Terms of endearment

A tower set
in the countryside
from the top of which
the old poet looks out
surveys the rolling hills
the patches of dense thicket

Above him the air moves
aimless clouds
in shifting formations
and a silence all around him
and deeper still within

No advantage
from this vantage point
the steps ascended
will need to be reversed
to bring him down to earth

And in the steps there are years
there are recollections of all the times
the roses bloomed and the scent
of lavender and lilac caught him
off guard and it was summer
once again

how at moments the past
becomes transparent and all is seen
as though yesterday
and all the accumulations
of personal knowledge
are there to behold
as real as the geraniums
on the sill

memory is in the nature of things
just as all is recorded for all time
and its presence is constant
in the faculty of love so that
under the spun sky no kiss
no term of endearment
is ever lost

John Lyons

The conversing mind

ange_qui_descend

                 L’ange qui descend, John Lyons (50 x 70 cm, oil on canvas)

Yesterday seen
       through an acre of grass
honeysuckle and petunias
       peonies and nasturtiums
and sweet lavender in the air
       and my life under glass

The rag and bone of me
       and all the years
run through the mill
       of the conversing mind
the long shadow of age
       cast not as affliction
but as an accomplishment
       classed under mighty oak

In his heart of hearts
       the poet knows
that the nutshell
       that the end of life
is life itself
       and that every page
is a stage upon which
       to strut his stuff

Pen to paper
       with an eagle eye
he surveys it all
       committed to the call
of truth – inspired
       if not besotted
by the frenzied memory
       of love’s youthful follies

In time the clouds
       will dissipate
in time his silences
       will ring loud and clear
the dead will cast off
       their shrouds
and the angels among us
       will dry their tears

John Lyons

Surely among an old man’s memories

Surely among an old man’s memories
there should be recollections

of the long nights of love he spent
in his younger days when the world

was new and the stars had lost
none of their brilliance

and the streams teamed with trout
and the roses seemed never to die

when he would wake to sweetness
to gentleness to light – content

at every turn of his dreams
the solid architecture of his life

built upon the unerring
beauty of her heart

John Lyons

Pale brow still hands

Pale brow
still hands
thin bloodless lips
she is an image fading
a memory lost
on the bitter edge
of a dream

Were I to peer
into her heart
I wonder now
what I would see
what of all the love
what of all the dust
we laid down
together

Where there was pulse
where there was breath
where our voices
once blended softly
there is silence and loss
endless separate
soulless silence

John Lyons

Seventy years and counting

Seventy years
       man and boy
I’ve known hawthorn
       in flower and thistle
and seen cherry blossom
       strewn across the lawn
I’ve known the solitude of crowds
       and the companionship of roses

My fingers have bled
       when I grasped the thorns
I’ve known and lost love
       and won love again
only to lose it once more
       but each day I dream
of a dancing girl
       who will come to me
when the shadows gather
       and night falls

in the blind darkness
       she will creep into my life
a warm heart embroidered
       on her sleeve and she will
spin and twirl in my arms
       until the early hours

At dawn the dandelions

       will rise in the fields
in the eaves
       white doves will coo
and the joy in my heart
       will be unconfined

John Lyons

Love’s refusal

detail

                                Detail, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

Dark lashes
       eyes abashed
reticent lips
       gentle wind
sifting the hair
       a vulnerable beauty
built of taut flesh
       and supple bone
that must step out
       into the world

Sometimes words
       get the better of her
and she turns in
       upon herself
no mirror can
       hold her for long
nor any man’s arms
       nor moon her night
she is a truth
       waiting to be told

John Lyons

My heart laid bare

stains_s

                                 X-Ray, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

Let’s call it songrise
when the light breaks
across the horizon
and sparrows come
to sing at my window

Hers was a face made
before the world was born
formed from the energy
of dark drifting stars
her hair spun from silence

Here let my heart be laid bare
muscular intuitions shaped
in the vanity of words
All things may be numbered
days years and the hours

in which love multiplies
in endless invention
How many times did I kiss
those scarlet lips and look
into those soft tempting eyes 

John Lyons

Helpless love

grapevine
           Grapevine, John Lyons

What shall I do
with this absurdity
this universe in which
silence and stillness
simply do not exist

I think of whispered words
the tightened bow of her beauty
the ships on the shores of Troy
the blazing battlements
and a heart under siege

The rod and fly that I handled
so poorly as a boy when I fished
the streams around Thomastown
days long forgotten dearly remembered
What shall I do with this absurdity

the mule that I rode or the horse
or the donkey or a day at the fair
riding the carrousel with scarcely
a dream in my heart just an old tune
: or adrift in the water

under sail off the Brittany coast
under a fierce summer sun
and something stirred within me
and I held her soft face in my gaze
and fell forever into helpless love

John Lyons

Love – an artifice of eternity

debris
                       Débris, John Lyons (40 x 40, mixed media on canvas)

The fact is that we grow into our age
a generation among generations

perhaps the flesh tires but the soul never
the spirit that drives us forward

the pursuit not of intellect but of love
whatever lights a fire under our emotions

From conception to birth to our passing
the cycle is relentless and justly so –

no rose or magpie aspires to immortality
though wild salmon run the rapids

to perpetuate their nameless lineage
The day is there for us to behold

the moments for us to savour the delights
of breath and feel the pulse of life

coursing through our veins : a gentle kiss
is all it takes to lift us up to heaven

John Lyons

How gently she moves

How gently she moves
       through my mind
an image without words
       a fleeting presence
and how the quiet returns
       in moments of respite

Who among us
       has never loved in vain
has never fought
       for a cause that was
doomed to failure or turned
       an eager hand
for it to come
       to naught

But there is no pain
       in the imagining
or when we shake down
       the dust of distant days
Our dreams our hopes
       wind in circles that recur

old tunes rattled out
       on an ageing gramophone
the long-legged flies
       that scuttled across
the shallow pond’s
       smooth summer surface

our lives a convoluted
       race against time
and all the while obsessed
       with truth and beauty
a lonely face that flashed
       before my eyes
a whisper barely heard
       before it dies

John Lyons