Monday, April 22, 2019


In October, 2018, we chatted with my friend Shaista Tayabali, who lives in Cambridge, England, and blogs at Lupus In Flight. As her blog name suggests, Shaista lives with the ongoing challenges of lupus, and these last months have been difficult ones for her. One night I read the following poem, and thought you might like to read it, too,  and hear how she is doing. She is such a lovely girl, and poet, beloved of all who know her. Let's pour some Lady Grey tea, and have a wee visit across the Pond with Shaista.

I saw a swan sip the river today 
And I worried about plastic.
I was relieved when I saw the bread
Someone had flung over, enthusiastic.

I saw a counsellor today. 
Except he turned out not to be one. 
I am a psychiatric nurse, he said,
And you are not a problem. 

My kind of problem, he meant, 
and he meant it kindly.
No suicide for him that day,
And he was surely glad of it.

But I had been longing for a place to grieve, 
To weep my river of sorrows.
Instead I walked to the graveyard,
And paused beside the bridge;

I watched the swan sip,
And sunlight dip,
On the swan’s soft fluffy pillow.
And I tucked my tears up, under. 

Shaista: I posted this poem in the middle of the night...when I woke up, I woke up to International Women's Day...and my first thought was, 'Oh no. I ought to have posted something of inspiring value, of recognition at least of the wonder of other women, if not of myself.' Instead I had posted about mournfully gazing at swans after a very peculiar twenty minutes with a psychiatric nurse who didn't think there was anything wrong with me.

This desire to be of service, and be in gratitude, is a powerful instinct in me, and has driven my voice for most of my blog, because it is authentic to who I am. And yet, so much of what we suffer is the silence in between ‘How are you?’ and ‘I’m fine!’ Or even, ‘I’m alright.’ Or even, ‘Not great, to be honest, but I’ll be ok.’ A sort of self therapy we all practise because we are aware that the eyes of the gods are watching us for hints of ingratitude. And we wish that nothing worse might befall us. 

The first crocuses!

But here in the place of poetry I do feel safe. Or maybe because Sherry is here, and she is my friend, our friend, keeping us sheltered from storms for a little while, even as she calls herself Wild Woman, which means she is out there in the storm herself. 

Thank you dear readers, for accompanying me on that bridge. Perhaps the swans were you, in a different form, in a moment that has looped back to scoop me up. 

Sherry: I hope those swans reminded you that you have friends who love you, in many places in the world, who so admire your ability to see the beauty of swans, even on the difficult days. 

Thank you for this poem, which touches our hearts. You remind us that, while we try to maintain an attitude of gratitude, there are times that are tough. This is real. We all can relate to those times. We all need someone or somewhere to share those tearful moments. (And the counsellor is a ninny, in my judicial opinion. Smiles.)

Dear girl,  you are young woman, walking bravely through the hard days, and bringing us swans. I am reminded of my son Jeff, who once told me, “to understand a swan, you have to learn how to cry.” I thought that was beautiful.

 Shaista's book of poems and sketches is available here.

Thank you, Shaista. You always touch our hearts. And thank you, dear readers, for being a soft place to fall for our fellow poets. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who Knows? It might be you!


  1. The sky is raining tears today, which feels appropriate to poems about sadness, and swans. Thank you, Shaista, for being so beautifully who you are, always.

  2. Thank you Sherry and Shaista for sharing. I know from an acquaintance how debilitating lupus can be. Crocuses, swans and poetry are wonderful therapy.

  3. Shaista inspires me with the grace with which she deals with her illness, which is debilitating indeed. Thanks, Kim.

  4. How nice to catch up with you, Shaista. You have a lovely attitude. Gratitude is a wonderful quality - one, I think, that does not get as much reverence as it should. So many beautiful things flow from gratitude.

    One of the first poems that I ever wrote was called 'The Swans in Beacon Hill Park' (in Victoria, BC). It was about a walk I took (probably 40 years ago) along the ocean that ended (with me exhausted, several hours later) in the park. As I rested, leaning against the arched stone bridge, two swans floated out of the mist on the lake, and came right up to the bridge where they stopped and stared at me, fixedly, for - what seemed like minutes, but was probably on 20 seconds or so. That palpable connection I felt with those birds, during that time, is the most transcendent experience in my life. Even now, thinking back on the magical peace that emanated from those swans, I still feel an emotional tug of serenity. This is by way of expressing, the depth of connection I felt to this poem, Shaista. A swan IS like a soft, fluffy pillow.

    What an awesome, uplifting interview! Thanks for making this happen, Sherry.

    1. Wendy, I have seen swans in that small lake too, in Beacon Hill Park.........they are such lovely, graceful creatures. In Port Alberni, swans can often be seen swimming in the river, too. And I had a friend, years ago, who lived in a yurt on top of a steep cliff, looking over the forest below, and out to sea, and swans used to fly over his head sometimes, at sunset. Sigh. Such beauties, this life gifts us with.

  5. A gentleness emanates from your words, Shaista, in both poem and interview. Lovely to catch up with you again. I hope you find a more suitable counsellor for your needs. Meanwhile, may the poetry help! (AndI think we must all feel free to write what WE wish to write at any moment, not what we think other people will think we ought to.

  6. Yes, the best poems are written with what we are feeling - for they are written with our most authentic voice.

  7. Thanks Sherry and Shaista Sorry you have to go through that I found your poem very poignant and touching and especially love the last stanza which feels so soothing

  8. Thanks for this wonderful post Sherry and Shaista. "This desire to be of service, and be in gratitude," will stay with me.

  9. Oh, this is a wonderful, wonderful poem! (In reaction to the words of the very unsympathetic psychiatric nurse!) Really took my breath away, made me gulp. The idea of longing for a place to grieve then, swanlike, tucking the tears up and under was so, so, SO very descriptive of this very human need.

    How true, so many of us suffer in silence. We tuck our pains, our grief, are sadnesses 'up and under' and just answer 'fine' if anyone asks us how we are. This poem addresses this so clearly, and that is what made me 'gulp' and 'nod.'

    Indeed I do think the swans are all of us at times. This poem is universal. I just love it!

    Shaista, you are a remarkable woman and poet. Sherry and Shaista, thank you so much for this inspiring feature!!

  10. I knew you would love it, my friends. Shaista touches hearts.

  11. Friends, I have heard from Shaista, who has tried and failed to respond to comments. They disappear, and she has been unable to post. So annoying when that happens, as it does from time to time. But she wants you to know that she appreciates your comments very much. Thank you for your lovely words to our "Shy-star".

  12. Shasta, you're an exceptional young woman. I admire your attitude towards life and suffering as much as I admire your talent. Thank you for sharing your beautiful poem. I also appreciate your mentioning that Sherry is a good friend to all of us. She has been, to me, a true and caring friend when I've needed some understanding.

  13. And you have been the same to me, Myrna. You have the kindest of hearts!

  14. What a lovely person you are Shaista to write such beautiful poetry and having to endure Lupus with the usual misunderstanding of others (particularly men who are affected much less by the illness) with the way that Lupus affects you, especially others disbelief that the disease exists.


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