Words from the fragrant portal

Words from the fragrant portal

So the demarcations
of day and night
of here and now
or there
or there
of now and again
the rise and fall
of empires
as it always was
and will be


and love parading

through the streets
of Vienna
strolling hand in hand
under the dark
moonless sky
love in which the body
is taken to its limits
overreaches itself
pours into another
so that it is neither
he nor she

words against the silence

breath against extinction
life and death
universe without limit
time a mere drop
in the ocean

John Lyons

This is a quiet poem

This is a quiet poem

This is a quiet poem
: it’s New Year’s Day
and the streets are silent
the party’s over
the birds are relaxing
in their respective nests
there’s virtually no traffic

It’s as though

the previous twelve months
have been erased
the world is giving itself
a chance to freshen up

Lovers repeat their vows
their promises and stare
into each other’s eyes
It’s the newborn year
it doesn’t wish
to be disturbed
There are expectations
of peace and a resolution
to all conflicts

This is a quiet poem
and I’m sitting here
in Vienna awaiting
the orders that only I
can give myself

I love the sound
of certain voices
and their silence too
I love the gentleness
of the day and the ease
with which my lungs
fill with air and empty
each time I take
a deep breath

John Lyons


With corrections

Down by the Danube

Danube June 2018
The Danube, Vienna, 23 June 2018

Down by the Danube

On that glorious day in June
            we cycled along the banks
of the Danube
            alongside its blue waters
where swans swam in groups
            waters bound for Hungary
and beyond into Ukraine
            and the Black Sea

For a while we rode together
            but you knew the way
and you headed off alone
            and were soon out of sight
I thought you would turn back
            or wait for me to catch up
but you didn’t and I never did
            and I never have

John Lyons

 

Vienna’s Love Cemetery

Vienna’s Love Cemetery

Here is the place
           where the stone fell
silent as the grave
           Here love died
along with the music
           and the laughter
and was laid to rest
           No longer legible
the letters carved
           in sandstone
all flaking
           all gone to dust
The once living
           body of love
gone to dust
           every sweet kiss
gone to dust
           all time to dust

John Lyons

Time’s petty pace

Heredia_partil view
Stained glass, (oil on canvas)

Time’s petty pace

Tomorrow and tomorrow
           etched in the mind
the word that appeared nightly
           above that building
on the corner
           of Mariahilferstrasse

Neon strips
           letter by letter
illuminating the word
           until complete
and so it remains
           for a minute or so
before vanishing
           into the dense darkness
of the Hapsburg capital
           only to repeat

At times
           thick white cloud
hangs from the horns
           of the moon

Tomorrow and tomorrow
           time creeps its petty pace
until first light of day
           and the deed is done

John Lyons

Vienna’s past participles

Vienna’s past participles

The lesson is
            that we are all history
history in the making
            and that one day
we will be history
            our acts finally over
and our achievements
            hung out to dry

Empires fall
            and the palaces and gardens
become curiosities
            the days of grandeur long over
the vast imperial buildings
            with their tall colonnades
and endless emblems
            of power and authority
are empty relics
            of the past

and everywhere you go
            classical white statues depicting
every imaginable motif
            creating a mythic atmosphere
and it is as though
            it was all intended to recreate
a past in which once upon a time
            it might have been noble to live

John Lyons

Vienna’s Stephansdom

Stephansdom_Vienna

Vienna’s Stephansdom

How to read
      the intricacies of faith
chiselled into pale stone
      every plane every angle
and in the cool silent shadows
      weary emblems of ecstatic energy
of saintly narratives
      and terrifying passions

The names in the inscriptions
      gradually fading into dust
the corrosive way
      of the world
of all life
      humbled by death

What persists
      is the belief
and something of the love
      the kiss that outlives
the tears
      the cross borne with a smile

Through the towering spire
      cold winds whisper
and in the square below
      the carriage wheels grind
and hard hooves resound
      on the worn cobblestones

Yes a monument
       to the warmth of fellowship
to a common purpose
      expressed in dying crafts
an overwhelming art in which
      the devil is in the detail

John Lyons

St Stephen’s Vienna

St Stephen’s Vienna

The intricacies of faith
      the cool silent shadows
all things seen
      from every angle
emblematic art
      the pleasure and the pain
the terrifying passion
      the beauty of it all

Towering spires through which
      the wind whispers
a message that reaches
      into the depths of the soul
a monument to craft
      to guilds and fellowship
to a belief fixed
      on unshifting foundations
decor decorum decoration
      all the outward signs
gathered under one roof
      the devil in the detail

John Lyons

Rothko unmasked

Rothko unmasked

 Behind every mask
         there is a portrait
behind every portrait
         there is a mask
sometimes the light
         blinds us to the darkness
sometimes the darkness
         reveals the light
Rembrandt knew this
         Rothko felt this
we can see this
         in Vienna’s great
museum
         if we want

John Lyons

See The shape of Time, Vienna