Poetry from Allison Grayhurst

Illusions Burned, Radiant Light Restored

Poet Allison Grayhurst

 

Part 1 – Exiled into a Ruthless Land

 

Time without becoming

 

***

 

It won’t work.

You thought it would work, but it won’t.

Clutched jaw, vermin making nests

in your gut, melted silver pouring

over your extremities, hot-plate

your whole hand must rest upon.

And here, you are supposed to find peace,

but you can’t. You can’t even glance

at that inhospitable land, can’t even step

a toe into its puddle of spittle without sinking,

leaves you

like a mad crow cawing aimlessly here, there

across the sky.

Stones here, fish there, people moving,

going where they want to, and you, stuck, perpetually,

feet locked in the mire – misquotes buzzing,

barely a light across the moor.

You hoped it would work. You believed,

and in that belief, you touched happiness

for weeks, woke up thinking this hell

was wrapped and sealed, that your freedom

could be activated and somehow

a great merciful tide would come

and clear a path.

But now you know it won’t work.

Now you know who you are,

a broken umbrella that won’t work.

Fated to feel the impossible tension

of who you are and who you wish you could be.

The birds are somebodies. Each tiny sparrow,

worth embracing. You wish you held value

like the sparrow or even a cloud

that for a moment

gives relief from a relentless sun.

You wish you could carry this weight

a little longer. But both your arms are broken.

Your heart too.

***

 

A greater force or just

this dull aching horror of

no-truth, no-connection

just the pound pound plaster-cast-mould

of what could-be, used-to-be, never-really-was.

 

Make me a hole big enough to escape from,

to join the flight of burning gods, retreating like they did,

into myth-oblivion. Pull the seasons from my mind,

memories when I thought love would sustain,

maintain its potency in spite of age,

desolation and disappointment.

 

Every ideal I held sacred has crumbled,

bread crumbs now,

smaller than pebble stones scattered on patio steps,

never existing at all.

 

I am a placeholder substitute there to feed,

provide shelter but never home.

I am blind, unchallenged, beyond the limit for redemption.

 

I am fighting the sea and the sea does not panic,

lives within

its own self-directed rhythm.

 

The sea’s flesh is stronger than my marrow, than a war-cry,

than the binding-ties of loved ones lost and buried.

The sea will receive me, not because I am special,

but because that is what it does.

 

My fight is fire, but only mortal, and the sea

has my body, fills my pores and lungs,

takes me below.

***

 

This is the voice

that heralds and hardens,

sunk, elusive

far from any shore.

 

Colours, saturated with salt,

whose better business taken up

and bloated, dulled of any identity.

 

This is the rhythm,

once so exact and necessary,

fallen below, muffled, interrupted,

spliced into unrecognizable dead forms.

 

This is the time spent

answering a calling, a duty

of divine command, slack now

as a pierced jellyfish,

abstract enough to be ignored.

 

This is the voice

that burst forth from my fire,

moved with violence into the light,

showed wings, a detailed face,

survival’s thundering veins.

 

This is the voice

I thought would crack the sun a little,

crack the mind to let leak in

a delicious deepened dimension.

 

I risked a destiny but failed to germinate.

Now I take up my luggage and wander the streets

with that voice,

 

claiming revenge in aggressive madness,

(a quiet vapour only

when children pass by.)

***

 

Tid-bits, burnt toast, is that the substance

of intensity or is brave conviction

only recognized in another world

or in heaven?

 

But heaven will not have me,

no matter how hard I swing it – heaven stays

a meditation mirage, a glimpse taken in,

taking me down,

not worth a fraction of the effort

I put into vaulting for peace.

 

Failed as a sunrise over a prison cell in dungeon ground.

Failed as condolences to the bereaved, or a sandwich

made, placed in the hands of the dying.

 

I took a step and crushed a flower.

I covered myself with blankets and lost

the willpower to breathe.

 

Truck overloaded with debris

driving straight toward me.

I should leap onto safe ground,

but there are high cliffs on either side.

I should lie flat and hope the wheels go between,

not crush my ribs, my femur, my pinky toe.

 

How can I welcome the spring?

What should I do?

Over and over the cut hand

escaping the hold, briefly,

then back, barred and shackled

by fool’s gold.

 

 

Part 2 – Defeat Masked as Acceptance

 

 

Blossoms That Resist Their Bloom

 

***

 

Dashed against

the sidewalk curb,

opened up, cracked into

pieces. No sooner

the storm rains came and

washed me down the sewer drain

into pipes I’d rather not go.

But who lives here, in the invalid waters?

Creatures thriving on the potent scent and grim.

Creatures with their own rapport, societies, and even

love.

I will be the necklace you wear in the dim corner.

You keep saying one step one step, and

I will keep afloat in this sewage substance,

to not settle among the other mutations,

subjections – the great bowing down.

But remember, once I was a ruler,

doling out punishments and gifts upon

my erratic whims.

Once I cramped my mind with violence,

brooded on the sliced-throat of revenge.

That is why I am here,

backside floating in watered-down excrement,

barred between metal pipe walls.

If mercy is available, I will take it.

If not, like you said, one step, one step.

 

Cherry dreams are Cherry dreams.

Courage when cornered

is more.

 

***

 

Biting the marrow

of obscurity, planting my wisdom

in plastic pots – passages I conquered,

steps I took, cut through the dreamy level

into the ruthless underbelly formations

tainted, untainted complexities,

 

but only

trite verbiage gets attention and eternity is

sucked into a keyhole darkness.

Lightweight riders riding,

applauding the trickle made from accidental saliva,

giving credence to feel-good epigrams, lacking in literature

and monumental sway.

 

God said paint, so I painted. God said break, so

I broke – the canvas, my heart and sanity.

Starving in the shadowland, frozen, cast out

in the middle of a dead lake.

 

Fire is a world of two masters. In its light

there is a reunion of acts, a sealed equal pact

between purification and destruction.

 

My roots are strong, no doubt, I have grown

high and thick-trunked, gathering greenery, but

in an empty field, empty of roads and wildlife,

empty of a steady stream.

***

 

The dark part

The lost part

the found-again not-wanted part

has arrived like a package at my door.

 

Purgatory leaning to pick it up, shake it up

and take scissors to the outline.

Inside is a mask made of fish-skin

containing a nameless vibration,

an unshifting necessity to put on, wear

and fit in.

 

I want to dispose of it, crush it then

rip it into tiny pieces, drop it down a sewer grate

far far from my home – maybe even take a bus

to another city and leave it there,

deep underground where no trace of it remans.

 

The tormenting part

The hard-concrete-wet-prison-floor part

The chained-to-the-wall part

is again, at my door.

 

It is noon hour and I still haven’t

put it on, as its stench dulls my appetite,

is really too much to bear, but I must put it on.

 

When I know the exit sign was just a mirage

how will I hold up now?

Silent in its deathless domain?

Silent in your unending anguish?

 

When hope is gone but faith remains,

in this place, miracles dare to bloom.

 

The wrong part

is the right part

because it is playing a part

 

I will wear its acid peel, place its flesh

over my own face, wear the mask

hurting as I do, then

I will hold out my hands,

expecting, to heaven.

Part 3 – The Wound is the Answer

 

 

The Flow of Matter

 

***

 

Take the light,

Lose the light,

racing across a panicked terrain.

Fear is a sloping hill mudslide.

 

You pierced the earth with your stick,

left it there, left running, thinking

your speed would catch on fire, seed

growth on dead ground, meaning more

than just thoughts impaled in your mind.

 

The stick stayed. It is still there, far from

where your limping dreams have finally arrested.

 

Release the burden of trying.

You have lost. This stone wall.

This patch of yellowed grass and the brutal

whirlwind all around – this is yours.

Make something of it.

Take the time, because you have that too.

 

Dissolve your belief of a mission

up into the rays of the giving sun.

There is no light different than the darkness.

Feel it flashing, flashing far away, rising,

broad shoulders, furrowed brow

yell it out one last time

then surrender.

***

 

Standing in the dark bend

of a wanderer’s insight where

neither solitude nor the life beneath

the great seas will do.

 

Which dead body do you keep? Salting

wounds for the sake of enlightenment,

framed with things you cannot glory in

even for a time.

 

It is nature and it is

a passing motion.

You will mourn its starving carcass

for you know nowhere else to rest

your heart and eyes.

 

Stand by the fires of liberation,

join inspiration with accomplishment.

The word is NO and it is mighty and reasonable.

None of this is a problem, even the dread

that spreads like maggots above your abdomen

in your leisure time, in your working-in-chains time,

all the time, surprising you with its intensity

and burrowing, burrowing.

 

Hold your lips tight, buckle up, straight away be

God’s soldier, holding acceptance as

your sword.

 

You are not impotent, You are just

one reality. Think slowly. Your life is not yours

to keep. Feeling abandoned or belonging is

just a stirring up agitation – water, moon, desert wind.

Nothing is missing.

 

Where you are broken,

the light steps, is captured and glows

the most colourful where it is fractured.

 

It is your fingerprint in holy bloom.

***

 

It might be a ritual dance, a memory of walls

and the dew collecting on steel window bars,

but it is also a fossil you have gilded to your soul,

a door keeping you in this room, incarcerated,

white-knuckled and bawling.

 

You think you deserve it, that many lifetimes ago,

before the monastery, you did deeds

you would now wither from,

your now vegetarian soul, conscious

when you see slabs of cut-up carcasses

in the grocery store, conscious

of the torture and fear endured.

 

But you deserve only the wind your prayers

are carried on, only the smiles of your grown-up children

and your husband, happy beside you,

his sail full mast.

 

That place where the stagnant prison waters stank

and your feet developed unhealable sores,

is over, not even a rope nor an army

could carry you across

into a sunlit field.

 

Part of you is still there,

living out the punishment daily, toiling

in angry futility, tied to a tombstone with vultures

gathered around.

 

Wax yourself unhooked. The animals love you:

 

The mother bird feeds her young

right above your head, knowing

you are safe, joined to the psychic link.

 

Part 4 – Between Notes, An Interval of Peace

 

 

Where The Rays of the Sun Are Blocked

They Rest, Then Warm

 

 

***

 

In the summer your wore

your loose clothes.

 

In the winter, your layered yourself

in velvet.

 

It is spring and the ships

are setting out under a spring sky.

 

Take the time to wash your stone wall,

chip out a window, keep chipping and soon

it will be large enough for you to slip through.

 

The dark grammar is deepening, but so

you have made a choice to break neck-to-neck

with the soothsayers of doom, then to surpass them,

turn down an unleveled path and make true headway.

 

The rain will come, the stormy thunder

and the wind, but you have earned yourself

the skill of withstanding.

The parameters are bleeding through and your house

for now is happy.

Take a second to be grateful:

 

Immortality is only that –

a moment in full recognition

of the harmony innate in eternity

and the conscious love that beads

such perfection.

 

 

In the fall, you put away the bird feeders.

It is spring and still the birds are singing.

They survived and their singing

brings you joy.

 

***

 

Changing gears in the long-held-note

of the lion’s roar,

summoning

a way forward that does not jar

against your sacred values

or block the energy up or down, in

a stagnant pool of algae larvae-laid waters.

 

Take a hand and listen – there is still glory

to be found, a tent to build, a tree to climb.

 

Take what is untouched and touch it, craft it

like spores on the moon,

or team-spirit high-five it

in the bleachers.

 

Right now, what is not narrow is too wide

and barren, a place where even a young horse

would get tired racing across.

You were supposed to have passed this place by now,

or so you dreamed. You have only rough-cuts on your screen,

shapes like phantoms, hardly visible.

 

Inside, you are always tired.

Are you dying like you did in another lifetime

from a blood disease, alone in a room?

 

Or are you going

somewhere else this time,

coming to your senses, full gear,

a master of your circumstance, finally, ablaze?

 

***

 

The order of things was simplified,

silence ensued and questions left you

folded under the Buddha-wing.

Times in the shower when you heard and learned

the worries of the day were enough,

that there never were graphics or translations,

but only the raw-hewed truth

that flamed forth its music and love

without peculiarity, pure, in charge of

everything living, there

 

you felt yourself a queen in the lap pool

doing dives, and finding your coronation party

full of only wanted guests.

In this calm, you lost an onslaught of examples,

but held playtime as fair-time, power-of-the-spirit-time

occupying the four corners of the shower

and all the dimensions too.

 

Windows became houses became homes, places

of enactment, concentrated love and many broken

unfixable edges where the greatest fault

was always indifference as default to giving up.

 

The order of things was reduced

to a straight and infinite line.

Excess was swept away

and a breezy sobering became elemental,

austerity, soft as kindness.

 

***

 

Speaking, overlapping

a fighter’s field, then a gate to

squeeze through, mark your territory

on the other side.

 

A summer on the other side

where you could will all rounds, drop

your shield and summon in the wildlife.

 

Mornings there to ruminate,

cultivate your calling to reach

an undiscovered octave,

craving the centre of the storm

and knowing it

like your morning shower.

 

Friends are far or going into surgery wards

to hunt down a destiny.

Family is fractured, engraving

your failures centre-wall.

 

You see a driver shouting

at a mellow pedestrian

and a bronze statue tumbling over

in a flood.

 

You run to the gate and it is barred tight, not a crack

to slip a finger through. Above, it is different.

 

Do not miss the chance,

Slaughter your past

and even your accent.

 

Leap up into the tornado wind and spin-sail

out of your mortal sleep, bone-picked, out in the open,

looking at, loving, the first moon ever.

Part 5 – There Will Be Movement

 

 

Commitment In The Unending Desert

 

 

***

 

In case you don’t turn

but monotony pursues you

like a patient wild cat or

your fondest dream realized

has left you tight with dread – then be

the Buddha-master in the folded

seams, be the highrise apartment

looking down

and eat bread, sip your tea.

 

In case it will always be a matter of

just-getting-through, and stress and guilt

flank either side of your relief, linking arms,

 

then remember Jesus and his words

about the wind, smile at the expectant animals, find love

in the broken and bent, remember angels exist and God is

neither cunning nor withholding, but always available.

Be available too, open as a crumbled dam, open as

the first smells of spring.

 

Vivid days waiting to watch the eclipse.

The hawk has circled, telling you it is coming,

but in case it doesn’t, salvation is within, tied

to your own commitment, tied to the upstairs rooms

 

each filled with a sleeping loved one, each

closest to your heart.

***

 

The light came like light does

illuminating the clawing hand,

stretching taut the slack conviction.

 

It brought to the surface the groaning ache

of anxiety, making fingertips quiver and

their pulse beat in unnatural speed.

 

The light exposed the tender spot,

the bandaged maul,

merciless in its thorough claim.

 

After that, the body was done, the full moon waned

and ideals carried the weight of serious difficulties,

no longer racing full charge.

 

You walked with such exposure,

and learned how to surrender, dissolve

your fears into the light.

 

Many times it was that way,

necessary to make the decision

to release your load

otherwise you would sink –

until you stood bare beneath the sky,

resources and water tipped over the side –

 

just you now and that light,

not even time traded spaces with it,

not death or the grief of memories.

The light came and did what light does.

 

Can you hear its vibrational hum,

burning all the flash cards, all the pyramid-glory?

 

Patterns that were once grafted to your biology,

patterns that defined you, patterns that after the light

are unearthed, have nowhere to belong.

***

 

Dreamer, don’t forget to dream.

or forget your gleaming split fire

masquerading as normalcy

lost in everyday bravery, getting things done

in range of the pawn shop and the dentist, shopping

for fruit, all the while a thousand yards above

the streetwalk curb, seeing shadows of celestial

beings overlap on the pavement,

dense in their other-dimensional realm.

 

You vault off their cloud, into a place without clouds,

your mind a keeper of their language,

draped in dread one moment, the next, exploding

in effervescent kaleidoscope floral bands

feeling anxiety like thunder, touching rocks

like touching flesh

 

charged by the child skipping, the tied-up dog.

The estates are weeping wine, and the ships are loaded

with fat-stores racing past starving islands.

 

You don’t know how to live.

You don’t know one good day.

 

Is it a wound or is it a vision,

roughed-in displays of immortality

blooming, longing

for a lasting harvest?

 

***

 

Sturdy spirit

in pure afterglow,

voyage with me

with your wealth and force,

past the Earth’s mantel into

the inner core.

 

Never reckless but blinded

by refined instincts unified.

Activity without labour.

Joy with no reflection.

 

In the thick undergrowth

slide through the parameter,

making yourself a master

who faces everything as though

it was the first time.

 

Take the ring and turn:

Commitment in eternal flow.

Love at last on salty lips,

heralding in

a devouring release.

 

Smells of spring

Smells of water

No gear, no ribbons

of glory

 

for

this is glory,

and whatever else is

pales beside this bouquet of our origins,

sweet quaking, last-call fulfillment.

***

 

Washed clean,

washed your garments

under your garments

triumphant with truth.

You lifted your mask, opened your mouth

and let your tongue be exposed.

 

Pent-up, brewing a seizure

under your skin.

The graveyard has re-absorbed its corpses.

The paintings on the walls

are breathing again.

Boat-sailing at sunrise,

entranced by the possibilities imagination allows.

O breath – colourful anomalies!

This is your place, fortified by authenticity.

The grass is finally growing,

the fires are wooed and contained.

You love this joy, your house without a lock-chain.

You love your freedom and your secrets.

You spread out, your roots have joined,

entwined, singular.

 

 

***

 

 

Landscapes stirred, hot coal,

hotter in the blue flame.

Summer walks terrible into your yard,

but the wind is in the lead and you will ask for

a multitude of blessings, believing.

 

You will die in the change and shape yourself

a new achievement. You will be diligent,

canceling old thoughts, creating new thoughts

that snuff out the physical dread of doom that infiltrate

like poison a flower’s soft pores.

 

You will go to where love goes, following,

healed of all affliction, even death, by faith,

no longer a pawn of desperately doing

to hold yourself a little closer to God.

 

When you see, you are still,

disrobed of your past,

anchored in the burn of being.

 

When you feel, you feel

his hand reaching out, lifting you out

when your faith has faltered,

you feel

his affectionate mercy, love, receiving, covering your sins

as the only absolution, and then you feel his sorrow,

are in awe of his obedience, in spite of such sorrow.

 

When you know, you know

miracles are right as home is,

are the result of stepping into the current, aligned.

When you know, you know

 

Jesus is radical, never easy –

demands alertness and surrender,

devotion and doing combined,

offers one slot, one string, thin but unbreakable –

rhythm blessed, rhythm revolutionized.

 

***

 

Into the nonsense depths

of plywood and pull

where fairness is the fallacy seen

as it always was and courage builds

like a patio – one stone at a time.

 

If you mount the depths and let yourself

go, it will be love you fall into and also

heartache from this gutsy deed. You will find

whiplash, and also warmth

 

but mostly

you will be living, not driving, but whirled away

by the wind, free of dust and accumulation

of monotonous gestures. You will go

and give the best of yourself,

another light lit to rage in the corner of your room,

strong in promise but still unsure.

 

leap

into the place your worldly wisdom tells you

not to go, but you know if you don’t leap

you might as well grow up,

assent to the rotting ways and coveted fears around you,

you might as well start picking your plot and throw out

the calendar for all your days forward will be the same

one after another.

 

You know the centre is wide, let it widen even more.

See the centre point as mercy.

There is fear in this new possibility of joy

There are many ‘what ifs?”

Trade your coat for naked skin.

Your gift-risk is finally here.

 

Hold it, caress it, honour it, feed it everything

it needs, and leap.

 

 

Part 6 – Only The Wind

 

 

Only The Way

 

***

 

Caked in the crusted past,

spoonfed a dilemma you cannot

escape from and is bound to take you down

while clawing for freedom.

 

But there is glory

in the mountain’s ridge, glory

in the sewer tunnels and in the medicine you take

to kill the gnawing pain – head stretched into a whiff

of rust-dust, bolted in place, but cracking.

 

This is your name, your life today, not in an imagined

tomorrow. Feed the small creatures if you can.

If you cannot, remember a time when you did, and know

that moment is still going on, like all moments,

sphere-held, mighty and forever –

 

so be kind

and be ready to change at full strength, for the sky

is churning, you cannot see it, but every moment

is giving you a new pattern to play with.

 

Hold your breath, keep holding, solid in this treachery,

revolt against your own perspective,

break your debts and all your days ahead

hard against an open window

 

 

***

 

Bind the ghost

to the earth, touch

the covers and pull

out a song, a whisper

of forgiveness. Anchored

in sensual currents,

holding hands, thighs

and perfect movement.

 

Love, this is air, enough

to get you through

the skeleton forests of yesterday

and the milestone thicket thorns of

perceived tomorrows.

 

Still in the joy, fishing for coins, finding

coins, clean and glittering, pulled from

the bottom.

 

I love my love with the same purity

of our first gaze. I love my love, shedding our shadows,

merged in what is ours alone to know and keep.

 

We thought we were broken, but we are not.

Our fires have not wilted, but

have become arrows

– shot – one after another

beating on the river’s surface, leaving a mark,

then sinking, traceless,

swallowed into the flow.

 

 

***

 

You held me in the fog,

fearful I would find the fringe

and crack. I took up a broom.

You set down the broom and told me

to explore the pattern of dirt, find meaning

in its intricate vineyard, be a woman

of observation, great endurance and then of joy.

 

You warned me not to plunge into the reflection,

(bitterness brighter than the dubious sun)

but to hold conference with what was lacking,

sit in the open space, tie my shoes, brush my hair,

take stock of the vacancy and see

if by being still it gets smaller,

starts imploding, becomes a village of amoebas

that eventually turns into plants, then ants

and starlings, drinking at the bin.

 

You held me in the midnight iris

when my hope had hardened.

You told me don’t even try to comfort the pain,

because by doing so, you only make it stronger,

locking it inseparable to your vitality.

 

I took the stairs, following.

I took a leap and honoured its design.

 

And you, you honoured that deed

and were pleased.

Part 7 – Arms Once Folded, Then Slack, Now Open

 

Freedom By The Fires

 

***

 

By the fires where you saw

the hunters’ faces exposed,

the groaning darkness growing, encompassing

any trace of tender love, growing like

a foal into a stallion – strong, unstoppable,

full of wild fury.

 

The hunters promised to devour

every Elder tree, every animal that took shelter

in their green folds, and even the multi-colored insects,

keepers of the balance.

 

Then Jesus walked the Earth, offered the living waters

from a well, sprang from history, separated from

tradition, mores and the lock-step of rigid ritual.

 

Tearing at the sky, he folded its skin back to reveal

a new level of heaven unseen before.

Once this happened,

 

the hunters still ruled but now

there a way was to jump over their skilled spears,

a narrow way to redemption with no training wheels,

no handle bars.

 

The courage of complete surrender.

 

The hunters remain in the streetcars, in corner stores,

at the family table. But Jesus remains too,

a gift of God’s greatest mercy

– the master scythe and the purifying balm –

 

wounds are lifted, all around the hunters,

children are dancing, lovers and old people too –

you see them,

 

followers of the wind,

nomad gatherers, receivers

of the charge.

© Allison Grayhurst 2019

 
 

Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Five times nominated for “Best of the Net”, 2015/2017/2018, she has over 1250 poems published in over 485 international journals. She has 21 published books of poetry, six collections and six chapbooks. She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay; www.allisongrayhurst.com

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