Watchers of the skies

Watchers of the skies

Watchers of the skies
           we look for planetary movements
that may herald better times
           bringing peace and consolation
to our loveless lives
           and so alleviate the turmoil
in our thankless day to day
           a benevolent moon
to announce
           the entrance of joy
into our favoured house
           our hopes in the ascendant
and a firmament filled
           with the sweet conjunction
of heavenly bodies
           aligned in perfect harmony

John Lyons

Rock of ages

Rock of ages

Flint flickers 
                   from the cave 
an infinity concocted
         from inert stone 
the dead history
             of dry leaves 
swept up and cast 
                     onto a futile fire
What outlasts fear
is the loving heart

Time is a fix

       fixed in time 
               butterfly beauty
and the truth

Time when the eyes
                   were opened
time when with warm lips
         a kiss was taken

Prehistoric juices 
                   drawn from soft berries
dark earth minerals
             ochres and umbers
smeared on the walls 
for the common good
                     all ache 
soothed by love
                   all talk an art
every creation
               a form of love

Words for effect
                       verbal markers 
set against time’s depredations 
               beauty undimmed 
across the ages
                     schooled in love
each thought word and deed
         beyond season 
                             beyond reason

The hunting hand that held

           wild berries
           sun-dried and pounded 
to a charcoal powder
                 earth ochres
and the pigment blown
       over a hand pressed
                         to the cave wall
a negative print
in the Great Hall
of abstract markings
                   but nothing casual 
                         nothing unpremeditated 
                         nothing unplanned
executed to perfection
                         a steppe bison
perfectly proportioned 
                       its thunderous heart 
still beating
                       its fiery eyes 
peering down at us 
                       across the millennia 
horses    deer    a wild boar

Across the centuries
                     that are 
                             as dried leaves
in the wind
               Time tethered
for all time
                 art that is life’s signature
the personality that defines
                       our humanity
our collective singularity
         the beauty of truth 
and love
             life ennobled

From my lips to your ear
                   what do we know 
of poetry
             other than it is words
for effect 
             or words
                     for special effect
                       odes to time
the flight of a nightingale
             across the ages

John Lyons

Phases of beauty

Phases of beauty

Time does not move us
         we are within time
masters of our own fate
         to the extent that we transcend it
         a new text in the world
patterns of words and sounds
         exempt from entropy
the second law of thermodynamics
         that energies decay
Have Shakespeare’s sonnets decayed
         or the odes that Keats dedicated
to the transcendence of truth and beauty ?

Her hair falls across her face
         in the course of the evening
: it moves it lightens it relaxes
         it comes down
and so the features are reframed
         the skin tones alter
the subdued light plays
         with the texture of her skin
the intense glow of her eyes
         a deep confident brown
her words that rise and fall
         that come and go in waves
that wash over me
         absorbed as I am
in the shifting phases
         of her beauty
Time moves through me
         as I bear witness
to her breath
         to the softness of each syllable
that emerges from her lips
         I have no need of a Grecian urn
it is all there before me
         not just before my eyes
but every sense in my body
for every expression

         of herself

Patterns of flesh and bone
         patterns of thought and feeling
Time does not move us
         we move within it
and if we care
         we seize the moment

John Lyons


To Ithaca and beyond

To Ithaca and beyond

Beware of metaphor
              beware of symbol
beware of slack simile
              that will fill your pages
to no good purpose

No one thing is like another
              and the truth is irreducible
to fragments
              just as love and beauty
are whole
              in and of themselves

Clarity is not a virtue
              it is the cornerstone
a sine qua non :
              the lark that soars
in the summer air
              the nightingale
the thrush that drinks
              from the garden pool—
these are not ciphers
              and they stand for nothing
but themselves
              their lives are their
intrinsic celebration

The beauty of truth
              and the truth of beauty
were what drove Keats
              and Shelley to poetry
the musical phrase
              that sustains the fancy
as they called it

Beware of death
              and those who espouse
death and those who
              condone death and those
who promote death

Pound’s late lament
              that he betrayed Dante
that he tried to make
              a paradiso terrestre
from the very muck
              of civilization
and that he failed
              to disown death

Admission at last
              that the cycle must be reset
that the ship must again
              be hauled down to the shore
to set forth once more
              upon the ungodly sea
so that Helen may be returned
              to her rightful home
and the golden fleece
              to its rightful place

John Lyons

The politics of poetry

katrinaThe poem below was written in response to the Katrina disaster of 2005. Poetry, as Keats famously pointed out, is about beauty and truth, in other words it is about life in all its aspects because there is no area of life where beauty and truth are irrelevant. All that we value in our lives is concerned with beauty and truth. That includes the relationship we have with our loved ones, with our fellow citizens and the world’s wider population. We are all in this together and we have rights and responsibilities as individuals under the charter of the United Nations.

So how should a poet engage with the world, a poet obsessed with love and beauty? The answer, I believe, is so simple, as William Burroughs would say: the poet is no different from anyone else, the poet should be engaged with his immediate circle and his wider world. Beauty and truth are synonyms. Lies are ugly. Poetry celebrates beauty and denounces ugliness and does so by employing the stylistic tricks of its trade, or should I say, of the medium, just as journalists do theirs, film makers theirs, artists theirs, musicians theirs. Politicians also have the tricks of their trade, and we should be wise to them. Always! Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all you need to know!

Paradise Lost

Your words,
       Mr President, have grown charcoal-
               brittle, they stain your lips
       as you speak them, and bring no
               comfort to those who hear;

let us
       at the very least, carbon-date
               your thoughts, your notion
       of what is right and wrong,
               your black-and-white

       we who have not drowned
               but who looked on in horror
       as you abandoned a people
               who were surplus to

       Where were you when the saints
               came marching in and the waters
       rose and the wind howled and
               the levees which had kept

       at bay were finally breached?
               A serpent appeared in the rose
       garden and said DO NOTHING
               as your daddy did, surrender

       surrender truth and, as your
               daddy had done, botox
       the lies until you can smile
               in the face of death,

turn up
       your nose at the stench of decay,
               turn a blind eye on the strangers
       upon whose kindness your office
               once depended. Democracy is in

the eye
       of the beholder, but the dead are
               disenfranchised. Katrina Katrina
       to the tune of an old blues song, on
               a blue piano, until the end of time.

6 September 2005