Sunday, August 23, 2020

Birds of Flame

—Poetry by Allison Grayhurst, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
—Public Domain Illustrations


Up into
a wet pillow-cloud sky
bird of flame
like a yellow rose
touching the toes of gods,
past treelines and skyscrapers,
daughter of the wing,
receiver of the mating dance.
Bird beyond laws and names,
the visionary’s touchstone,
keep your flame and rise
like love rises and engulfs
the blooming darkness or like water rises
devouring the whale-hunter’s boat.
Up into the firmament,
higher than the experienced stars,
your craft is art, your light uproots time.
Do not land, but keep rising, a gold dome
over the blue, answer every dream
with a glowing !yes!
be our temple and our immortal hope.
absent of grief or longing, bird of flame,
you are smooth, loose and pliable as
the flesh of deep eternity.


I died every day
on the sorrowing cliffs,
a wolf pack closing in,
things I knew and believed in,
ordained, then tossed over the edge.

Prophecy was nothing, and shelter and bread
connected to this tortuous trope,
turned comfort upside down and spat
upon my flush face with all the vigor
of a personal enemy.

I fell asleep near the cliffs, woke up and wondered
why I was left here—still alive, no rescue in sight—
thinking of a helicopter, an angel, an army of
hunters or even a large helium balloon
to grab onto and ease my descent.
But I stayed near the cliffs, hearing the pack,
seeing their eyes through the undergrowth
but never feeling their jaws at my flesh
and never crossing the barrier into the abyss.

I stayed on the edge and waited as though I was
already in my grave, and I thought—is this
a purgatory punishment? A loop etched in linear
time, a fire on my back that burns and burns
but never consumes?

I am not sure if I am sleeping.
I am not sure if I am truly alive or a ghost
destined to repeat an unending horror,
wandering through the same torment.

I am ready to see, close my eyes, nearer, nearer, and leap,
be dashed into fragments or be vindicated, either way,


         World away of hollows
where light escapes, gets
through, flourishes in the
sluggish dream of humans.
         World of many layers—up
to pure communion and down
with the languishing un-animal beasts.
         Rivers that flow and merge, travel down.

Oceans rise up, their surfaces new,
surfaces discovered—air, sometimes just
air, other times, divine space where eyes
can come close in, examine the stars.
        World away of purple and gold,
merging lava with its harmony above.
Thorns that wake the many sleepers,
places where forgiveness is the only escape.
        Stones are mirrors, their surfaces blurred,
their boundaries unmasked and glorious flowers are
        World away where the faith in money
is a mouse-trap, catching souls, keeping them there,
broken and anguishing.
        World above of pure worship
and simple communion-smells move like lust,
desires amplified, approved,
like electric current-catalysts
for standard-accepted-forms of fulfilment.
        Colours of elms and of eagles, everything
less thick and less challenging.
Heads up, love
the obvious go-to solution.
        World away of patchwork tunnels,
going down, going up, a journey
matched in the imagination—
many dimensions, many limitations
added or lifted.
Moon half. Moon whole.
        World away where
walking forward with truth at the helm
is the maker of glory,
a living lucky charm.


Continue dreamer, down the halls,
through the citadel,
gather wings in your arms—small ones,
medium ones, feathered and translucent.

Follow the mini-current across the line,
then rush through forbidden lands,
drop those wings and wave your arms,
sing loud, sing ugly—nothing is a branch
that can’t be broken, nothing is a swing
that can’t be stilled.

Far away, in the ocean’s depths
there is no visible sun,
no use for warmth or a changing horizon.
The bird is condemned
in those depths and your voice
is just a bubble.

Rush to the edge of the shore
and decide your fate, glittering surface all aglow,
confined on land or in the water?
Take a step forward or
turn around, commit absolutely
and move.

Continue dreamer, down the halls,
listen to the warnings,
swallow them into your gut and
test your courage,
gather those wings and rush.


         When courage is smoke,
and it takes far too much effort
to build a mound to stop the flood,
         when fears and the bleeding winds of reality
destroy the indestructible diamond, turn it
into dust particles, lapped up
by the tongue of unsuspecting animals,
and the storm, it digs a wound like a valley,
red and brutal,
         when that happens, it is time to sleep, dream
of better days, watch TV, read and listen to other people’s stories,
bury your battle-slain heart under the covers and wait
for meaning.
         Meaning when found will restore courage,
sooth the raw chasm, give faith in the setting sun
and maybe even
press up against you, thundering,
a glorious beauty.


Today’s LittleNip:
The meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

—Nelson Henderson


It’s a pleasure to welcome Toronto’s Allison Grayhurst back to the Kitchen today! Allison is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Five times nominated for “Best of the Net” (2015/2017/2018), she has over 1260 poems published in over 500 international journals, and has 21 published books of poetry, six collections and six chapbooks. She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay; see





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