Wednesday 31 March 2010

A Pheasant's Success

On the last day of March
a fat pheasant
strolls majestically
past the daffs
and half eaten tulips
matching the last
soft rays of the sun
tail for tale.

Belly warm
from freshly mown grass
he claims his part
of the garden.

I stake mine
by mellow English lilac
while the light fades
and my fingers
curl inwards
with cold.

Ring neck Pheasant with Daffodils, oil on panel, George Woodford

Saturday 27 March 2010

On Lymph Island

I live inside a cataract
in a dim and shrinking world
Peel back the blinds!
I bellow
but the clouds just don't hear.

I live inside a lymph node
A mean and shotty mass
I try to kiss it, to calm it,
to shrink it,
but the node just thinks me absurd.

I wrote this poem last year in October immediately after writing The Year of Yes. Poems sometimes tumble out of me one on top of the other, like an afterbirth, a kind of truth telling. The writing of poetry, for me, is the telling of truths that cannot be otherwise told. Etiquette disallows the real grit of chronic illness to be aired or revealed. I use my eyes and smiles for social occasions and my pen for revelation.

The lymph node. Is painful. My biopsy last year diagnosed me with necrotizing lymphadenitis instead of lymphoma, which was cheering. And is, on the whole, fairly painless. Except for one node. The right cervical node. I want to pluck it out of my neck, where it growls at me, thrashing and biting. I want to ignore it or soothe it or laugh it away, but this feverish animal on my neck clings to me.

painting: frida kahlo, self portrait with monkey, 1940

Saturday 20 March 2010


"If I meet an Israeli, I will tell him I am not a terrorist. I am Palestinian."
Amal, 9 years.

On a tiny strip of land,
miles you can count
on the fingers of your hand,
bombs are falling
to the rhythm of their own time.
They leave behind
nothing - only rubble;
if they could,
they would even take the sand.

In your mind,
run the fingers of your hand
through that sand,
sift through that sand.
Names lie in those grains,
of blood,
of brains -
the last remains
of the martyred ones,

whose hopes die young,
whose flesh remember pain,
who ask this question
time, and again,
“What did we do
to end this way?”
then plan their sweet revenge
on you.

I want to convince Amal of peace.
In dreams, I prevent your bloodshed;
but she will have to learn to live
with the shrapnel inside her head.

One day the bombs
will stop falling,
and the rivers
will overflow with fish,
and the guns that
little boys play with
will cease to exist,
will be exchanged
for gifts
of fishing rods, and binoculars,
to see beyond,
to dream beyond
the Gaza Strip.

Amal and her surviving brother, Mahmoud, amid the rubble of their home.

- Shaista Tayabali, 2010
shadow of the scarf, luke powell photography

Friday 12 March 2010

Journeys Into The Unknown

A few posts ago I dedicated a poem called Footsteps to my friend and fellow blogger, Renee. Her daughter Angelique let us know of Renee's passing. When I wrote to Angelique, the word verification letters spelt her mother's name. My own mother, sitting beside me, was moved to tears, but I felt happy and utterly, confidently assured that Renee, like all my spirit guides, will always appear when she is needed. I also feel sure she must be generously visiting all her many, many readers, sprinkling a shiver of laughter and that unexpected pleasure that only comes with brushing fingertips with the happy unknown.

Into a different unknown, travels my elder brother on the second leg of his globosocial adventure, the first part completed in Central and South America, this time to India. The journey began in Mexico City last October, and after 1000 hours of pro-bono work across 60 social enterprises and NGOs working with literacy, poverty, social discrimination, media branding and financial sustainability to name a few, you can imagine my pride at being his sister!
Of course, at the moment he is, as usual, cutting things very fine... the flight leaves in a few hours from Heathrow, London, and Rizwan is still very much at home, in Cambridge, watching the IPL cricket with my father!

My brother carries with him precious cargo. A few of my father's paintings for his friends. My parents' paintings have been travelling across the globe for thirty years and reside in homes I have never visited. Someday, when I least expect it, I shall come across one of their paintings or portraits...
Perhaps our journeys are not so very unknown. After all, we are always travelling together.

first image from Renee's blog
second image, one of Father's treescape watercolours

Monday 8 March 2010

Birthday Gifts

Last night I was invited to a delightful dinner party hosted at the Hawks' Club in Cambridge. My 'frock' received her due compliments, but I was also teased for not providing the night with la poesia. I soaked in the ambience surreptitiously, and on my return home, wrote this for Juliet, the birthday girl, whom we discovered was pregnant ... suddenly voluptuous figures abounded and sheepish hands were cupped around their own unnamed, special birthday gifts.

We, the twenty-three of us,

sit, among the candles;
our faces lit,
we bring ourselves to be
your birthday gift.

But beyond our smiles
and familiar faces,
still to come
are other graces -
unknown guests, unborn yet,

surely, birthday next,
they shall fill their places.

quote on postcard from Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Thursday 4 March 2010

Eye Meditate

Trying to meditate
while we wait,
sardines packed straight
at the eye clinic station

My nerve ends hum
with others' emotions

I breathe in fear
and breathe out tension.

start, and stall
Veterans meet
and greet
"Doris! Over 'ere!"
"Audrey! It's you!
What're you doin' 'ere?"
"Same's you, I expect.
Me eyes, but,
Fancy meetin' you 'ere."

Daylight melts
to a grim fluorescence.

Names are called,
pupils dilate.
We wait.

I continue
to try
to meditate.

This piece is dedicated to Keith Martin, my surgeon, my hero. When my name was finally called and while Keith gazed suspiciously into my foggy dyed eyes, he tossed a small nugget of joy across the tonometer... "I've been reading your prolific blog and I'm impressed." Woo hoo!!!! If only it were de rigeur to fist bump your eminent surgeon. Instead I settle for a demure, "Well, so long as you weren't bored"... while inside I am all glee. Le fruit de la meditation, peut-etre?