Poetry of Allison Grayhurst

Lost Your Clown

An applauding audience
rat dung on the carpet
yes, remember
the perfumed summer
cold pennies
we would lay on the railroad tracks
and my necklace
with one jewelled eye
your clothing of cinnamon colour
mornings of breathing
with the lights left on
surviving the shrilling gull’s song
wax, humidity, hand-prints on the wall.
From you a hot glow
swelled in your snare
tiny tedious nights
in your asylum of approvals
and secret judgements
I would squirm dry
when you’d come home
pockets full of food and false friendship
 would rock and weep
near the tape recorder
stabbing sorrow
in my isolated aquarium
tossing pebbles to the ceiling
watch them hit
and laugh out loud

I want you to know
your theatre is bare
nobody lingers for you
gifted pretender
of deliverance.

Take flight
take your guru condescending cold
it’s getting easier to be alive.

Immortal Burn

The evening falls
I crawl on my belly through sewers
old passions, fatal hopes
bellow, discharge
into my mind

Your smile is like a sickness
I can’t shake off
Your body
a beating obsession
infesting my pores

The last hour
the last kiss
burns immortal
like thunderstorm
fastened to my existence.


I prefer the window
gardens made of stone
a sleep-filled afternoon
where the whole of a frozen pond
is cupped in my palm.
When I was younger
I skipped stones on the river
lived, lurked
dazed, dazzled
with an honest imagination
and cool peace
Now, my socks are filthy
lovers have belittled intimacy
and the sun is sullen
painted as a shadow.

The planet is yawning
over worn with rot
moral inconsistencies
litter the sidewalks
nobody wears
the wind on the backs

Walls are mine
to devour
spit up
then build again.

The Jester and the Monk

The jester and the monk went walking
The winter moon
hung like a skull above their heads
Two before midnight
prayed by the river
laughed in the apple orchards
holding hands
they circled a forest of dreams

The jester poked a tongue at the sky
the monk dripped tears on the earth
nailed to absurdity
locked in serious sainthood
campfire burned
children linked arms
close to their love

If not for the living thirst
If not for the agonized fascination
and the ignited chill
no blue bird would they have betrayed
no house would they have entered
like wings
flapping in an undecided wind.

A thousand hours
counting many dawns,
nights of humour and holiness
Anyone could feel the connection
resting in their smiles
Anyone would have swam an Artic sea
to soothe the burn
blistering the strength of their hold.

What they wanted
neither dared to understand
only a bridge
mouthfuls of truth
handfuls of lies
drove them together


What were you seeking
as you walked
year past year
through the talking crowd?

When he’d ask
of the cold terror
that would sweep your heart
moving like freezing rain
towards his eyes
all you could remember
was summer
a week of silence in the heat
when you endured his visits
like a weight
you longed to unleash.

Beggars battled their hunger
near your home
you could smell the decay
reeking of bad alcohol
and heavy insanity

He would climb
like an old man
onto your body
inject his virility
fade into a dreamless snore
and you would listen to that awkward rhythm
thinking of your mother
waves never reaching shore.

All fled from your fire
sleep was short
waking was difficult
occasionally a star
would shake inside of you
spread its silver shoots
and separate the surrounding night.

You must have known from the beginning
how meagre his love could be
You must have tried hard
to inherit some joy
from the faces
you kept etched on your windowsill

Out of all of them,
his as the thinnest
but still some gesture of affection
fated to overpower you
when he held out his boorish hand
waiting to be love.

In the lonely air of age
grief watched on
as you laughed
fast and forceful
concealing the wound
behind charm and habit.

Selina, you died
like a country woman
barred by the pine trees
Selina, you wore clothes
scented with velvet flowers
and spring after a storm . . .

pretending the dance went on
despite your exhaustion.



I think midnight
is a future swelling
ready for wreckage
then prayer, then sun
I think the animals
have voices,
many, too motionless to hear
A backbone, crushed
a starfish, exploding
good emotion squandered
out of fear of failure –
all of this exist
in union with the empty eve

Old people understand
the brave business of life
some, they have conquered competition
cold, ceasing to cry
some, they feel like fugitives
nearing the boundaries of death
shaking like a season
that has lost its beginning
a harvest
ill, unused

I dream of footholds
I dream deliberate
draining meaning
out of every moment
I dream of souls patterned
like constellations

In the snow
a flame was born
Darkness is pointless
lacking the owl’s eyes

I used to house the harrowing hooligans
This way, I have restored my temple
burying my body below sand,
joining the desert

Joshua’s Shoulder

The herd was on a hill
Soldiers were marching
Young people were below, learning
how to grow up correctly.
I touch a cloud with my tongue,
cried on Joshua’s shoulder
        Will they every be resurrected?
        Will the horn blow,
        beat heaven into every heart?
        I had a dream Joshua,
        we were on a clear river
        sailing on a gigantic leaf
        we were more than happy
        never once striving for shore.
Joshua stretched out an arm
a finger
drew a circle encasing us
My love,
        I would break in a minute
        if not for your soul
        pressed so close to mine
        Choose your smiles well
        not everyone understands laughter
        like we do.
The rocks dislodged from mountains
covering graveyards.
An old woman was reciting her name
in front of a mirror, a child
she once knew, remembered
herself to be
Dead fish lay on the beach,
their eyes, like marbles
glowed, all suffering
as if locked inside
a wisdom
no human could unmask.
I lifted my hands
to give thanks to the birds,
leaned on Joshua’s shoulder
and whispered
        The flowers are stones
        and the stones are stars
Joshua nodded
took my hand
and changed direction, tears
leaving his strong eyes.

When Air-borne Beings Fall

As though my heart
was sand, absorbing
the dive of crows.
In the deep,
in the still deep ground
of dust & ruins, wings
fall like smashed shells
expanding into
the flowing air.
I would give my capsized house,
my bed, my favourite corner
just to feel the rise of their quickening tides
clap over my bones & spirit. To know the fury
of feathers skillfully slicing
the skin of clouds. I would say this
is worth my enemy’s claw, worth a mouth
full of laughter. I could speak again
of love without weight, of a saffron flower
exposing all to the sun.

I could take pictures in the garden.

What Hands Can Hold

I will not cry today
the teardrops of saints.
Tomorrow I will not
lay my body flat on the road
for the dove’s passing.

God’s features
are vast as the sands.
No life is dead
to private dreams.

The sea sings its own
rhyming fury.
The eagle takes dust and wind
under its wings.
Who feeds the raging
lion’s mouth?
Who weeps for the insect’s accidental
death? Are the angels too great for
these? And our human hands,
are they too meager to
accept these small mercies,
these common miracles,

as we watch friends perish
and the pendulum-tides leap
and devour,
offering no reward
to the drowned
nor saved?


Hard slow force –
back the shape of half
a bell. Lipless
mouth wide with sunstroke
fear. Double eyelids
close, looks like gel
over two black wounds.

Your elbows tight inside
your chamber-shell. Your neck
stretched like a slinky, nodding
from side to side.

Without voice, your legs
leap out like arrows, push
frantically at the air.

You are in my hand, the size
of half-a-hand. You are quiet now,
head back inside your giant roof.

Released from human grip,
your feet feel water, edge
across piled-up rocks,
where you stop

to smell the dark aquarium
and rest
your tortoise-green

Altered Behind City Gardens

        We walked behind city gardens.
He was singing
        and riding
his hunger like a spear
through brightened houses and
        cameo clouds.
He was saying to me – keep gold
and wild – as he lifted
        a finger, pointing
above the ribs,
between my breasts.
        How that day I became
his, as though gone into
his light and into his terror –
How that day I felt
a new blade of grass
        beneath my rugged ware,
with every step,
found my country whole.


Mustard Seed

I know your name,
but not your face,
octagon of tiny wonder
changing as I move through
my days, cloaked in the drain
and joy of your mystery.
I think I can feel you sometimes
sitting beside me, playing games
with your sister and laughing with
all the rest.
I think of someone fiercely beautiful
merging souls so easily with the family-us.
I touch my belly, remaining clothed
in this still-normal body.
I turn the lights out early, happy
when I think of the future.



Yesterday was a good day
indoors, all of us, in this changing sea
of deliverance, in this sometimes orange,
sometimes turquoise, little wood of home.
Paradise, we know your name, we stayed with you
yesterday, and you tore apart our darkness, joined us
like one stone.
Thank you for the children and the animals, thank you
for soulmate love and friendship, and for the sadness
we feel as winter approaches. On this inlet the wind
is clean, and we are always dancing or singing or making
new ways to put words.
The grass we walk in is prophesy - none
of this can die or be corrupted.
Yesterday was a good day. This place is a good place
This family is a herd of whales cresting
on the rush of a wave. And I who have found my belonging,
am so very in love
with each and all.



        If only your shoulders
would spread like petals
I would dive into your flesh,
crawl the branch of your spine
to the tip of your heart.
        No mad hills to survey, no
beasts to flee
or tame. Only
ourselves entwined
and our toes curled
in bliss and heat.
        If only the dull wind outside
would not rock you
away and the long rib
of clouds would not seize me
into its bed of rain,
        then maybe
my hands would be
your spoke and
stronghold and
your affection, my constant


To Wait Without Drowning 

            Too quiet here
in the yellow rains, the yellow
ranting outside the door.

The wig of the sky
swells like a million balloons;
foaming through the cracks of eternal space.

I want to say one thing
swift enough to catch
I want to say this thing

that contains shelter and the squawking storms,
that floods my body as though my skin
            was a sponge, floods first,
then severs each nerve and cord.

I want to lie under water until I awaken,
until hunters and herds walk the grasslands,
against each other’s shoulders . . .


Happy Summer Coming

Days of blessings -
my happy family,
a home to lay my pillow in,
a future to work toward
and a spectrum-wide love
that makes all the difficulties
hop the train and head for another town.
Finally a lifting that has taken so long,
an ease permeating floorboards, rising
to level with my nose.
Finally a breaking away from survival’s
clamped umbilical cord and a dignity
rushing in to overwrite the hardships.
Days of being satisfied, of no-more-gasping.
Days to let the arms hang relaxed
and give thanks again
for seeing us through. 



Miles Without Grace

With October gone
and cold cascading
over church steps,
stiffening the wings of
butterflies and hawks
a new dream raves
with October gone.

Falling clouds, falling shadows
into the heart-nests
into the white morning flame.

Only these things of faith won’t die,
only the skulls, the bronze soldiers
and the garden clocks live and knock
imagination loose.

Midnight on the stairs. A hard
bow and chain. And the brown-eyed
children laughing in the afternoon.

Death does not bow.
It is wood and nightingale cry.

I carry him with me
in my knapsack memories
and in the inside, whole and as
gentle as a ghost gliding over

the earth
and seas.

When Small Things Die

This is the guilt of being,
the empty horror,
the fearsome weight
of living conscious,
awake to the dull and lingering
ghosts. In my hands,
a small death, a mild cry,
a feeble resurrection.

This, the detached cycle,
the rotating climb
that no feeding heart grows used to.
Infant soul, infant eyes gazing
into my own. Body wriggling under
my warm fingers.

This is my love
expanding, my love too limited
to hold the healing needed, or shut off
the crude struggle of a gasping life. Life
thin-boned and motherless.
Cold paws, blue tongue,
neck, a loose ladder holding such a heavy,
awe-inspiring head,
down into final slumber:

looking now
like a child’s prized toy.



There is a beat in the darkening air
that whispers of love and laughter

There is song in the rippling wind
so moving
so unmeasured
that even dreams
cannot meet its glory

There is colour
There is more than power
in one stroke
in one fallen ray
that gives rhythm
to a discordant day

They say
Night comes
like death comes

But there,
Oh there!   The first star . . .


Moving away from
directions found
in the night,
as odd as waking up
on a foreign planet
with multiple moons
and a different-toned sun.
But I feel all my madness falling -
a thousand fears.
I feel what I found
by moving away
from the pain that needed to be
left behind.


the path of darkness
for you and of self-righteousness
for her no longer matters, until only what matters is
this blending of two
imperfect souls, showing the way
to self-discovery
by entwining despair and faith,
by enduring and then by releasing endurance
and allowing death and the miracle after death
to set in . . .



From the crossed arms
of an artist
to the embrace
of an ordinary connection,
joy comes in the privacy of this room
of this inner core
of four
chaotic souls,
roped together, each one linked
equally to each other,
each one a supreme balance to
the other, four in sync,
like the elements
that make the Earth
a living substance.


The Bite

It is in the bite
in the loins, born
from a deeper urgency
than the stuff outside the window.
This season is split,
it mends nothing and breaks
only that which has already been broken.
The rabid sorrow that has no voice
but lurks like a scream through
the corridors of the body.
It has been so long - the same cloud
latched to our roof, the same cry
of indignation and then pleading.
We have held out for release but the pressure
is locked and we must bear the journey.
We are left with the many devices of coping -
sure of God and nothing more.


By The Days

By the day
the evening comes.
By the evening the
stars emerge.
By the clock
what’s not
of substance falls
away and this is what
we carry as one
along with the dragged-around
dish cloth and the tomato seed
we long to (but never) bury.



The world is bleating,
frying and re-applying
its gruesome coat
of despicable snares.
The world is walking in,
shaving down my floor with its footsteps.
I touch it like I would
a balloon. I will not allow
it to consume or alter
the course of my aging.
I will stand and translate the core of this faith
to my children. I will give them something
to lean on when the world overtakes
and the ones out there lack
even a threadbare mercy
or a glimpse of celestial grace. 


Trouble is tearing
across rooftops,
and the one thing left to count on
is tainted by self-righteous conviction.
The blue in the sky is burnt.
The answer that arrives is conspicuous
and truth sits on the post unable
to touch ground on either side.
Abiding in power, abiding in
religious hate - all the gates of evil
are unlatched and the songbird lies
flat, stiff-legged on its side like
a mutated lullaby. What is called love is squishy,
retractable and never a priority.
Trouble is full and always filling
the cracks in every open seam.
What is called good gets its name
from the TV screen and the golden-calf-god
of hip.


After this

there is no other.
There will be the curtain charred
by deliberate fire.
There will be the food stomped
between floorboards and the
smile of faint sardonic recognition
at all the repulsive and petty senselessness
that lurks beside every phone call.
But there won’t be the hanging around,
or the deep dive into a suicidal quagmire.
After this, the energy stops
going where the devil leads,
going under the beams of sun
pulling flowers from the garden
at rapid speed and cursing the air around me.
After this, I can outlive any black star.


When the end that was supposed to be
defuses its eventuality
and my belly is maimed by fear,
I will wait, nose to the floor.

Sparkles on my fingers and thumbs,
a tingling caressing my spine - mercy will be mine.
For in this dark place I am still owned by the light.
The torn shirt and the broken boots are only glass
under my foot that must penetrate
before they can be nicked and thrown aside. 

I cry but I will not be crushed, for I have all
who I love secure by my side.


Thunder To Cross

I fell, without colour, separated
from purpose - a delight to the
violence of mediocrity.
This character I have seen form
is on exhibition, it has gained
sanity but lost its genius.
The burning bodies of grief
lingering from house to house.
Pollution put under the tongue like cyanide.
I wore that slipper. I left what I held sacred
for a more tangible condition.



Thrown into isolation - no need
for bread or even the gifts of summer.
That is all inside you - the Chinaglass dream
tarnished from age - the towering clouds,
never far enough to reach - the daughters
of loveless affection - the painted
patriarch of absolute control.

Your face has weaved a wonder
that the piled-up tissues of time cannot
obscure. For you, hope is
beautiful. To join is to be
elevated. But these acts are too large
for your darkness, too full of God to ever
own you with anything but longing. 

In this way, you are modern,
destroyed by what you name sacred, diamond
but lacking all shine.

In this way, you are gorgeous, guided by
an obvious morality yet struggling with the sly and unholy -
lightning-struck with an anger that will never free you,
reaching out
beyond yourself for what
even angels are denied.


The struggle of water

The wave takes
those under the drip-drain dream,
it carries them here
where language is clearer
but hope has died.
On the edge it tosses them -
from garbage pail to garbage pail,
a thousand miles sleeping.
It reforms without stealing - but not

 without a price.

Entering the organic spa-spot

The torture I held as you tiptoed across
my organ cells and hair follicles.
I held even more by holding insanity’s
delicate wafer on your conveyor belt.
I love this end the most, smelling charcoal and
the rotted-tooth breath of what once was.
I loved saying goodbye to your rigid palm-reading,
your depleting predictability and the adult-slot
I’ve had to slot my mind into
to manage you as well
as I did. And I did. I received gift baskets,
praise and even a place
on the roster. I know it was for something but even so,
it was nothing I can use in my journey among the
aspen shavings, the inter-sloping muse
that highjacks my better self
and gives it free play.
Even so, good to know, I am capable. So much better though,
to say goodbye, bow out and join ranks with the sages.
So much weight to shed, the load of metal-brick responsibilities,
keeping tabs, counting scores. So much that wants to be forgotten,
go unnoticed and lose the symbiotic skills of your success.
Mercy is mine, understand that. I am not settled, but embarking.
I am saying goodbye and it is easeful, a release that arrives as completion.



No Stone     No God 

I sang a stone, a star
retracting, turning charcoal, still
blood-fire aglow. I pulsed in the aftershock
of entropy, but never believed black
holes to be anything less than the pupils of God,
absorbing light, surrounded by swirling iris-galaxies.
Sucked through the mighty hurricane,
living inside the deepest of organ-flesh,
directing a liberating unfolding – a grand outside
poly-shield, infant-squalling. It is celestial traffic and
it is alive, caught in the mower, twitching, having
the edges shaved off to form a more easily
movable body-round – end-of-summer-stone.
I sang a stone, a star
tuned in to what flows out, seems like cement,
but isn’t, is a babbling, bubbling child – wonder
here – wonder at the root.
Limits are the end of all exploring,
the disconnecting, overtaking void, more void,
no food, no stone, no song.


Unmasking the Bone 

            The suffering released

you of certainty,

made you mourn your innocence.

            A brutal burn that crying could not erase.

            His hand reaching out to yours,

never changing in its irrational cruelty.

            And faith - it commands you to follow. Compels

you to let go, leap into the lungs

of a new god, a god

that makes one thing real

and takes all else in return.

            You sit by rivers watching, trust only

            hooks and horns for a time.

            For a time the horror stalks you,

            he follows your step

            over landscapes and continents,

            calls you every night

            with a new shock to harbour.

You say it is a canyon he has cut, full

of dry thorns where no thirst is eased.

            But what is the refuge wished for?

Is freedom too impossible

a word to use?

And what of him with his

opalescent depths and

offensive truths?

            What of you, who labours for a desireless love,



Have Faith In The Fall

Your tide
lets loose the havoc
of untamed emotions.

Your young smile,
your eyes watch
every novelty with untainted desire. 

You sleep
with your warm-womb remembrances, remembering
each day spent trusting, beyond innocence
and encroaching adulthood. 

You fear a climbing intent,
the discovery of
a shared room cold with hate. 

You enter
the boiling light
with no hand to hold. 

You, and those years
cutting like an eclipse
the wild purity of your extreme heart. 

You, and loving you
as you walk today, in the clutches
of this harrowing lesson.


He of Fear and Hunger

He, held hostage by the world's blade,
took his lovers with impersonal want.

He, never seizing with strength
his orphaned heart, but building
a fear of dependency, let harden
the soft bones of his under-wrists
and left each emptiness he found

He, abandoned to be ruled by rigid souls,
wandered under the atonement of many dawns,
refusing any shelter, refusing
to shoulder the burden
of his blood. 

He, with his groin of aching suckle,
risked love to save his dignity. 

He, of wilderness doom and burn
was solitary as a longsitting

Thin Rope To Hold

Drum hard on the wound
entangled in my eyes. 

Drum me a backroad
to forgiveness. 

And the venom of revenge,
drum that out too until its murdering addiction
lies down. 

I wait beside these deadly
roots - these are my nerves
clogged with insecurities.
How sharp this shrill in my heart
that never catches fire! 

Drum free my harvest
then show me the language
of weeds.


I Watch My Shelter Fall 

I swim, revolve like a planet
through the cosmic black, around
a sun of infinite heat, bruising
space as I go with my presence. 

            Non-stop battle of my spirit lusting
            for flight while my body’s on ground, growing
            mad with the weight of habit.

I need to feel the sky splitting
from my voice, to have the courage
to construct something enduring, a love

I am full of a future unborn, full of the terror
of awakening. 

I am leaving my heritage behind.
I am lifeless now as any
broken twig.


pure captivity

Last day under water with
the dragging weight of toe-the-line.
I taught myself the art of manifesting
a carry-on bag full from the hunt.
Days drifting on the sandbox dunes,
gleaming but never fresh as a horizon,
snatched from my mountain onto
a foreign homeland.
Limbo dives into infertile meeting rooms,
tables as round as King Arthur’s invention, but no knights
are these, only sagging eager pretenders, saying ‘fun!”
when meaning
“O hell, this is a hell-of-a-climb!”
I know my magic, the hand I was dealt and have
learned to never underestimate a leap of faith.
I trust my God – already bright and joyfully burning
A sword is harmony. I can’t think of a way
but around me is between me, and I am
swept of my burdens and my prisoners, trusting
to be clothed, this sacred baptism
into surf-riding the foaming plateaus of the tenuous
and difficult-breathing realms

Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Four times nominated for “Best of the Net”, 2015/2017, she has over 1125 poems published in over 450 international journals and anthologies. She has 21 published books of poetry, six collections and six chapbooks. She lives in Toronto with her family. She is a vegan. She also sculpts, working with clay; 

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. “River – Songs from the poetry of Allison Grayhurst” released October 2017.

Some of the places Grayhurst's work has appeared in include Parabola (Alone & Together print issue summer 2012); 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; 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; Fogged Clarity, Boston Poetry Magazine; Decanto; White Wall Review.