Dad (a eulogy)

Dad (a eulogy)

 (Denis Grayhurst – August 2,1934- November 19, 1996)


“My life was my peace, now,

in the moment of my release.”




Under here in the dark

deepest dream, the cold

loss, unbearable change,

I cry out blood. I have no

overcoat, no more protection.

It is now a different light I seek,

an alchemized marrow in my bones.

Do I sing, for death is peace,

and death is the edge that slices

the tongue in two, that drains the cup

of every drink? Home – I have lost

the essential tie. I have lived with a bond

so beautiful, now broken by fate and the blue-turning

cheek. How will I know my own grief,

the shattering that eclipses all but faith?

        In the newspaper turning, I smell

your hairspray, I hear your boisterous voice.

I clasp in my hands the raw fire of nevermore.

Stand close to my mirror,

and help me breathe in and out,

help me take into my own

your generous heart.




I knelt before his photograph

on the casket and we talked

of gratitude and goodbyes. I saw

compassion’s light, there, in

his dark tremendous eyes.

I felt the tearing off of seven layers of skin.

I held my hands together. Faith,

where is your shield? Your cradle

to rest my shattered spine? Each cell

is reformed by his departure. I am left

in the winter wind without clothing

or a protective tree.




Cut, the thin clouds

cut a pathway within

where loss is deep as God.

My fingers move like trains

back and forth. Ashes in an urn. Graveyard green

flavoured by tears. I whisper to him when on the gravel road.

I see him beyond the fence, in the coming

December snows. I need him like before,

when hearing children talk, when waiting

for a terrible moment to pass. He formed a giving spirit,

rooted in integrity. Angels come and go,

hovering in my pocket books and on highways

I never cross. They touch the seagulls’

outgoing breath, they write his name

on Scarborough cliffs. I will not mourn

with unholy regrets, nor would I change

the tension in his nerves.




In closets, memories pile,

their scents and wooden colours

for years at rest in unchanged

shadowed hovels. I find myself

in unfamiliar rooms, emptied

of hope and the driven smile.

I find the walls pulsing, and the floor,

a bruised body I have cried for.

In years, this hot blood of loss

will thin and this tumour of unbuffered

pain will shrink and mend. In years, I will

see his picture and spend a Christmas under a pink sun.

November winds will wrap me in

a sweet and grateful slumber.




Hammered by a kaleidoscope of memories,

through the grand “if” and the willy-nilly

confines of love. Rifts in the pavement

I walk on today, still stunned by the enormous

and the unchangeable, still frightened of my thoughts

that go into the hard void, into the unfocused

stare and the image of him lying there,

no longer. Up & down craters beyond

this century’s grasp, beyond the books

I’ve read and anguish before encountered.

He answers me in my head, wakes me at 2 am.

He protects me still, though his arms have bent

to the cold, unforgiving ash.




Appleseeds I’ll never bury.

Evergreens lean towards the greying sky.

He is there like a shadow on my back, there

in the wheat-coloured grass.

He is over the city factories,

his face resides on graffiti walls.

And on telephone wires I see him sit

with the starlings, smell him in the scent

of evening rain. I hear his stories from

the beautiful lips of children. I think

I’ll see him tomorrow again, know his

paternal warmth, the way his smile lifted

the corners of his mouth.

Time is drifting into the homes of strangers,

as death strides beside every dream

living, defiled or lost.

He surrounds me like the sounds of a streetcar

running, and I am running, struggling

to stop, lay down and to be reborn.




Ocean-cold and wooed by the tongues

of snakes. Miracles abound,

but still grief gnaws a pathway

through my torso. Trees are singing

of the flames I sleep in and the empty

days toss me to and fro, from heavy tears

to rage. How without him in the huge,

unpredictable world? How without his loud

and open gifts? Landscapes where centres break

and colours are no more. I touch the crocodile

tooth, the boiling point of all my bones.

So alone, coupled with the uncertain dark.


I miss his brown fiery eyes and how

he lived, pampering the hearts of others.

I miss him like I would my very skin, like the shell its yolk,

and the eyes, their vision – Where

is the cure? Where is the farewell

from this gruesome spell? The shock

still rivets in me. Crows spin through the clouds.

Death has been unleashed like the first feel of pain.


Believe me, you have reached me. Believe me,

this enemy won’t win. I will stand tall for you.

I will hold your hand until morning.




Pale in the December sky,

the sun is but an insect’s dream.

I leap from cabooses onto the icy tracks.

There are people in the playground,

happy that Christmas is near. There are

buildings with stained-glass windows,

reminding me of the aloneness we each are

bound to endure. Now my father, I wake to find

you hour upon hour at night. I talk to you

in half-conscious streams. In the afternoon,

I break down. Crows sit on my porch,

then follow me through the peopled-street

where I swear your shoes have travelled, once

in a bachelor’s dream. And mother is all

sliced-up inside. Days and days we spend

looking at old photos, trying to dispel

her sorrow and devouring regrets.

My husband holds me like the best

of friends do. He carries me over

these desert fires. I want to tell you

how good was your influence, how soft

my aching eyes. I want to know you again

after I die, like you were in this life –

my strong, my steadfast guide.




Old factory fields in mid-December’s light.

Vacant barns and rows of suburban homes.

You pushed me on the swing

and gave me courage to dive.

Sunsets in Spain and the sounds

of the typewriter at 4 am are now part

of my muscles and nerves – you are in me

like a fledgling in its nest or the drive

behind my every restless year. You knew

how the great dream fell, how rage can find

the form of forgiveness, and the bridge

between our two stubborn intensities.

You were my ally in the social sphere, my

guardian in the tower, my place of safety

and self-belief. You held me near

when the curtain opened, and my childhood

fastened to a ravenous storm.




I live in a room of brown-papered walls,

TV screens and empty teacups. I want

to give up like the hand that lets go

of the cliff or the orphaned boy

left on the streets alone. I’m trying

to keep my head steady, but no abstractions

relieve me, only pins and needles in my brain

and the intestinal twist that has found

its way within like a permanent companion.

People call, but only this empty dread

makes its bed in my heart.


I know it is over – the special way we needed

one another. I know I must take the road

to lead me on, past the dried flowers

and 1 pm breakdowns. Shakespeare at

the dinner table and omelettes in the

afternoons – I won’t forget a single

kindness, the way you prayed

on that darkest day in my adolescent life.

Ceilings crack overhead. I knife

a million strangers. I curse the cars

going by and the cockroach on the kitchen

floor. There are no distractions from death.

There are no soothing things to do –

but to wait behind this cold and sealed door.




The cloven hoof of

this and that blood’s pardon.

I feel the acorn hit,

the crossing of the Nile.

I feel like an Indian summer,

and all the sweat pouring into

the brass cup of mortal knowing.

Time, in time no love is broken,

not the pound pound pound of his

nature, not the be-all of his voice.

I will never hear that voice again,

not his loud centre ringing, his

male pride, gentle in the sun.

I will never carry his water again,

or tell him – I thank God

for you. For you and your quickened

energy, for the artery of your moral

gestures that gave with ‘yes & no’,

with ‘wrong & right’, the seed

of my shelter and the over-fair justice

I believed in all my childhood life.

I thank God for your walking sound,

how the room rebounded with your

surely presence, and the smile on

your eccentric face, there, when we talked

of a grandchild. I thank God for the breathing space

you gave, and the will to live out my tale.

I thank God for the hemisphere you made

and the beautiful passions you instilled

in my heart. I thank God for you –

my weight, the reason I write

my song.




If today the closed eye

takes me to where I’ve never

been before, if I meet my father

in the mirror or in a five & dime store,

would this pressure drain like the letting

of blood, would these horror-stricken

days mean nothing now but a bitter

tossed-away cup? If he moved through

a dream saying – Do not be afraid.

Do not let your mind fracture or your lips

turn blue – would I know him like

last month or meet him with raw wonder, anew?

        The rings around my fingers.

        The friends I cannot keep.




A month crushed

in the vortex of a python’s circle.

Stale breath filling my atmosphere,

and hope is but soft warm sand

beneath the feet, is a season that

never fades, is not what my hands

can trace. I long for mornings

all to myself, to hear his voice

once more on the phone. But rocking chairs

and crossword puzzles rest vacant as

2 am streets. And birthday cakes are past

like an old person’s dreams. He returns

again at night, alive for one more week.

Rain pours onto my teeth and

nutshells are gathered by the winter’s

black and brindle squirrels.




With grace I may be replenished.

This dull anguish may be replaced

with starlight in my belly. Or with the

million winds of God’s miraculous justice,

I may return to a little one the goodness

he gave, be offered the chance to feel

the kick, to know no stronger responsibility.

The same as he (with his stoic suffering

and gregarious generosity) plucked the weeds

from my journey’s path and made me see

with moral clarity the fault of all but love –

so maybe I can be for one what he was for me.

Maybe soon my turn will come.




Before I knew my own face

in the reflection, I saw

sparrows rolling in the sand

and wished my heart open as the underpass

cars travel through. Before I knew of death

and its yellow-green smile, I offered

caramel-coated apples and chocolate bars

to placate it. But now I stand

beside its smelly aftermath. I feel

its wrenching voice fill my solitude,

and all the mad children of this and

other worlds echo their hell beneath

my many scarves and sweaters, touching

me nude with their growing black hole.

And soon I am just darkness with no size,

no boundaries or vision of outside. Soon

I am embittered by friendships I thought

I had, and mountains of rage churn like

spoilt food in my belly. I am sad too, like

the willow tree in my Montreal backyard.

Sad like my father when his mother died,

and his orphan cry lied sealed inside

like a voiceless fear. Because now he

is gone and things I often waited for

will never pass. No “Owl & The Pussycat”

for my children’s ears, no more pride in

his sideways smile, or trips to India

or English moors. He will never know

my children’s names.




Pigeons flock through the fog,

high above the park benches and lamp posts.

Guilt has no shore, but is an endless

sea where jellyfish and stingrays

make their nests and the dolphin

is no more. Our talks by the fireside

will never be again, or his drifting

to sleep on the couch in the winter’s

after-midnight air. On Christmas eve,

all my memories are soaked into

the tree’s red and blue lights. And Grandma

is gone, as well as the dog beside me.

But worst is the emptiness of his vanishing,

is the click click inside my throat

and the razor-burn on my knees. Kneel and pray,

for life is nothing but this and that thing done,

is the touching of two hearts

and the softening of brittle ways, is to keep

the soul’s challenge forefront, then to sing

around the merry table of relatives and friends,

as if immune to bitter unbelief and fear

that drives the nail inward. He is

on the windowsill looking in,

reminding me that long ago

our once colliding spirits

made the greatest of amends.




Waves of snow outside the window,

moving like pure isolation, cleansing all

with its cold fury. Last night

I hugged him in a short farewell in my head,

in the blue fog of a dream. And waking

I found peace in January calling. Outside

a city hawk circled, blessing me and mine

with its instinct so talon-strong and

close to God. Families I never knew

have opened my heart. Barnyards and lithe trees,

stretch toward the silver sun. I miss him

at the dinner table and when the wine is served,

when all the things of hopes and wonders

implode within. Into the scent of dried rose petals

death dives with mad glee. Water-towers

cut a hole through eternity. The wrinkled word

I cannot speak. The keepsakes (like hot wax

pouring onto my belly) cause a redness

that releases my broken-heart’s moan. And hanging,

– my flesh, my guilt, my grief –

now and forever merged, undeniably atoned.





Copyright © 2000 by Allison Grayhurst




Published in “Tower Journal, Volume 7, Issue 2” June 2015



Published in “Poetry Life & Times” April 2015



You can listen to the poem by clicking below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8


In response to “Dad – an eulogy”

“Visceral, haunting and lyrical all at once,” poet and poetry editor Sara Russell.


“Allison Grayhurst intertwines a potent spirituality throughout her work so that each poem is not simply a statement or observation, but a revelation that demands the reader’s personal involvement. Grayhurst’s poetic genius is profound and evident. Her voice is uniquely authentic, undeniable in its dignified vulnerability as it is in its significance,” Kyp Harness, singer/songwriter, author.

“Allison Grayhurst’s poems are like cathedrals witnessing and articulating in unflinching graphic detail the gritty angst and grief of life, while taking it to rare clarity, calm and comfort. Grayhurst’s work is haunting, majestic and cleansing, often leaving one breathless in the wake of its intelligence, hope, faith and love amidst the muck of life. Many of Allison Grayhurst’s poems are simply masterpieces. Grayhurst’s poetry is a lighthouse of intelligent honour… indeed, intelligence rips through her work like white water,” Taylor Jane Green, Registered Spiritual Psychotherapist and author.