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

This Quiet Dust

St Cross church, Oxford


This quiet dust

This quiet dust
           was gentlemen and ladies
was lives with ambitions
           and hopes and dreams
heard other robins
           sing upon other branches
fished in other streams
           and knew every shade of love

This quiet dust knew wars
           that were won and lost
territories gained
           and others surrendered
knew peace and the pleasures
           of community and common purpose

Here where the ivy has prospered
           the cypress casts a deeper shade
but names on the stone have weathered
           less well — some now well and truly
beyond reading
                      In this small space
a gathering of eras that have passed
           as all things pass on journeys unknown

That day the rain held off
           and the temperature was mild
winter blossom graced certain gardens
           in which roses were pruned to the bone
and as night fell lovers hurried home
                      to each other’s arms
through the narrow streets
           known to Donne and Dowland
to generations of poets and minstrels

Sweet stay a while why must you rise
           the light you see comes from your eyes
and Emily who mined her life for meaning
           lies too in her crib of dust
oblivious
           to the broken wings of bees
and butterflies that litter the soil
                                           So make haste. . .

John Lyons

Oxford days

Quad
Magdalen College

Oxford days

What are years
       and days and hours
as you stroll hand-in-hand
       through the streets of Oxford
on a late November Sunday ?
       What is history
and education and knowledge
       and where will it all end ?
Humanity is in the earth
       and it rises and falls
with the generations
       in the spice of summer
and the shiver of winter
       in the shimmer of ice
in the gutter

She of the stars
       and he of the stars both
washed up from Ireland
       both longing
for the red ripeness of love
       Rose and wisteria
and hydrangea in the quad
       in Magdalen College
and tight tiny buds
       already formed on many
of the trees and bushes
       in Addison’s Walk
Nature is conserving
       it resources
silently rearming
       in preparation
for the spring offensive
       when explosions
of leaf and flower
       will reassert its authority
over the territory

We are self-made
       and out of the earth
and out of love
       ambassadors
of heavenly bodies
       who admire the deer
as they carelessly
       stare back at us
species under the same spell
       of carbon and oxygen

And time —
       what of time
in the grand scheme ?
        Time is the quarry of passion
and dust is the only secret

John Lyons