Blades of grass


The dark side of coffee, John Lyons

It could after all
have been
blades of grass
rather than leaves
the cutting edge
of poetry
in a brave new world

Love is child’s play
innocent as the day
is long : and a poem
is so many words
immersed in silence

as Gertrude said
it’s a meeting place
where everything
is on the table
so bring your appetites

All I know is that
when I said
what I meant
I meant
what I said

You are no flower
you are no blossom
no alabaster neck
no peachy skin

you are the flesh
of my blood
the blood
of my flesh
my love incarnate

Look to the heavens
I have counted the stars
all present and correct
nothing dies forever

John Lyons


The pant and sigh

The spirit of peace
        large and rich and thrifty
that builds vast and populous cities
        that encourages agriculture
and the arts and commerce
        the balance of freedoms
nothing too close
        nothing too far off
neither the stars too far off

The poet who is a workman

        who concentrates the light
who turns a pivot with his finger
        allows no time to stray
is obedient to his conscience
        who understands how
the processes of life grow men
        and women and children
who talks of the soul of eternity
        as manifest in the rose
and in all creatures
        his thoughts hymns
in praise of things
        equable and egalitarian
expecting and believing
        and trusting in what is good
and upright and firm-fibered
        who sees certainties
for what they are
        and beauty for what it is
the preserve of the smile
        and the noble gesture
a beauty beyond the pant
        and sigh of sex
the beauty of fluent truth
in the beauty
        of words that are lashed
to the earth out of which
        all things arise

John Lyons

St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey

Inverted matrix, JohnLyons (20 x 20 cm oil on canvas)

St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey

The poet knew
           that true love
is indissoluble
           neither can it
be faked

Wild flowers
           and vines and weeds
come up through
           the headstones
that line the boundary wall
           in the grounds
of St Mary Magdalen
           in Bermondsey Street

The names engraved
           on these sandstone markers
long gone to dust
           and dead words hang
in the silence

What of the murmur
           of dreams
what of the curious
           systole and diastole
the beating and pounding
           of blood in the veins
what of the cries
           and the laughter
the husky pantings
           of these lovers
now laid to rest ?

The poet knows
           in the senses of his body
and in every limb
           and in every breath
that love
           is the pulse of life

John Lyons

The matrix painting may be hung in any of its four orientations. See Matrix in yellow and umber


Gridlock, John Lyons (oil on canvas)


I am a free companion
           love is a dream once had
never forgotten
           I wince at the bite of dogs
I was forged in the stars
           the stars will break me

I eat sea flakes
           and drink from the clouds
To be in any form
           what is that ?
Birds train all their lives
           to sing the same song
I hear their chorus
           I vow that one day
it will all make sense
           In the silence life is
what rises to the surface
           We held hands for three years
until she went
           her separate way

John Lyons

It’s good to be alive

It’s good to be alive

Cold and sharp last night
            clear and not much wind
the full moon shining
            a fine spread of constellations
Sirius very bright rising early
            preceded by Orion
vast glittering sworded
            chasing with his dog

In the calm splendour
            of the night
I take a short walk
            the earth hard frozen
a stiff glare of ice
            over the pond
my mind full of her
            of her last words to me
before the cold silence
            The bitter wind
drives me back
            into the warmth

I wake early
            my mind full of her
the lost warmth of her love
            the fond memories

Out in the open
            the sun has risen
I sit on a bench
            close to the woods
I bask in the pleasant air
            there are bluebirds
flying about
            I hear the reedy trill
of a robin
            then other songs that rise
to a steady chorus
            I stroll on past the pond
where the ice has melted :
            it’s good to be alive

John Lyons

Adapted from a passage by Walt Whitman

Going down of the sun

Going down of the sun

Sitting alone by the creek
           the sun still shining
a fresh wind blowing
           the grass and trees
looking their best
           every shade of green
the shadows and the half-shadows
           the dappling glimpses of the water

The wild note of a quail near by
           the quiver of leaf-shadows
over the pages as I read
           the sky aloft with white clouds

And now the sun
           going down in the west
the fragrance of oak and cedar
           light on the air
the inherent beauty
           of all that is

John Lyons

We two how long we loved

We two how long we loved

We two how long we loved
           held each others’ lives in our lives
lived among trees and rocks
           and cities walled with steel and glass
travelled down to the shore
           watched the infinite waves roll in
trod the sand and sheltered
           from the wind

We two who braved the bitter cold
           or sought shade when temperatures rose
we who despised the predatory hawks
           who seek only to pick life to pieces
we who dreamt of a land of milk and honey
           and woke each day to the scent of orchids
bedded all our hopes in the power of love
           prayed to the resplendent sun of blue skies
we two whose paths drew the same circles
           found freedom and trust and beauty and delight
in the simple day after day after day
           after day side by side

John Lyons

Out of the rolling ocean

Out of the rolling ocean

Out of the rolling ocean
           whispering you came to me
from afar out of the crowd
           you came from the irresistible sea
and I who had travelled so far
           merely to see you
merely to touch you
           was touched by your beauty
by the silence of your breath
           out of the rolling ocean

and looking so I feared
           that I might lose you
back into the cohesive crowd
           and so remain separated
in space and time
           the land torn from the ocean
and no more hold you
           at sundown when gulls
salute the air nor die again
           for your sweet love

John Lyons

Based on a poem by Walt Whitman, “Out of the Rolling Ocean Crowd”



The dissatisfied soul

The dissatisfied soul

Ever undiscouraged
the soul struggles
          grapples with the mystery
of all earth’s ages
          old and new
eyes and ears
but the soul ever dissatisfied
but unconvinced
          the same struggle
the same battle
          down the years
leaves of grass
          in the searing wind

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