Wednesday, 28 April 2010

In the Spring of Five Hundred Tulips

In the Spring of five hundred tulips
the butterfly arrived again.
A brief flying visit
to examine the cherry and birch
before her summer sojourn.
I did see her.
I did not imagine her.
But that was weeks ago.
The tulips are fading now,
blown out, rusty at the edges,
pouting at the heat
creeping in.
We put out worms
for the birds, dried and brittle,
but it was the monkjack
who ate the tulips,
a feast of five hundred tulips,
while we waited and watched
the end of Spring.

Rain is in the earth today.
I am walking on rain today.
Hot yellow daisies grow fast
and thick around my feet.
And where the cherry tree stands,
the green is littered with white starlight.
Fallen blossom everywhere.
I am walking on stars.
And reading aloud from the stories of saints
to the listening birds and flies and worms...

I will be in hospital as you read this, attached to the drips for monoclonal antibody therapy.
I haven't been doing much lately, just hurting, like an ancient grandfather clock that needs winding soon. What is that lovely English saying? I am running Out of Puff!

So for now, I shall walk on a little more. On rain. And fallen stars.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Real Women Have Curves

Real women who jump,
start revolutions
Her feet mark earth
when they fall.

Real women have curves,
dreams, tears,
places to store
the unbroken seams
of her identities.

Hijabi pilots, poets,
new world leaders,
queens, ministers,
saints and healers.

Real women have curves,
throw curves,
Arc the courses
of other lives
Are loathed or envied
or villified
Become saintly
and sanctified

though she never aspired
to inspire
the quiet housewife
to fire.

- Shaista Tayabali, 2009

images: some of my favourite real women, Queen Rania and Michelle Obama, Mother Theresa and Lady Diana, Dr Maya Angelou

The title of this piece is also the title of a play by Josefina Lopez, which was eventually made into a film starring America Ferrera - both are just wonderful!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Hanami sakura

Spring which starts in March and stays till May is a very busy period in Japan. It is the season when the most beautiful festival of Hanami is celebrated. The Sakura trees (or the cherry blossoms) all over Japan come into bloom for between seven to ten days. People hold outdoor parties to view the cherry blossoms.

Emperor Sage of the Heian period held flower-viewing parties with sake and feasted underneath the blossoming boughs of sakura trees in the Imperial Court in Kyoto. Poems were written praising the delicate flowers, which were seen as a metaphor for life itself, luminous, beautiful, fleeting, ephemeral.

Can one celebrate Hanami even when tragedy occurs? Can one bear the joy of new beginnings all around when one has lost or is grieving?

I ask this because the beloved Japanese family who housed and adopted my younger brother when he was teaching in Japan, have suffered a tragedy. Their younger daughter Yuki, my brother's friend, has died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack.

This is my Hanami sakura poem for her, and for my brother.

Yuki, the cherry tree
is quietly blooming now
but the wind is so impatient
some petals are floating down.

my mother and I
stood in the doorway
watching the willow
Green leaves are perfect in spring.

the scent of rain is here
I am drinking hot tea
sweet with memories
and listening to birds sing.

Yuki, the cherry tree
is empty now
the wind stole all the petals
but the earth is full
with warm white snow
and I know
you will return soon.
The cherry tree
will bloom again
and I know
you will return soon.
Shaista, copyright 2010
images from greg takanama hanami & cherry blossoms anime blog

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter, A Moveable Feast

From the blog post of April 12th, Easter Sunday
Day 40. Forty days and forty nights. Wasn't Jesus tested for forty days and nights before Gethsemane? The central line tubing in my jugular was placed successfully but the three access tubes connected to the main catheter weigh heavy on my neck. The last four days have been so unbearable that I too feel I have been abandoned and forsaken by the One I trusted to watch over me and ease my suffering.

I have been remembering my Easter of a year ago. It was a special time, unforgettable. Many of the days and nights of my 84 days in hospital are remembered now only through my blog, through moments of lucid poetry. But the Easter weekend is clear. I had a new consultant, a temporary Easter consultant. And he was extraordinarily kind to me. He arrived at the hospital every day, on his bike, to see me. He would stride quickly into the room, greet my father respectfully, draw up a chair, and smile. "Now Shaista, what are you up to today?!!"
And I would release pent up passion and vociferous semi-medical jargon, making completely unreasonable demands such as, "Are you with me or against me?" and reasonable demands such as, "I need a blood transfusion now!"

We mark our lives by different anniversaries. Easter is one of mine. I am here. Alive. How could it be otherwise on a day of resurrection? How do you give thanks for the miracle of life?

I read something interesting today about the holy city of Jerusalem. As you know, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the ultimate destination for any Jerusalem pilgrimage, and six Christian denominations consider themselves its custodians - the Roman Catholics, the Greek Orthodox, Armenian apostolics, the Coptics, Ethiopians and the Syriacs. But did you also know that for a thousand years, since the time of Saladdin, the main entrance to the Church has been entrusted to two Muslim families, the Joudeh, who have the key, and the Nusseibeh, who have been custodians since the days of Caliph Omar in 637. A Joudeh family member is still on hand twice a day to bring the key to the door which is locked and unlocked by a Nusseibeh.

This beautiful merging of unexpected histories, the unimaginable kindnesses of being human, the resurrection of hope, this is Easter for me.
photography: Guy Raivitz, a Coptic nun at the doorway of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem