Thursday 17 March 2022


I am surrounded by churches in the village where I live. Samwise and I turned right today, and walked down to the church past the railway line. It's a quick decision, and the sun seemed to be calling us thataway. We made a nifty getaway from his nemesis, a tiny dachshund with war on his mind, and made it to the church. Sitting outside on a bench with two crutches propped beside him, was a man eager for a chin wag. He was John, ex police officer, 57 years in England and still in possession of his County Kerry accent. "I'm Catholic,' he said, 'but I believe there's only one God and I come to this church for the peace.' His mobile phone was lying beside him - he'd been trying to get a hold of his sister to wish her a happy St. Patrick's Day. I asked him to explain the origins of the day, and we both commiserated over the tragedy befalling Ukraine.

Two days ago, I was approaching the other church (Sammy and I had turned left this time), and I saw a man praying his namaz on a prayer mat on the tiny triangle of green outside the church. He had stopped his car, and was observing the evening prayer. I couldn't believe it! At this very church, twenty-nine years ago, my father had been pointedly informed by the choice of words in the sermon that he would only be welcome if he converted from his unwelcome religion. And now, the namaz. I wanted to applaud the man for his... courage? Defiance? Simple observation of prayer? I wasn't sure. So I dawdled with Sammy until the man rolled up his mat, and I waved in a friendly fashion at the companion in his car. They waved back. And onwards we all went. If only it could always be this way.  

Grief, Observed


‘The act of living is different all through. Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.’


I settle into the graveyard with C.S. Lewis,

observing grief together.


All my childhood I was accused

of being too sensitive. 

And make no mistake, 

it is an accusation.


No one ever declares it worthy of praise. 

Not in a girl.

For how will she cook and clean and submit easily,

if her mind dissects and discerns?


When they say too sensitive,

they mean too knowing


It’s a Sunday and the church doors are open. 

I walk into the incense. 

Mary greets me, I like to think, 

and Jesus invites me closer. 


I approach. And see the candle tree, 

electric lighter awaiting me.


Every night we light a divo, my mother and I, 

keeping going the Zoroastrian fire. 

Here, the lights are blood red, not white. 

I place one like a star atop the pyramid wire.


I recite, out loud, a gatha and a surah,

binding myself to as many of the prophets 

as will have me. Come now rain! 

Come now thunder!


Why do I fear? The fire 

tree protects me. 

© Shaista Tayabali, 2022 (linked to this evening's dVerse Poetry)

To end in hope then, with news of another mother and daughter, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella, finally united in freedom, back in England, thanks to the determined, relentless efforts of her husband Richard. A long road ahead, of course, but a little corner of peace begun.



Merril D. Smith said...

Grief and joy--there's so much grief in the world right now. It's good you can find some joy, too. It seems like you live in a beautiful place.

My daughter also has lupus. She was a senior in high school--so also probably eighteen when she was diagnosed.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Such a lovely post, as always. I always love seeing Samwise. LOVED the churches with their various people in assorted prayer, especially the man observing prayer in namaz. I note what you are reading and am trying to find the book, which is not easily obtainable in Canada. I always love anything you are reading. I think you and I share "being too knowing." Smiles.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

p.s. Your poem is GLORIOUS, by the way. I love it.

brudberg said...

To be too sensitive really means to be knowing... alas there is much we have to know, and how can we not be sensitive to everything that is happening.

Jenna said...

Your poem is beautiful. How much I relate to the three stanzas about being "too sensitive!" It really does seem to mean "too knowing," the way my family used it. I was able to smell BS as a little girl -- an inconvenient trait to have in their daughter.

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