Nobody told me you say: no-one explained; it seems at each road you pay a toll. Where crossroad meet, signposts scribe lies, or mud smudges each destination, you claim. You've lost control: you never know where the next path will lead. Looks like a dead-end street. Your hands shake, shame numbs your brain. So many mistakes. Nobody told you, you say, then you heap blame on those who are blinded like you. Loved ones tried, their words blurred by your need, your potential curdled by wild hurtle into dim thrill of needle and sleep. Deep sleep just short of eternal. Mornings bring cravings, day follows day filled with theft and sale, theft and sale to pay for your sleazy escape again and again. Always the same peppered with desperate efforts and creasing failures and cramping pain and careless mistakes and fleecing arrests and imprisoning cells while your head forever screams to be clean, while your need to appease the clamouring beast that clamps your frame and grabs your guts and clings to your skin and kidnaps your mind and steals your very being rejects the thought. ... How times change: these days you clean my home, cook my meal. We share expenses and I marvel at your strength of will. I ask you: what was the defining moment that inspired you to strive for the light? This is how you reply: I gazed at the signpost ahead and as I wiped the mud which had blinded my eyes, I read where each of three roads led. the first was a dire, familiar trail, the second pointed to sudden death. I chose the third road, the hard road, the right road, the sane road, the safe road, the stuttering shock. It was a toll I had to pay: that searing act of cleansing agony. I'm glad I grappled through the pain which led me back to hope and health. ©Jane Paterson Basil
Posting on this blog feels like coming home. This was where I poured out my soul, where I could be open and honest, where I shamed the devil. I moved to a new blog because this one was getting rickety, but I wasn’t comfortable with sharing my secrets there – or perhaps, at the time, I was just too hurt and angry to feel I could speak rationally.
Yesterday a kind (and handsome) surgeon took possession of my gall bladder. The gall bladder exists to store bile. It’s not an essential organ – it just crouches in the gut, storing up all that bitter stuff, dispersing it as it sees fit. Mine was full of stones which crunched against each other making me hurt. I’m glad to be rid of the seat of anger, and I’m ready for some Spring cleaning.
I need to empty that cluttered box my attic. I thought that if I left the box tucked away in a dark corner it might crumble to dust and blow away, instead of which it has continued to pulse, emitting an unhealthy ochre glow. I can ignore it in the daytime, when a variety of activities and healthy obsessions keep my mind occupied, but the evenings are difficult. If I watch a movie on Netflix I relax, and that’s when the box makes itself known to me, the memory of its contents making me weep. If I try to write, I find myself writing about the box. If I try to read blog posts, the box flashes between each read. As long as I’m doing Japanese puzzles online I can only see it through the corner of my eye, so that’s how I spend every evening. I don’t go to bed until I’m exhausted, and then I read a book until the words blur.
Some of you might have correctly guessed that the box is a metaphor for my son, Paul. In January, after suffering long years of abuse from him – abuse of many types, from financial through to physical – the police recommended that I seek help from North Devon Against Domestic Abuse, who helped me, and also referred me to Splitz – an organisation that assists people in breaking away from harmful relationships. My risk assessment showed that I was in real physical danger and I accepted their advice to apply for a restraining order. The restraining order forbids him to approach or contact me for a year.
This is the son I bore, raised, loved dearly. He’s charming, plausable, and he’s a monster. He doesn’t see himself as such, but that is how I see him. No matter what the background cause, no matter what the addiction; no matter what turns a man into a monster, a monster is a monster. To deny that would be to deny that a face, once hacked to pieces with a blunt knife, is not defaced.
Perhaps he will revert. I don’t know, but meanwhile he is what he is, and because I slapped a restraining order on him, he has disowned me – or rather, since he cannot bully money out of me, come to my home for protection whenever he does something stupid, or take it out of me whenever he is angry, he has disowned me.
He knows how well I loved him, how accessible I was, how caring, how tolerant. He knows he abused me, over and over, and in very many ways. He knows that I have cause to be frightened of him. He knows that many loving parents have cut off their children for far less. He knows, deep down, that I have taken the only action left to me in order to be safe and secure, and that I should have done so long before I did.
All the same, he’s disowned me.
So he says. I say it’s just another dirty little trick to make me go running to him. I’ve seen it all before.
But it doesn’t stop me hurting.
There. I’ve tipped him out of the box. Now maybe I can get back to writing, and catch up with my blogging friends.
©Jane Paterson Basil
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
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
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
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
©Jane Paterson Basil
You may think the string of incidents were diffident coincidence
in a realm of hellish dissidence where a sea of dread precipitance
threatened to consume her as she bowed down in subservience,
her subversive habit stealing all her health and wealth and sense.
You may think the chain of happenings were merely complex happenstance,
but when I confessed her story with an air of stirring urgency,
describing her submergence in that churning pool of murk,
friends and strangers prayed for her, without a word of urging,
and although it seemed at first that recovery was hesitant,
my curled-up girl was rising into gradual emergence
in increasing increments like trilling choruses in dirges,
and every surge built up my trust that balance would return.
You may think the list of incidents were accidents of chance,
when her vicious ex gave vent to his violent vindictiveness,
immediately following a solution I’d been offered
by a kindly friend who proffered his own home as her address
to give her safe support and an escape from this vicinity,
and far from being reticent about a change of residence
to an unfamiliar city, livid marks around her face
gave instant sense of danger, and wisdom took its place.
You may think the string of incidents were no more than coincidence.
You may say that it was happenstance; a strung-up chain of chance,
but whatever the reason, she’s been clean for this last season,
so I kick darkness into innocence, as I freely sing and dance.
Words for Peace: South Africa.
Peace in Africaans :
Find the pronunciation HERE.
©Jane Paterson Basil
in all its intricacy —
with its loops and channels;
its constant relaying of information;
its complex knowledge of all our mechanics,
its well designed, microcosmic boxes
where twiddly bits fit —
has not yet figured a way
to assess and segregate
abject terror from happy surprise.
My heart’s palpitating, my fingers are shaking
sharp claws in my gut are gesticulating.
Electric shocks are making me twitch;
my body is saying my brain is a bitch.
I should be dancing or lustily singing,
but my skin is itching, my ears are ringing.
I should be enjoying a thrilling day,
but all of my energy’s slunk away.
Nevertheless I will share my good news –
my daughter’s recovering, my son is too.
I am as happy as I can be
that my lost babies have come back to me.
believing me to be in danger
has given me a toxic dose of adrenaline,
to help me to fight or to flee.
In helpless panic, I lurch
between these two inapt acts,
unable to break away.
©Jane Paterson Basil
I’m alright, I’m alright,”
that tired mantra frequently uttered, repeated
until with sham faith, I’d stumble to my feet and act out life.
I’m alright, I’m alright.”
Recited each time my children tripped and I tumbled,
and, while I was not alright, yet the repetition
brought fumbling relief to the thundering danger and fear,
easing the hellish days and nights,
those weeks and years when the jealous witch of addiction
jigged a street-dumb death-wish into my drug-juggling offspring.
I’m alright,” I’d recite.
They didn’t die, and I have kept my sanity
in a wild variety of ways; oft in anger, raging, shaking,
weeping tears of horror, grief and fear of loss,
yet sometimes waiting patiently,
for my children to come back to me.
Now I can say it candidly,
It’s been an emotional evening. My recovering daughter was here on a flying visit, dropping off some fabric for me to make into curtains for her. My son hasn’t come looking for me for almost two months, but – purely by chance – he showed up during the hour or so that Laura was with me. I wouldn’t have risked letting him in if she hadn’t been present.
I’m glad I did…
©Jane Paterson Basil
I’ve found a calming salve for the loved ones of addicts. This is the first post on a new blog. The brave philosophy and loving attitude of the author is inspiring. One breath at a time… One reviving breath of fresh air.