His Passing

The final fact floats free in chill November air.
Wispy theories seep through gaps into my living space;
a sluggish swirl too vague to disarrange my hair.

He is dead.
The pathologist estimates two weeks.

When I saw him last week, the wind
seemed to twist him, and his coat –
the coat he wore to keep the winter out –
his coat was out of step with him
as, tied closely apart, they swirled
in schizophrenic dance of love and hate,
flinging exhortation and despair to the wind.

As I watched him spin I had no way of knowing
he was a wraith struggling to escape
an unwelcome netherworld
and return to this place.

A wide road winds out of town,
its white lines blind to distance and insistent tick of time,
flowing past rural scenes and memories
that strangers keep between fading album covers
bulging with sunshine and smiles.
Still more fond secrets lie stored in the archives of their minds.

Distant kin we never knew
sleep silently beneath the fallen leaves;
so many griefs do not reach us.

We hold hands with those we choose, not letting go
until long beyond the final call.

The mindless road winds on to motorway,
passing towns and cities as it goes, while all the way
the straying ghosts of those we never knew
evade our sights;
we’re rarely touched by unknown spirits
passing through our skin.

Somewhere in the erstwhile smoke of London town
a mother weeps to hear the news:
she’s lost her errant son.
She holds no blame, yet that will not console her.

I dare not weigh her loss against his crimes
and what he might have done if he were still alive.
I cannot feel relief while she holds her hollow womb
and teardrops fall,
but it is sad that I don’t feel a twinge
of anything at all.

The police might be treating Joe’s death as suspicious. They’re on the street, keeping their questions low-key. They know him by his reputation and by his history. Those who may have expected to be future victims of his insanity are addicts too weak to be perpetrators. A woman who had been threatened by Joe was approached and told about his death. The police asked her a few questions. She was quite casual about the conversation when she spoke of it to my son. I’m glad she’s no longer at risk; she was bravely supportive toward my daughter after Joe beat her up.

In spite of the suffering he caused, I feel distanced from his death. Even when he was shouting threats up at my window, I felt separated from his circle of psychosis. As soon as Laura went into recovery, he receded into the murky past.

©Jane Paterson Basil

22 thoughts on “His Passing

    1. Thank you for asking – I’m fine. The man who tried to break my daughter’s neck (back in March) has been found dead in his flat. I feel strangely detached from the event. He lived less than 200 metres from one of my other daughters. Last Friday she saw the police enter his flat. Forensics combed the area, looking for for something. We thought he’d carried out a murder, but it looks like someone may have killed him. He’d made a lot of enemies and run out of friends.


        1. Thank you. At my support group, we say that addiction is a family illness. It’s true; it eats into, and destroys, the whole family, bringing with it all kinds of danger. We’re all healing well. Life looks bright for the first time in many years.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Is this the same man who was making threats not too long ago? It’s a sad indictment of a life to think the world might be better off without out, however, you can’t help but think that in this case. What a waste of a life. At least he won’t hurt anyone any more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep that the guy. I warned the police that he was likely to kill someone. I’m glad my prediction was forestalled. There’s a dark lane near his place. I walk down it most Sundays, late at night, then I pass his flat. Usually, I’m always slightly uneasy, from the top of the lane, all the way home. Last night the whole route felt totally safe, and yet I didn’t know he was dead until this morning.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. And it will stay safe now, thankfully. I hate to say I’m glad someone’s dead. So I’ll just say I’m so glad you feel safer, that the sense of threat has gone from your life. All best wishes Jane x

        Liked by 2 people

  2. The poem has two tones, some remorse for a grieving mother, and then that distant and detached feeling of no remorse for him. And I soaked up that feeling of separation and strength you’ve achieved. And its sounds like you’re subconsciously coping quite well, and must be satisfied with your own inner strength. Lots of hugs from Ivor…. hope my understanding of the the situation was appropriate xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your grasp of the situation couldn’t be better, Ivor, and your response couldn’t be more appropriate. I feel like I’ve been pulled out of a stranger’s life, and gently placed back in my own. All the drama that used to happen in my living room, now goes on in a misty place far beyond my window xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Im sorry for the loss and the distress it’s stirred up for you. The poem is feels medicinal, in a ‘making sense from the senseless’ kind of way. Wishing you safety and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I still feel too separated from it to breathe a sigh of relief – and I haven’t told Laura yet. He treated her cruelly, but she was fond of him once. It’s the third anniversary of the passing of her beloved Jodie, and the first year that she’s been straight enough to fully feel it. I need to be gentle.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. She rang me this morning. She’d already heard. She cut herself off from all old associates, but kept numbers of a few ‘safe’ friends on a spare sim card, so that she could ring them when she was completely clean. She came off replacement meds on Saturday and now she’s excitedly ringing round. One of them told her. She says she’d be upset if she didn’t know so much about him.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you. He was a violent man who caused suffering and distress to my daughter. We were friends once, before I knew what he was. Now he is beyond the reach of others who could be hurt – or even killed – by him. My thoughts go out to his mother., and the only sibling who kept in touch with him. Other than that I feel nothing, which is unusual for me; normally I’m badly affected by death.


  5. and at the end of a tragic life is this….I dare not weigh her loss against his crimes
    and what he might have done if he were still alive.
    I cannot feel relief while she holds close her hollow womb
    and teardrops fall,
    but it is sad that I don’t feel a twinge
    of anything at all.
    Perfectly stated Jane. One more stone turned that will not arise again to cause misery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. His flat is close to mine and I pass it most days. I feel for his family, who must have travelled down to clear his stuff out, as his light was on tonight. I expect it was horrible for them to see how he lived.
      As you say, it’s over now.

      Liked by 1 person

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