A Terror of Endings

Suppose you’re a child whose dog dies.
Since you’re a child, you don’t know it yet,
but you are at a crossroads of life.
Some cry for a day or a week, but soon respond to sympathy
— love and new bones can help to ease a child’s pain away.
Others are stoic, while a few will play on the loss to get their own way.
I was a child in whom death delved deep,
who wept and raged at the unexpected injustice of mortality —
yet, not understanding how it came to be, refused the kiss of empathy
and tried to weave a spell to bring my Prince to life again.

I failed, leaving a terror of endings clinging to me,
their reinforcements creeping through closed curtains
when I tried to sleep.
At night I heard the reaper, as with scythe in hand he climbed the stairs,
creaking to let me know he was approaching,
I’d hear him chuckle on the landing,
his evil joke jolting me from tears to fear.

He had no need to whisper names;
he was there to kill my parents in their bed.
I’d straighten my twisted nightdress and tiptoe to their room,
waking them with some weak excuse; I couldn’t sleep, I felt unwell.
Several times a week I saved them from the scarlet sweep of his blade
by crawling between the sheets and staying by their side.

Beneath my horror, I was a warrior with soulful weapons
honed to stab a prick of guilt
and teeth to show my quivering bravery;
although the reaper liked to play with me, he feared my wrath;
he always slunk away from me.

Looking back,
I think my mother had an inkling,
and did her best to make me well again,
but when daylight came, I pushed her away with a grin,
thinking it would be unkind to tell the terrifying truth
of the danger that one night
I might not wake in time,
and she would die.

Sometimes I think the responsibility
was too great for a child to take,
but when all’s said and done
she lived to see eighty.

ยฉJane Paterson Basil

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28 thoughts on “A Terror of Endings

            1. You’re probably right. Dreams are a peculiar phenomenon. They’re said to help us to process thoughts, and are influenced by many factors, including all sorts of mind tricks involving puns, word-association and such.
              I dream poems, and wake up with wonderful four-liners. In my sleepy state I’m so sure that I won’t forget them, that I don’t write them down – so I drift back to sleep again, and they’re lost.
              Are you enjoying your dreams?

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Some are like the greatest movie ever and if I wake up in the middle of it I hope it continues. Usually it does. Others are like the world’s worst nightmares….I have been known to scream in terror and sometimes Markku has been even too scared to wake me up. That doesn’t happen often thank goodness.

                Liked by 1 person

  1. A scary confession to carry inside you all these years, and braveness falling on deaf ears, but you should not’ve worried, mothers know your every fear, every anxiety, and feel every pain and every love, you’ve ever had, my gorgeous and wondrous mum lived to ninety.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lordy, what a terrific piece of writing! As a kid who struggled with night terror I can SO identify with this. But my fear was standing on the landing outside the door coming for me. The last time I had night terror was right after Bran was born. I was 28 and sat bolt upright in bed clutching at my covers yelling, “I can’t let him see me like this!” And Arn couldn’t wake me up!

    Liked by 1 person

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