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