Category Archives: death

The Grim Reaper’s Invitation

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come lately, come stately
come humble or proud
come running or crawling
come quiet or loud
come from the battleground
come from your bed
wherever you come from
you’ll come away dead
come with your mother
come with your child
come tamely or gamely
or willing or wild
come on your own
or come with a friend
if you like it or not
you’ll arrive in the end.

©Jane Paterson Basil

How deep the river

Written a few months ago…

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she thought to take a trip
to taste the flavour on her lover’s tongue
as he fell towards his final resting place
to see if she could see what he saw
before the last breath slid from his lips

she thought to take a trip
to visit his unreal reality
thinking there must be a reason
for his hedonistic sprint to the grave
a treat which innured him to the risk
finally made real by the flick of a switch
as his mother kissed his chilling brow

she thought to take a trip
a little sip of the thrill of addiction,
she figured his death made him
more interesting – had given him
the attention she was lacking

she thought to take a trip
even as his mother with quiet dignity
arranged his funeral
even as her own tears welled
and dripped unchecked

she thought to take a trip
thinking his life had been simple in its way,
until misfortune had finished him
and she was thinking only
to take a quick dip into his habit
to feel the shape of it

she thought to take a trip
not thinking how easily the boat sinks
how deep the river
or how hard to
swim back
to the surface

©Jane Paterson Basil

Joint effort

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my father’s workshop
smelled the same although
ten days had passed
since he’d won his
battle for death.

I inhaled
that familiar scent
which had permiated every
workshop in every house
we had inhabited
since the day
I was born

wood shavings, clay,

the distinctive twist tobacco, ordered
for him by the local tobacconist,
which he would cut and
tip carefully into
the roughly whittled
bowl of that eccentric pipe,
then light with a match, sucking
on the cane stem
and filling
the air with thick,
acrid clouds of nicotine.
I thought I didn’t like
the smell, but I
missed it
when it was gone.

and something else, the
unique smell of him,
my father.
no matter how many
hours of toil he put in,
he never smelled of sweat,
just of him.

his tools were
arranged in the usual places.
the floor was swept and
everything was tidy

except

on a pedestal
on the centre of the floor
sat an unfinished headstone
he had recently been asked to carve
for Lady Arran’s dead
pet

and
beside that
oblong of bathstone
were several chisels, arranged
in a row.

no sound
disturbed the silence
of what had so quickly become
a museum.

I can’t
remember a time
when a room felt emptier or
more forlorn.

the words
of the headstone
had been drawn sharply
in pencil. the first word was
“Here” and the H had been etched.
I ran my finger along
the groove,
and
felt the lonely room
shiver almost
imperseptibly.

I was confused;
I knew my father had
secretly chosen to die, and
yet he had begun this headstone
in memory of his friend’s
much loved dog.

as I selected
a chisel he momentarily
touched his hand to my back
and I knew I was
expected to
finish his
work.

I had hardly
lifted a chisel since
the day I had carelessly
cut into my hand while
my father was absent,
but I was not alone
this time.

I worked carefully, slowly,
feeling the beauty
that warms the bones
and slinks through the body
like liquid silver
as the chisel gently
chips each sliver of stone away,
but I quickly tired and
put down the tools.
I’d finish the carving
another day.

it took me a week
to carefully edge the words
into shape
and when it was finished
my father and I stood side by side.
I felt his hand on my back,
and his silent praise.
I felt our differences
finally
sink
into oblivion

© Jane Paterson Basil

A wisp of hope.

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Although I can no longer look at you, I’m left with the image you brought the last time you came into my place, filling my quiet, safe space with danger and pain. You were so thin that I swear I could see the white of those bones which threaten to crumble to dust while I contiue to live. Your skin a hue that defies description. Angry sores on your face. Blank, pinned eyes.

What do you want from me? Do you sometimes feel the need for a mother’s love? Do you wish for sympathy or are you simply driven by the desire for drug money? I cannot give you any of these things. Even my love for you is locked so deep inside that it cannot be released.

I don’t ask you to listen. I write this not for you, but for me. Wrapped in your soft, blood-stained armour of golden brown liquid, you cannot hear me now, and when your inability to score strips you naked you are in too much pain to feel anything but your need for more poison.

Heroin submerges what you once knew to be the truth deep beneath her lies. She tells you you need her in order to survive, and although something inside you whispers that you are going to die, it no longer seems such a high price to pay because your eyes are too dimmed to see what that means.

She led you to care so little for your life that any drug would do. Now she keeps her distance as you trip through amphetamine insanity, with black, staring eyes and limbs akimbo. She lets the leash stretch knowing you are still within her reach.

These words are bent out of shape and refuse to be a goodbye. Hard as I try I cannot make them say what I wish you to know before you go, because within me a wisp of hope still exists.

The wish that you may recover, and learn a way to live.

© Jane Paterson Basil

Survival

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I want to
sleep and I
want to live and
I want to feel well
and I don’t want my
brain to be in
crisis and I don’t
want to feel
tired and faint
and I
don’t want these
strange electric shocks
that course through my body and
make me shake
but
discomfort and fear
loom large in
my head and so many
memories of so many
dead who were
still almost children
parade past my face
and I want them back
in this life with
their families
and I
want my children freed
from addiction
so that they will be well
and not die prematurely
and I don’t want to be
the next grieving
mother and I
want it all to

stop.

but tomorrow I’ll
wake to a bright new
morning and I’ll hide
all the horrors
beyond my vision
I’ll be perky and
jokey and you won’t
remember that I’m
not really brave
I’m just
trying to
survive

© Jane Paterson Basil

Locked and barred

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when that last day arrives
and with eyes locked and barred
no more will I invite you in

everything will halt
unfinished
dirty dishes will sit in the sink,
the electricity meter will tick
into in the red
friends will listen to my phone as it rings
wondering if I will pick up
and
the first mysterious words of a poem
will lie hidden in an electronic device
never to re-appear unless bidden
by some interested loved one

it is in keeping
that my children should grieve
but I will feel no guilt

I will have finally been
released from responsibilty
in the freedom of my demise
I will have ceased to exist
I will not be unhappy

all of those incomplete tasks
will have been whisked away from me
and I would wish you to realize
that I had always expected to
be an unfinished project

those who love me will be
enfolded in their misery for a while
but
in time
I will be just a sweetened memory
a woman who lived and
who followed the road
until intention
was crowned by inevitability

© Jane Paterson Basil

Salted Kisses

Esther Newton’s Weekly Writing Challenge.

This week Esther says “My challenge for your this week is for a poem. Your theme is the sea. It can be a gentle, calm sea of summer, or a raging, fierce sea of winter; it’s up to you.”

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like an indulgent lover
you caress my suffering feet,
and with murmurs of solace
you calm my anguished heart,
willing me to sink into
your fickle embrace,
willing me to
be lustily consumed.

leaden clouds fill the sky.
battleship grey, they
envelop the warming sun.
a warning nudge, a prequel
to what is to come

who could doubt the
might of your rage, when,
drawn by the moon and
angered by stormy gales,
your waves thrash and foam,
forming wet mountains
with a deadly embrace

who could count the
lives you have stolen?
taking their fluids for your own
crushing their lifeless bones
into yet more millions of
particles of creamy sand
to sing to your frigid tune

yet, with the skill of hypnos,
you lead me into the dance.
my limbs gyrate to your beat
as I melt beneath salted kisses

© Jane Paterson Basil

Jody

black draped strangers
faltering at the door
whispering or silent
those furtive glances
taking in the turn-out
searching for familiar faces
locking eyes
with a smile that
only reaches half-way
before reversing

the uncertainty of where to sit;
whether to kneel;
the shuffling;
the muffled coughs;
throat clearing;
snuffling sniffs;
the rustle of paper
the memories
those memories
those regrets
while we wait
patiently for once
for the man
who always
kept us waiting
for the man who
always said
“I’ll be ten minutes”
we wait patiently
this final time

some old hands
come in as if
for a serious
business meeting
familiarly, and in
professional manner
they go straight
to vacant seats
as if those places had
been reserved for them

they kneel and
bow their heads
in prayer for
the allotted time

and I
tangled within
enforced hypocrisy
see the hollows
of those who loved him.
unreachable, their
brains reverberate
with keening motion
each with memories
of one they never knew
each with their
private regrets

the oak doors open
you make your
final entrance
in rich-casked glory
crowned in roses
and rosemary for
remembrance
flanked by a
procession of tears

you alone are at
peace for evermore

Jody Winship
Born 28/11/1979
Died 28/11/2014

© Jane Paterson Basil

Another Tasty Morsel

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my daughter’s in the grip of a ghastly ghoul
which cannot be constrained by the laws of the land
it grows fat on the flesh of those careless fools
who have staggered onto its chemical hand

once it has grasped them it won’t let go
it consumes the flesh and it addles the head
and fear and conspiracies enter the soul
they all end up crazy and some end up dead

and while greedy governments ignore our young
in their bid to find excuses to starve the poor
the outlawed crystal lewdly wags it tongue
grins at his victims then squeezes some more

with feline cheek he plays with my offspring
he stretches her tether then he sets her free
but within his reach, confidently offering
another tasty morsel, dispite the guarantee

that the next fix will bring more devastation
she’ll be stalked and abused by invisible foes
her madness will drive her into isolation
she
ignores
the
inner
warning
and
she
takes
another
dose.

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© Jane Paterson Basil