A word in your ear


What’s in
       a snail ?
a name
       a shape
a notion
       of speed
an inner


such perfect
a plump
       tasty pod
filled with
       damp desire

an aristocrat

       among others
in its blue robe
       its horned crown
sitting upon
       a bloody throne

John Lyons

The early morning air

The early morning air

I love the early morning air
           the way it hits the lungs
and tells me how good it is
           to be alive and to be walking
the streets around Shoreditch
           where Shakespeare once performed
in the early hours
           just before the offices open
It’s one of the most alive places
           on the planet
full of the real buzz of life
           people who have come
from their beds
           with fresh energy
ready to engage with the day
           with the win-some lose-some
open mind you get
           from a good night’s sleep

I love the bustle and the jostle
           of people prepared
to make a go of it
           I love the sound of friendship
in the air as people greet or part
           and go on their way to work
I love the simple affections
           that bind us all together
and the deep love
           in my heart

John Lyons

Shakespeare’s pulse

Shakespeare’s pulse

Shakespeare’s pulse
            is in the language
his poetry speaks
            for itself
and he offers
            no explanation
Simply put
            it is what the words say
The culture is not
            in the knowledge
but in the expression
            He puts breath
into desire
            and all those questions
that make us human
            and so we wonder
and we want
            but only love
brings reconciliation
            and contentment

John Lyons

Our trade in love

Our trade in love

As the year turns
            and seasons slip
one into another
            the still air lies lightly
above the land
            nature on its marks
about to burst
            into colour

and this our trade in love
            the history of our blood
the lines that have brought us
            to this convergence
to the ceremony
            of our commingled flesh
each with an inexhaustible
            appetite for life

our nails pared
            our hair trimmed
the deep breath
            as we embrace
Passion’s give and take
            our lives no less mysterious
than those of the foxes
            that live in the reality
of our imagination :
            and in your body
I see the map of my heart
            the endless path
that I must take
            time and time again

John Lyons

Give me some music; music, moody food
Of us that trade in love.
                              Antony and Cleopatra

Out of the cosmic soup

petri dish

Petri dish, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

Out of the cosmic soup

Out of an ionized
           and undifferentiated soup
of matter and radiation :
and the petrified hare
           diving beneath the hedgerow
the sparrow singing
           on your garden fence
the fox sunning itself
           on the shed roof
Romeo and Juliet
           and William Shakespeare
and Tooley Street
           and your hand in mine
and all things
           and all feelings
and all moments
           and Weinberg who wrote
of the first three minutes
           and this poem in particular
out of that selfsame
            articulate cosmic soup
out of the petri dish
           of my heart and mind

John Lyons

Dove tales

Dove tales

Not born of nothing
but from a substance

extracted from the stars :
and so our mineral minds

reason with our feelings
hearts remote yet not asunder

and everywhere number
and simplicities compounded

distance and space all relative
the objects of sense and love

a noise that radiates
throughout the known universe

the character of the affections
so deep that either was

the other’s mine and wisdom
an affair of the embedded soul

John Lyons

The last clean shirt

The last clean shirt

So Monday morning
             I look into the closet
and there it is
             hanging there
the last clean shirt
             and it’s ironed
and ready to wear
             but it’s the last clean shirt
and I have a whole week
             ahead of me

It’s a white shirt
             and for some reason
I think of Othello and Shakespeare
             and wonder if he
was ever in this situation
             or Walt Whitman or John Donne
or any of the other metaphysicals
             for that matter —not that I would ever
compare myself to any of them
             it’s just a thought
but who did wash and iron
             their shirts for them ?

and so I watch the short film
             by Alfred Leslie with subtitles
written by Frank O’Hara
             and I discover that
the last clean shirt
             is a metaphor
for ashes to ashes
             and dust to dust
and please see that my grave
             is kept clean

John Lyons

Our self-made magic

Our self-made magic

Old poets’ idle prattle
         words that would wound
the wayward wind
          Lives hollowed
by the wearing
         of cheap trinkets
all celebrate
         in sanctimonious ceremony
the abject anecdote
         and view
with sour-eyed disdain
         the truth of beauty

So saying
         disentangle the nets of being
cut down the webs
         of intrigue and deceit
shun scarcity and want
         release the ensnared foot
and invoke the majesty
         of the magic we make
Throw out the baseless fabrics
         of fame and fortune
the trumpery
         upon whose nature
nurture can never stick :
         from spider learn
the fragility of life’s ladders
         and scorn the cankers
that lie
         within the body politic

John Lyons

Measure for measure

Measure for measure

This is what was made to be
         a world to be measured
in coherent time
         the ungathered rose
apple blossom and the smell
         of a new-mown lawn

Last night the sun set
         with a red glow
that infused the horizon
         with hope for better days to come
the bright Spanish doubloon
         that Columbus saw sinking
slowly into the Caribbean sea
         off the coast of Hispaniola

We make and spend our own time
         and all we make is to be measured
every step of the dance
         every beat of the baton
every phrase on the page
         something made that is to be measured
even love and even lips
         and hair that cascades across a brow
and hands that hold
         and eyes that beckon
and breaths that mingle
         all made to be in some way
         immeasurably so

In any canvas
         or in the simplest sketch
there are proportions to consider
         what the dimensions will hold
and what is made with the imagination
         soundscape   lovescape    lifescape
the fault lies only in the stars we choose
         she of the rose she of the lily
she of the dream-drenched eyes

and if I dwell I am seduced
         and rendered speechless
in a silence that is to be measured
         deliberately delicately measured
with all the courage of a culture
         that goes against the grain
that refuses to be fossilized
         but soldiers on into the intimacies
of affection and made things

Love is a thing that we make
         and the making of it
is the making of us
         a creation that is
free and faithful and spontaneous
         and delicate and forethoughtful
a multiplication of ungathered roses
          And so to her loving beauty :
peerless—that is
          measured to be

beyond measure

John Lyons