Poetry from Allison Grayhurst

Allison Grayhurst

Can this moment be a fruit,
a moist secret, picked and juiced?
Can I follow through with my leap of faith
and leap into the coal fires of survival’s uncertainty,
be selfish as the hunter who conserves nature
so he can have enough nature to kill
and make into wall trophies?

Am I a dead mouse on the porch who made it
as far as the first freeze, forgot
to build a nest and suffered the consequences?
Am I fortunate as the found street dog,
given kibble, a warm place to lay,
a pack to call her own?

Am I here maimed but alive, 
like all things living,
crippled by the weight of time? 
Why is everything half-formed?
Only young things leap and frolic, 
free because of their dependency
on maternal sustenance and protection. 

My endurance is threadbare.
If I wash and wear it one more time
it will disintegrate and not hold form.
I know nothing but
I do know Jesus -
the bridge and the tunnel below.
I know one way, one path 
all else is
phantom blood, phantom fulfilment,
just renderings humming ‘yes yes - 
take my false face as truth,
count my money, my grand accomplishments, 
my soft seats, my high seats, 
my triple thaw and my double freeze.’

The butcher is a psychopath. The liars are in charge.
Steady now, the hand, the moon dangling on a string,
say your necessary farewells.
Jesus is walking, walk with him, 
eyes forward, summoned.


Joy is but a minstrel’s flower,
lightening under the thumbnails.
Preach of mud around the eyes,
myself a centipede, fast but fragile.
I gaze and I know the way is a path is a dream
of a hawk landing and inside that dream
anguish quickens to gold, despair into
overcoming. Inside that dream, Jesus stands
insistent in a child’s purity, burdenless, fresh
as the sun always is and always burning.

A small stone that cannot break, a love so graced
it welcomes the flooding tide. But I am broken,
eaten in tiny increments by the changing mirror -
around the evenings, around the first day’s light,
blind to all but the persistent churning.

Jesus’ great love has left me weeping, has opened
my heart, brought forth the healing, suffering mended,
miracles under a white desert sky. Be mine. Let me be
yours, travel with you, bend fully into your mystery.
The joy you give is small, unassuming, 
but is an opening like a lifting, 
where all grief and savagery
invert into its opposite, separated
from lasting damage.

Someone other

Someone said - “Be sensible,
a song is essential only if it can be traded.”
Someone squandered decades of rich meaning 
then died on the rafters of an abandoned ballpark.
“Pack up your consciousness,”
someone else said “Be out of character 
and draw the short straw with glee.”

Intellectual dreams have no limitations,
strong in complexity, strong without drama
or the heartache of disappointment.
I will dream intellectual, taste desire
as an idea, be friends with the professional 
and marry into a profession.
How much time does it take to fashion an identity, 
keep it with solid sides and a resistant core? 

Someone said - “Don’t bother
nothing is for keeps, ideals exist
until they inevitably become soiled and then
start reeking of their opposite intent.”
Many years seized you up in spasms,
aching and making
a mockery of such lofty extremes.
This planet is overstrained, never a gentle
day of just sitting.
Someone said - “Learn mediocrity if you want
happiness. Bark at the impossible squirrel 
in the impossible tree.”
Faith must be fought for, in every choice,
in the mid-days of winter and when love has gone astray.
Everyday I own nothing but this day.
Someone said - “Deal with the collapse of
what you hold as true - contemplate it like a cloud
that shifts form and wisps away.”

I heard that someone, but the joy of love
is real even when it lies flattened. Hope
is not for the faint-hearted, but for the persistent,
the reformers of gravity, the warriors against inertia. 
I say - Hope void of illusions 
draws its first breath as faith 
only in the purity of complete darkness.

Casual Garden

I keep a casual garden
burnt in places, lush by
the climbing trees. 
When in despair,
I examine the corners of that garden,
pluck the dangerous weeds
and re-set the overturned steppingstones.
I scrub the birdbath 
and fill it with fresh cold water
placing stones as platforms 
for the bees and small birds.
This garden is my favourite place to walk,
small, but with hidden nooks 
and a seat for solitude.

It took years of tending to get to this place. 
A once-thought cursed corner is now deep green
with violet hues and the prefect shade.
Still there is more to tend  
as it is ever changing. Birds come,
leave their droppings and kill 
what can be restored.
Squirrels explore, dig holes, preparing for winter.
Raccoons work their nocturnal havoc -
birdbath on its side, flipped steppingstones - evidence 
of their hunting for grubs.

God gave me this garden as a living meditation,
help when all other help is gone.
Before this, I never had a garden.
For twenty years, I had a backyard.
My children enjoyed it, my husband
took care of it.

Now this garden is my sacred duty,
an extension of my wonderous home,
mine to walk in as we all take in 
its bright varied living tones -
all four people, cats and even the guinea pigs 
have an exclusive window to view its glory.

The sounds when the neighbours 
are sleeping or away
are best. The smells are perfect 
of marigolds on the deck and the rain.
My mother says this garden is beautiful 
and she would know.
I rejoice in its poetry. 
Everything wants to live,
expand, overflow in this garden.

I don’t even know how this love affair started
or how over time it has grown into a beautiful marriage.
There is an animal graveyard in my garden -
a place in front of two tall trees, the same place 
we buried silver coins,
the best place of ease
where the white dove first arrived, 
before walking around the whole garden, 
blessing every inch before it took flight 
never to return.

When I forget God loves me, 
I look at my garden,
I step onto its bumpy terrain
and know I am one -
joined to its hallowed ground.


Sideways into the thicket
prickly roar, eyelids closed
and then a decade later, a sunbeam
latches to your arm and pulls you out,
renews your skin, the tone of your hair.
A decade lost without a voice, without
connection to your core.
Here you stand, stride, hardly limping,
a queen, tall, sure of your kinship,
sometimes still weakened by past sentimentality,
but mostly preparing for a sacred adventure, remembering
the promise to you that was made on the swing 
when you swung high as the swing could carry you -
your childhood legs gleefully kicking, your long hair 
behind you, and a smile that was more glorious 
than the first spotted spring flower. 
Whole again, set right, upright,
shedding the last of your apprehension,
growing deeper into maturity,
letting the shadows go, 
as the sweet nectar wraps around you
you start to sing - Hosanna! 
finally accepting
love is everything.


Out of step, filled
with a flame that ignites
a windfall and dreams
upward reaching, past
the umbrella and the cherished flight
of the cardinal.

One step, dancing, then tomorrow
comes and there is no dancing to be seen.
Maimed and fearful - the setting sun
coils its rays around an unhappy future and feeds
the roots with sewage.

Preferring the hope of a soft landing,
I count the pillars and a make a roof, a home.
I fall asleep with this glorious creature at my side.
I wake and it is the first thing I see. It takes me
out into a land of picnics by the water, out
of the stark slam of poverty and ancient debts that
must be repaid. 

It takes me to a greener land
where I can walk, turn corners 
and run. Where I can do my rituals, 
relieved of desperation, at one
with the hand that opens, at peace 
with the hand that holds.


Tear and rip and proclaim
a path you cannot follow
but can taste its every nuance.
Bend into its horizon as though it
were yours, there on glorious display.

When change does not come, and it sleeps
like a long clouded-over moon, and spirits
are bones sucked of their marrow -
the most vital of these eaten by mechanical doom -
metal teeth and the turning, turning 
of grinding eventuality, wait 
and watch the images come and go.

The windows are stained
and there is no way to clean them.
Through them I see growth.
I see days I long for that may not come 
for another decade, where I will be free.
What is a day? But this thing done, this thing not done.
What is a life? Stealing wakefulness violently 
from slumber, pressing into joy 
despite the chains and another
book is read. All dreams are singular. Know
the in-breath counts. The out-breath is simply 

I Need My Blood

I need my blood.
I need the mornings
sightless of dark duties
and encumbering failures
that rise like a high wave
teaming with unseen predators.
I need a house without deep mud
at its doorstep and a fire menacingly
burning in the furthest backyard tree.
I need to wake up like I used to,
energized, a life to look forward to, bow to,
and say yes, I can do that, I am full.
I need God’s blowing kiss, a dream
that is more than a dead seed or grand illusion,
to step here and there solid in authenticity, 
shed the dread and the pounding trip and fall.
I need my blood
not horror-cold professionalism,
being polite while vital body fibres
ricochet against each other, bawling inside,
ripped and rolling like a fish
on a hook, heartlessly pulled
from my home and element, amazed 
by how long I am still breathing, 
here, without oxygen
or the salty waters of my belonging.
I need a bridge
to walk across,
a landscape of freedom and prosperity,
away from this decaying island I sit upon
where massive reptiles wrap 
their spiked bodies around, many 
creeping on the shore.
I need my blood,
to keep my blood,
flowing, be a voice at full strength,
no longer a sigh or a held-back moan.
I need this now
to carry on.

My branches are all but broken.
My spirit is hardening, tight, tighter
than a heavy stone.

Building a Temple

I held the hand when the body
lay sleeping, ready to erupt, erode
but it never did. 
These words are a goodbye
to the dust-bowl chaos, a vision
to act by, pick up pebbles and throw
across a field, over a fence, almost
to the other side.

The angels make a wall protecting, bending
their bodies of light like shields
over my beautiful children, as they find their way 
through uncertainties, undercurrents of terror 
and the moon’s dropping glare. 

Addiction in the ice.
Organs enflamed and removed.
But God’s love is merciful, takes us 
to the threshold, but not beyond.
Secrets are exposed, talked about without shame,
and then are burnt like charred large balls
in a sacred flame, rising 
into a steady shimmering golden canopy peace.

Sometimes the storm creates a treasure, 
a blooming happiness
after its destructive force, its taking away.
Sometimes after the emptiness, there is finally
a conscious letting go, letting in
the zig-zag flight of finches.

There is love spoken 
without conditions, love heroic.
There are ghosts silenced, pathways 
rushing forward, hearts so broken, 
now repaired, thundering forward, redeemed.

Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Five times nominated for “Best of the Net,” she has over 1300 poems published in over 500 international journals. She has 25 published books of poetry and six chapbooks. She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay; www.allisongrayhurst.com

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