Friday 28 August 2009


I can smell bonfires. Barbecues are being flung together, and all across the country the last of the summer is being greedily and hastily drunk.
I'm sitting on the doorstep, door open behind me, open sky before me. If I were to start a children's story now, it would start here. With a wish on a fallen leaf and magic in the floating leaves of the willow. How fortunate to have lived in a world of stories, of creations like JM Barrie's Peter Pan, Beatrix Potter's Jemima Puddleduck, disbelieving Alice in Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, Richmal Crompton's William... Growing up and older is made so much easier for the spirit of imagination instilled all that time ago. Seems so very long ago when books were Books, and not 'children's books'.
Sometimes when I write a poem, it seems so very simple, so very now, that I wonder why I write it at all. I think how easy this moment is, how clear - surely I will be here forever. Why write the words when I am living the poem? But then something moves, restless beside me. A shadow, a reminder. In just over a week I will be re-admitted into hospital for a week long course of IV ImmunoGlobulins.
This has become the noble savage of diseases. It has become polite. We meet, we acknowledge each other, and then at times, I am left alone - to breathe life into old dreams, to conjure new ones.
I am writing myself into freedom.

Friday 21 August 2009

Birthday Girl Thanks

Birthday clouds drift slowly

On the garden floor, a green apple
I bite into it joyfully..

Two autumn leaves settle gracefully
in the palm of my hand;

A light breeze
and they blow away
like the candles on my cake -

Thirty one - I made no wish!
No need.
My birthday,
a garland of love songs,
perfect and complete.
Illustrator: Rene Gruau

Tuesday 18 August 2009

The Eye Clinic

Women in a Waiting Room
dress well for the occasion -
Summer bags and glad rags
and other fashion must haves;

No one would guess their
seething frustration,
the multiplied irritation,
of Being a Woman
in a Waiting Room.

Image: 'Women Waiting', Pat Williams from the Guild of Charlotte Artists

Saturday 15 August 2009

Stopping to breathe in August

Sun washes the house clean.
Great swathes of white wall appear, great patches of hot green. The evenings cool rapidly, and it is too dewy to walk bare feet, but the moss and clover are springy and tempting.
One lone yellow rose, reminiscent of July, and in the falling leaves - autumn. September on the air.
The willow has been trimmed, the winter lantern lit.
In this moment, everything.
Happiness, is this.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Je m'appelle Gabrielle... Coco

Many years ago I read a book called Coco. It was about a brief fling Coco Chanel had with Igor Stravinsky. All I really remember of the affair was that Stravinsky's wife knew when the meetings took place because it was the only time when the piano would fall silent.

Coco Avant Chanel, the new biopic starring the mesmeric Audrey Tautou, is altogether more enchanting than I expected. There was such an intense concentration of expression in Tautou that perhaps even Chanel might have approved. This is not a film review, just a visual recommendation. Go just to see the sea captured on film the way Monet saw it before painting his Trouville series. Go because a woman desired to work, and created with each stitch and hem and cut, a proof of the importance of female independence. In the end the love affairs do not matter, do they? They are en passant. Her work, the creation, is everything.

(I'm afraid the trailer has no English subtitles)

Tuesday 11 August 2009


(painting and poem by Shaista)

A Butterfly Up Close
Has Tattered Wings
And Feather Thin Skin
A Fey, Unnatural Thing -

In Flight
It Commands The Skies
All White Bright
Dancing Light.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Sister Free

Lost on the feng shui highway
I am directed by colour and texture
towards the eternal purchase
of goods, the bads and the other;

I am buying dreams
(red mules and voile reams)
Enchanted by the image of me,
the haunting silhouette
who escapes the bed, the blankets, the heat -
to become that other, the free.

Somewhere across the ocean
in a village by the sea
My sister is paring her nails
and humming softly
Preparing herself
for a little baring of the self
with the visiting wind
the tree.

image from my journal
Hiroshige's 'The Pedicure'

The contrast between the harsh black of the scissors and the delicately drawn toes is particularly striking. The herb in the bowl of water is Nazuma, used to soften the nails before cutting...

Friday 7 August 2009


Someday when I am old
I will sit just like this
Sun warm on my back
Olive oil on my skin
Orange peel beside me
Tang upon my lips.
Dreams fulfilled,
Questions lived -

Oh if only
I could get old like this.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

My mother at 15, myself at 15, Bombay
For some weeks now I have been losing my hair. Vanity, I bid thee farewell.
I do not know if this is the disease or the treatment. Perhaps Monoclonal Antibody Therapy is similar to ChemoTherapy after all? Gently brutal.
I had my first real haircut after I came to England. Until then it had never really occurred to me that my hair was long and 'needed a cut'. It was a part of me that was growing in time with the rest of me. At school I wore it in plaits, as my mother had done, and my grandmother; I even remember my great grandmother's silver plait, fragile, carefully tended.
So why, within a week of starting school in England, did I have my hair cut?
It was too Indian. I could not escape its Indian-ness; a cloud of memories I had to abandon for the sake of a new life, new friends. The strange thing is my mother had her hair cut before her very first trip to England too.
In the East they say a woman's hair is her beauty, her individual enigma. In the West they say, "Trim your hair every six weeks, by a total stranger who may or may not use a razor to make his point."
I have had 15 years of haircuts in the West and have hated every one. My voice sinks lower as the scissor descends and my black roots, hacked, are swept away before they fall.
Am I writing about freedom or burdens? I cannot say. All I know is that I cannot return to the days of heavy weighted sweet smelling curls, brushed languorously by my mother's hands. Only two photographs remain to prove that once upon a time when we were beautiful it was possible to be free and rooted at the same time.

Monday 3 August 2009

Say Love

Say this about me

say only that

you love me

- the rest

can scatter free.

photo by Serena at World Glides Sideways

Saturday 1 August 2009

After the Rain

If You Look Outside The Window
You Can See A Blackbird
Washing Itself
In a Puddle!

Come Quick!

Oh -
It's Gone.