Fragments of time

Fragments of time

Through our veins
           the blood of stars
from which all warmth
           from which all passion
from which all life
           from which all love

her hand within mine
           is universe touching
           flesh upon flesh
feeding upon
           eternal energies

these words
           are star script
temporal equations
           of eternal expression
the earth populated
           with fragments of time
that burn to coalesce
           to embody a single soul

Orpheus descends
           through her open eyes
into the heart
           of her love

John Lyons

That mirror moment

That mirror moment

Hard cold cruelty
           of the mirror
true friend of time
           harshest critic
inflexible judgment
           how thin
how destructive
           your silver lining
as you throw back
           in our faces
every wrinkle
           every line
every error
           of excess

and how you prowl the world
in every unexpected corner
           ready to pounce
in halls and bathrooms
           hotels and restaurants
to confront and unnerve us
           when masks have dropped
and we are left alone
           with little more
than our intimate
           loveless reality

John Lyons

Eternal return

Eternal return

In the still world
           on a blue morning
I think of you
           I think of your name
I say it under my breath
           It brings you back to me
for a moment your presence
           your love
all synonyms for the joy
           you brought me
how much I loved
           to mouth your name

I read the poetry of love
           Paul Éluard out loud
outbursts of love and light
           and the memory of other births
and a future
           covered in kisses
the impossibility of injustice
           when love chooses love
without flinching
           a straight face
along the narrow path
           that draws you back to me

John Lyons

So to the life learnt

Easter canvas

So to the life learnt

So to the life learnt
           word by word :
who walks beside me in the shadow 
           of Shad Thames ?

the hollow space
           in your image and likeness
the simple mathematics
           as dawn breaks
above my head
           on this Easter Sunday

I have a mind full of you
           and of words
from other scriptures
           and I salute the day with love

The ghosts of Wilfred Owen
           and of Paul Éluard
move through these lines
           one mortally wounded
the other a survivor
           in the Great War

There was a time
           when your almond eyes
drifted into mine
           mine into yours
a time when parting
           on Tooley Street
was such sweet sorrow
           before Hamlet appeared

Now there are red tulips
           and daffodils
with their yellow petals
           spread in honour
of the stars from where
           they come
and there are words
           so many words
that I deploy
           in my struggle against
the ravages of time
           and the loss of love

John Lyons


The curve of your eyes – Paul Éluard

The curve of your eyes

The curve of your eyes winds around my heart,
A round of gentleness and dance,
Halo of time, night cradle and safe,
And if I no longer know all that I’ve lived
It’s that your eyes haven’t always seen me.

Leaves of day and foam of dew,
Reeds of the wind, scented smiles,
Wings shading the world of light,
Boats brimming with sky and sea,
Hunters of noise and sources of colour,

Scents bloomed from a brood of dawns
That still rests on a bed of stars,
As the day depends on innocence
The whole world depends on your pure eyes
And all my blood flows into their gaze.

Paul Éluard (from Capitale de la douleur, 1929)

Translation by John Lyons

La courbe de tes yeux

La courbe de tes yeux fait le tour de mon cœur, 
Un rond de danse et de douceur, 
Auréole du temps, berceau nocturne et sûr, 
Et si je ne sais plus tout ce que j’ai vécu 
C’est que tes yeux ne m’ont pas toujours vu.

Feuilles de jour et mousse de rosée, 
Roseaux du vent, sourires parfumés,
Ailes couvrant le monde de lumière, 
Bateaux chargés du ciel et de la mer, 
Chasseurs des bruits et sources des couleurs,

Parfums éclos d’une couvée d’aurores 
Qui gît toujours sur la paille des astres, 
Comme le jour dépend de l’innocence 
Le monde entier dépend de tes yeux purs 
Et tout mon sang coule dans leurs regards.

Paul Éluard (from Capitale de la douleur, 1929)

The art of translation

The art of translation

In 1936 Samuel Beckett was a contributing translator to Thorns of Thunder, a brief selection of the poems of Paul Eluard. 

Later that year Beckett wrote to his friend and fellow translator, Tom McGreevy:

“My copy of Eluard came, duly signed by author & all available translators. He does come through after a fashion, the frailty & nervousness. But no attempt seems to have been made to translate the pauses. Like Beethoven played strictly to time.”