Tag Archives: abuse

Weapons of Feathers

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I catch the eye of your smokestack attack,
your knick-knack decree, your prickly glee,
your steel filigree of quack accusations;
your erroneous, odious, misconceived notion
that you hold the skeleton key.

How dare you presume to assess my position,
to deny my depths, my needs and my reasons,
How dare you declare that mistreatment thrills me.
Why would you wish to further diminish
this unwilling detainee.

You misread my desires and you speak of agendas,
dismembering debris from my deadened embers,
placing the blame and incentive on me;
yet you can’t oversee my weighty life story
you’re not even a nominee.

I repudiate all of your fool’s accusations
as you blithely peruse your self-satisfied sewage,
denying the truth that the root of abuse
lies with the abuser, who uses his beastly repartee
to make a recluse of me.

Each time he unlooses his sly war-cry ruses
that criticise and vilify, and meanly seek to crucify,
the savagery is magnified and yet
he denies or justifies his horrifying lies,
crushing me like a flea.

He steals all my strength and my self-belief,
and leaves me convinced that I’m too weak to leave.
I want to break free, find my redemption,
but all I have left are weapons of feathers;
I am a failed escapee.

How can I fight or escape the mind-rape;
I can’t fake the fire whose flames have died.
I’ve no place to flee and no way to hide.
Your ignorance stinks, you’ve wakened my ire,
you are mistaken, you see.

You glug your bootlace, bottled psychology,
lamely proclaiming I’m playing a game,
of break-ups and make-ups and titillation
and lusty fun with fumbling seduction,
but you are wrong about me.

It’s high-time you scrapped your latchkey untruths.
Cease denying, reclassifying and minimising
refusing and excusing the crime of abuse.
Don’t spit slick idioms as you lick your silver spoon,
and finally, leave me be.


I’ve run out of internet data 8 days before the new month begins, and am publishing this via my daughter’s account. This is the fourth month running that this has happened. Up until then, I always had loads left at the end of the month. I’m not using the internet any more than I used to. I feel confused and frustrated, so instead of doing the sensible thing – ringing my supplier and asking what’s going on – I’m taking it out on someone who wrote an insulting post about a million years ago, claiming that women who are abused, stay because they enjoy the abuse…

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Being There

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It is a collage this week. Writers will connect to it easily.

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So, let the fingers align to imagination, and bang on the keyboard. The format can be a a story/poem/rant/anecdotes/journalistic coverage of events/ reflections as usual.
Pour out, and let it flow ….


Flipping in long grass,
skipping, leap-frogging, cartwheeling over stiles,
feet so fleet it feels like flying,
flopping to sit cross-legged on fragrant nature’s floor.
Grass stained shorts. Grubby fingernails
cut careful slits through slim daisy stems.
Threading, making chains to dangle from supple neck.
Carefree sunshine and family love.

Once, this was me.

Breasts swelling, bursting
from a shock-horror bra, hips curving,
and worse, a monthly sticky thing that hurts,
which Grandma calls the curse.
Father stealing small licks to assuage the tip
of his hunger.
Mother loving, supporting
this poor little changeling.

Feeling dirty. filthy images of hot flesh slapping,
moist organs fitting,
slipping wetly together. Precocious hormones
that battle against desire,
hermaphrodite side crying “Let me
be a child”,
yet all the while learning the wanton game.

A teen with a siren’s face,
miming like a pro. Anything goes,
as long as it excludes loosening her clothes.
No sense of danger, blindly embracing
masked neighbour that ambles her way.

Rape and beatings, beatings and rape.
burst head, bleeding flesh, blurred vision,
cigarette burns, fractured limbs, bruises
that cannot be hidden. Torn wings
of a butterfly, entrenched in threats
that he may fulfil.
“I will kill”, he says.
“I will
kill
your family,
I will kill them if you hide from me.”

Weeping admission. Gentle assistance.
A groggy leap from the sizzling grill, only to slip
into spinning with trolls, a racy dance of ring-a-ring-o’-roses,
taking risks to prove she’s ahead of the game,
trying to hide her confusion and pain,
all of it fake, played out in vain.

Atishoo, atishoo,
she’s falling again.

Learning to stand,
wooing and wedding a kindly man,
only to fling him away.
To add to mistakes and shame,
the new man she catches, rapes her brain.
Years of fighting to gain control,
while the monster hints that she’s going insane
tripping and falling and failing again. Flailing.

An ill-planned, yet helpful escape.

Too late, she examines the damage.
Trailing her feet along a rough cloister, wrought
from life’s ill-conceived choices.
To the right, bright window panes reveal smiling faces.
Hands wave. She stretches her arms,
but can’t reach.
To her left, dust, rubble, crumbling walls.
Jagged scraps from her womb bear witness to her weakness, grimacing
as they juggle with jesters and thieves,
screeching to be healed.

A mouth opens.
A silent scream struggles out, to ricochet
off the ceiling. She swallows it in one.
It crushes her lungs.

“Please let me breathe.”

Rising up. Her children will not
be defeated by their demons.
Whatever it takes.

Whatever it takes…

This, too, was me.

A lone woman,
wizened by a boxed-up heap of experience,
sits in a high backed chair,
watching trees. The leaves expand into a screen
which conceals iniquity.
From her position, she can see
a clean horizon, distant meadows, whirling angels
that create sustainable energy, life-giving earth,
acres of sky.
Sometimes it rains,
but the sun soon breaks through.
When tears threaten, she strokes the jagged splits
that ripped deep through her skin, and feels
smooth silver strings weld and heal.
She is satisfied.
At night, she catches her reflection in the glass.
The allure that shaped her darker days
has faded with age.
Now, she is beautiful.

This woman is me.

.

Any life which stretches to reasonable longevity is like a massive chunk of quartz, cut from rock. Depending on the angle and brightness of the light, and on where you are standing, different facets can are visible. Also, the viewer approaches the quartz with his own pre-conceptions, interests and focus to detail. Furthermore, our aspects can change over time – even in the blink of an eye. This is one story of my life,  but – apart from the closing stanza – I displayed it from the dark side of the moon. I have many happy memories.

… an afterthought; reading through this longwinded poem, I learnt a horrifying new fact about my past – a detail that was staring me in the face, and yet I didn’t see it. While it won’t harm my emotions too much, I don’t think I’m ready to talk about it, but I mention it because, even viewed through the muddiest of lights, its still possible to spot new facets

Thanks go to Reena, for the inspiration.
©Jane Paterson

First Line Flash

This morning, I started reading Paper Towns, by John Green. The opening sentence is “The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.” It occurred to me that it might be fun to make up poetry from the first sentences of novels, so I copied a few out. My choices were limited, since I pass on most novels after I’ve read them, but I have a few kicking around which belonged to someone who died. As I was arranging my opening lines, it struck me that they could be further used to make up a new plot for a novel, should I be so inclined… which I’m not. After completing my “poem” it didn’t seem very poetic, so I’m posting it as flash fiction.

William

June the first, a bright summer evening, a Monday. I am in a car park in Leeds when I finally tell my husband I don’t want to be married to him any more. The first time Richard hit me, I could see stars in front of my eyes like they do in cartoons.

I woke up in a dinghy claw-foot tub in an unfamiliar bathroom. The door was the first thing. The door was open.

“Hide!” He was shrieking, frantic, his face drained of all colour.

You could very easily meet William. The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.


Do you fancy having a go at First Line Flash? It’s a fun way to write when you’re all out of inspiration.

Credits:

Miriam Keyes – The Brightest Star in the Sky
Nick Hornby – How to be Good
Elizabeth Flock – Me and Emma
Sara Shepard – The Lying Game
Nicki French – The Safe House
Ian Rankin – Hide and Seek
Geoff Ryman – The King’s Last Song
John Green – Paper Towns.

Apologies to Ian Rankin for the misquote – I had to drop a word from his line.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Demon’s Mentor

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Waking up the wrong shape.
Unable to locate this searing pain. Limbs feel unfamiliar,
organs out of place.

Bit of me hurt, but which bits? My mind
collects the scattered bones and flesh. Recalls the correct
positions. Locates the pain. Why
do I recognise it? The reply;
like a coiled up adder in the gut, my gall bladder
has struck again.

A faded envelope rises to the roof of my brain,
its bilious pages spilling out before I can contain them.
Agony that stretched out – weeks and maybe more.
No relief.
Him lying on the bed, flippantly diagnosing
muscular strain; no need
for a GP or a visit to A&E.
No sympathy. No feeling for my helpless sobs.
Exhaustion and apathy, the brief relief of knackered sleep,
the sickness, the ache, the fire between shoulder blades
waking me time after time.
The night I lay on the stairs, clutching
at bannisters, finally unable to rise,
the whimpers which woke the kids. No phone. They don’t remember
how they alerted emergency services and neither do I.

His indifference.

Medication, scattered time. A ragged thing writhing in bed,
sweating in smelly sheets, fevered and disconnected,
my children controlled by that twisted protector, his agenda
furthered by my convenient illness. Though his method was different
for each of the siblings, as father and stepfather,
the demon’s mentor left no child unscathed.

My calendar ripped and stained, dates mislaid
in the debris of sickness. Trailing to the surgery,
saying I still felt ill.
A raging doctor holding me in blame
for leaving it so late before calling for help.
Those words writ indelibly on my mind;
Think yourself lucky you’re not dead.

Another septic layer of shame, while my silence
yet again replaced
what I dared not try to explain.

You talk of blame? Go on, Mr Medical Man, beat me, beat me with your words. Beat me, you narrow GP. I’ve had specialists attacking my case – you can’t do worse. If I tell you, an image will rise in your brain; a picture of a kind man who couldn’t be guilty of such subtly iniquitous sins. You won’t be the first. He even charmed the simpering marriage guidance counsellor, who  ridiculed me, thereby becoming compliant in my isolation. Nobody but my two oldest children know. I won’t give you an excuse to say I’m delusional as well as stupid. You’ll get no added ammunition from me. All you have is a voluble little twig. My secrets stand between you and the stinging willow cane.

When told of the news that my life
had been endangered by his obstruction,
my partner displayed no shame.

Three decades later, my symptoms are similar,
but there is no ogre holding me down.
Determined to work, I make it to Oxfam, but after an hour
the pain knows no bounds.
My manager points to the office phone.
She leaves me alone to call my doctor and I get an appointment
to see her at one.
Before I go home
I make a wry face and stick up my finger
at the ghost of the ogre.

His spirit baulks at the scar on my digit;
just one more wound that didn’t get stitched..
I know he regrets it, but my anger has flared.
Gritting my teeth I smile at the spectre;
I should show good grace, since his wicked ways
were placed on display by others long ago. Also,
I am still kicking
and he is dead.

I rest for an hour
before taking a shower to make me fresh
for the medical centre, where I will get help
and all will be well.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

This Time

 

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Year upon year, you have held me
in a cunning grip, trapped against my wishes
in this ugly
c
o
r
n e r.

Each time my eye locked upon a possible escape route,
you blocked it like a shot from a gun armed
by a mindless robot.

A small crack in the wall
winks its way into my thoughts, begging consideration.
It may have been there all along,
but I missed it

until
today.

Perhaps it was made by the shock of your last
artful attack.

Even the shameful blush on your face
was a rude sham to manipulate me.
The abuse leaves no bruises
but it sure scars the soul.

The split is too small for you to to see, or maybe
you think me too clumsy to squeeze through.

Your skills of observation are blunted by self-obsession.
If you cared, you’d be aware that the stress
has flayed away my excess flesh.
I only need the strength to walk through
this small fissure.

I won’t crawl or beg for empathy;
it never helped before.
A hidden trace of dignity remains;
this, I must display.

When I gain my freedom,
I hope to grow so tall that you will never consider
torturing me again.

Rather, if a heart still beats in your selfish chest,
you might choose to nurture me.
If not, my child,
I shall be bereft, but our planet
will continue to breathe,

and so shall I.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Nowhere to Go

Will someone restrain this dominant male
who simmers with rage from his head to his tail,
yet hides it beneath a wrapping of smiles
and flattering words and shimmering wiles.
He pulls out his history and smudges the files,
stretching the inches and shrinking the miles,
then lays me down on cracked and torn tiles,
blinding my mind as my flesh he defiles.

Will someone please free me from this man
who puts in the boot whenever he can;
a boot that’s concealed by a subtle disguise
as a kindly look or a word to the wise,
or misunderstanding, or a fault in my eyes,
or a generous gift of mini-pork pies.
He pretends to be hurt and he looks at his feet,
when I remind him once more that I never eat meat.

Will someone please help me, I have to escape
from the crushing abuse and the practiced brain-rape.
I’ve tried every way that I know to stay strong,
but he’s chipped me away for far too long,
and everything about me seems so wrong.
I’m floating in nowhere, stuck on a prong.
I’m stupid and worthless, I don’t belong.
There’s nowhere to go, but I need to be gone.

.

There are those who despise women caught in this horrific trap; folks who say “It’s her own fault. She could leave if she wants to. She must enjoy the abuse.”

They are mistaken. They they lack both empathy and imagination.

Never under-estimate the destructive skill of the brain-rapist. If you get too close he will tear you apart. He is likely to leave you mentally crippled, unable to escape until he chooses to let you go. Even then he might continue to play cat-and-mouse with you, begging you to come back, promising he’s changed. He will use your family and friends in order to get his way. He’ll trick them, make them believe that he loves you, that you will be happier with him. He’ll get your children to beg you to reconcile with their dad. Don’t be fooled.

You might be determined to make it work. Maybe you’ll tolerate being given no grip on the purse-strings… being presented chocolates when you are dieting… being accused of flirting when you say hello to a man you work with… watching your partner deliberately pretend to be in love with your worst enemy… seeing him buy your favourite perfume for her birthday and saying that it is HER favourite, wrapping it carefully… picking up a cheap fake sandalwood spray from the pound shop for your birthday… pushing away a meal that you know he likes, saying “That looks awful, I can’t eat it” whenever you have guests to dinner… suggesting, from his disgusted glance, that you’re a mess when you’ve taken particular trouble over your appearance… never doing an ounce of restoration work in the crumbling house, yet becoming annoyed when you pick up the timber, the plaster, and the tools, and set to.

You start to get the message – you are worthless, you are ugly, boring, irritating, clumsy, stupid, dumb, crazy, deluded, sluttish. You are nothing, yet still you have to pander to his whims. You must find money for his half-baked business ideas, even though he holds all the cash. You have to wash and iron the clothes that your thieving stepson changes out of twice a day to save himself from showering.

He somehow manages to cheat you out of the deeds to the house that you alone paid the deposit on (from the sale of your previous home). You ask that your stepson’s fish tanks be confined to his bedroom. Within weeks someone has bought seven tanks. They’re scattered through the living room and hall. The smallest is four feet long. The house belongs to him and his son. At best, you are a skivvy. Your children are less than that.

Your stepson makes your four-year-old daughter put her hand in the piranha tank. He pushes cake into her face at her fifth birthday party, to humiliate her. He pimps up his bedroom with new carpet, picture, bedding. He buys new clothes and can’t afford to give us  housekeeping money. What little cash there is starts to go missing. You make meals out of nothing. You set a trap for the thief, already knowing it is your stepson. 

You win a round; you throw your stepson out. He goes back to his mother, makes now friends, learns a new trade; house burglary.

The house gets repossessed because you so-called partner hasn’t paid the mortgage. He’s spent all the money on a fax machine which he doesn’t need, a car which he has to arrange to be stolen since he can’t afford the repayments. It’s just another insurance scam to add to all the others. 

Friends, family, strangers are all thrown into this pot of poison to be fed to you in bruised and burnt portions.

You watch your children walking in the rain with holes in the bottoms of their shoes, keep your mouth shut when he steals from shops. You tidy up the mess he leaves whenever he carried out a task, apologise when he discovers you forgot to put the toolbox away after using it yesterday – even though you’ll be using the tools today. He interrupts with childish jokes when you try to discuss something important with a family member or friend. He pulls the rug from under your feet, day after day, in every way he can.

Although you know he’d never hit you, you feel physically sick when he gets angry, and his anger is always simmering beneath the surface. He lies and cheats his way through life, often with no cause. 

Your daughter has holes in her shoes again, but there’s no money for new ones, as he’s just gone out and spent a stupid amount of money on a navy pleated skirt and beige twin-set from the Scotch Wool shop. He knows you wouldn’t be seen dead in it; that’s what makes it the perfect choice. A few weeks later he buys you an XXL man’s tee-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians”. He acts offended, pretends to think you’d find it funny. You have friends who are lesbians, and they weren’t amused, either.

You fall ill. You are ill for weeks. The pain increases until you can’t leave the house without help. He refuses to take you to hospital. You get worse. One night, your six year-old daughter finds you curled up on the stairs, unable to move, afraid you are about to die. She wakes the only sensible person in the house – her eight year-old sister, who calls for an ambulance. You are put on antibiotics, but you’re ill for months. You later find out that the infection had been left for so long that you could have died. He tells you he wasn’t to know you were so ill.

While you are bedridden, things happen behind closed doors. You don’t find out about them until years later after you’ve escaped him…

You are surprised when he agrees to go with to see a marriage guidance counsellor. You think that maybe he wants to be in a happy relationship after all. The counsellor is a woman. Blinded by his charm, she hangs on his every word. She tries to hide, it, but she thinks you are a neurotic fool. Everything you say is turned against you.

You hate her for adding to the damage, yet you begin to doubt your judgement, your sanity.

You get up in the middle of the night, walk to the bridge over the river, watch the scummy water swirl. You think of your children, your mother, try to weigh your pain against their love. You have no value. You are worse than shit on an acrobat’s shoe. You try to jump, but you see images of your children in the grasp of that man, with nobody to protect them; your children with no mother to watch them grow. You go home, climb into bed, lie right at the edge so there is no risk of any part of you touching the monster who sleeps. 

You take that 3 am walk again and again, each time recycling the same thoughts. Deep down you’ve always known you’d never jump, but it’s reassuring to feel you have the option.

You try to find ways to feel worthy, working harder and harder in every way, cooking, cleaning, knocking down walls, designing, stripping woodwork, waxing, rendering, sawing, screwing together custom shelves, making everything from scratch out of whatever you can find. For some reason he demands your presence when Eastenders is on. You obediently sit through it, trying not to wriggle while the unlikely story painfully unfolds. He slackens your strings and you slink away to finish painting the bathroom cabinets you built, not understanding that he resents your ability to do so many things well; that every time you pick up a hammer and knock in a nail, it’s comparable to constructing your own coffin. On the other hand, if you didn’t do these jobs, he would be angry that the place was so decrepit.

He enjoys attacking your political views, your ethics and your compassionate nature. He belittles everything you stand for, everything you do, everything you are, his every action, word and look designed to destroy you.

There are big things, like the way he sabotages your efforts with the children, and crazy, petty things, like the coffee issue. For twenty years he never drinks coffee in front of you, saying he doesn’t like it. After you leave him, you will learn that he enjoys coffee, but since it is your choice of drink, he must oppose you. 

You sing loudly to drown your thoughts, but you can’t ignore how the abuse goes on and on and on. Always you are in the wrong.

If you tell your friends, few of them believe you – even if they have seen a couple of his games. He always covers them up with a joke, or finds a way to wrong-foot you – or they don’t care, because they are flattered by his attention… but some… some know. Some recognise it the moment they set eyes on him. Some shudder, and never want to be anywhere near him again.

They are the wise ones; the intuitive, insightful, unshakeable angels.

They are your saviours.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Private Show

WARNING! DISTURBING CONTENT
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………………daddy
………………….daddy holds
……………………daddy holds a
…………………….daddy holds a private
…………………….daddy holds a private show
……………………………….holds a private show
……………………………………….a private show
………………………………………private show
………………………………………………show

………………………………………………..uncles
…………………………………………..uncles come
………………………………………..uncles come and
…………………………………. ….uncles come and pay
……………………………… …..uncles come and pay to
…………………………………uncles come and pay to see
………………………………………. .come and pay to see
…………………………………. …….  …and pay to see
…………………………………  …………..pay to see
………………………………………  ………..to see
…………………………………………………..see

………………………………………………….my
…………………………………………………my poor
……..;;……………………………………..my poor life
………………………………………….my poor life bleed
………………………………………my poor life bleed away
……………………………………poor life bleed a
……………………………life bleed a……………w
………………….bleed a…………..w…………….a
………………………….w………….a……………..y
………………………….a…………..y
………………………….y
……………………………………………………………..away
………………………………………………………………………

.

Written for Michelle’s Photo Challenge, this poem is designed to be uncomfortable and difficult to read, to cause visual distortion, and to shock, since the subject matter is horrific.  

©Jane Paterson Basil