Friday, 4 October 2019


My father knows when
the crocuses are out

And when the snowdrops
and when the bluebells

and how to listen, carefully,
to the nesting birds

between our rooms.

Daisies will come
and roses will grow

and perhaps we shall walk
and reminisce about the snow

and kick up some leaves
and weave up some dreams

while the world passes by
my father and I.

© Shaista Tayabali
(Dverse Poets Open Link)

Dad fell hard on the concrete pavement outside our house, broke his femur and had surgery a few weeks ago. His road to recovery is long, challenging and filled with his extraordinary light.

Friday, 30 August 2019


The heat! The heat!! 
The Amazon fires! 

Last night I trawled the house looking for a fan and came up empty handed... 

This summer has been a summer of children coming and going - one nephew and niece from Singapore, and now my twin nieces from Malaysia,  and as you can imagine their houses are designed perfectly for intense tropical heat, the humid or the dry kind. ‘Where’s the air conditioning?’ Bella asks, as she flings herself about in my bed trying and failing to get comfortable. 
Me, I can’t decide. The heat can be a tricky thing to manoeuvre a body so sensitive to extremes of any kind, but sunshiny light casts a sense of hope over the world for me. Glaucoma as a condition is a net of darkness, the thief of sight, and I am constantly battling a world of changing, shifting, unnerving shadow play. So when the strong summer light comes and stays, I feel living becomes possible again. Reading becomes possible. A house full of books and fading sight can be a tough pill to swallow.

Speaking of pills, do you remember the very first person you knew who took pills? It is generally an older person, isn’t it? Mine was my grandfather. He had surgery for a pacemaker after serious heart attacks and I remember all his tablets, and although vibrant in spirit, how frail his body was with his walking stick ever near; so it has been an odd business being the tablet taker from the age of ten. And wondering what the four children make of their aunt with her tablets, and eye drops and staying in bed so much, and chipping off to the hospital for hours and hours, and sometimes days, weeks... but after the ghastly campylobacter and PICC lines of earlier this year I seem to have escaped nasty infections thus far. (Touching wood madly...)  
I had some scuffles with A&E, am hobbling around with Achilles bursitis trying to catch Pokémon, balancing my days finely on excruciating migraines... a new drug and I did not fare well together and my steroids have been souped up. Rituximab is around the corner albeit half the dose and twice as far apart. Also, I had a birthday with hand made cards and some delicious Malaysian food … 

So onwards like a bullock pulling a cart I go - we go - together, into light and heat and coolness and shadows, building campfires for warmth, creating Wendy houses for play, wondering if the little mouse who was bold as brass on our kitchen counter the other day has run far, far away.


Friday, 9 August 2019


A small brown bird flies close to me.
Yesterday, a butterfly -
- white, monarch -
I scent my grandmother near.

She was not a poet
Nor a deep thinker,
But she liked the quiet,

Which was strange
Because she hated to be bored;
And yet she could sit for hours

On balconies, in conservatories,
With only herself for company,
A book, a ticking clock,
And the sky - ever changing, ever the same.

©Shaista Tayabali, 2019
Inspired by Vera, my beloved grandmother who died a few days after my birthday, six years ago... both our anniversaries are coming up as Vera and I were born only two days apart. Many lifetimes but only two days... 

 Participating in DVerse Poets Friendly Call to Open Link night ... 

Wednesday, 29 May 2019


Friends who live away, say
England's green is unlike any other.

So I stop by the bridges,
and let the green wash me clean.

Eyes, ears, nose and... breathe.
I know I live in a conservationist's dream.

The birds mark time with me.
Chweet! Trreet! Prreet!

Have you ever tried to transcribe
the song of a bird? It is beyond me.

I catch Pokémon as I walk - the game
that reflects our real world biome.

On my phone, in the palm of my hand,
friendly creatures snarl and land

feet from me, greeting me.
Old worlds, new worlds,

we are the other, we are each other.

All it takes is a different sense of seeing,
that I am you, and you are me.

Captured now and then,
and now again free.

(c) Shaista Tayabali, 2019
inspired by Anmol for Dverse Poetics: On Wandering & Observing)

Thursday, 16 May 2019


It takes an eternity to decide
to move one way or another;
an infinity of maybes and what ifs.

A bird muscles her way
through a series of calls,
like twanging rubber bands on repeat.

Nothing helps a human
to make a decision,
with clarity.

Everything is obscured.
We are a series of obfuscations,
an infinity of chaos.

Yesterday, my tears were a hurricane.
Today, I am sitting in a stripe of sun.

Tomorrow, the purpose I sought
will greet me at my door,
and welcome me home.

© Shaista Tayabali, 2019
For Dverse Poetry

(Auguste Rodin, The Dancer, 1913. Kettle’s Yard)

Friday, 26 April 2019


April has been a busy month. Towards the end of March I was asked to offer my writing services to a book project recording the lives of some of the folk who live in our village - a very tiny selection but hopefully a somewhat representative one. In between a plethora of interviews, I have also embarked upon a new drug called Mycophenolate Mofetil (I had tried it before and it had been extremely unpleasant... this is what the doctors call ‘re-challenging a patient’... a bit like facing an old foe in a new duel). A gastroscope wound its way into the mix with a bunch of biopsies taken. That left me a little bruised and weary.

At Easter my feet found their way to our local church where I bumped into friends who were arranging the Easter flowers. I ended up helping with the main arrangement by the altar, and marvelling that ten years had passed since I was in hospital at Easter, 2009 - the three month long admission that marked me on deep, unfathomable levels. A decade ago I had a clear understanding of what was needed of me to live, or rather, to go on living. In some ways, the essentials haven't changed - two of which are named Perveen and Chotu, or Mum and Dad... but I am once again, worn to the bone. To the cells that deplete, and replete, and deplete, and on and on... until I cannot see anything but the forks and crossroads and ahead, all woods. But where the flowers are, there the light still is. Here, a bouquet of carnations, for you. 

Sunday, 31 March 2019


I never knew the Kaetsu Educational and Cultural Centre existed until just before Japan Day earlier this year. I never knew the Centre had been hosting celebrations for Japanese culture for decades. It’s nice when you discover depths to the community life that surrounds you...although nothing really should surprise one about Cambridge... it isn’t London, but it is evolving beyond its origins,beyond fenland and university land to a place where different migrating worlds collide.

Back to hanami in the heart of town. I arrived too late on Japan Day to enjoy any of the food - of course, Japanese food would be the first to be devoured! But I did sit down at the calligraphy table, and I did buy some beautiful handcrafted lavender scented worry dolls made by Kazuko, the chef herself!

I was so charmed by a young girl in her grandmother’s kimono, that I wrote to the administrator to say so, to thank them for the day. The person who wrote back turned out to be the charming girl’s mother! Which is always handy. When people praise me to my mother, I know she appreciates my daughter-ness. Filial success!

Hiroko replied, inviting me back for an informal hanami celebration. She is learning the ways of the tea ceremony herself, and I was guest of honour. The matcha was delicious, so lucky to have had two bowls (chavan), and the cake and sweets were all perfectly balanced.
I read a couple of my poems out loud to the five women present, and later, when it was just myself and Hiroko, we spoke of her own literary work - she is completing a paper on the ancient craft of kintsugi, the philosophy of which has long interested and intrigued me. Kintsukuroi in more recent Western philosophy is the idea that even something broken can be made beautiful, transformed by the gold lacquer that holds the pieces together. Why gold? Why such care taken over something broken? These are questions Hiroko is exploring and I can’t wait to read her paper. 

Monday, 25 March 2019


When sunlight 
comes my way, 
I can see 

the smallest bird, high up,
on the cherry tree; 
belly, beak and leaf.

Lose that light,
come storm and sleet,
how easily I forget 

to see,
with memory.
All is lost to me. 

Then turn to the listening ear,
and touch my hand to 
curve of cheek -

mine, or yours, either 
will do. Love goes on, 

© Shaista Tayabali, 2019
(sharing with Dverse Poets Open Link Night) 

Today is the one year anniversary since my friend Shelagh Cheesman passed away. Shelagh loved spring, the blossom and the warmth that returned to her Raynaud's afflicted fingers. I miss her, I have grieved the loss of her, and I feel her guiding hand strongest this month. 

Our mutual friend Colette, Shelagh and I also shared a love of these doll necklaces that were sent by Meme, another lupus-pal who lives far away in Australia, but really only a heartbeat away by snail mail, and email, and her loving spirit. Onward we go, with the friends who take care of our hearts. 

Friday, 8 March 2019


I saw a swan sip the river today 
And I worried about plastic.
I was relieved when I saw the bread
Someone had flung over, enthusiastic.

I saw a counsellor today. 
Except he turned out not to be one. 
I am a psychiatric nurse, he said,
And you are not a problem. 

My kind of problem, he meant, 
and he meant it kindly.
No suicide for him that day,
And he was surely glad of it.

But I had been longing for a place to grieve, 
To weep my river of sorrows.
Instead I walked to the graveyard,
And paused beside the bridge;

I watched the swan sip, 
And sunlight dip,
On the swan’s soft fluffy pillow.
And I tucked my tears up, under. 

©Shaista Tayabali, 2019

Friday, 22 February 2019


The life I wish to live,
Lives on the other side of this:

Maribeth removes the cannula 
From the back of my writing hand,
But my nerves still remember Rachel’s
On the inside of my right wrist.

Seen or unseen, these veins connect,
Mapped in despair together. 
Mind is the beast to conquer, they say...
Hubris, I say. Body holds equal sway.

Memories exist in the pockets of cells,
Passing down the tales.
So nobody forgets. No body forgets.
And the mind is never tamed.

The life I wish to live 
Lives on the other side of this...

Perhaps I live it in the wish. 

© Shaista Tayabali, 2019

(On the one hand, I am privileged to be taken care of in an excellent teaching hospital by skilful doctors and deeply caring, efficient nurses... on the other... well, on the other ... is a needle in my wrist, a PICC line in my arm, twenty tablets needing to be swallowed... but if I may borrow a third hand - yours - there is also spring... and crocuses... and summer to come... if I am weepy for now, bear with me, as winter bears up till spring.)

(Gathering for Dverse Poets)