Joshua’s Shoulder


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.




Copyright © 1989 by Allison Grayhurst


Joshua’s Shoulder was published  in 1989 by The Plowman, written by Allison Grayhurst under the pseudonym of Jocelyn Kain.

Joshua's shoulderimg157


First published in “The Plowman: A Journal of International Poetry” 1989


You can listen to this poem by clicking below:



Animal Culture (rules of commitment) in progress:

Do animals have culture?
Yes! The great wisdom
of Earth spoke.

And She spoke –
Having faith in God
is trusting God’s faithfulness.


Art either gives what is longed for
or what is unexpected.
The best art gives both, simultaneously.

© by Allison Grayhurst 2018


If it is what you want . . .


If it is what you want . . .



Bleed out

in the dirt and dung of relationship,

leap like a lemming off the cliff

soothe your cracked hands in olive oil,

then take another’s hands and allow them

to join you in this private matter.

        It is in this truth, ourselves with another, that

we test the mettle of our discoveries, the cleanliness

of the mansions we live in.


I see stillness in the saga, retreat

when necessary and triumphant vows

in spite of chaos and the blood-drenched ground.

        I will never be fully born,

whole enough to join the stars in their whistling.

Each time it will be a sunflower plucked,

and the bee along with it,

each time torn awake –

on the threshold of death, only to master

the small stream before it widens into a river.


Each time,

love is a miracle – the movement forward, past

jagged huge stones, decaying corpses.

        Let your bare feet make contact, even lie flat,

naked, face down, take in

the sharp edges, the smell, the sight, then

answer back by rising and walking and

acknowledging the sky.

Say, love, my love,

you are more than habit,

you are the most treasured thing ever pulled from the void,

the only summer worth remembering, a seed

that turned into a thousand-year-old tree and yet still

just a seed, easily crushed, demanding nutrients and care.


Clear cutting, mud-thrashing,

faint smiles that unfold a cityscape of fears.

Barely making it, sure of decline, then suddenly, soaring –

one nod, the same need, mutual reviving genesis.

It is soft sometimes, but mostly impossible,

always impossible, alone.


Make up your mind.

Make a shell and break it completely.

Pick an apple, and chew.



 © 2018 by Allison Grayhurst



First published in “Elephant Journal” April 2018



You can listen to the poem by clicking below:



Animal Culture (rules of commitment) in progress:

Do animals have culture?
Yes! The great wisdom
of Earth spoke.

And She spoke –
Having faith in God
is trusting God’s faithfulness.


Art either gives what is longed for
or what is unexpected.
The best art gives both, simultaneously.

© by Allison Grayhurst 2018


Only One


Only One


What speaks of tenderness in the dead-blue

aftermath of human-induced horror?

When husband and wife are at odds,

seeing only the diseased boil of slaughter

then non-existence, when the pregnant woman

finds no seat in the midst of a

crowded day?

What speaks of holding on when the world is pale

with grief and parents mock their children’s love

with coldness and condescension?

What eye can see divine magnificence before

its doom? Or find greatness in what

society has ignored or condemned?


On the rafters a single flower is born.

I look to that single flower, like I look to spending

the afternoon with the ones who have endeared,

like the pulse and turn of my infant within

or a brief morning solitude –

                  open for interpretation.



Copyright © 2004 by Allison Grayhurst



First published titled “Only”  in “The Screech Owl” and “The Screech Owl” printed volume one







Afterwards, I sit on the altar

of my withdrawal. I will not kneel, rendering

myself a thicker chair. My kind, like

fangs and hooves combined in one secret

creature. A city without history, emotions that

echo but do not deliver. My dress of skin: this place

cannot hold me any longer. Do you see the thumbprint

of the ocean – crater like – in the center of every Earth-rhythm?

Unable to fully believe in Earthy-things and the sun in its

frame of sky, marching on and over – so tired of this

tangle! ongoing. going on. For hopes of a caress, an instant

of locked eyes and the merging of souls. My voice –

weightless as a dream. Desire is a shell, the scent of

cedarwood saturating the pores, memories I haven’t

yet encountered. Sweeping is the goal.

And love stays, but how much

is a basket of exotic fruit, and how much more,




Copyright © 2010 by Allison Grayhurst

Walkways cover 2


First published in “The Kitchen Poet”

It is a strange dream


It is a strange dream



to be a woman, this woman,

ripped out of an other-worldly childhood

into monthly nightmare extremes, and

the mess – the demanding insects crawling

under coat sleeves, pant cuffs, arm cuffs

onto belly and breasts, swollen, aching.


To grow curves and be looked at but not seen:

to be told to smile.


Then to bear the weight of another living being

cuckooing, blooming inside – shifting joints, altering

established gaits, and the hunger.


Being with those you bore and birthed

in every stair climbed, in every sleep, each minute,

never without their beings not beside yours, living

the greatest of all imaginings –

heaven in a hug, tangible in eyes

that are not yours but are threaded tightly to your nerves,

riveting through you – their breaths

more significant to your survival than your own, riveting

like fireworks and famine,

in their sorrow and brightness.


Almost grown, then grown and swinging from

bell-towers without safety nets, changing houses,

destroying rooms, forgetting, sometimes remembering, God.

The love, resonating into cracks in plaster, deeper

than the sound of a million singing bowls, singing, salting

your howl, and the chant of your joy.


They are mostly good, and you learn the lesson hard

that the greatest gift you can give them is knowing when

to hold on and when to let go, and you must let go.


The day comes near fifty when your body begins its final chapter –

starts slow, builds unacceptable,

steals sleep, sanity, your strong and capable shoulders.

No one knows, has to know, but you

refuse to keep it secret, refuse

the nagging misogynistic whispering shame.


Your home is blessed, your husband and you,

still mad, making love, in love, vibrating true to your visions,

a home haloed in struggle and uncompromised ideals.

You meditate, make a routine and stick to it, as this transformation


lasts for years. Sweaters on, sweaters off, heat

first on the face then infiltrating your spine, down, down,

spreading like hot poison, flooding every pore.

When it has gone far beyond the tolerable threshold,

then it lets up,

only to return and begin again.


What a strange dream I have never dreamt before –

to receive the climb, lie down with babes, nurse other beings

into their own, to release the cycle, enduring

the havoc of becoming yet anew.


I should not cry but be praising, grateful

to finally spin a journey in this form.

It is a high road, can be

a life-long sermon, and such a strange dream,


weaving me a pair of wings to flaunt, maybe

never flight-bound but always love-bound and

rich, rich as death, a backdrop

to the pale but pounding pulse of dreams,

the nut-meat, nectar

of eternal pilgrimage.



 © 2018 by Allison Grayhurst



First published in “Elephant Journal”, April 2018



You can listen to the poem by clicking below:



Animal Culture (rules of commitment) in progress:


Do animals have culture?
Yes! The great wisdom
of Earth spoke.

And She spoke –
Having faith in God
is trusting God’s faithfulness.


Art either gives what is longed for
or what is unexpected.
The best art gives both, simultaneously.

© by Allison Grayhurst 2018



I Find Clarity


I Find Clarity


I find clarity

beside the open coffin

beside the one made of glass

with the see-through dogma

and beside the one of simple majesty.

I find myself free of the cumbersome hunger

for revival. I find myself just wanting

to be in the shadow, away from direct

light and the attitude of sentimentality and guilt.

I find my hands are strong and my legs

are capable of walking long distances.

I find that that is enough

to complete me.

I find food in someone else’s grocery cart

and my thirst is something I have learned to live with.

I find I am not so impressed with what used to

impress me. I am not striving for passion

at every turn, but I find passion at the lower levels

where rodents crawl and babies

muse at the ceiling.



Copyright © 2008 by Allison Grayhurst


BookCoverImage Allison GrayhurstTrial and Witness back cover final


First published in “Jumping Blue Gods”


The Book


The Book


Inside, spending all my coins, rejoicing

on ephemeral longing, on a lustful inhale

for physical redemption.


Hidden in the pages, I am hidden

at four in the morning, bathing in perfection,

lifting into heights that obscure drudgery.


Thoughts are shapes that float as shadows,

hardly solid like butter left out of the fridge.

Cages unraveling and houses cleaned of cobwebs.

Between soft book covers freedom kisses explicitly,

candy-ices without embarrassment.


Hanging on hinges, on barely glanced-at walls,

I gather my vision in the grass, paint on the

bones of another’s life – beautiful bones and hallways

of many feet walking and swishing bathrobes.

In the book I can face forward and never fear rejection,

I can shower sensuously in warm rhythms,

tied to the stirring light of early summer.

Love between these diary covers is not just canvass

or thick hues that merge and make a middle, it is where I will

at last know another’s body as I know my own, be protected

from the torrential pawing pierce of middle-age loneliness.


Inside the book, you are under me like a bed of lavender bushes,

there are waves where once sunken skeletons rise like coral,

polished pure of their violent history.


Drowning in the book, imagining ants collecting,

synchronized on an apple core.


Bells in my head, footsteps rising, closer now,

you know me well. Inside the book, you know me better.

We are two trees – branches and roots, an interwoven crocheted

impressionistic portrait, staying through heavy storms.


Inside the book, we are creatures of greater sympathy.

You are like yarn, tied to my brush and hold, never in

the liquid valley of a distant boat, or obvious as a prickly,

rigid rope. I am mature, a woman with a ceiling to touch,

fifty feet of surrounding stillness, unfettered

from the expectations of my time and gender,

radiant, more, whole.




Copyright © 2013 by Allison Grayhurst


Currents - pastlife poems cover 4

BookCoverImage Allison GrayhurstTrial and Witness print back cover


First published in “Wilderness House Literary Review”