A mind of winter

A mind of winter

Today I have
           a mind of winter
a heavy frost overnight
           has coated the cars
with freezing ice
           and the glazed paths
are treacherous
as I make my way
           down to the station

now is no time to slip
           and break a bone
in the darkness
           A mind of winter
in which all things
           fall back to the earth
trees stripped bare
           to reveal hidden nests
a world it would seem
           in disarray
in which things end
           the only warmth
to be found
           in the arms
of the one I love
           the one I love

John Lyons


The necessary rose

The necessary rose

What Wallace took
           from Emerson
that the beautiful rests
           on the foundations
of the necessary
           the poet’s fidelity
to his office
           to the announcement
and affirmation
           of the beauty of things

All form is an effect
           of character
all condition
           of the quality of life
The soul is the form
           that makes the body
: the beauty of a rose
           is not arbitrary
it is the embodiment
           of a truth and only as such
does it enter our spiritual world
           and love is the higher beauty
to which our human souls
           necessarily aspire

John Lyons




The common English oaks
         cast a towering shadow
over the platform
         at Barnehurst station
the pedunculate oaks
         with their sessile lobed
spirally-arranged leaves
         twisted into rhyme

Time has again gone up in smoke
         as autumn has drained
their lush green leaves
         to the colour of tobacco
Clad in thick fuses of ivy
         from head to toe
these trees are doomed
         as their lifeblood
is slowly sucked away
         No glorious spreading crown
for these emaciated specimens
         no monstrous girth—
their acorns litter the ground
         cracked and crushed
under relentless waves
         of commuter feet

Time feeds on time
         a parasite that will
one day bring these trees
          crashing down to the earth
and so these rugged branches
         will rot back into the soil
from which they once emerged
         ash to ash
dust to dust
         But the minerals
will rise again
         the resurrection
of the molecule
         is not an article of faith :
oak leaves are indeed
         hands reaching out
to future hands

John Lyons

Blithe spirit


Blithe spirit

The poet and the poem
           the eye
and the landscape
           the painter
and the canvas
           are one

the field
           the campus
all over
           streaks and shreds
and flecks of colour
           an alphabet
of shape
           of gesture
all under the same
           heavenly stars

skylarks nest
           on the ground
their young sheltered
           in the dense undergrowth
until their muscles
           are fit enough
to bear them
           high into the air

they herald the dawn
           with an artistry
and complexity of song
           that suggest
true musicianship :
           the bird and the song
and the listener
           are one

John Lyons

The vernacular of light

The vernacular of light

Attuned to the eloquence of light
and shifting shades of darkness
all our perceptions coloured
by subtle changes of circumstance

a poetry steeped in mindful inflections

number breath and melody
the immense orchestration of life
whether in the busy thoroughfares
or simply contemplating an empty
landscape or watching the foamy sea
sift through sand on the shore

there were thirteen blackbirds

all of which took to the air
spread wings and flew out
beyond the poem back to where
they belonged in the innocence
of non-judgmental nature
poetry : the sacrament of praise

John Lyons

Prelude to the day

dawn of time
Dawn of time, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

Prelude to the day

Instances of what we are
           shifting portraits
temporal illusions
           dressed for the occasion
in which context is all

The sea retains the memory
           of creatures that crawled
onto dry land and evolved
           into the open air
our beginnings like all
           fresh starts
humble and grateful
           for the opportunity to grow

We pray for the gift of music
           for the gift of words
for the gift of love
           for the gift of human solidarity
for the fragrance of flesh
           freely given freely taken
for the imagination
           to move forward
leaving the past behind
           old lessons learnt

We despise effigies
           and make our monuments
from the moment
           we despise all that is feigned
that reeks of indifference
           and phoney affections

The authenticity of life
that love be genuine
           that it should never be betrayed
and that the tongue
           should be generous in its praise
of true beauty
           and all earthly freedoms

John Lyons

The poet’s melodeon


The poet’s melodeon

How constant this ocean
           gnawing day in day out
at the rock face : at night
           clouds move across the sky
their progress tracked
           by whales who keep
to the shadows cast
           by the moonlight

Blue waters by day
           time barely ruffled in the breeze
curls of light finely shaved
           a virtuoso performance
in which we are all the players
           the crash of cymbals
and the roar of horns
           here at our birthplace

Think of Wallace Stevens
           his obsession with melody
and with number
           his mother’s fingers
on the keyboard
           the silence of his bass voice
as he composed his poetry
           delving deep into his emotions
remembering the blue silk
           the clear warm evenings
the homeliness of life
           the beauty behind every breath
whispers of immortality
           in the mute nights
fitful tracings overlaid
           with love

John Lyons