At La Closerie des Lilas


At La Closerie des Lilas

That evening we spent
           with Ulyana and her friend
talking over a bottle of wine
           while the shades of Cézanne
and Oscar Wilde moved
           among the tables

There where the Surrealists
           once came to blows
with their opponents
           you talked of the politics
dividing the Ukrainians
           of Philadelphia
the egos and the rivalries
           the desire to control

there where back in the day
           Picasso and Modigliani
came calmly to chat
           and Joyce and Beckett
and on occasions
           Gertrude Stein

and Hemingway
           of course
in every bar

But I’d gladly return there
           with you if you would too :
would you ?


John Lyons

After Pierre Reverdy

Reverdy, by Modigliani (1915)

Pierre Reverdy (1889 –1960) was a French poet whose works fed into the art movements of his day, Surrealism, Dadaism and Cubism.

He also had an enduring relationship with Coco Chanel. Reverdy’s poetry was revered by Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery, both of whom were translators of his work.

After Pierre Reverdy

Who knows where time will end
         nor the long night of betrayal
as when the morning comes
         and one has not slept
as when arctic winds
         sweep down
to efface all passion
         and cool the blood of desire
as when reason
         stiffens into ice

See how the dead stars
         veer in the black sky
and we reach for our souls
         but we have lost
all sense of distance

In the present debacle
         even a fool can be a king
many are
         and soulless
we have become detached
         from the memory of those beauties
that once nourished our dreams

Life consumes us
         day by day
it gnaws at our flesh
         until our muscles grow slack
and we mutter
         heavenless prayers
as slowly we sink deeper
         into the damp clay
whence we sprang

He who loved wisely
         he who loved well
may yet have the last laugh
         but make no mistake
the rest are all damned
         to eternity

John Lyons