Sweet bird-of-paradise


       more than meets the eye
stiff erect leathery leaves
       bluish green with perhaps
a red midrib
       held aloft on a long petiole

the orange and blue flowers
       have two erect pointed petals
and five stamens :
       the flower bract is shaped
like a boat
       with green and red borders
—it bears fruit capsules
       containing numerous seeds

An angel masquerading
       as exotic flora
its role is to induce calm
       in the eye of the beholder
so much effortless beauty
       rising out of the earth
its silence announces
       that all will be well and that
wherever it is present
       there will be peace and love

John Lyons


A day at the beach- Prainha do Caniçal


A secluded family beach

       set in a natural cove
and accessible only
       by a series of steep steps
: there you bathed
       and we lay on our towels
and lapped up
       the unbroken sunshine

When lunch came
       four sardines on a plate
and a bowl of French fries
       which we ate overlooking
the immaculate ocean
       : from sunrise to sunset
all that we had was what
       we had within our hands

John Lyons

Just add a little lipstick


The Portuguese budião
       or wrasse
is a curious thick-lipped fish
       and an Atlantic loner –
all are born female
       but over the years
many mutate to male
       at which point they build
circular nests of algae
       leaving open slits
where the female
       lays its eggs

The English name comes
       from the Cornish gwragh
a mouthful meaning old woman or hag
       but lightly grilled
its mild white flesh
       is a culinary delight

John Lyons

Love and trust

These then are the people we are
       we travel back and forth
to Funchal or to Machico
       to Seixal or to Porto Moniz
we lie on sun-drenched beaches
       and navigate the rocks and stones
we drink from plastic bottles
       and climb steep rugged hills
with the agility of billy goats
       we eat whatever the restaurants
push our way without complaint
       we examine our consciences
by reading the old colonial histories
       stamped on church walls and ceilings
After dark we count countless stars
       and pay allegiance to a golden moon
sparrowhawks mewl in the night
       and visit the ledges of our dreams

We are all the things we ever wanted to be
       yet having travelled so far
still have so far to go
       love and trust stroll hand in hand
through narrow dusty streets
       love and trust lie in a single bed
love and trust bring new names
       into the world and shield the dead
from permanent death
       paradise we know can be clinched
with a kiss if the time is right
       and good fortune comes our way
to keep growling hound dogs
       and sacrificial gods at bay

John Lyons

Sipping smoothies in Garajau

Whether of peach or mango
we sat under shade
and sipped our smoothies
and beheld the day
filled with sunshine
and quiet words
amid snippets
of the life stories
we exchanged

Here there was silence
for the taking
and gentle steps of affection
as the truths one by one
were released
into the atmosphere

How two narratives
can become intertwined
so that a convergence of news
and consciousness occurs
just as our feet followed
for a few days
a shared path

At four in the afternoon
the sun at its fiercest
and sometimes we bathed
in the cerulean sea
and sometimes we lounged
or climbed steep hills
through narrow streets
lined with banana or fig trees
our heels kicking up the dust
of those long departed

and reaching our destination
we panted for breath
and gasped for water
like lovers whose energies
are sapped by the depth
of their endless entanglement

and at nightfall a dark sky
hovered above the land
and one by one the stars appeared
etching out an array
of unfathomable distances
so placing all our intimacies
into proportion underlining
the farness and the nearness
of unadulterated love

John Lyons

Venus in retreat

Volcanic rock
ground down by the sea
to so much bonemeal
the black sands of Seixal
a gentle sloping beach
on a Saturday worn down
by lackadaisical summertime

We are all here to go
and many have gone
before us
recycled into the cosmos
this place of constant birth
and death and birth again

From the same minerals
this congealed lava
and the supple tissues that beat
in my breast and the blood
that surges through my veins

The rising wind in her hair
the thin line of her lips
curled into a reticent smile
and so her hips sway
as she enters the waves
Venus in retreat

John Lyons

The sea’s sad music

At dawn
       I go down to the sea
drawn to its mystery
       I listen to its silence
it too has mountains
       deep and unknown
and when the wind rises
              it has a dark voice
that grinds and gasps
       as it gropes for the shore

At sunrise the light shimmers
       across its surface
I see myself
       in the glassy reflection
and listen to the ocean’s sighs
      that appear to echo my own

Where was love
       in all this meaningless motion
where was pity and passion
       where were the words of soft speech
where were the palpable
       signs of affection
where were the gestures
       capable of defusing time
where were the keen kisses
       to soothe my soul
where were the answers
       to stem the cruel tide ?

Night falls
       and a golden moon
gives way to blistering stars
      bronze shadows stride
across the fragrant water
       all is memory
all is loss
       all is done

John Lyons

The flesh and bone of it

This is the flesh and bone of it
whether to be or not to be
the doubts and the indecisions
that make a mockery of time

Fine sand shifting in the clear waters
the gentle roll of waves on the shore
and in the distance an empty eternity
that constantly reminds us of how far

we have travelled and how far
we have to go and the slow dawning
of knowledge that tells us that love
is an answer but not the answer

that something deeper needs to occur
before even love can find a safe haven
I watch the boats that ferry passengers
from place to place from one arena

to another and with them they carry
their secret hopes and fears
their dreams and their ambitions
and I wonder where their true loves lie

John Lyons



What shall I call it
the enigmatic ocean –
white ships sailing
upon it like lost souls
dwarfed in its immensity

It has no meaning
it has no purpose
other than to be –
to curl its briny lips
upon distant shores

Like the moon and stars
it stirs the imagination
and feeds our dreams
but after seventy years
of days and nights
I have no answers
except to say that I know
where love lies and
where it does not

John Lyons