Poetry from Allison Grayhurst

Middle aged white woman with red hair, headshot
Poet Allison Grayhurst
No Gods, no Heroes,
only women and Hector
The misdirected vengeance of Hera.
Grey-eyed Athena’s wrath and jealousy,
and Dionysus, bringer of merciless punishment –
(feral mother ripping the limbs from her son, unknowingly,
but when awakened, an internal bonfire grief
beyond extinguishing.)
Hector was the only noble hero –
shouldering his course and obeying his love.
Crafty Odysseus tossed baby-Astyanax from the towers of Troy.
Crazed Achilles knew only the fury of his passion as he
flooded Scamander with the cut-up corpses of his mad rage.
Ajax the Great impaled himself in service to his affronted ego,
and Ajax the Lesser – a coward rapist of the prophet pure Cassandra.
Give me one-eyed blindness, stay on the path, past
Hecuba and her wild rivers of unfathomable suffering – childless
when once a mother of many, Queen of an honoured realm.
Give me Electra over Hera with her young-woman’s devotion
and subterranean heart, tied to a father that would have killed
her as he did sister-Iphigenia
on the pyre-offering of war, victory and fame.
Give me a settled glory – my God of Mercy instead of candles, Jesus
instead of Apollo’s thick sensuous thighs or golden curls,
demanding matricide of Orestes.
Give me Helen in her betrayal of red-haired Menelaus, Helen,
daughter of the Swan, lover of pretty-boy Paris, Helen,
mascot and scapegoat of war, but never the cause.
Give me Clytemnestra over Agamemnon, daughter
too of the Swan, bearer of a mother’s authentic wound -
Iphigenia lost on the bloody rock
by obeyer-of-Zeus, mighty-father
Agamemnon’s royal hand.
Zeus, kind only to sycophants,
Zeus, serial adulterer, user of woman,
sire of many children, lusting as the sunlight lusts
for Earth, to seep warmth into her crust
and heat up the whole of her surface,
demanding offspring life.
Give me Penelope over
teller-of-tall-tales, Cyclops-outwitter,
slaughter-of-suitors Odysseus.
Penelope, with her patient intelligence weaving,
unweaving, keeper of fidelity
for twenty years, holding her own
up against the plight of a woman’s, even a Queen’s,
accepted inequality.
Give me steadfast Antigone,
crowned by an ancestral curse,
champion of funeral rites,
brother’s defender, daughter-guide,
caregiver of a doomed once-king,
embracing her savage fate with magnificence.
Give me poor Io, chased in her heifer-frame
from flat plains to cliff ridges
to Prometheus’s cursed crucifixion to
finally a resting point in Egypt –
Poor Io, ancestor of the brute-blooded Hercules,
who claimed madness-by-Hera turned him
into a murderer of his wife and sons,
who was no Hector, only
Give me Andromache’s zodiac-fingerprint,
for she held Hector inside the cavity of her loins,
and he loved her, and for a time, they both knew
Because there is a child,
there is infinity and grace
like a grape, crushed, filling the
senses – exotic abundance.
Because there is love between lovers
the broken shelf doesn’t need replacing,
the pond can dry up and no one will lack fresh water.
Because a mother’s love has no limits,
it stretches past darkness, obstacles,
remains fierce and tender at once.
She knows herself less important than that love and
all else perishes beside its glowing depths, worthless.
Because when others fail in love, God does not,
picks up the slack – gives promise like a shield or like
a bucket full of rainwater.
Out of chaos the primitive gods were born -
divinity separated to be comprehended, grasped loosely.
Because there is one God,
because there is Jesus – hands, feet –
the threshold of freedom in eternity.
Root yourself here. Tie the ribbon.
The ditch is now a road.
Because of mercy and forgiveness,
mercy as forgiveness,
we all have won.
Kick the tree.
The tree is a bone
cut out from the Earth.
Jump on the pavement and crack
it with the force of your rage.
Withering is not an option,
white-knuckling it
at the hidden horizon is keeping
you alive.
But it is futile, an out-of-tune song
wrestling for a harmony it will never find.
Praise the shellfish, the moles underground.
A world of faith is forming on your tongue –
you can taste it, but it is not enough
to satiate.
Release desperation and the anger that follows.
Feeling imprisoned was your default position
when being shepherded into reality.
Now you are new like Adam and like Eve
you died in brutal increments
and in brutal increments
you are being reborn from time,
unlike Adam, unlike Eve.
The stream you see is a blessing. The wind
is all around, and sometimes when listening,
it is faraway instruction. Other times,
it topples you over from its reeling power and at that time
you know for certain God is God
and there are no substitutes or shortcuts
or sure-fire prophecies
that will ease the fear of unknowing.
There is just that wind that says
‘Go here’ ‘Go there’ and when there,
maps out
an unexpected direction.
(while dreams swirl all-around)
Soothsayers and seers and shamans
have children, have the same
rising and falling stars,
cannot say “This is truth”
“This will happen”
There is only God’s voice in the now,
leading to the next step and only
that step until the voice comes again.
Even in times of constant accepted prophecies,
the intelligent threw their crystals,
took notes of the pattern
but balked at the interpreters.
Journeys to the Navel-stone were daily –
whore-kings and crushed-citizens
sacrificed animals and even slaughtered
their own offspring
on the advice they were told.
But God is one
and God is permanent
and us,
being tied to time,
are not privy to visions into the future, no vision exact –
we are all equally blind, and that blindness
is a gift that opens the door to faith,
free-falling in our days,
fortunes and misfortunes,
arms open to God’s ways and grace,
open like a painter choosing his colours
like a poet, her words.
ecstasy in the listening,
surrender in the execution,
gleaming, gloriously summoned
into immediacy, into an all-demanding
A Dream Suspended
Sinking in the void, held by
nylon line and my eye sees nothing
but that void, cannot turn to the
sunny above or straight ahead to
the insect landscape and daffodils.
So the void spreads and sprawls, and then
starts to whisper – touching the shadow
to my skin, making promises
that haven’t even begun their manifestation.
Visceral futility stronger than fear
as I dangle over that blank-space reality,
and there is pressure like living gravity pulling me,
tensing the hold, wanting me to snap
and plunge into pure nothingness,
become the state of vacancy, have no frame,
no barrier or beating pulse.
It is winning, I hear
the creaking
with even further taut suspension and
my weight grows, nearing that midnight twist.
A dream suspended that has my whole future in its hold.
So I call out for help like I have many times before.
Do I strike a match, pretending it is a star?
Hang like the tarot hangman over that dull and ruthless ache,
swing a little and I might feel the possibility of a breeze?
I dreamed myself untied and running, sometimes
skipping, brimming with a joyous equilibrium.
I dreamed there was no void, only a place
of still-time, a purgatorial interlude as I shift
from this flow into another.
Light that came
Light that came
from the unending grief -
black-hole of pity sphere,
riding, sucking in, swirling
doomed to perpetual collapse.
Light that came
from hours caught in madness,
thrashing in the ribbon-tied, lock-chain
shadow centre - vacuum plague, persistent
as a wild current and just as impersonal.
Light that came
and broke the shell,
reached in and lifted, lifted me out of
the drowning water. That light is
a cold mercy, a sharp sword as my only defence -
detach - slice the limb that offends and watch it
bleed with indifference.
Light that came
to a changeless darkness changed
everything once maimed
so it could walk again.
Light as a miracle, whispered -
don’t give hell power,
separate yourself, cage it,
and when you feel ready,
kiss its forehead, sing it a song
- lullaby, lullaby.
Glory, believe
Glory, believe
the evidence is clear,
brought to a boil and
now boiling over.
World molested by greed,
indifference and distraction.
The pitch has elevated to burst
the eardrums. Scavengers are
scavenging and nothing is left.
Old ranks topple, protection is
a thin veil, fear overcomes prayers,
prayers that kept us sane.
Children and animals are the new Earth’s aristocracy,
Bless this time of turmoil - setting
everything upside down, right side up.
Jesus still walks the barren roads,
sandals in one hand,
at ease with whatever is to come.
Let me walk - a servant
yet absolutely free to not serve.
Let me make an oath to the celestial night,
an oath to replace panic with faith and
uncertainty with light everlasting.
I see the light everlasting,
the wheel that is not a wheel
but a sphere.
Exit Door Closed
because the flame is still holy
but the moon’s cold cloak
has won.
Leaning into the crossing over,
sweet exhaustion, the love of
absolute rest.
Is this what the fish feels
after minutes on the hook, on the dock,
or the rat gasping in the trap,
lunging, flailing before finding
the peace of death?
Fear is not a name, keeps no company with surrender.
Holding the reset rose in my hand. I see colours
that please me, the brush stroke of renewal
and a house true to its inheritance.
Every hero eventually dies,
and their mourning is made
into a ritual.
Light of God, kinder than a mother’s wing,
richer than the formation of a new constellation.
My arms are enough,
even my meagre successes seem sufficient,
infused with Your light,
taking away the pressure of existence,
keeping pace with duties
and the honouring of dreams.
Stark Relief
Blundering, in disguise -
a gift masked in disease,
tongues imploring forgiveness,
love tested at its roots, glorious
as mountains.
Boredom and fear meeting in unison,
finding a strange fulfilment behind locked doors,
venturing to walk in the open air, take hikes,
sit by the lake-waters and dream, alone.
A gift that doesn’t carry a typical joy,
but breaks down the superficial slaughter
of what is truly meaningful, simplifies the one thing,
the all thing, that connects and is worthy of attention.
Love in illness, love at death, love in gratitude
for the lifeforce we have been given - its sacred mission,
not meant to be plundered on distraction and greed.
God is the only safe ship left to climb aboard on,
the only ship afloat on this burning sea.
The gift has come, and yes like everyone,
I am afraid. In my mind,
I join the people singing,
raw in mutual fear and faith,
a collective voice, harmonized, joined
from balcony windows.
The light has gone out.
Nothing is plenty or even sufficient.
The door opens, but there is no escape
just the long wait under an isolated sun,
walled up in fear and deficiency.
It could have been completed, sealed
into the account but darkness hammered
the blush from blooming, and yes, the lesson
to see was written on the Stonehenge, in
the past lives in an ancient Athenian tribe or
when setting five-alarm fires on the moon
when you were a golden muscle, ripe
and violently ending anything soft.
Greed gave you all the cards, opinions that
lacked a spiritual dimension. It will not come
until this ecstasy is laid flat.
You see – O Tantalus!
You see the stain that created your torment, unearthed.
Walk on it, shed its blood and let it bleed out
its deeply embedded drive and expectation.
Hell is individually formed,
a private backyard betrayal.
Walk into the shower,
let it cascade down and dissolve this last
unseen-before glitch – see it, wide-eyed
and say ‘forgive me’ say it and
be free.
Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Four of her poems were nominated for “Best of the Net” in 2015/2018, and one eight-part story-poem was nominated for “Best of the Net” in 2017. She has over 1,260 poems published in more than 490 international journals and anthologies.
In 2018, her book Sight at Zero, was listed #34 on CBC’s “Your Ultimate Canadian Poetry List”.
Recently, her work has being translated into Chinese and published in "Rendition of International Poetry Quarterly" and in “Poetry Hall”.
Her book Somewhere Falling was published by Beach Holme Publishers, a Porcepic Book, in Vancouver in 1995. Since then she has published sixteen other books of poetry and six collections with Edge Unlimited Publishing. Prior to the publication of Somewhere Falling she had a poetry book published, Common Dream, and four chapbooks published by The Plowman. Her poetry chapbook The River is Blind was published by Ottawa publisher above/ground press December 2012. In 2014 her chapbook Surrogate Dharma was published by Kind of a Hurricane Press, Barometric Pressures Author Series. In 2015, her book No Raft – No Ocean was published by Scars Publications. Also, her book Make the Wind was published in 2016 by Scars Publications. As well, her book Trial and Witness – selected poems, was published in 2016 by Creative Talents Unleashed (CTU Publishing Group).
More recently, her book Tadpoles Find the Sun is soon to be published by Cyberwit, August 2020.
She is a vegan. She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay; www.allisongrayhurst.com
 Collaborating with Allison Grayhurst on the lyrics, Vancouver-based singer/songwriter/musician Diane Barbarash has transformed eight of Allison Grayhurst’s poems into songs, creating a full album entitled River – Songs from the poetry of Allison Grayhurst, released 2017.
            Some of the places her work has appeared in include Parabola (Alone & Together print issue summer 2012); SUFI Journal (Featured Poet in Issue #95, Sacred Space);Elephant Journal; Literary Orphans; Blue Fifth Review; The American Aesthetic; The Brooklyn Voice; Five2One; Agave Magazine; JuxtaProse Literary Magazine, Drunk Monkeys; Now Then Manchester; South Florida Arts Journal; Gris-Gris; Buddhist Poetry Review; The Muse – An International Journal of Poetry, Storm Cellar, morphrog (sister publication of Frogmore Papers); New Binary Press Anthology; Straylight Literary Magazine (print); Chicago Record Magazine, The Milo Review; Foliate Oak Literary Magazine; The Antigonish Review; Dalhousie Review; The New Quarterly; Wascana Review; Poetry Nottingham International; The Cape Rock; Ayris; Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry; The Toronto Quarterly; Existere; Fogged Clarity, Boston Poetry Magazine; Decanto; White Wall Review.