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

The glory

The glory

The palpable substance of life
             evident in all things
all that grows and flourishes and dies
             all that process of being
the glory of nature
             and we part of it
the glory of swift-flowing rivers
             and seas and mountains
and the endlessness of life
             the throngs of people on the street
seeing them and hearing them
             and knowing the ties that exist
between strangers
             the common bond shared
the glories with which life
             is adorned daily
and not least
             the glory of love

John Lyons

Without rhyme nor reason

Without rhyme nor reason

How one thing
         leads to another
a sequence
         a chain of events
bound by conjunction
         the loose links
that hold it all together
         the turbulence
of the spoken word
         from me to you
or you to me
         so that a bridge
is a relationship
         it delivers a message
a path of conveyance
         an enabler and a solution
the removal of an obstacle
         a static craft that ferries
the living crowd
         I had not thought
that the earth contained
         so many. . .

and poetry
         the impalpable substance
ideas and sentiments
         for generations to come
others will watch
         the run of the floodtide
but Walt’s text is there
         for all time
a bridge between
         now and then
others will see Ellis Island
         or the Staten Island ferry
creeping into Gotham City
         at night under a winter sky
flakes falling
         into the depths below
as you cross
         from shore to shore
the current rushing
         loose and swollen
by recent rains
         the white snow
and the white gulls
         their bodies oscillating
in the bitter wind
         one word after another
life love sight sound
         time for all time
and in the distance
         the march of money
that rises skywards
         that conquers the air
the swells
         in the swollen vaults
that lies sleepless in its bed
         gone the white sails
of schooners and sloops
         money into steel and glass
and the East River
         in its ebb-tide
falling back to the sea
         I too am with you
and know how it is
         the view of and on
and from and beyond
         the bridge

John Lyons

The great unrest of which we are part

The great unrest of which we are part

As I sat today in solitude
         by the rolling river
my thoughts went floating
         on vast and mystic currents

What is Nature but change
         in all its visible and still more
its invisible processes ?
         Or what is humanity – in its faith
in its love its heroism its poetry
         even in its morals –
but emotion ?

Fifty thousand years ago
         the constellation of the Great Bear
or Dipper was a starry cross
         a hundred thousand years hence
the imaginary Dipper will be upside down
         and the stars
which form the bowl and handle
         will have changed places

The misty nebulae are moving
         and besides are whirling around
in great spirals
         some one way some another
Every molecule of matter
         in the whole universe
is swinging to and fro
         every particle of ether
which fills space
         is in jelly-like vibration
Light is one kind of motion
         heat another
electricity another
         magnetism another
sound another

Every human sense
         is the result of motion
every perception every thought
         is but motion of the molecules
of the brain translated by
         that incomprehensible thing
we call mind
         The processes of growth
of existence and of decay
         whether in worlds
or in the minutest organisms
         are but motion

Adapted from Walt Whitman

How beautiful is candor !

How beautiful is candor !

We are of the earth
         gathered in a mass
subject to the same
         first principles
our inner and outer
         selves with the same
restlessness of the ever
         expanding cosmos
beauty that derives
         from sharp definition
so that things are
         as they are and not
as they might seem to be
         —after all there are
no approximate roses

The world is in our nature
         as much as in the badger
or the fox or the lilies in the field
         which is to say
we are the necessary
         agents of creation
here to use our dexterities
         and our imagination
to embellish the soul’s

We are the physiology
         of love expressed
in our kisses
         and in our tender words
in the portraits we paint
         and in the songs with which
we lull the heart
         We are waves of energy
turned to good purpose
         atoms bound by the bonds
of deep romance
         What beauty there is
in her candour
         in her smile
in the eagerness of her eyes
         what beauty in her posture
and in her poise
         in the elegance of her hands
and in the firmness of voice
         with which she nominates
the world around her
         Honesty emanates
from the soul
         and beauty is its own
ornament it requires
          no other !

John Lyons