Thursday, 11 May 2023


Plugged in
or plugged out,
no escape.

Even the monastery,
even the future 
of bees -

a stranger 
even cut down 
our trees.

We march to its beat,

© Shaista Tayabali, 2023 (shared at DVerse Open Nights)

What are your thoughts on FOMO? Fear Of Missing Out. It doesn’t feel like a young person’s social media phenomenon. It feels a very real contemplation when we are no longer (just) aware of our own mortality, but also the extinction of our planet and all species. This wire that connects us all, it’s a good thing, I think. But freedom from it… is that even possible anymore? Strangers did really cut down trees at the bottom of our garden one night in the middle of a storm. The next day, the wreckage of living beings, and shredded fences. There was no reason for it, surely, other than improving someone's internet connection? 

But then you type in 'female artist painting the internet' and you find the art of 16 year old Dimitra Milan, and suddenly you are inside a world shared only because of the wire. And I wouldn't miss this for anything. Anything, but those fallen trees.

(For more of Milan's work, here is the original link at Bored Panda and her current work.)

Monday, 1 May 2023


Daisies are out for as long as the mowers keep away. The vast arms of the blossom trees cast shadow nets into which we rest, before throwing and catching the ball. I’m usually curled up in bed before we leave and then, with any luck, immediately after… Sammy curls in beside me, when nothing more fun begins to look likely. 

In the middle of tulips and crocuses and flowers that look like fried eggs, a tiny snail like a tasty snack makes of the world their oyster. So far, uncrushed, still living.

And sometimes, a gate… leading to the unknown, where wild hearts of horses run free and the mysterious scent you are following with great interest and intrigue, may never reveal itself. 

Friday, 28 April 2023


My heart takes a lifetime to plunge.

Cold waters await. 
Is it worth it?
Freedom is easy to desire.

All around me,
the sounds of progress -
thunderous, clanging, male. 

Alone, half-naked, seeing blurred,
I read the verse of the first 
free women 

and inch my way in, 
to freeze and learn, 

that for me,
it is enough to be here. 

© Shaista Tayabali, 2023
Linked to dverse poets Open Link Night

It’s hard to believe I’ve been back in Cambridge for almost three months. I think I have accepted my return?! The water was so cold the day I wrote this poem… it took me an eternity to plunge my body into the pool… but knowing England was awash with snow, and I would have to face a different, darker, greyer cold, I talked my body into the blue. 

Friday, 30 December 2022


Is the year roaring to an end for you? Will it begin with a whimper?

Or are these anthropomorphic ideas of the tiger and the rabbit? Water tiger turns to water rabbit in a day. Or, more accurately, on January 22nd. I will be travelling on that day. I think that bodes well? A return home from faraway adventures. Air borne. Lupus in flight. 

It is two thirty am. I am eating a slice of chocolate cake - fudgy, the kind I love. The house is silent. Luckily, Milo, the Tayabali Tamaruke, is asleep behind a closed bedroom door. Would he have barked if he'd seen me? Or padded comfortably down with his nocturnal mate? He has slept in my bed, on my bed, for many nights this holiday. 

Oh, did I mention I am in Singapore as I type? I remember my first blog post about the big travels I (and Mum and Dad) made in 2010, for my younger brother's wedding. And then again, to visit my year old nephew. Time hasn't flown. It has grown. We have become more of ourselves. Some parts of our lives are weightier. Some parts baffling. I cried tears of loneliness tonight, even though I am surrounded by those I love. The human heart is a mysterious thing. Hence art. Hence poetry. Of which I have written so little, I'm unsure if I still qualify as Poet.

Qualify. That word is my nemesis. What am I qualified for? I recall at my university interview, the Head of the English department asking me why I wanted to do English at university. What's the point? he asked. And he wasn't even challenging me. He seemed to be in need of answers himself. Which annoyed me. I flashed altruistic reasons at him. The purpose of literature, the transformational nature of accurate, good journalism. The need for truth in a world of propaganda and prejudice. The power of persuasion in devious, megalomaniacal hands. I remember the professor's name was John. My youthful nature must have amused him. But now, looking back, I see how one can become tired and worn down by repetition and indifference. 

What am I trying to say? Oh yes. Qualifications. Success. And the stunning necessity of art, beauty and goodness to live alongside and within, and without. I have been blessed all my life to be surrounded by art, in every home. My parents' art in homes around the world. My siblings creating artful homes, which I want to enjoy forever. My eyes have troubled me this trip. New surroundings take a while to adjust to. Once the sun sets, I falter. But a helping hand has almost always been near. Can you qualify as a successful human being if you always need help? Thich Nhat Hanh would say yes. That is interdependence. I will be travelling home on the day Thây passed into continuation. There is significance in that. Perhaps.

I hope your last day of the calendar year 2022 has some joy and peace interwoven. And that our collective unknown 2023 ... well, what can we wish for? More green on earth. More ease after darkness. For our better natures to prevail. And for those who suffer, to have the possibility of play. To play again, someday.

Monday, 7 November 2022


September, October and now into November. This week marks the anniversary of the first week we walked into our Cambridge home, twenty nine years ago. People move houses like chequers on a board nowadays. And here we Tayabali mice are, scuttling up and down our corridors of old.  

Autumn is here, in the crunchiest of golden leaf. Dad can hear it as he strides the lengths. "Posture!" I remind him, half bossy, half loving. And then instantly correct my own. It's easy to turn into a wee gargoyle these days when you are still partially isolating from a virus you have managed to avoid. 

This may change in the near future... I have done the wild and bold thing and booked tickets to Asia for Christmas. I am flying into the future with the least amount of confidence I have ever felt - because since the pandemic began, I have had two vitreous detachments. The second one only occurred last month so my brain has not yet caught up to normalising these maddening floaters and black wasps whizzing across my visual landscape. 

Did you know that anger and depression/ despair are two faces of the same coin? If you could pick, which would you choose? Let me rephrase that... given a choice, you'd pick neither! If you had to pick... which one? One morning I woke up with a clear intent to embark on a PhD in Anger. Women and Anger. I'd have material galore!

Then I heard a quote by Ocean Vuong, "Care is anger evolved." So I'm thinking about it...

Summertime was Dog Central in the Tayabali household. We had Nikei the Italian corgi, Buddy senior the giant Akita, Sandy the miniature cockapoo and most recently I had Tess, an impeccably trained Labrador who had me throwing a ball 8,542 times. "Who's training whom?" said Mum, with perspicacity.

Sammy the cockapoo is still the clear favourite, and treats our home as his - he always has the air of a returning grandson. He continues to give us joy with his therapeutic hypoallergenic cuddly coat, and ability to curl onto my lap even though he doesn't really fit. 

What am I trying to say? Not very much. Just a wave hello from my falling leaf days to yours.

Artists in order: Hilma af Klint, Mary Cassatt, Helen Frankenthaler, Yayoi Kusama

Monday, 22 August 2022


At first, when the month approaches, I think of hiding. As though I can out run or camouflage myself against my own birthday. Why would you want to do that? you may ask. I’m not sure. A cumulative sense of feeling unanchored, lost, a questioning of the new self - are you the one I was supposed to be? Or have I let you down? 

But there were garlands woven by my mother, and my hands clasped, and kissed in the old Arabic style by my father, and his extravagant praise for the worth of his daughter in his life. 

A day earlier had seen us at Badger’s Wood, despite the heat and drought… the redwood stood tall and resplendent and the unbonsaid bonsai looked spectacular. 

Colette and Joseph made my birthday a day of delights and tales and cake, Mary Oliver poetry recited by me, a giant bear cuddled by Dad and even a tiny muntjac flew across the bottom of the lawn by the pond, just a little birthday wave. 

On the day of, I had afternoon tea with Victoria and Freya, and later dinner again with Mum… in between a gentle massage at the Grenville hotel spa and even my first delicious Margarita by myself on the hotel lawn, not a soul in sight, just Deborah Levy and I…

Dad’s blessings came earlier in the day. Later I found myself walking into the incense of St Paul’s Cathedral Church as evening Latin mass drew to a close. I wished the best for my loved ones. I thought of suffering. And I prayed for guidance in my own life, moving forward. Where to now, dear self of 44, where to now?