Thursday 16 November 2023


your cat came to me in my dream.

White, yet not entirely - she was real -
not as a cloud, she was eating lime.
Yes, I was holding a round green lime 
in my hand and she stole it to play.
Cats love to play, don’t they?
I say this as one who has never owned a cat 
or even, I confess, known or loved a cat.
But this cat, your cat, I presume -
although she was perhaps any 
of the lost cats doomed this Nakba - 
this cat, I say, knew me well enough 
to drape herself, Queen like, across 
my throat, as I was lying down in my bed - 
not the bed of my English home, 
in the country that questions me on home,
but the home of my dreams, 
the bed in my dreams, 
where I grew from baby to girl, 
to on the verge of something between 
girl and woman to be.
Protecting my throat, but also 
preventing me from moving, rising, 
perhaps even speaking - 
she was everything, 
commanding the wholeness of me. 
I feel her now - a heavy white scarf, 
a sacred promise, bound to me, 
as I to her - a symbol 
beyond my understanding. 

Ya Rahman. Ya Raheem. 

© Shaista Tayabali, 2023

Is anyone able to write much, if anything, at this time? This poem came, as my poems come, fast, as if in dictation, from a place of necessity, to tell someone something in the only way available to me. Part of me feels as if there has never been a genocide experienced this way - in the palms of our hands, in real time. And yet, the power of reading the testimonies of Primo Levi and Victor E. Frankl, not to ever forget Anne Frank, many years after the facts, did not render my heart any less broken. I say broken, but it is not yet so. Just chipped, cracked, rust filled, despairing of being human. This poem is dedicated to one of several young Gaza journalists I follow, like millions do, on Instagram, hoping, willing her to survive. She is Bisan Owda @wizard_bisan1, and the others are Motaz Azaiza @motaz_azaiza, Plestia Alaqad @byplestia, Yara Eid @eid_yara. Others have been killed already. I inch forward in this mural, baring my teeth through tears. 

(First image via Bisan's instagram page @wizard_bisan1
Second is a mural I am working on at home
Poem participating in DVerse Poems Open Link night)