most superb piece of construction
in the modern world I’m sure,
         with strings of light crossing it
like glowing worms
         as the L’s and surface cars
pass each other
         going and coming

110 Columbia Heights

110 Columbia Heights

And I have been able
         to give rein to freedom and life
which was acknowledged
         in the ecstasy
of walking hand in hand
         across the most beautiful bridge
in the world
         the cables enclosing us
and pulling us upward
         in such a dance
as I have never walked
         and never can walk
with another—
         and you will see
from my address
         that I am living
in the shadow
         of that bridge

It’s so quiet here
         a moment of communion
where the edge of the bridge
         leaps over the edge of the street
In the evening darkness
         of its shadow I began
the last verse of that poem

[Hart Crane to Waldo Frank
Brooklyn, NY, 21 April 1924]

In the realm of fact

In the realm of fact

In the realm of fact
         the poet utters
syllables of faith
         dream cancels dream
         
A new breed of towers
         in the golden city :
here is no empire
         but labyrinth
into which life strays
          Here he in her arms
lived the blind
         ecstasy of love and read
the prophetic script
         of the stars that dangled
above the bridge

Each day is a new universe
         the past trashed in time
Behold a fresh panorama
         arises out of the debris
of unbridled tides
         the low song of the cormorant
that devours space
         with every beat of its wings
A thousand ships or more
         in days long gone
and destinies beyond
         the circumference of hope

These are words
         lines from a canto
rife with doom
         sad infinities
taken to task
         A poet on patrol
records the strength and path 
          of the prevailing wind
Eden and Hesperus
         for the cultivation
of beauty and truth
         Beware of the slow
cancellation of ambition
         we are but clouds of atoms
the loose association
         of minerals born of the earth :
even the rose
         has greater definition
than our sluggish shadows
         It is a windswept stage
upon which we wake
         into the dream of act
our words fly up
         dust within a shroud
of dust and
         O how our sinews ache
how love’s great muscle
         dilates and contracts
sending pulses
         of pleasure

through our veins
         unknotting the hours
of unrepentant attrition :
         a coil or contraption
that fires and then reloads
         and fires again
until every hope is finally
         finally spent

John Lyons

By Brooklyn Bridge

By Brooklyn Bridge

The diametric gaze of love
and of lovers’ unstinting eyes

so that vision becomes a bridge
Hart Crane carrying his perceptions

in his pocket : poetry is span and projection
It moves on bold heels knowing that

nothing is new under the sun and yet
no two skies are ever the same

a lighter shade of blue or grey or a paler dark
Science has its sesames    poetry too

but poetry has mutinous song that fires
on all cylinders     that breaks in waves

at the base of the towering chalk cliffs
Mountain laurels and Easters of speeding light

the span of consciousness within an earth
drained of its tears    Poetry demands an end

to the fraternal massacre    to the slaughter
of lilies and the perversity of human disdain

The sound-waves launched from her lips
buttressed across the crisp morning air

slipped through the coruscation of the outer ear
penetrated and curled around the spiral cavity

of the cochlea and cosily implanted themselves
in the depths of his mind and his heart

Poetry is pact    is the bread of angels
is love’s purest breath when it so wills to be

John Lyons