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

Whitman unchained

Whitman unchained

Liberty relies upon itself
         invites no one
promises nothing
         sits in calmness and light
is positive and composed
         and knows no discouragement
It is as the fox
         as the nightingale
natural and honest
         acute and mellifluous
a law unto itself
         the beauty of candour
innocence with a backbone
         inviolate in the passage of time
it goes under no disguise
          A rose among thorns
its openness wins
         the inner and outer world :
deceit and subterfuge
         and prevarication
are its enemies
          It is the voice and expression
of the poet
         stung with compassion
It keeps faith with all
         who are enslaved
a taunt to the tyrant
         a scourge on the swarms
of cringers and suckers
         and the sly lice of politics

John Lyons

Leaves of Grass

Leaves of Grass

Nothing is finer than silent defiance
         advancing from new free forms
poems of philosophy or politics or
         the mechanisms of science
or the craft of art
         and the throes of human desire
and the dignity of nature and passion
         all in the cleanest expression

What it is to be alive
         and to confront the turbulence
of time with all its privileges
         and all its challenges
to observe the flight of the grey gull
         over the bay or the mettlesome
action of the blood horse
         or the tall leaning of sunflowers
on their stalk or the sun’s daily
         journey in the heavens
or the magnetic phases
         of the moon

Remembrance and understanding
         faith in the flush of knowledge
and the beauty of body and soul
         an independent eye in thrall
to no vested interest or party
         that thrives on the investigation
of the depths of qualities and things
         with all the impartiality of one
who loves and is content
         every motion and every spear
of grass every miracle of being
         that frames the perfect spirits
of men and women examined
         and honoured in awe

John Lyons

Here we go round the mulberry

white mulberry
White Mulberry

The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of the domesticated silkmoth, Bombyx mori. A silkworm’s preferred food is white mulberry leaves, but it may also eat the leaves of any other mulberry tree. It is entirely dependent on humans for its reproduction and does not occur naturally in the wild.

Sericulture, the practice of breeding silkworms for the production of raw silk, has been underway for at least 5,000 years in China, from where it spread to Korea and Japan, and later to India and the West.

The poem below was inspired by these verses from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

You have formed me of earth and of water,
What can I do? Whether I be wool or silk, it is
You that have woven me, and what can I do?
The good that I do, the evil that I am guilty of,
Were alike predestined by you; what can I do?

Here we go round the mulberry

silkworm cocoons

The low
         branches of morus alba,
                  with its wide spreading crown
         and scaly orange-brown bark pocked
                  with lenticels to oxygenate and

         toxic gases, and lush orbicular-shaped
                  leaves with serrate margin:
         dioecious flowers–the narrow male,
                  one to two inches long, the plumper

         at barely an inch–boys and girls
                  in slender zigzag come out to play.
         Twigs with silvery white filaments
                  draped with fleshy multiples of drupes,

         fruit, akin to the blackberry, from June to August
                  maturing. The larva fed on this foliage,
         its spittle passing through spinneret lips
                  so hardening to tensile-as-steel silk,

each cocoon
         wound with a single mile-long thread, the oven-
                  baked pupas, soaked in boiling water, whence
         five strands spun on wooden bobbins, the yarn woven
                  into the cloth of kings. So do not

         to consign Emily Dickinson’s breath to dust,
                  nor the intemperate slobber of Walt Whitman’s
         leaves of grass to the furnace, in all modesty
                  our poetry too is nothing less than solidified saliva.

13 April 2004