A line from John Donne


No emptiness
in the heavens

Symmetries of space
of time and place

Are thoughts not
from the stars ?

Are words not too
and love and all things

that engage our affections ?
Body and soul conjoined

inseparable from birth
and you among us

with your beauty
with your bounty

we are but clouds
you rise from

John Lyons


Sweet stay a while

Sweet stay a while

At dawn I rise
           from my bed of flesh
and re-enter the world
           of words

her flesh is warm
           and soft and comforting
but I must disentangle
           from her arms and stand
to address the day
           that waits at my door

in her eyes
           the clouds of sleep
drift still
           beauty is timeless
though it clings
           to memory

the poetry of peace
           and justice melts
into the heart
           of love

John Lyons

The last clean shirt

The last clean shirt

So Monday morning
             I look into the closet
and there it is
             hanging there
the last clean shirt
             and it’s ironed
and ready to wear
             but it’s the last clean shirt
and I have a whole week
             ahead of me

It’s a white shirt
             and for some reason
I think of Othello and Shakespeare
             and wonder if he
was ever in this situation
             or Walt Whitman or John Donne
or any of the other metaphysicals
             for that matter —not that I would ever
compare myself to any of them
             it’s just a thought
but who did wash and iron
             their shirts for them ?

and so I watch the short film
             by Alfred Leslie with subtitles
written by Frank O’Hara
             and I discover that
the last clean shirt
             is a metaphor
for ashes to ashes
             and dust to dust
and please see that my grave
             is kept clean

John Lyons

Oxford sketch

Oxford sketch

Oldness etched into the stone and wood
the worn steps of precedent and tradition

cloisters in which prayer has fallen silent
quadrangles with manicured grass and

flower beds filled with competing blooms :
this is the summer of our contentment

faith and hope and love are in the air
Sweet stay awhile why will you rise

Here couples float upon the streams of time
under the arches of Magdalen Bridge

The enigma of what passes of what remains
how down the centuries age not youth survives

John Lyons