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Brother

By day
I revel in the airy treats of life
sipping up the sounds and sights
inhaling scents and relishing my simple tastes –
but through the weighty hours of night
I read to flee the waking dreams which take the place of sleep.
I read until my eyelids droop and I must fight to concentrate.
With all my will I fight to stay awake until my eyes
can no more see the script nor keep my lids
from blinding me
so by the time the pillow finds my head
my mind rests in tranquillity and I
have no more need to fight
since slumber reigns
and slumber brings me peace.

Each day I wake too late to see
the break of dawn
and as I rise I tell myself the war is done;
I say the foe is dead
and yet if I let down my guard, an ashen finger
slithers from its dusty urn to torment me.

Today I told you how my loved ones’ lives
were skewed and stunted by our enemy
like we were trees and he sent out a hurricane
that tore us from our bed of loam
to drop us on a rocky mountain top
where he controlled the heat and cold
and every time his rage burned red it singed our flesh
and every time his fury cooled
he froze us with his cutting gusts of tempered snow.

Brother,
when I saw the roughened sword clutched in your hand
and felt your longing for revenge
I said there was no more to do, yet I
am grateful for the love that prompted you to stand.
I look within my soul to find a flower blooming there
a flower sown by you
and I am less alone.

I’ve been trying to do an audio of this poem, but notifications keep pinging, and the software is a bit rough, and I don’t have a microphone – which isn’t essential since my laptop has a built-in mic, but it would improve the sound – and to cap it all, my accent sounds silly – particularly the way I enunciate words like ‘down’ and ‘sound’. To prove my point I recorded the following two sentences:

“I am renowned for round” (snigger) “brown found” (giggle) “sound. Like a hound” (snort)  “I pound the ground” (guffaw) “and flounder” (pause while I unsuccessfully attempt to create a dignified air) “as the ground” (shameless laughter) “resounds.”

You won’t get to hear the recording, or my irrepressible laughter, since, after weeks of playing with sound for the purpose of laying it at your feet, dear friends, I have finally discovered that my free WP account doesn’t support audio. It seems a shame, since I’m pleased with the way this verse flows. Try reading it out loud – see what you think.

Maybe it’s time to upgrade…

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Serenity

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I named her Serenity,
since her quasi-gentle presence
lightened my darkest times.
Back then she reigned over the living room
and I shared my pain with her.
She never offered advice, or even replied, yet
it was soothing
to make-believe she empathised.
When my situation improved, I faced the truth:
if I pricked her skin,
it would not bleed.
Her hollow chest was cold, and I
was tired of her indifference.
Yet I wrapped a coat around her shoulders
before showing her the door.
She blanked me, her head
lacking think-matter,
so I consigned her to the bathroom.
These days she belies her name;
guests leap in shock; some even blurt
a strangled scream
to see my mannequin standing guard by my toilet bowl.
She fails to make THEM feel serene.

Written for Godoggocafe’s Tuesday Writing Prompt: SerenityI couldn’t resist it, since I have a mannequin called Serenity. They recommend that the piece should be written in 10-15 minutes, so I haven’t polished it up.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Stapelia

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Stapelia, Stapelia, your beauty makes me sigh,
yet I fear precipitation might be drawing nigh.
Stapelia, Stapelia, how marvellous your bloom,
but a sickly stench of carrion invades my living room.
Stapelia, Stapelia, do you have no shame?
I sense I’m going to vomit, and your flower must take the blame.

Stapelia Variegata bears lovely blooms – but they stink like rotting meat. My plant has lots of buds. I can’t help admiring her… from a distance.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Spring Cleaning

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

To Mary: This Too Shall Pass

When I consider
the frazzled reams of verse, written
when sinews simmered with rage,
when organs ached with dread and grief

when dams burst and words tried to drown sorrow
when fires failed to singe the fighting remains.
I picked through ashes even as the flames blistered my skin,
and still, he drove his bloodied psyche
between my ribs, piercing
the heart of me

I feel
remote
from those emotions

feels like a marathon masquerade of misery that I
mistook for reality, holing myself up
in the host’s attic, beneath
an old crate of broken memorabilia,
away from friends who might have explained
that the gates of hell
were paper mache stage props
and the pit was the cracked lens
of a reclaimed camera obscura.

When I single out a poem, I revoke details;
the nature of conflicts and pain inflicted,
but from a
distance,

as if I’m watching a documentary
or reading a book featuring the anguish of other families
skewered by other offsprings’ addiction,

Empathy for the innocents
seeps into me, yet when I read a verse
from this strangling chapter, I realise it was my life.
Memories  bite;
my heart contracts and my toes
instinctively curl away from a mud slide
that has safely flaked and dried.
At such times, I summon your voice –
your voice, with its warm Northern edge –
sharing your mantra,
gifting me the truth that calmed you
whenever the mud of the morass
threatened to engulf your chest;
“This too shall pass.”
“This too shall pass.”

New growth
breaks through decay,
willing the frayed remnants of pain to dissipate.
I take a breath of clean air
and luxuriate
in the mellow texture of grass
tickling my feet.

Dedicated to my friend Mary Beer. Mary, you are an Amazon whose whose words gave me courage, whose friendship made me feel less alone from the start, and whose strength continues to inspire me. When I was at my lowest ebb, it was the echo of your voice which ran through my mind: this too shall pass.

I posted this on my other blog a few months ago. I’ve edited it a little and added it to this blog so that you might read it, Mary xxx

Grit

The grit of a dozen
imprisoned
rhymes
scrapes my mind,
straining to be arranged,
aching to stain virgin paper with blurred shades
of sorrow and rage.
I will not, I say:
I will not, I cry:
I will not write this piece of me,
for to write is to bleed.

The pain never dies,
but if left in peace it might rest,
it might sleep awhile.
I’ll deny my psyche’s keening request; I will not try
to unravel the gravel which scars my soul,
and I will not weep
for one who was lost
long ago.

©Jane Paterson Basil