Saturday 30 May 2009

In the Dappled Shade of Home

The cherry tree
protected me
from a too cheerful sun
and a very merry wind
that threatened
to send me in -

I wish I was
that fat blackbird
that king of the tree,

But I don't care.

What I am
is air,
the changing colour
of light;

What I am
is fragile goods
packaged in skin
coming right.

Friday 29 May 2009

The Homecoming

a lion at rest
is just as powerful
as a lion at war;
in your latent strength
and your battles
will be won
they are begun.

Monday 25 May 2009


I forget
to remember
all the things you say
to make me better
nothing commits to memory
save nameless longings
and a sense of cool
against my heat.

Time drifts me forward
a rock against the tide
I exist
to signify
the possibilities.

Monday 18 May 2009

The Fan

Some secrets
are best not shared
though they beg to be

Some loves are best left

I did find out who the admirer was. The gift was a fan, blue and flowered with sparkly gold stars. It was from The Lithuanian. I have not seen him since. Perhaps he does not work here anymore and it was a farewell gift. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps....

Saturday 16 May 2009

Blue Gorse

I am writing to know this is real
Not the howling of the wolf
but the setting of the Sun
to the music in my ears

Blue gorse and heather
just beyond the blinds
wave at me
wild and friendly
and free

Looking in at me
looking out at them
It all seems closer
than I think.

Thursday 14 May 2009

The Other Side of Hope

The Darkling Thrush
- by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

I received this poem from a friend who visited yesterday. Reading it reminded me of all I love of life - not least of which are poetry itself and the illimited connections of human beings. Not knowing when we are needed, we suddenly appear. And that moment is the right moment. Thank you Simon. The poem is just right. Those last lines! To fling my soul upon the growing gloom is all I ever want to do.

Image: Oil painting by Perveen Tayabali

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Dear Readers,

I have had a second blood transfusion. I should be bouncing off the walls with strength and energy. But I'm not, at least not yet. I have new poems, of wind and blue gorse, and a saint I love. But tonight I am too tired to dictate words of beauty to a silent sleeping world. I feel strained, sort of stretched. My red blood cells are haemolysing, breaking up. I have lived on hope for so long, have I worn it thin?

Monday 11 May 2009

The Face

Tonight, when I sleep,
Will I see the face
of my beloved?
Will I know him when he smiles?
I have walked many miles
On either side a brother,
a father, a mother
And yet my restless heart
longs for that other.
That Rumi, that Gibran,
that Titian, that Rembrandt
That business man, that surgeon,
That Afghan warrior clan
Break your mould for me
Make a space for me -
Find me a room
with a carved window sill
Carve me a dower of linen and silk
I will sleep and sleep
and wake to see
the face of my beloved.

Image: Photo of Kahlil Gibran

Friday 8 May 2009


If I should die tomorrow
there would be many sorrows
but the deeper print
of my name
would carry you
through the pain

Monday 4 May 2009

Mirror Reflection

I look into your eyes
So that you may see in mine
A reflection of your thought
In the mirror of my soul
I see you
Simple as you are
But you see nothing
Simple though I am
Yet when I walk away from you
A fragment does escape
And I leave a part of me
For you, my friend
To take.

I am leaving for hospital again in a short while. Tonight I will be back in the room of many cards, oxygen mask, and a military routine of food, drink and BP/temp checks. The doctors will arrive in state tomorrow and ask the dreaded question, "How. Are. You?" For a creative person this is the deadliest question of all. I try to think up clever, funny ways of answering it, sometimes the pain simply pours out of me in a torrent, other times I think how awfully, monotonously boring that question must be for others to ask. How is Shaista? How is Shaista? Better now? Getting better??? STILL ILL???
So don't ask how I am tonight. Tonight I am going back, away from the willow tree and the robins and the endlessly comforting air of home.
Thank you so very much for continuing to write, and care about me. Thank you Jeanette, Willow, Catherine, Maggie, Muznah, Maxine and Yin, and all my invisible subscribers - I'll be taking you with with me tonight, for the next stage of the battle.

Saturday 2 May 2009

A Wedding in April

If I were to marry
it would surely
be April in England;

The birds would sing sweetly
all morning and
The sun would shine brightly
but ever so gently
My feet would step lightly
on a carpet of daisies..

White as the blossom
pure as the dove,
My heart full and golden,
with love.

Dear Readers,
I know this is an April poem when May is here full of French and English lilac, bluebells, magnolia, and brave robins who chop and eat their worms mere feet away from us. But this is a love poem too, and love, the dream of love, is timeless is it not?
Someone, left me a gift in my room some days ago - and I still don't know who. A mystery! An admirer! My mother, ever practical and damping my ardour, thinks someone has forgotten it in my room, left it behind by mistake - mothers are never very flattering are they?!
I have asked all the nurses, but it is all very mysterious and interesting.
Since I last wrote, I have had a blood transfusion - 2 units of lovely dark vampirish blood, after which I felt all dreamy and peaceful. I knew I needed it a week before they gave it to me, but doctors like to wait until you really need it. The feeding tube in my nose has been removed, the catheter from my jugular has been whipped out, and my biopsy is less painful. Yesterday they started a new immuno-suppressant called Tacrolimus, because the disease is as yet uncontrolled and trying to creep back like ivy - sneaky, still fighting, but with none of the old rage and violence. Grrrr.... who has the teeth now?!!
So. The best part. They sent me home! Only weekend leave - but still... And it is all sun and wind and flowers and birds and my parents smiling and relaxed, and myself sleeping cosily in my mother's bed, while she sleeps in father's bed and he has been relocated to the floor of my bedroom :)
I think about nothing in particular. I rest on the garden floor and sing to the colours around me. I kiss petals and avoid the bees, I let the sky examine me, and eat! They stopped my cancer drug Methotrexate and suddenly I am in love with food for the first time! "Fish and chips with tartare sauce and tomato slices," I order, bossily. And lo, it arrives (well, mother makes and brings it...) - And. I. Eat!!

Image: Plum Blossom Birds, Meiji Period, 19th century, Namikawa Sosuke