Friday, 8 March 2019


I saw a swan sip the river today 
And I worried about plastic.
I was relieved when I saw the bread
Someone had flung over, enthusiastic.

I saw a counsellor today. 
Except he turned out not to be one. 
I am a psychiatric nurse, he said,
And you are not a problem. 

My kind of problem, he meant, 
and he meant it kindly.
No suicide for him that day,
And he was surely glad of it.

But I had been longing for a place to grieve, 
To weep my river of sorrows.
Instead I walked to the graveyard,
And paused beside the bridge;

I watched the swan sip, 
And sunlight dip,
On the swan’s soft fluffy pillow.
And I tucked my tears up, under. 

©Shaista Tayabali, 2019

Friday, 22 February 2019


The life I wish to live,
Lives on the other side of this:

Maribeth removes the cannula 
From the back of my writing hand,
But my nerves still remember Rachel’s
On the inside of my right wrist.

Seen or unseen, these veins connect,
Mapped in despair together. 
Mind is the beast to conquer, they say...
Hubris, I say. Body holds equal sway.

Memories exist in the pockets of cells,
Passing down the tales.
So nobody forgets. No body forgets.
And the mind is never tamed.

The life I wish to live 
Lives on the other side of this...

Perhaps I live it in the wish. 

© Shaista Tayabali, 2019

(On the one hand, I am privileged to be taken care of in an excellent teaching hospital by skilful doctors and deeply caring, efficient nurses... on the other... well, on the other ... is a needle in my wrist, a PICC line in my arm, twenty tablets needing to be swallowed... but if I may borrow a third hand - yours - there is also spring... and crocuses... and summer to come... if I am weepy for now, bear with me, as winter bears up till spring.)

(Gathering for Dverse Poets)

Thursday, 14 February 2019


Who are you, bug of my gut? Why do you wish me to be your home? You have turned my body into a battlefield and I look nothing like a warrior anymore. I am the slain defeated soldier, wishing only for the earth to open and swallow her whole. 

Campylobacter. Another name acquired to add to the list. Did you know it is a common enough bacteria mostly found in poultry? Chicken specifically - factory farmed, sad toxic little chicken... but also the plastic packaging which contains the chicken, and any fresh produce which comes into contact with either. So really, just about anything can host the little devils. Many people in the UK population have had campylobacter chomp away at them for a day or a few days or a week. But the normal body expels the unwanted intruder ... 

Perhaps we should all be vegans but we have developed such a deep and passionate art for cooking throughout the ages and embedded in every culture and nationality, that to erase meat and fish for the sake of the occasional gut attack, appeals to a select few.  We know we contain bacteria within us - just as we ourselves once were bacteria... 

Then there’s your tricky antibody deficient, immuno suppressed lupus patient. 

I had mysterious bouts of sepsis several times in 2017 until this bacteria was finally discovered in my bloodstream - where it should not have been. This is supposed to be a strictly gut bug. We pelted it with IV antibiotics and thought ourselves in the clear. But all through last year I have been trailing behind a sense of weariness, an unwellness hard to define. Was my dosage of Rituximab too low? Too spaced out? Did I need a new drug added in? More steroid? 

I travelled to the East, and seemed on the surface to have managed miraculously well... but every evening and by nightfall I was close to tears with whatever it was that was battling away inside of me. As soon as I returned home from Singapore I went into an exhausted depression under my duvet, and thence into the grip of fierce abdominal pain. Was it my kidneys finally declaring nephritis? I even wondered if I’d had a mini heart attack, so intense was the painful grip.

The psyche of a lupus patient is a horrible fascination. For months now I have felt despair and entrapment at the thought of this being IT. I have always somehow freed myself from the idea that the future is bleak because I will always be ill... but this time around I seem to have less will, less reserves... 

Today is Valentine’s Day and my present is that the medical team have agreed to stop the three streams of antibiotics that were eradicating me with their toxicity. It will take time for my system to clear itself of these drugs ... but the PICC line is still in place so it is hard to believe such a time will come. It will come. Will it?

I could have waited to write an article when light and hope had replaced the nauseating struggle, but this is real too. This in the middle of the thing, this neverending ghastliness that is the nature of this life. Waiting for the energy of hope to pulse within. 

Thursday, 17 January 2019


A radiologist rushes by
in a black wool skirt
splashed across with koi;
red fins, white bellies,
swimming in the creases
as she moves.

The skirt is from a tiny shop
in France; she says this sadly,
knowing she cannot satisfy
my craving for koi
beneath my own fingers,
in friendly wool.

I pass Fiona Sampson’s ‘Orpheus Variation’,
and travel up the long tube
to the topmost floor,
which tucks me away
from apheresis, and other humans,

and I swim
into the closed wards of the infected,
the diseased, worming in to join
the dark night of our souls.

But when the blood moon draws closer,
and blue Monday arrives, I arise
and begin to shed the creature that holds sway;
small sheddings are small victories, these days.
©Shaista Tayabali, 2019
participating in Dverse Poets Pub
(I thought about tacking on a different ending because the hospital did let me out, but only to reveal the next morning that they had found the bacterial culprit, so I haven’t swum to freedom yet. I have a cannula in me and nurses arrive daily to my house to administer antibiotics through a drip they set up. Something is being shed, I have to believe, or else the dark nights will claim me again...)

Wednesday, 9 January 2019


It circles round just as fast
and soon you find yourself 
at the end (the seeming end,

really, just another beginning:
another airport, another birthday,
Easter, Christmas, New Year).

And still the feeling 
of leaving something behind,
but tripping ahead anyway;

each day, each month 
a further clue, on this 
treasure hunt we call life.

© Shaista Tayabali, 2019

Arts and Crafts Corners brought me great joy over Christmas... this one a very reminding spot in the house, even after two of my nieces have tripped across the oceans back to school and friends. The children of my life come and go, I visit and leave... but small creations remain as memory).  

Artist Credits: Various Tayabali-Edwards
Poetry Prompt... Dverse
(P.s. what does the Inside Of Your Brain look like?)