Shakiba (a Persian word for a patient, tolerant and gentle person) is an artist based in Leeds, Yorkshire, since 2014. She is self-taught and works with Acrylic Pouring Techniques. Painting helped her to overcome the stress of her PhD thesis in a scientific discipline, which she completed in 2020. Editor’s note: for further viewing of Shakiba’s paintings & bio go to: https://yorkshire.art/directory/artist/shakiba/
Tony Martin-Woods started to write poetry in 2012, at the age of 43, driven by his political indignation. That same year he also set in motion Poesía Indignada , an online publication of political poetry that he edits & (Transforming with Poetry) see Facebook.com. Tony is a political and artistic activist who explores the digital component of our lives as a means to support critical human empowerment. He is also known in the UK for his work as an academic and educator under his non-literary name. He writes in English and Spanish and has published his first volume of poetry Los viajes de Diosa (The Travels of Goddess) 2016.
Dual forming on slopes of darker minds.
Succulent nodes of effervescent whispers,
whispering Oh! Blood clots bending
in unison to sharp solstices.
Dig and reap tomorrow’s regrets,
piled on like love you thought was comfortable.
Comfort is a guard you let loose,
let down and found judgments –
platters to be served and roasted upon.
Singing for sale. A number left to a key. Fickle
verdicts oscillating between indifference and approval.
Release and acceptance – what else is there?
I am only unhappy when I want what isn’t.
Platypus cans of tonic – drink down, flushing
through organs. I see orange. Orange buses,
orange lines of direction on the road, in homes
where anger is held at stillpoint. One point
on a curve. I have lost my feathers,
all means of flight. There is nothing left
but hunger for the skyspace, outerspace, space
where I once travelled through meteor fields,
ballooning over planets’ edges like a seamstress,
owning it all before I got grounded, committed
to personal love and the necessity of graves.
Why did I come here? To cry for my loved ones,
hold vigil for the slaughtered pigs?
Centuries that just were, lingering, licking
on waves of vastness, licking dark matter like a candy cane.
Not a soul, but the planets vibrating their orchestra – deep,
varying at intervals, then again, and never changing.
God, what am I doing in the sunlight – on the sidewalks,
making room for children on bicycles?
Putting pressure on my shoulders so I cannot sleep,
cannot appease this malcontent.
Why did I leave – to connect with misplaced animals?
Babies only born? Looking for union when before
I thought myself whole?
Material made from the moon. I understand
the beauty of caves, the great sea turtle’s solitary plight…
but more and more – I never wanted more than you
again inside of me – infinity in corporeal form.
God separates to know Itself. God is only what we give,
awakening as we do to warmth and kindness – choices
under the wrap of gravity and yet, somehow,
lifted into altruism.
Smudges, under siege, patches of calcified tissue
and the swamp I enter in – fuming with failed love –
connections broken under the Buddha fire. Detachment
will not save me – nailed to the pavement stone, looking at birds.
Summer where have you gone? Smells rise to meet me,
and the air is still humid, pressing on my cortex,
corrupting my ability to choose joy.
Grasshoppers hopping. Will my heart be broken?
Again, again, squeezing, squished
fermenting at the sides, foaming and fizzling, burning sage, but
it is not good enough, not enough to teach me the strokes
or how to steady the raging chaos gestating large
in the pocket of my throat. Continents on fire,
inside organs necessary
to function – why the children? Why not me?
Livingroom-light-globe like a crystal ball,
opaque but powerful enough to predict possibilities.
I was never here before, never heard the angry rodents
vocalize, never slept with aching joints, dreams
of running low and ferns and moss
covering Zen-garden displays.
What else are we going to do here, but procreate, create,
dissipate and die? Van doors left open.
Lawn chairs on the road for pickup.
The windmill, the tilting tops of trees, heavy
with clusters of fresh pinecones.
I am an orange peel, orange, peeled, drying
next to the sewer grate.
I am limp with the weight, the burden of random happenings. Always I love you and always, I am breathing.
Take me into the arms of your protection.
I don’t want another day.
Mass of thick porous grey hovering, no space for hope.
Why the children? Couldn’t you spare just them and all
the up-for slaughter animals?
I am done with this place, the tripping curb,
callous indifference – the rippling consequences
of blind destruction.
Piercing, lingering, chiming out a hymn, lullaby on a chain.
Remorse to wade in like a sea-salt bath, absorbing
the past into the present cellular flow.
Mounds of construction sand, building and restoring roots
without life, chopped down at surface level.
Ideologies fuel, then turned to cinder by anger –
justified violence that violates the laws of love.
Skittering up stairs, the last time I held a leaf I held
your focused form, unable to stay the distance,
but stayed nonetheless near rudimentary desires.
I am cut like a lawn, smooth as carpet. See me now,
skateboarding, jettisoning over humps and bridges.
The wind – position me inside your storm. The last time,
strength enlisted an empty street – such vines
and beautiful stones!
Mercy in a crack, a masterpiece of twin creation,
outside art galleries – living wood, sleeping shapes,
inviting holes… holy as sex, sweet hands entwined.
Release into me as I release into you,
in mutual receptivity, clear direction, directing energy.
Dew drops evaporating, shining.
Our masthead – brittle, breaking. Even so,
how we are combined! Such glow.
It is glorious to know you like this
and not be afraid.
Laid low, laid out like soulmates never meant to meet
in this life, in the spectrum of folly and limitation.
A painting layered, re-mastered, re-mused and then,
burned by neglect.
Miniature moment of perfection, condensed
to hold a legacy in swirling matter, hard and glittering.
Fractures as long as a walkway
stretching the borders of a great body of water.
Stringing thoughts like a child’s dream. I know,
but I’ve learned not to take synchronicity so seriously,
learned there is only choice, and chance caved into,
selected to stand as fate – the end result, resulting
in a theory of complexities and open systems.
Stuck in the ground, protruding stilted like a statute.
Tell me it is true, that nothing pure is subjected to disease.
Crickets in the late morning.
When I am fixated, it is fantasy, false as poison in soup.
When I am lucid, liquid budding, my fingers are flames,
and all that they contact pulse with their heat.
Various clouds like currents perpetually pumping –
financial lack, and I, myself, curled up on the bottom stair.
Beds I defend, determined to lay in, over and over
hurting for considered crimes. Erasing perimeters, I clutch
at fraudulent mercies, securities of working furnaces
and washed hair. How to love damaged flesh, radiate love
for what is broken, far beyond romanticism, dangerous
as a cockroach and forever mutating –
translucent shells and pores – radioactive
and growing more grotesque under slabs of rotten wood?
Love, I do not understand you as I am older
and keeping up the climb. Medications and
broken down dishwashers.
Debt like ghosts that stick to my aura, smothering out the colour –
Oh weedy garden! Sparrow on my roof, talk to me for a while.
How can I love, middle-aged, half over, clear
of a younger person’s hope and indecision?
Pointing at ecstasy (a snail on my forehead) pointing,
Light that drips down the turnpike, onto roads
and ways far away from any window.
Blocks to build shelters and shields. Flags on flimsy poles.
A neutral breeze busting cardoors and
personalized licence plates.
Paved over, I see a carcass dripping, a little yellow flower,
smaller than a thumbprint.
Rust-coloured shawl, poncho that holds
great sentimental significance holds
me to a memory, old now as a ten-year-old untended garden
or pavement cracks grown into fissures.
Forging, face-like an image. Worm in my sink.
Blood and cup of nutritional joy.
Hold out for the grace of good music
and drying on rocks, nude in the sun.
Quiet heat building up into renewal. Tattered ankle cuffs
and shrinking shadows, mid-stream. Up,
up we go, insistent on making an impression.
But walk lightly is all I’ll ever learn, spoon-feeding the children.
I bloom and I will die a woman, a butcher of frivolity
and the natural sequence of things.
The day is one day – enough, taken
into its rolling waters,
a dog’s dream to join in, frolic in
some other species’ symbolism.
Come upon me like a feather-stick –
sectioning my abdomen like a fruit. Suddenly
toddlers are conversing and the grey cat
takes in the morning. Bundle of weeds,
bundle of flowers. An opening
under the burning canopy. Lifetimes spent
collecting synergy, male rhythms and fixed lines.
God is coming down to hide in your loose-change-pocket.
I dreamt of owning your praise. Swinging from the rafters
in a game of hide-and-seek, I sought your breath,
hand of destined chores.
I played along inside the circle, inside a sack
I could hardly breathe out of. Languishing. A round bruise
forming on my left arm. Place me here. Crown me
or stake me on a tall spike. I am sand thrown mid-air.
No place to collect and land, not even a wave, a bucket,
the forelock of a horse. Not even
thinking in a straight continuation, but there, there, a pebble
between paw pads, then, a minor note locked
in perpetual repetition.
Underguard. Crumbled tissue in my mouth.
A crazy way to run – hands in pockets.
Forward without, undeterred by reality.
Plywood I am keeping for emergencies,
for days when putting on the brakes just won’t suffice.
Speeding, retreating, torsos twisting beautifully in anticipation.
I used to make mortar by hand, no machine to ease
my impossible labor – brick carrying and scaffolding climbing
and voices that ceased for a while in my head, visions
foiled by exhaustion – overused and folding.
Injuries are bypassed for much larger connections.
Double-winged, it is all that counts, to be counted
like lightening, glazed like tile
and ancient bones kept as keep-sakes,
never a participant in trivial bickering or
watered-downed by petty grievances and
Sometimes I think of dying.
I think of the unread newspaper that stays folded,
wrapped in an elastic band.
I think of a broken bird making broken bird sounds,
too broken to be saved, treated by most
as a mild inconvenience
to be walked around and grimaced at.
Except by the man with the warm dark eyes, soft
furrowed brow, and a child who will not forget those mangled
wings or the hard lesson of helplessness, the inability to heal
or to be a vessel for a miracle.
It is hard to love me. I am hard, uncompromising
and never still. I am needing intimacy at every turn,
needing space to brood and build my solitary house.
I miss no one I’ve lost except the dead – a parent,
many animals that once shared my life. I am not easy, not
easygoing – bloodletting, bloodtesting, phone calls
avoided, coiled, almost mad and never understanding.
Sex and perfect reciprocation. Hands that know more
than words, keeping in the margins, layering synergy energy
into peaks and mounds, like mountains and fractal heartbeats,
fearless of falling, or of clouds. You and I,
it has to be our reward for not selling out, not
building cages of adult-overload, for constantly
clearing room for any divine equation no matter
how it threatens our already-precarious security.
We love our children, but not like others love.
We are less of this place, more reliant on grace
than our own worldly ingenuity to keep food
on the table, the bathroom fixed and cleaned.
are you still mine, and I, yours? It is a lot to take in, decades and
mouldy walls. I am afraid of going off track,
of being dead and seeing there is no more I can do. That
it is done and inerasable. I am afraid of not feeling
the warmth of your hand when I walk, because
you are always holding my hand and I love you
with a personal love like Kierkegaard did –
his hunchback, a deformity that kept him pure.
And the loneliness.
Knowing you, but never any other.
I am not that alone, but I remember
space, lightyears of carved-out quiet. It enters me often
and I cannot get out of it. Breathing becomes separation,
a tool I must remind myself to use.
Remind me again, demand
my unwavering loyalty, trust, and all.
Paved paths, brisk
storm of senses, an old
opening, endless as a dug-in arrow –
head in the weeping jungle, the coolness
of autumn air brushing tombstones,
the thin necks of geese.
So much night in a single glass, body
and name together, replacing
existence with this inheritance and no other.
Rows of ships crowding the edge of the lake –
docked and bearing down for winter. The distance
grinds, gravel on my belly, cracked shells
in subterranean pages writing down dawns and victories
never experienced, only imagined.
Is it right to receive the bitter strawberry?
Drink its flesh like juice and
kneel before reality’s dictatorship?
Is it clarity? Or forgetting?
Escaping on the brook’s bank,
banking on nesting warm through
winter, but tears are horns that open
soft spaces, and autumn shifts heat and any hopes
for renewal. Love is fire –
from where it goes there are no shields to block
its scorching. Can we reach bottom in the rain?
Sing hosanna at the mountain’s base?
Becoming is the stone, the house, the wave.
The lines between us all are solid, no longer lines but
one heavy blanket of vibrancy, creaking, splitting.
I walk like I walk – barrel beatings,
borrowing crisp notions into my ears.
Stretched for a while to be compact again,
I hear an approaching intrusion, a high
wake, strong enough to travel on.
Stronger days of running through the weeded grass
where rabbits stand still at my passing
and insects move quickly into the shade.
Stranger days of watching a patio stone broken
from a storm – from a fallen tree that fell,
leaving me to find
meaning in such drastic weather.
Many years torn – a leaf, a paper towel,
half around the other side, locked
on the beach of my nadir – discipline
and a cold cruel courage, jammed into a groove.
Just the sunlight on my wall,
warming the wall, penetrating the heavy plaster.
I was born from a stem.
I fit on a chalkboard.
Over the cool half-formed moon
I hear an echo, smell the crisp lunar craters –
stagnant rocks, deep troughs to fuel
a million or more Earth dreams.
Scents of dead matter colliding,
of rough stone and endless rotation,
Behind a broken bark I hide my vanity,
rushing into quicksand, there I sink.
I lay open under the covers, under
cloaks of heartless yesterdays. My mind
is a string that wraps around the outerscope.
I eat wild flowers, never the lamb,
infused with avoidance, spectacular
acrobats of keeping on, caring little for the outcome.
Blundering displays of over-dramatizing
self-aggrandizement revealing the wound
of stunted spiritual development
and crippled attempts at affection.
Round and happy, unstructured indulgences
justified by plump purse strings.
Falterings. Mistaken formations.
A perfect line in nature existing.
All the days I felt alone are behind me,
gathering leaves, misty-eyed overlooking
my home: kaleidoscope windows coming into view.
Once, gentle. Now, riled and nowhere but where
the stench of sewage is piled on the curb.
The gears of bitter disappointment snatching
you into a feral hold. Exotic tall weeds,
broken at the base.
Friendships are spoiled at the root, even love is
overshadowed by the decay.
Less obligation, less affection, less loyalty.
I must pretend we are healed, but the only healing
that happened was a cauterization of our severed bond.
There is anger but less hurt,
just the motions of getting through
undetected, and me by myself,
always alone –
separate happenings, entities, isolated
aspects merging, but never
whole. White car on the road.
Red car on the road. Silver then
blue. The only place absolute is
the place I left where faith was unnecessary
and all cells were one cell, not like here –
different functions – each dominated by its own survival.
No wonder love is weakened, can only achieve
a temporary claim on completion.
I accidently crush the insect with my heel. It is consumed
by another of its kind, carried off
into the hive of practicality –
a gesture void of remorse or sentimentality.
In the end, there is nothing but wires and fences
and frames of flesh, cartilage and senses. Tomorrow
there will be talk and tea and eyes
locked in intense recognition.
Good for the moment
Good until there comes
the something we want
more of, less of, had enough of….
For a while –
deathcamps, blue balls
baskin’robbins. Play tomorrow
the lute-song of today and remember
pounding paradise into my brain, collapsing
from overload, reloading fodder
and flighty friendships I’ve lost use for.
Nothing counts, count on nothing but playfighting
over the bank, over the brim – rim – keeper
of the fixer-upper, of the still fire, fire still
as yellowed corpses. Mid-fall.
Fake it! Love! kindness, tenderness – be
polite, because very little is
anything you want to take with you.
Care-giver, carer of the children,
the laundry, pets and bank account.
It is all you are – rainstorm.
You must take this stone and swallow,
make peace with your burden, make love
with the swarming emptiness, stuck
in a gravitational pull,
planets, solar systems spinning around you
but you are heavy, must be,
unfazed by the pressured wind – stains
on the ground. Inside of you, chopped-up bits of fate
and crimes conceived before you
were born. Fake it, wallpaper it. Go on, try, smile
bright as an angel. Death is a whip
I put down. Ill health slumber,
but God is my mercy-king. Queen
of loving miracles. I will sing to
keep the right intention and grieve
minimally for what I cannot do.
Little red tree, no higher than
a toddler-child. Disco ball,
ball blue and gold,
twirl for me, let the grey dissipate into your
twinkling glow and all my blood into your veins,
plump and flourishing, readying for greater heights,
string-stream through me, weave me into your branches,
still firmly on the ground.
Angels everywhere I need your temperance. I need
to know my children are protected by your grace,
wing-spread, and even
your cold white eyes.
Gaze, focus, hold.
of raw fluidity streaming,
rising over barriers, drowning them
with the pressure of an open door.
Cracks of circumstantial disease,
creating pockmarks to expand destiny’s choices,
fashioning gifts to give,
earned by bomb-droppings
and low flying plane-explosions.
Cobweb parties, graffiti
on the skin of your back,
made with a blade as small and smooth
as the tip of a hawk’s feather.
Weaning off the burnt oak,
preening patches of grime.
Wake and rhyme, garden-keeper,
ambush your fear – it cannot be real!
Lungs run the same vibration as a flame.
It is hard, but not impossible. Gulp the sea
of senseless over-warming, pool the salt-taste
in your mouth, feel it
around your lip-rim, the sides of your cheeks. And there,
be safe, joining with the translucent swimmers, floaters
of prehistoric heritage.
Principles of duty
overtaking sleep like a wave.
Heavy love rooted in isolation,
reflecting the depths of true giving.
A condition turns to disease, restrictions
bare down. What is ordinary becomes like
a cage. Children in the drifting storm, drifting
on condensed-traffic streets, how I love you.
How I would do everything I cannot do to ease
the grip of your elephant shackles. Mine was the angel’s
autonomy, where nothing was miscellaneous and my bed
was a rich blackness that absorbed all time. Mine was loud
without noise or distraction, just the buoyant sparkle flow
of paired-off stars and the countless debris of ongoing creation.
Mine is yours now, inside less-than-working-organs, kidneys
like puzzle pieces, seamed together by an amateur.
Where are you now, God-who-remembers, reminds me
of what I once was? My God and Jesus of the lilies,
why the children? Why this fluke,
this bizarre nightmare crawling, closer,
closer than when I had no body, no loves to look after?
And oh I am tired, worn as an old shoe that must keep
the broken glass at bay. Where are you my God, my Jesus?
I know you are here. I know something, but not enough
to deflate my bloating anxiety. It is grief all over again and I
hide myself in older hands, friendless, unsupported, remembering
the wholeness in every flaw, in the universe’s veined light
I once travelled on. Remembering that what is flawed sparkles
with a unique variation of beauty, rainbow fractions, infractions
that are blessings that seep and saturate sinews
and bones, galaxies
where everything sings useful –
seemingly incongruent, yet in truth, masterfully
Editor’s Note: All the photo images present in this poem have been made by the poet herself Allison Grayhurst.
Bio: Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Twice nominated for Sundress Publications “Best of the Net” 2015, she has over 825 poems published in more than 360 international journals and anthologies. Her book Somewhere Falling was published by Beach Holme Publishers in 1995. Since then she has published eleven 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 in December 2012. In 2014 her chapbook Surrogate Dharma was published by Kind of a Hurricane Press, Barometric Pressures Author Series in October 2014. More recently, her chapbook No Raft – No Ocean was published in October 2015 by Scars Publications. She also has a chapbook Currents pending publication this Fall/Winter with Pink.Girl.Ink. Press. She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay; www.allisongrayhurst.com
Some of the places her work has appeared in include Parabola (Alone & Together print issue summer 2012); Elephant Journal; Literary Orphans; Blue Fifth Review; The American Aesthetic; Agave Magazine; JuxtaProse Literary Magazine, South Florida Arts Journal; Gris-Gris; The Muse – An International Journal of Poetry, Storm Cellar, morphrog (sister publication of Frogmore Papers); New Binary Press Anthology; The Brooklyn Voice; Straylight Literary Magazine (print); 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; Fogged Clarity, Boston Poetry Magazine; Decanto; White Wall Review.
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