In sleep, you forget what you knew the night before —
until you’re rudely woken by it knocking at your door.
You rise from bed, scratch your head, to try to dispel the daze;
as you open the door to let him in, “She’s gone again,” he says.
I, in my PJs, make a soothing cup of tea –
the simple British reply to dire difficulty.

When man or android beats the dust, or the dachshund runs away,
when air grows fat between the hand-picked words we want to say,
when cabbages and kings can’t change the way we feel,
we make a cup of tea, and as it chills, we wait to heal…
though for many, wine suffices and our well-worn ways are gone,
my daughter’s man is old-school, so I put the kettle on.

This decent man has angles, and some of them need grinding,
and, despite his open anguish, it’s the right time to begin.
He tries to keep control, but if you take a careful look,
you will see his weaknesses; I’ve read him like a book,
so instead of dancing curlicues around his jagged points,
this time I knock the ends off them, and don’t massage the joints.

My eyes may tell a lie of lazy waves on sleepy sea.
but every pin that pricked her vein is embedded deep in me,
I’ve wrapped them up in winter-jasmin blankets that I weave
with thickest weft to hide the sticky warp of secret grief,
so when the witch with bloodied wand casts spells to steal my girl,
my heart will hold together, my life will not unfurl.

In his hurt, he feels the need to ruffle my still water,
so he uses words as weapons, in quiet rant against my daughter.
He tells me homeless heartache waits, and trailing dampened bags,
mentions filling flattened veins with death-dirt, dressed in rags,
as if he thinks my suffering will negate his twisting pain —
and as a slapping afterthought, he says, “she’ll never change.”

He gazes again, at my calm, centred ocean, and I think he can see
my stillness is gulped carefully, and measured well, by me.
Now he knows that the faith I have found in my daughter
will not easily be shaken, and the perception of water
takes his breath away. Loneliness swarms in his brain.
I see it, yet don’t reach out, and I refuse the blame.

Loneliness swarms, and though I empathise, he needs to know
that although I cannot travel everywhere she goes,
I will watch her on her journey, cheering at every rise,
and I will be there when she bravely climbs the other side.
He must define his desires, decide which way he will go,
I won’t try to persuade him to star in my daughter’s show.

He’s floundering; this conversation is outside the bounds that he set.
He looks for a space where the dubious words “I can’t do this,” will fit,
but I’ve changed the cue, as it would be a waste of oxygen.
He waits until the buzzing swarm of silence is gone,
then politely asks if he can make another cup of tea.
We listen to the water as it heats for him and me.

His phone rings. Her voice comes through the waves
He looks relieved. “Where are you?” he says.
She’s back at the flat. He leaves immediately,
invisioning a leaky seam through which the light may reach.

She only spent one night away.

Previously it was three.

Before it was more.

Deep within me, the inches of new weft,
secretly woven as I listened and spoke, settle.
They will not be needed yet.

The kettle boils and switches off, ignored.
I breathe, my fragile peace restored.

Written for The Daily Post #Swarm

©Jane Paterson Basil

23 thoughts on “Floundering

  1. I know you hold a lot of pain and tears, but I have to say you are one fabulous poet. It’s not an even exchange – I know and I can only hope that someday you will write of her beauty beneath the sun, a family whole again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s fault on both sides. She starts to feel stifled because he’s always by her side, but she doesn’t have the courage to say anything until it reaches crisis point, when she says she’s going to see a friend, but doesn’t admit she won’t be back that night. Then she turns her phone off…
      The previous time she left, it was to stay with me for a night – I was with them at the time. He didn’t believe her and said if she stayed out she couldn’t come back. We had to lug all her stuff to my flat, though we knew he’d change his mind.
      He’s a lovely man, but he needs to stop making empty threats and find a different way to handle things.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m going through my blog, as I want to delete some of my old posts. I’ve reached the post I wrote just before the horrific event that turned my daughter’s life around.
        When Laura stopped using, my eldest daughter was able to safely renew contact with her, and my son went into recovery. Re-reading your lovely response to this post brought tears to my eyes. You said “I can only hope that someday you will write of her beauty beneath the sun, a family whole again.”
        We still have a distance to go, but I spent Saturday evening with my two older girls and my five grandsons, and the heaviness that usually lurks beneath the cheerful surface was gone. Nobody gave me anxious looks. We all had a wonderful time. My younger two weren’t able to be there, but that day will come. I’m looking at the possibility of us having a full family reunion in January.
        We will be a family whole again.
        I feel moved to thank you again for your message of hope, which so suddenly became a reality xxx


    1. This is an unfortunate poem. It’s about my daughter disappearing for days on end. I’m her mother. Her partner came to me every time she wandered off.
      I didn’t know she was trying to get away from him, or that he had 24 convictions for violence behind him. He used a false name. Two days after I wrote that poem he imprisoned, beat and robbed her. She escaped and came to me.
      She is now safe, well, and happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. How very terrible. I am truly glad to know your daughter is safe.

    I apologize for having misinterpreted your heartfelt poem. Because the narrator’s voice is so strong (and the partner presumes a sympathetic ear), I thought you’d written from a fellow male’s perspective, i.e. the father’s. The poem is moving from that perspective, as well. I, also, mistook your mention of “filling flattened veins with death” for a reference to drug abuse on your daughter’s part. Clearly, my errors. Again, I apologize.

    Though there are many devoted mothers on earth, not many manage to rescue their daughters from domestic violence. All too many mothers encourage their daughters to stay in abusive relationships where the man is a so called “good provider”. A great many daughters never share their secret.

    I applaud both your devotion and valor. Your love speaks for itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words.
      You were tight the first time – my daughter is an addict. She was trying to get clean, and the attack only made her more determined. She has since stopped using , and is well and happy. It feels like a miracle.
      Any misunderstanding is my fault. I read my poem through last night, and felt that it was a little too obscure.

      Liked by 1 person

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