Category Archives: fear

No escape

there is no escape

you may think to flee,
to the park, or your sister’s side,
wherever your soul hopes to find ease
but your home is not where the ogre resides
he’s not in the air that you breathe
but lodged deep inside
where you cannot reach

there is no escape

you may stagger to the kitchen, trembling
and make a cup of herbal tea
while you stammer out a soothing verbal remedy –
I’m OK, I’m OK, I’m OK
but you won’t be

there is no escape

as you repeat your mantra and sip your warm drink
the tremor may cease, and you may think
you can dispel it, but
even as you congratulate yourself
the ogre is polishing his weapons
practicing his grinning stealth
for the next, evil chapter
he may
in stages or
suddenly explode in your face as if from nowhere
and still, some sneaky vestige of terror
weaves greasily through your frame
though you have closed your ears to the ogre
willing yourself not hear him whisper
that you will never be safe again

there is no escape
you know there is no escape

Written for Esther Newton’s Weekly Challenge Option 2 “Write a poem on the theme of Fear

©Jane Paterson Basil

Reaching out


This is the beginning of my fifth week at the women’s gym. I try to attend six times out of seven but it doesn’t always happen. Because my life is irregular I go at different times every day; my schedule depends largely on what others expect of me.

There’s an unhappy woman. She has long blonde hair, often stretched into a ponytail. Her arms are inked and she exudes a suffering which feels familiar. I sense her effort to do well,

to be well,

as she courageously fights what she sees as a shameful relationship with failure, and a lack of faith in success.

I feel drawn to her.

I always hope she will be there when I am, but she usually isn’t.

At first I felt intimidated by her presence because I naturally shy away from those who interest me.

One day a couple of weeks ago as I was walking along a quiet alley, our paths crossed. She glanced at me, then quickly looked away. I wasn’t offended. I regularly ask myself why anybody would want to know me, suspecting that if they took the trouble they would only be disappointed.

Reclusiveness is a habit that is hard to break.

Today she was at the gym and something I said made her laugh. The humour put us in the same place and in that moment



shifted, just a little, and I knew we could be friends.

I felt her hunger, her ache, although, for what, was not yet clear. I only knew that I must hold on, I had to strengthen the connection.

After the session I was in the changing room talking to another member about children, chocolate cake, and how successfully exercise stimulates the endorphines. Just as she was leaving the woman with the tattoos walked in, catching the tail end of our conversation, and joining in with a comment or two.

I had an inspiration.

The way the conversation was going made it easy to tell her that exercising had negated my need for medication. As I named the drugs I had been prescribed I could feel her heartrate increase. She opened up and told me about her difficulties..

She blurted out her diagnosis in a rush, as if it was the only way she could find the courage to tell me. Just three words:

I’m Bi-Polar.

I saw how she regretted the telling. I saw her spirit shrink from me, her body recede, then, fearfully, she added

You probably don’t want to know me now.

I felt like holding her, rocking her in my arms

as if she was a child,

as if the cure was that simple,

but you don’t do that to a stranger when you’re standing half-naked in a changing room.

Instead I tried to reassure her, but she wasn’t convinced. She said that because of her condition, her friends had all deserted her. She said

Now you know about me I don’t suppose you’ll speak to me again.

What humiliations had she endured to make her believe such a thing? I felt like crying.

When she said I won’t hurt you, tears misted  my eyes.

How must it feel to be terrified of the world, and at the same time to believe it fears and dispises you?

I know she is right; there are timid people out there who would be frightened of her, there are heartless bullies who like to victimise those at a disadvantage to themselves, and there are people who can’t be bothered with the complications of mental illness, but I am not one of them.

I can feel her worthiness, and I will get that knowledge across to her. I will even find out what her name is. For me, standing in front of someone and asking their name is a big step in a scary direction.

©Jane Paterson Basil

That cracked and pitted path

Note to family and friends: please don’t be alarmed by this poem – this is a response to Esther Newton’s Weekly Challenge, and refers to the situation a year ago.

Medical mutilation is her means to an end,
a dirty deviation that I cannot mend.
It’s messed with her mind and it’s made her mad,
stealing all the inspiration she once had;
everything she tells me is a misinterpretation,
most of what she sees is wild hallucination.
Her fading head is fetid with foul fabrication,
and her family are drowning in devastation.
She shouts allegations of spies in the trees,
of worms beneath her skin and injected disease.
She threatens and she rages and she begs and she pleas:
Why don’t you ever listen to me?
She stomps to the bathroom and she locks the door,
not caring that I know what she’s in there for.
She knows I forbid the filthy drugs within my home,
but selfishness is part of the addict’s syndrome.
At one a.m. she’s yelling and she hasn’t stopped at four,
when finally I’m forced to push her out of the door.

Despair, like an iron maiden, crushes me in,
re-piercing my scarred and broken skin.
My knocking knees weaken and I sink to the floor.
I remember no yesterday, no future dawn;
no memory of the happiness we knew before,
nor the slightest hope that she may be reborn.
Rusted iron blood clogs my veins,
clanks and clammers in my brain,
and though I try to stand, I try in vain.
So this is it, I think, I will not rise again

I take deep breaths to banish from my head,
all of the recriminating things she has said
and all of paranoid drug-induced inventions,
while I try to focus on my intentions.
I lie on my back and I meditate
on how to return to a positive state.
She’s been well before, and whatever the cost
she can be well again; all is never lost.
Whatever the danger of Laura’s reproach
I’ll ring the doctor and we’ll find a new approach.

I’ve re-established hope at last.
I’ve found my way back to that cracked and pitted path.
I wonder if the devil will feel my wrath,
or whether he’ll achieve the final laugh.

©Jane Paterson Basil

I push them away

I push them away
those ogres that you bring
sharp with a murky middle
leaving stings that
grow into stones at
the back of my neck

I push them away
too late to prevent the
paralysing poisoned dart
from hitting its mark

I push them away
but you bring back-up
to prick me with
their dirty spikes

with my tired hands
I push them away
each little monster of
misery is weak but
they are an endless army
and they back up
they back up until
they are nose to
nose with me
I avert my face
make myself tiny
but still they back up
filling every gap
surrounding me until
there is no space for me
crushing me
stealing me
leaving only the pain
and the sound of
the doorbell

©Jane Paterson Basil



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
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


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

© Jane Paterson Basil



not so long ago
all of the treasures which were mine

all of those gems
which shine forth
throughout each day

the friendly smile and
the grandchild’s

did not reach me,
but remained unrecognised and unheard.

not so long ago
came the day when
my need for escape
freed me from my shell
I floated to the ceiling

I looked
down upon
of myself
abandoned on the kitchen floor
the part of me that contained the mouth
and the sound that it formed was
“this too shall pass

Perhaps there were crack dealers with guns in my attic, or perhaps I had come home to hide after running from my son. Maybe I had found him in a terrifying drug stupor, or I had got my wallet out and it was empty when there should have been enough money for me to buy food to stave off my hunger.

whatever the cause
I was on the floor
had suggested that
I look
at the
another angle,
and I had never lain on my kitchen floor before, so I was trying a new cure for what ailed me. I was searching the ceiling for an answer. It was the only new angle I cound find.

chanting lips
could not
drive out
the horror
was my

could not
assuage the
my son
who I loved
although I
was going to die.

He was going to die because he could not begin to control his habit. Even though he was in touch with his mortality, it was beyond his ability to save himself. His willpower had flown, and his habit increased.

death honed his scythe in preparation.

not all of them die
so prematurely
but of those who do,
some have
the mark upon them,
the skeletal grin
of the grim reaper
at their shoulder
months before

the ceiling held no answer to my problem.

after a while my sad spirit sank back into my body
and despairing, I sat on the stairs
staring at the wall

it passed.

and now all of the treasures which are mine

all of those gems
which shine forth
throughout each day

the friendly smile and
the grandchild’s

my son’s laughter and his kindly eyes

reach me,
are recognised, heard and celebrated.

© Jane Paterson Basil