Category Archives: addiction

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Can’t read or knit or go to buy my daily bread.

Staring at the window without focus, an inch from the jaws of paralysis.

Will it continue like this until I am laid to rest?

The principle victim might beat addiction,
and push temptation away,
But for sisters and mothers and all of the others
the danger is always in play.

Tried to hold it at bay, but last night it crept up from behind, encroaching on my peace of mind, floating just beyond my vision like a fruit fly scouting for the sweet rot to feed on, and finding it in me.

Thannie’s funeral was today, and I feared what the wake might bring.

So many premature deaths, but – apart from the worst one, so long ago, –
this is the first one that has occurred since he ripped away the chemical curtain.

Tried to sleep through it, but I woke stiff with dread of what he might do after the coffin passed through the doors. I choked down my breakfast and read for hours, struggling to stop the words from blurring, determinedly working the words into sense, my limbs heavy with the effort of pretending that I wasn’t scared.

Tried not to call him, until I could stand it no more.

His voice flowed strong across the line, and I could tell the ogres had fled at the sight of his tears. He was as safe as he could be.

Need to take some exercise, but my legs still refuse to work, and there’s a wall between me and the front door.

I knew that ringing him wouldn’t help. Someone’s trying to break in. There’s no rationality to this. My hands are shaking. It’s dangerous outside. There are people with knives. This isn’t me. None of this is real. I have to break through the wall and return to sanity.

I want to phone him again, but I mustn’t. I’m putting all kinds of imaginary dangers into my head, to avoid the fear that he’ll use. Images of knives and the smell of death on my hands are distractions, to stop me from thinking about what really frightens me.

He’s not going to use. I mustn’t ring him. I have to remember what my coping strategies are, but I can’t concentrate.

I’m afraid that if I stop writing what little courage I’m holding onto will fall apart.

To all the people who loved Thannie, I’m sorry. Today should be about him. It’s horrible that he died.

And to my son, I’m sorry that my faith weakens when I think of your grief. It’s not your fault.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Boulders and Daisies

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You hustled a one-way ticket to hell,
hopping heavily aboard the chugging train,
smutty snow dripping down shrinking lanes,
tripping its way into cellular recesses
sifting your sight and your senses like sand.

Love and ribboned opportunities
jumbled up with rusty maybe-memories,
stuttered on the hollow horizon.
Blinded by the back end of a telescope,
all you perceived were burning trees.

You regretted the leathery ticket to hell,
and bravely you leaped from the trickety train.
Bruised by boulders and freed from near-misses,
the broken pieces were soldered with kisses
and you bathed in the cleansing rain.

This video is visually poor, but I like the sound. Beatlemania was a weird phenomenon – the fans made so much noise that they drowned out what they had paid to hear…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Ask Me Why

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When we were families,
grandma’s house was a shared nest, and her attic
held history’s secrets beneath
dust that had caressed generations of kin.
Fingerprints revealed the smudged sheen
of an oaken music box, broken
by children’s rough love.
Though empty, it retained memories
of seamed silk stockings and a mother’s kiss.
Buried in a leather trunk an unworn
wedding dress told a musty story of domestic hope,
its promise stolen by the guns of war;
beneath the yellowed crepe-de-chine
lay mothy remnants
of a bridal bottom drawer.

When we were families,
most of us had somewhere
we could call our family home.
It may be humble, rough-and tumble,
with crumbling bathroom walls,
but it was many times better than no home at all.
When cold weather crept through our vests,
we’d pile into the kitchen through a welcoming door
and nestle next to a warming fire.

   * * *

Beyond my window, rain splashes passers by.
A billowing wind blows them forward, to where dry warmth beckons .

Half a mile away an encampment of flimsy tents
does little to protect our homeless friends.

At night they crawl inside their sleeping bags, fully dressed.
Curling up tight, they pretend to themselves that their nest is safe,
while council officials continue their plot
to rob the dispossessed of what little they’ve got.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Healing. Part 2

 

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This is part two of my response to Reena’s Exploration Challenge Week 11. You can find part 1 HERE.

The first part of my post covers the first question – although it doesn’t do so until you reach almost to the end of the poem. 🙂 Now for my answer to the second question:

I described my daughter as an angry fox. I chose the metaphor to match her hair; some of you will know it has a lovely red glow to it. Also, owing to my surname and the colour of my own hair (which has since faded to a lighter colour) I used to go by the nickname of Basil Brush. Basil Brush was a fictional fox in the form of a puppet that starred in a popular children’s comedy TV show in the ’70s.

It wasn’t the best metaphor I could have chosen, but once I started, I decided to run with it. The most accurate thing about my story is its ending. The night my youngest daughter came to me, broken and bleeding after a violent attack, from a man who tried but failed to break her neck (the memory of which still makes me cry), I knew there had been a change in her perspective, and if she could hold onto it for long enough to make that change a reality, I knew it would change my life.

Has my perspective changed? Yes, it has. Laura has risen far above my highest expectations. She’s made me more proud than I ever thought possible, and more than that, she’s been instrumental in my son’s recovery from addiction. Paul’s journey has been hard; he’s undertaking his recovery in his home town, learning to avoid the triggers which must pop up daily. Even the staircase to my flat is a trigger. I don’t often speak  about Paul; his addiction stripped him of all compassion, leading him to  hurt me deeply throughout those torturous years. The wounds are slow to heal, but we’re making good progress. He switched to a vegan diet a while ago, so lot of his attention is concentrated on food. He and his girlfriend have offered to cook me a meal next week. I look forward to it with relish. He’s a good cook, but more than that, it will be another step towards healing.

Now it is time to turn my mind to the rest of my family. My two elder daughters have suffered too, but through their suffering, I have always known I can count on their support. My oldest grandson has been witness to things he should never have seen, but he’s come through like the champion he is. It’s been difficult to maintain close relationships with my four younger grandsons, so I have a lot of ground to make up.

(Life is not always easy for the siblings of prodigal children. I must tell them that my pride is not limited to those who have recently returned to the fold. I must let them know that they are magnificent.)

Looking back at my life, I can see how my strength has increased, along with the increasing difficulties I’ve faced. It’s a bit like weight lifting – as the weights get heavier, your muscles split and heal continuously.  My mental health has suffered, but I do my best to keep on top of it, constantly reviewing and learning.

I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be, and happier than I had come to expect.

Yes, yes, yes; my perspective has changed, but only for the better.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Without Prejudice. Part 2

Last week I made a statement to the police.
For some reason, the man who tried to break my daughter’s neck
and left her in a pool of blood,
is threatening to kill me.

Of all the cheek!

Unlike the attack on Laura, it’s no big deal – no more than
an interesting story to add to my literary CV.

Although he has
twenty four convictions for violence in his history,
lives round the corner from me
and I believe him to have a terminal disease
(which slims down his reason to fear reprisals
if he should carry out the deed),
he’s too solid to intimidate me. Lately,
only phantoms can succeed in that department.

They seem to rise out of
the coffee pot along with the steam or
strike you while you’re kicking through flotsam on the beach
but you know there is no escape since they
are holed-up deep deep deep
beneath your skin …

But this story is not about me.
More importantly, I wanted the police to know that although
she cannot prevent that psychopath
from carrying out a different, but related crime,
I wished to report that he also warned a physically weak addict
to expect a visit from him,
when he would beat her mercilessly;
I’ll name her Emma, to protect her anonymity.

The sergeant looked concerned, and shaking her head, she said
“Oh, no, not poor Emma.”
Her gaze shifted to the wall, and a grey haze
flitted across her face as she entered a place where
empathy raises the question;
“How can I help?”
Sadness and despair emanated from her slender frame.
It was with an attitude of failure that she
returned her gaze to me.

(An aside: Unfortunately, Emma probably envisages this woman as her enemy).

I mentioned the policewoman’s reaction
to an acquaintance whose brother happens
to be a recovering addict.
When I said Emma was under threat, she murmured
“I know her. She probably deserves it.”
I asked why, and she replied
“Bloody junkie. All those bloody junkies. I see her in Church Lane…”
as if that explained her remark.

Church Lane is an old walkway in the centre of town.
It contains two benches, one of which is often occupied by addicts,
while other addicts stand around and chat. They
don’t snatch handbags, and if they are in the way
they move aside and politely apologise,
and while their their language is often over-ripe,
its content is less offensive than that of many
teens who swagger down the streets loudly shouting details of
sexual intentions and conquests, but the addicts are deemed to be
threatening in some unaccountable way.

I refrained from asking if my daughter also deserved it,
instead simply telling her that Emma matters to me.
Ignoring her own vulnerability, she defended and supported
my daughter when she most needed it, thereby
putting herself at risk of reprisal,
and now she is suffering for her act of solidarity.

I thought of those who try to keep
us safe, of their patient efforts on behalf
of our victimised neighbours,
our disenfranchised kin.

With these humble words, I salute
their depth of understanding and empathy, and I wish
we were all more like them.

This town has been
either careful or lucky
in its selection
of police.

©Jane Paterson Basil

An Announcement in Poetry

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He lit her fire and felt the radiating glow
that lay unkindled through the blunted, charcoal years,
and now, at 3 am, her eyes are closed, her frame in safe recline
while he and I discuss the coming celebration
as if we were alone.

I think that she’s asleep,
but David knows that when her name is spoken,
her lovely eyes will open, and she’ll surprise me with a dazzling smile
which, had I questions in my head, would reconcile them, every one.
She’ll rise up fast and cross the room to kiss his head,
then sleepily retrace her steps to lie back down again,
while both of us devour the sight of reclaimed beauty.

It happens every time.

This is no fickle game, no touch-and-go,
no trumped-up love to end in tears,
no dirty trick to try her luck,
no shameful scam to make a buck.

She’s gone so far beyond her ruinsome loyalty to dangerous desires,
and found a life that’s richer than a pirate’s buried chest of gems.
I watch and know she’ll never lose herself again.

I catch his eye, and it is like a sibling’s hug.

This marriage is no sacrifice, no grateful gift for what he did.
My daughter found a home in him, a home she never knew before.
I love this trying, loyal man who loves to disagree
with all the views I hold most dear,
this roughly mined black diamond who saved my child’s life.
I love our friendship, love our differences and little wars,
but most of all I love the way he loves my daughter,
and I’ll be proud to call him
son-in-law.

This rhyme is artlessly arranged, but I won’t change a word of it. It’s the only way I know to finally share my daughter’s forthcoming marriage to Dave.

Image: My sleepy girl before she decided it was time to lie down on my sofa and go to sleep, while Dave and I watched over her, discussed wedding plans, and generally enjoyed an all-nighter.

©Jane Paterson Basil

A Terrible Intimacy

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I have skittered around the jagged rim of it –
have cringed from its septic snag, standing well back,
pressing against the walls of my cell in the undisguised hell of my life,
thinking to escape its gnashing teeth.
I’ve hidden behind a false smile or fallen with
silent or searing scream while the buzzing in my brain kept
sanity away and all the time I believed
I was being brave.
Don’t give in to it. Don’t let it in or
the monsters will carry you away.
It will scratch your skin, but if you have the will you can
be a wisp of smoke, a ribbon of unreality, you can
cease to be if only for the moment. You can
die in spirit so the hurt won’t reach you. You can
escape the worst of it.

And suddenly it engulfs you, all of it, every last bit, every
truth and falsehood they dripped into your head, every
needle that they drove through the skin designed to protect
those children you loved even as they were forming in your womb,
and you feel it all, every attack and defence, everything
they broke within and without, everything
they did, everything,
every last pain that they inflicted,
every
single
minute of it.

It’s all there, every inch if agony they
pushed into themselves and you. It’s a force that fills
your body, works its way between the
layers of muscle and fat, courses
through the bloodstream and presses against the flesh. It
pulls you to the floor, drags you into a foetal position and
you’re panting like a dog, fighting
to gain control, but it holds fast to you, until
finally your fight is all gone.

That’s when it loosens its grip a little, leaving
you free; free to allow its firm embrace, free to feel
it flow through you, around you, above and below you.
It sweeps through you like a clean
spring of pure love or pure hatred, and now that you have
made your peace with it, you’re no longer sure of the difference
between agony and ecstasy. There is only the fact of it,
the unity, the bond between you and this caressing pain.

You lie with it awhile,
feeling your heartbeat decrease,
hearing the blood cease its humming,
noticing the world become still,
returning its embrace.

You have loved
and you have lain with men,
but now you know you have never let them in.
You have never allowed this
terrible intimacy.

It’s neither the best or the worst moment of your life,
and it is nothing in between these extremes;
it just is. It is all of you and none of you.
It is horror and fulfilment and emptiness.
It is all and nothing.
It is home.

Soon you will rise back into your life.
Nothing external will have changed, but you will
breathe, and for a while you will
know how to cry.

Written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #Week 8

©Jane Paterson Basil