Sunday 14 September 2014


'Good grief.'
Is there such a thing?
Grief rhymes with thief.
That much is true.

I am always grieving.

Something has always been stolen
is stolen
will be stolen

You thought it was about love
but it is always grief that wins.
Grief who writes the books
waiting just under the skin
for a little pin prick
a little release
and then the slow unending bleed.

© Shaista Tayabali, 2014

I am reading Helen Macdonald's 'H is for Hawk' and it feels like a culmination, a coming home. Macdonald is a falconer who decided to train a goshawk after her father died. She uses words I have to look up like 'palimpsest' and 'annealed' and shares a world of wildness and rapture and wings. I've never read anything like it.

Every day I want to write, and I can't. At least, I cover no significant ground. A poem here, a diary or journal entry there, an email, a letter… but none of those hours one needs to devote to finish a BOOK. You know, those things that look like blocks, but come apart on one side. Who said that?* Someone with a snide sense of humour, and a remonstration to those who don't read the way writers do. Obsessively, compulsively. Like the pages are a nest you are building to live in, forever.
Except, sometimes, you don't have forever. Because you have advanced glaucoma and a metaphoric wolf snarling or muttering at you all the day long hours. At night I relax. Maybe the wolf is tired of all that snarling and curls up, close beside me but so still I can pretend I am alone.

Just before my birthday, a friend of mine died. She wasn't someone I saw very much because she had cancer and although we were both in and out of the same hospital, a lupus and a cancer patient share only a language of needles, sickness, wit and the long shadow of death and grief. We rarely share wards or infusion bays. Sometimes we do, like when Clive James sat opposite me and we shared Marian Keyes' Guinness cake, but mostly cancer has its own world. And lupus squeezes in here and there between leukaemia and rheumatoid arthritis. There have been so many deaths in our family over the past six years, including, most recently, my aunt Gerda, and so I think my grief over my friend's death was really a sense of exhaustion with all of the deaths, the private ones and the public ones on the news. We are bombarded, are we not?

A few months before my friend Selene Mills died, we met for tea at the local deli and she gave me a pelargonium. For weeks afterwards, I'd been meaning to write to her and tell her I couldn't bear to throw the petals away because they were so beautiful. She worked for the Cambridge Early Music group and the music at her funeral, chosen by her, left me wishing I could read music, play music, so I could have truly understood her. I am so envious of all of you who play instruments! But what I can do is appreciate music and extraordinary literature and the slow perfect growing of a plant potted by loving hands and a generous heart. And that must be enough for now.

*F. Scott Fitzgerald now that I've looked it up...


Unknown said...

except that you DO cover significant ground, with every one of the words you are able to write.

Maggie May said...

this was such a relief to read. your realness. your beautiful writing.
i am sorry you have lost your friend.

Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

as cmille cover significant ground with every one of the words you are able to write...

in that your ability to take time to write and when you do the heartfelt effort in the words and subject you choose to write about is impactful.

your attention to the word 'grief' is noticeable because your grief is distinctive.

sorry about your loss of friends and acquaintances

i wish you a moment of calm painless fulfillment.

gracias for sharing

Shaista said...

It's such a lovely surprise to know that you are reading me!
Thank you xxx

Shaista said...

Maggie, that means a lot to me coming from you, who very much represent realness and beauty to me too.

Shaista said...

Marco, muchos gracias for always writing such caring and thoughtful comments for me. I always appreciate your good wishes and feel better for them.

Infinite Riches said...

Shaista T, I am reading you too, today! Or rather tonight - or is it tomorrow now?! All I know is that it is 2:25am and I have been awake without rest let alone sleep since 5pm two days ago and I feel simultaneously delirious and utterly despondent.
But for some reason, I came here, which I have not been able to do for AGES, and happened upon this 'Hawkish' post (and several others too!). Plus a wonderful photo of an autumnal lane which looks just like 'donkey lane' in the village just by mum and dad's house.
I'm so sorry you're grieving. I have no words of wisdom on that subject (on any subject!) except that you must give yourself time...

As for what you're achieving. Well, when you look behind you, I know you will remember how VERY far you have come and frustrated as you feel (and I understand why and how you do), you definitely ARE doing things.

As for the hawk book, weirdly I heard a radio programme about her not long ago (I think it was 'Outlook' on the BBC world service - and it was the first and only time I've listened to that in months!) and she was fascinating. I longed to read the book but alas I can't read that or any, so am v glad you are and that it's chiming such a chord with you...

Sending love over the 'net from not-very-far-away-in-miles (but feels like another universe!), KTD xox

Infinite Riches said...

PS. I found the link the Outlook radio progamme online (I had to look for it just to prove to myself that I didn't completely imagine having listened to such a thing!). So here it is (and you can still listen again):

Sherry Blue Sky said...

My friend, I hear you. Grief came to live inside me three and a half years ago, and is always close to the surface. I am so often swamped by unexpected tears or voicelessness, for the feelings too deep to speak about. So sad your friend lost her fight for life. I fear for your eyesight and often feel the same way, as if I am reading (and writing) as fast as I can, while I still am able to. No matter how often or how much you write, we who read you are always lifted up by your words and we treasure each and every one.

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