blackmail press 39
Allison Grayhurst

Four Steps To Standing on a Horse - Penny Howard - 2014
Allison Grayhurst is a full member of the League of Canadian Poets. She has over 425 poems published in more than 220 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 five 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. More recently, her e-chapbook "Surrogate Dharma" was published by Kind of a Hurricane Press, Barometric Pressures Author Series in October 2014.

She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay;

I was not a bird

or a bride
but wedded to the thick masculine
thighs of war, a priest of the dead -
myself a small idol that gathered a
kingdom of followers. I had but one lover,
a soul drenched with my own - long hair
and pretty eyes, a man of calm devotion, while
I enjoyed my blonde hair soaked
with my conquered enemy’s blood.
I enjoyed the cries of pursuit
and the galloping of hooves on foreign sands.
I was not driven by the robe or the snake charmer’s
deep throttle. I was fresh, never a victim of fear,
writhing with rage like a piranha plucked from the waters.
In the daylight, I was whole. At night, my lover
kissed my ring, my arms and forehead. We made love
with everything left to give to only each other -
two, dying young in a tent, just
before dawn on the brink of battle, never ones for
soft goodbyes.

Before Atonement

At night I was full
like others are in summer,
myself, just a silhouette at dawn
part of a church, but never part of
a calling.
I would look for owls as I canvassed unfamiliar roads
in winter, when everyone was lonely and the vein
of fulfilment pulsed obscure. I would knock on doors,
smile as though I was innocent, young in my hope
and inspired by ideals. Sometimes I would have tea and talk
as though I understood something, secretly carrying my
pink powder in a small golden tin, desperate for any kind of magic.
The smell of that powder - sweet, unusual and old - the feel
of that powder - like rubbing thick blood between finger and thumb -
I was someone with that powder - maybe a witch, maybe a prophet -
someone who communed with cats, the gangs of cats that would
emerge past dinnertime; sit under cars, behind tree trunks
watching me as I watched them.
At night, the van would pull up and I had so little to say -
except to the driver - We loved our silence, the awkward closeness
of agreed non-personal communication.
For me, there was only those nights and books,
there were only incoherent surreal images
storming my brain, longing to be redefined,
submerged in hard hard substance.

In and out of Spain

Spanish gardens, donkey trails.
Up steep dusty mountains we went, the four of us,
then we walked along rocky ocean cliffs, poking long sticks
in the waves. Whether it was an octopus’ play or anger,
tentacles wrapped tight around the tree-limb,
my brother screamed with excitement, pulled for a while
then let go.

Under surveillance at the corner store, we were
government-spied on
while buying popsicle rockets, licking,
lazily skipping back to the pool. I snuck
behind our apartment building
to feed dinner scraps to the desolate feline strays.

My mother bought us dyed pink chicks at Easter,
chick-feet running across a tile hard floor.
My father brought them back to the market
to face their inevitable doom.

Baby teeth, my brother’s and mine, tied to a string
tied to an open door.

Grandmother with her long
boney brown fingers, her fearful sins and Lucifer
always behind our backs, up elevators,
fueling the first of my many nightmares, and also
my morality.

A white Volkswagen. A massive pinkish sun,
making friends with Spanish boys breaking
bread beside Flamenco dancers.

There was a shark in the water.
I was lifted onto my father’s shoulders,
as he ran fast, past the menacing fin to the shore.

A diving board, lessons in breathing
and earning a swimmer’s endurance,
lessons in lifting my double-jointed arm to gain
front-crawl perfection.

Mother’s blonde and blonder hair.
Everynight parties.

Holland shoes
instead of stockings at Christmas.
Learning math at the kitchen table.
My father’s arms carrying me home
after a late night gathering of strange comic-book creatures,
laughing, making us little ones sit at the smaller table, ignoring
our just-out-of-toddlerhood need for adult attention.

Kindergarten handwriting at Bambi School,
Rice pudding everyday for lunch. Naranja-head,
children pointing, making fun because of my orange hair.
A pencil jabbed into my upper arm -
40 years later, the lead is still visible.

When we drove across the Denia boarder, into France,
then landed for months in London,
I could see my father’s memories coming back, his disappointments
overtaking. Maybe it was because it was in London
where his own father died, left India for, only to die
two weeks later in his wife’s arms,
leaving five children behind.

The first year back in Montreal,
my father started drinking heavily while my mother gave up,
got involved with her celebrity journalism and multitude of friends. 
I remember going to get breakfast, my father passed out
on the kitchen floor. I remember
in and out of Spain.

A weighted bliss in the lonely light

Love is a mountain inside a stone,
a lightweight singer finding purpose in a mourning choir.
Love is broken, mutating into falsetto, breaking,
then layering a new underbelly. Love is something
to wish for – moving, movable with just the right
amount of softness and substance, just the tips of fingers
coursing over a body. Love is a mind free enough to know
compassion as a coping method. It is body unbearable alone,
but under love’s touch, able to mark off conclusion after conclusion -
constantly budding, lasting ease
lasting elation.