Friday 8 July 2016


My father knows when great men 
were born, and when they wrote
the works that brought them fame.

When empires fell, and why
our history books fail
us, time and again.

He teaches me how to listen 
for the silences, the in-between states,
the graceful exits of saints.

Two birds fly past me
and out of sight. My father knows
when the birds come, and when the rain.

Watch for the thread, he says, 
and I see it. I feel it strain, trying to maintain 
our broken wings, our feathered remains.

We are tied together, my father and I
and you, echoing souls, gathering close
and closer by the day.  

Saturday 2 July 2016


for Jo Cox

I would have let you see me
if only you had asked.
I would have looked into your soul
and listened; sama,
the Sufis call it, as they whirl
in whorls of dhikr, remembrance.
Remember me now that I am gone
far away into a muted land,
where my heart’s beats are unsteady
and my eyes are blind.
Something came for me
before I was ready. You came for me,
with knife and gun, the old
and the new; in case one failed,
the other would protect you.
You were scared of me, a girl
who packed toothpaste in summer
and mothered two babies
who know you now, who know
the face of hate
but long before they knew you
they knew the face of love,
of hope blossoming, of hearts
healing, and eyes seeing beyond
this breathless fabric you wrapped
around me.
At night you lie awake
and think of me; you cannot
forget my surprise – you thought
I would expect you
but you see, Friend, I thought
only the best of you.

- Shaista Tayabali, 2016

I was recently contacted by the editor of Visual Verse magazine. She hoped I would contribute to July's edition of poetry inspired by imagery. The photograph chosen was 'Unsplash' by Oscar Keys. I had been thinking about Jo Cox; many of us have, as waves of xenophobia echo around the globe. What a remarkable human being she was, unknown to most of us until known for this act of fear, of violence, of hatred committed upon her body. When Istanbul was bombed the other day, I turned to my father for comfort - and he reminded me that though these heinous acts occur, so also do acts of extraordinary kindness, compassion, generosity. 'We don't hear about those,' he said, 'but they occur many times, more times than any of these atrocities.' All we see are the worst of ourselves. Perhaps we are looking in the wrong places?