They come to me

ghost2

one by one
they come to me
those wakeful nights
floating like a grey dream
their water-stained bodies painted
in bony monochrome
shadows of what they used to be
lost souls in supplication
straining for what they think they need
I don’t know why they come
to me

in a queue
they come to me
each one with a request
uttered in urgent words that I can’t discern
then as if sticking to
a rule of etiquette for the dead
they pass by my shoulder
making room
for the next
sad shred of lonely memory
to beg for a lost possession
or physical release
and in this
seemingly endless stream they come
to me

limbs askew
they come to me
with their lips shaping silence
in some far language
unknown to I whose beating heart
pumps blood
I whose clear eyes can relate a story
and yet, desperate for help they come
to me

unremitting
they come to me
leaving with no more than their pain
no more than a picture of human pity
and I wonder if they know
they are ghosts

Written for The Daily Post One Word Prompt #Ghost

Β©Jane Paterson Basil

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63 thoughts on “They come to me

  1. I really like these 3 lines, β€œtheir water-stained bodies painted, in bony monochrome, shadows of what they used to be”. Powerful! I like the persistent quality that comes through in this piece, and the quiet questioning that seems to linger. Really nice work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They come to me… lost souls in supplication…
    ‘They come to me, the ones in dire need
    for aide, for comfort, for release
    I, whose heart pumps blood
    whose clear eyes see beyond
    I, whose Soul stirs to aid, to comfort, to release ‘
    Just thought I’d add to yours a bit. Forgive the impertinence. This is truly a beautiful piece of work, Jane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Impertinence is entirely the wrong word – what you’ve added is very pertinent, but I’m writing this from where I stood 20 years ago, when it first started happening,and I didn’t want to aide, comfort or release them. I wanted to be left alone so I could focus on exorcising the pain of loss from my daughter’s heart, and from our home. If you remember, it was just after her boyfriend died.
      And thank you for your kind words – I believe you’re the only person who knows what this poem is about.

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        1. thank you for that great link – you have an amazing talent for coming up with the right goods at the perfect time. I began re-arranging and clearing out my flat today, as I’ve just bought a piece of furniture for my bedroom that I’ve wanted for a long time – it replaces something I picked up when I was a begger, rather than a chooser.
          It just happens that the moon was full last night, so today it’s on the wane…

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  3. Truly eerie, sad, gorgeously evocative words. Your narrator doesn’t sound at all frightened, just curious, pitying, wishing to help and unable to. Makes me wonder what they all want and whether they can be helped.

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    1. The only one I could understand wanted me to retrieve something from beneath the floorboards of a house where he lived. Just for once I’m not joking. It began 20 years ago, at a time when I was going through extreme trauma. They come back sometimes even now, because I won’t take the medication, if you get my drift. I don’t mind – I almost always know the difference between flesh and blood and whatever they are, but it makes me sad.
      My local friends don’t know about this, so I hope none of them are reading…

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      1. Did you find out what it was he wanted you to fetch for him? I’m not surprised these things make you sad – voices calling out to you.
        It’s amazing what trauma can do. When I was having a tough time some while back, I believed I was made of glass and that if someone touched me I would shatter. The sensation didn’t last for long but it was truly disturbing while it did. I know several people who have seen figures at times of great stress – strangers, dead loved ones. Our minds trying to sort through the issues we’re dealing with. As long as we can tell fact from fiction, we’re on safe ground.

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        1. It’s amazing the stories I hear when I talk about my ghosts, but I’ve never heard of anyone thinking they were made of glass – that’s nasty. I have a fear of glass breaking. The thought of it makes me feel faint.
          The man was a WW1 soldier (a bit of a cliche?) He wanted me to lift the floorboards and get a tobacco tin – I think it was Capstan – from a gap between two bricks in the foundation. The tin contained a scrap of fabric, but I don’t know what else. The was was in a village five miles from my home. I got a vision of where it had been, and it was the spot where the village hall was located – in other words, his cottage had been demolished. all this information was conveyed over the course of several visits, because he didn’t have much time before passing me, to be replaced by the next ghost, and the next. Their lips moved, and though they made no sound, I heard their voices inside my head. I think that was the weirdest thing.
          It’s all part of life’s muddy, trampled tapestry πŸ™‚

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          1. It’s a fascinating story, Jane. I wonder what happened to the box and why it was so important. I’m glad at least the voices don’t frighten you. Hard enough to hear them but to be scared too would be too awful.
            Yes, my ‘glass period’ was traumatic – I should have sought help really, though I carried on, isolated but largely intact. There’s a touch of the crazy lady in me, but most of the time I manage to keep it under control πŸ™‚

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            1. In my experience, so called help can be hard to access, and when it’s not the right kind of help – for example, seeing a counsellor who has little imagination and no understanding of you as an individual – can be detrimental.
              Well done you, putting yourself back together with no assistance πŸ™‚

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              1. You’re right. Help can be sparse and damaging, unfortunately very true of the NHS, which tries its best but just doesn’t have the provision. And individual counsellors are patchy to say the least – some horror stories I’ve heard, where the professional really should not be working in their field.
                Thanks, Jane though I’m not sure I consciously did much to help myself. Fortunately my circumstances changed and I was able to heal. Good mental health is a frail and undervalued commodity πŸ™‚

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                    1. The last two times I fell into depression I didn’t know it – one time my doctor told me, and the other time a friend practically marched me to the medical centre, with me LAUGHING, and insisting I was fine – but I wasn’t.

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                    2. Thank goodness you had a good friend who saw the signs and helped you to find help.
                      I have a friend whose sister is bipolar and she thinks she’s doing brilliantly half the time, so well she doesn’t need her medication anymore. She continues to think she’s doing really well right up until the time she’s sectioned again. Now that is a condition that really makes a mess of your life.

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                    3. That’s something you’ve never mentioned. How much does it affect you? It’s hard, having to watch someone who’s stuck in that cycle. I’ve often wondered whether it would be possible for meds. for such conditions to be administered through implant.
                      I used to have several Bi-polar customers, and when they were manic I often had to argue them out of buying stupid things that they didn’t need from me. It’s great to fill the till, but not at the expense of someone whose spending is dictated by their mental illness.

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                    4. My friend is very philosophical about her bipolar sister – she’s had to have her sectioned several times over three decades or so and although at first she felt guilty to have to do it, now she knows there’s no other way.
                      We’ve had bipolar neighbours and a chap who had manic delusions. The bipolar guy was fine as he really liked us, though he did throw things through another neighbour’s window. The delusional guy was scarier – threatening, verbally violent. Though neither of them were as bad as the crack addict prostitute we lived next to in Totterdown. You meet some interesting people in rented accomodation πŸ™‚

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                    5. I don’t know how I managed to misread that and think it was your sister who was bipolar πŸ™‚
                      It sounds as if you have have a whale of a time up there in groovy Bristol.
                      Living next door to a crack fiend – that’s dodgy. Heroin is talcum powder compared to that.

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                    6. Yes, that neighbour was fun – threatening to burn the house down, covering the front door with lighter fluid when she had a row with her boyfriend was probably the worst night. Our delusional neighbour was in Buxton, where my mum lives – even pretty little spa towns have their interesting characters πŸ™‚

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                    7. You see – drugs make life so much more colourful πŸ™‚ Living there must have been nerve-wracking. As for delusions, they’re horrible to try to deal with. Laura used to put selotape across my doors and windows at night, so that in the morning she’s know if the men on the roof had come in and raped her while she was asleep. I kept trying to tell her there’s be other ways of spotting whether that had happened…

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                    8. Must be horrific for the person suffering them – so frightening. Was there any way of helping her when she believed these things? Must have been awful for you to see her that way, Jane. The things our brains do to us is frightening

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                    9. In Barnstaple we’ve already seen an improvement – less incedents of erratic behaviour around town and a drop both in the young suicide rate, and in heroin overdose. Most of the addicts who overdosed on heroin during the couple of years before legal highs were banned were also doing them. It affected their judgement, and I also suspect that some of those ODs were deliberate, because legal highs can make people feel helpless and terribly depressed.

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                    10. They are a menace. Thank goodness someone worked out legislation to make them less available. It won’t stop some people searching them out, of course, but it’ll be more difficult at least

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                    11. There are less young people doing them now they’re not easily available, and a lot of the addicts who were using them as suppliments have given them up. But like the atom bomb, they can’t be uninvented.

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                    12. We used to drink enough so you could smell it on our breath, then stagger around, slurring “I feel really drunk.” πŸ™‚ But then I hit fifteen and I switched from snowball to vodka. Oh dear πŸ™‚

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                    13. Ah, the good old snowball – my mum’s drink of choice for so many Christmases when I was a kid. We had a dog that loved them too, though of course she had to steal them – we didn’t feed them to here. Do you think the snowball will ever have a revival Along with prawn cocktail and Black Forest Gateaux?

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                    14. Yes, you’re right. Changes to social mobility, post-war rationing, environmental concerns, increased travel and exposure to foreign influences – all evident in our changes diet. I think you should write a treatise on the subject πŸ™‚

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                    15. Sometimes I think I should learn to focus, but then I think “What if the sun was blue? I want some chocolate cake. Look at those cars. I’ll write a poem about how people in cars… I’ll go to the gym. The sky looks nice. It deserves a poem. Now. Do I need to focus? Nah… The gym. What if I wrote a poem that seems to be about lemon meringue but turns out to be about working class heroes? Should I be writing humorous articles instead of wasting space in the comments and taking up Lynn’s valuable reading time? Did I have lunch? I’ll write a poem about razor wire.”
                      And so on πŸ™‚

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                    16. It’s called creativity, though, surely, the way ideas buzz in your brain, those random thoughts that some other people think are just plain odd but are the meat of writing. Or the germ of writing. The seed? The manure? Anyway, keep thinking the way you think – it’s a pleasure to read your outpourings πŸ™‚

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                    17. You have to scribble the ideas down as they come, or they vanish in an instant. I had a brilliant idea for a novel once – the best, perfect, original, the best one I ever had. Unfortunately it was the middle of then night so I didn’t write it down, but I told my self this was so amazing I’d never forget it. In the morning, all gone. Just the awful knowledge that I let something brilliant slip away.

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                    18. I wonder how many of us have that experience. When I close my eyes words immediately start flying though my head, and I used to switch the light on and write them down, but I found by morning I had new ideas, so there wasn’t time for all of them. It’s different for me though, these are just little poems. One more or less makes no difference.
                      An idea for a novel though, that’s another thing entirely.

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                    19. It was heartbreaking and has kind of haunted me since, which I know sounds rather dramatic, but it’s true. A feeling that somewhere in my brain is a brilliant idea I will never remember.
                      At least your ideas keep coming – many people would really envy that.

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                    20. I used to keep a notebook by the bed and I should get back into that habit. Problem is the other half is a very light sleeper – pretty sure I’d wake him with my nocturnal fumblings πŸ™‚

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                    21. He’ll have to learn to suffer for your Art, dahhling. Five years on you’ll be swigging shampers at the premiere of the film they make from your first book, and he’ll be retiring early to give him time to cook your meals regularly and dust your awards. πŸ™‚

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                    22. Haha! I’m not sure there isn’t a tiny bit of him hoping for that! If I could earn that kind of money he would retire tomorrow. Though if I had that kind of money, I’d have to make sure the house didn’t fill up with bass guitars … πŸ™‚

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                    23. Haha! Not sure if he counts as he’s an amateur musician – I think they’re still classed as human if they actually make money in a different profession πŸ™‚ Not I – don’t have a musical atom within me. I like to sing, but others don’t paticulary like to listen – can’t understand why πŸ™‚

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                    24. Be very careful – sometimes they disguise themselves, so they can get into the workplace, get married, have children even – and then it starts. Does your – well, son, for want of a better word, have any musical talent? Did the singing start after you met this musician? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, pick up what ever you can’t survive without, quickly and quietly. Don’t cause any suspicion – just leave. Go somewhere they’ll never find you, like Mexico.
                      I’m telling you this for your own good – you know that don’t you Lynn?
                      God speed πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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                    25. Fortunately the singing (and whistling!) started years before I met the other half. And although son has some talent he’d rather do virtual things than make the effort to play and instrument. I think we may be okay, but I’ll be more vigilant from now on. Thanks for the warning, Jane πŸ™‚

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