Tag Archives: addiction

Kensington, Philadelphia

They stutter and creep along filth-ridden streets, 
tattered sleeves hiding the blood as it seeps,
far from the arms of mothers who weep.

Turn away, 
cover your eyes, 
blind to the shame of the crimes you perceive
as you hurry away from the flesh-eating streets.

They wade through the scud of society's greed,  
shuffling their feet, hungry for succour 
then numbed by fulfilment of lethal need.

Turn away
pretend you don't see,
blind to the shame of the streets of pain
or blaming the victim for all our mistakes.  

They're slipping through cracks between fleshly paving;
our brothers and sisters struggle and bleed 
and end on those streets.
Who finds the dead and where are they buried?
Do we really not notice? 
How can we not care?
How can we not weep as they slip between 
the cracks created from selfish greed.

Few of us focus and few of us see
that there but for fortune or luck of the genes 
go him and her and you and me.
There but for fortune  
go we.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Spring

 
 
 
Winter
      had clung,
  its bitter wrap of ice-flinted snow 
             suffocating  fleets 
                       of sunny seasons,
          clenching my gut.  
                     
Fevered hope 
            pricked me 
                    with uneven heat.   
      Faith
          was feeble, thin;
                 a hand-spun fishing line, plucked 
                          from the gleam of halcyon days;
            it frayed and broke,  
               frayed and broke, to be knotted  
                                          again and again;  
     my fumbling fingers fighting in vain 
                   to cease their trembling shake.
 
 
 In the end,             
                estrangement
       felt safer, less painful, yet when it came,
                    it bit,
                            it stung;
                  as events remained uncelebrated and months  
       mounted, it 
                   ate me away.
 
Sometimes, change is sudden:
 
as if on a whim, the world spun, 
whipping up a conglomeration of fear and isolation,
an unheeding pandemic of sickness and death, yet 
 
grace 
 
was the gift this year brought me; 
banishment hit him,
helped him to battle his searing addiction;
his demons had scarred him 
but now they were bleeding, while 
his wounds 
were healing;
I could see they still ached, but
Spring 
had returned. 
Reunited with my child,
with pride and relief I can see
he carries the family genes:
the blood of the Phoenix  
surges 
through his veins.
 
 
 
©Jane Paterson Basil
 
 

Over the past few months, I’ve found it difficult to write. I put this down to the fact that my soul is less tortured. So, last Friday I began a poetry course which was offered by our County Council as part of a mindfulness programme, to help people through the difficulties of Covid, so it wasn’t really designed for poets. However, I thought it would be useful as a kind of refresher. The above poem is the fruit of my first session’s labours. I hope you like it x

Reprimand

You can't beat addiction by beating the addict;
it will hitch up their need to reach for a fix.
Shame on your actions,
you showed no compassion.
You oppressed and tormented and drove her to drink,
then you slammed her and thrashed her, but she didn't sink.
Throughout your life and long after you died
her beautiful spirit and body survived.

 
 
 
©Jane Paterson Basil 

Stain

When vile truth
shatters complacency, when his pupils
shrink to obsidian pins, he will refuse
to meet your eyes.

He will mutter:
It was only once or twice, just
for fun, just to try it out, just to find out, just
to know what it was like. You’re
too old to understand but I
can handle it. It’s not
a problem.

The years and the lies trundle by,
punctuated by multiplying shades of dread
until all that appears on each succeeding page
is smudged punctuation in black, brown
and blood red.

At night, drear bundles
slump in damp sleeping bags.
Bent heads sink. Limbs sag. Limp lips
beg change to spend on the devil’s silence.
As I pass the darkened bank, a man says:
Excuse me lady, have you got any…
I swivel my head, and see
my son’s face.

Outside Tesco Express
a second voice invades my space
and though I know he’s miles away,
again, I see his face.

To keep tears at bay
I formulate rhymes whose meter
matches my pace.

I despise my weakness
and hate the unbidden ache
that hides in my skin.

I need my bed,
but I fear the demon in my pillow
which won’t let me forget.

In sleep, my mind
plays playground games,
raging and grieving in turns.
For once I dream my son uncurls.
Washed clean of the streets,
he stands tall, his flesh
advertising vitality.

My joy negates all of the pain.

Yet when I wake
I know that nothing has changed;
the blood in his punctured veins
still stains my soul.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Jigsaw

jigsaw1

I try to forget you
but when rain falls, I envisage you
clutched in a doorway
shivering in worn clothes
cold water leaking through gaping trainers, hunger
gripping your veins as you grope
with stolen or broken phones, hoping
to gain the sick trick of a fix.

I try to blank the grim movie
but my thoughts rebel, and now
you’re crunched in a torn sleeping bag
beneath a bridge, slow-smooched by the drugs
which stain your life-blood.

By day and by night, and as seasons change
I try to cast you from my mind
but a phantom breeze blows, exposing
the gap you left, flaying my flesh
in places where tiny arms once wrapped
snug around my neck, squeezing like only I
could save you from some nameless flood, where
eager nose nuzzled skin, where your head
nestled flush against the inverse curve
between my throat and ear
as if we were matched components
of a jigsaw puzzle.

Now a piece of this puzzle is missing,
and I don’t know how long ago
I lost you.

©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 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

Paper Pig

He ignores  my birthday,
waves away Mothering Sunday,
is always on the take,
but he gave me a pig; a frail paper pig
during his prison time.
Confined to solitary for an inside crime,
the man woke to find a lonely child —
the ghost of my son —
in his abandoned soul.
Engaging his flare for origami
he reshaped a pale scrap of waste,
wrote ‘Oink Oink’ on its flank,
and smuggled it past the screws
when I visited him in jail.
I snuck it through the creaking gates
which locked me back in freedom;
a gift of love from a lost one
to a searching mother.

He came home,
but I couldn’t find my child behind his eyes
and he was blinded by the habit
of hiding in his hooded life.

Since he skipped town for the city,
I’ve scrubbed away the filth,
scrapped the waste
he left scattered in his wake.
Thirty years of memories lie buried
in a crate beneath impediments
I save in case of rain,
yet the pig —
the paper pig he made for me —
the pig stands guard upon my shelf,
defending one last inch of who he might have been,
and hinting at the chance of change.
I lift him up and purse my lips
to blow the dust away,
and even though I banish hope
since hope might bring me pain,
with gentle hand I place the pig
back on the shelf again.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Distance Between

BeFunky_327358413_3659773427.jpg

Son,
if time was a kindly two-way lane
I’d turn my laden truck around and speed toward the East,
blanking the maggoty road-kill that festers yet
on the tracks of your pickled yesteryears

your needle pricks
your blood and spit
your flinging tantrums
bunching fists
stealthy falsehoods
blatant tricks
the wars you fought with phonic swords fast-honed on flowing tears;
your armies marched to split my walls
which let in gales of filth and fear
leaving me in defeat
with nothing to eat but the waste from the streets.
You grinned while I choked on the gruesome mince
as if I was having a treat
but your smile couldn’t hide the spin of your mind
or the pit beneath your feet

driving in a straight line until your skin is smooth,
accelerating to let my lorry leap the fall,
then lifting my toes for the peaks of the show.

Never leaving the road,
I would pursue my goal
until I nestled the warm weight of my youngest child,
you, my only son,
your arms enveloping my neck,
fresh-formed fingers hooking my hair,
finding my ear lobes,
nose pressing my throat,
your caress needy,
greedy
like a thief or a breast-fed cub,
your possessive caress
enfolding me
in that heavenly rush
of motherly
love.

Your caress,
your sweet, owning caress
would be my destination,
and the things I know
would sink in an ocean of parental ecstasy.

But time is not a two-way lane;
it’s a taut chain that leads forward
to obscurity, obliterating diamonds in its wake.
If I concentrate
I can synthesise a fleeting sensation of the elation
brought by each childish embrace;
a hint of silver that glitters
beneath the skin of a silted stream,
yet I cannot feel your breath on my neck
or the texture
of your skin warming mine,
and linear time
has no way to erase
the mistakes of the distance between.


My son is currently banished from my life, but I hold him in my heart. I will not capitulate and I will forge forward in life, but I grieve for him and hope that one day he will return to the family that loves him.


©Jane Paterson Basil

If This be Farewell

His lips
shape sinuous words,
but only silence reaches my ears
as he confronts
my still psyche.

This might be
a final goodbye,
yet I let the question
float on the horizon.

I watch,
fascinated
that threats and lies
can be so easily dumbed
by a medicated sky.

All around him,
childhood trinkets and toys
rain around his untouchable frame.
They sink, lost forever
beneath the blind sea.

I recline on sturdy rock;
hazily trusting it will hold me.
If I am strong,
the waves
will not drown me.

Should the message
be his final goodbye,
tomorrow
might bring solemn women or men
whose warning uniforms
and gentle breath
will lower me
into the wild vale of grief.

If this is to be,
I’ll reshape the vision,
paint flowers at his feet,
add a balloon, fill it
with five fathoms of words
describing all the love
he ever felt for me,
but for now
the air caresses me,
and I sleep.

Written for Word of the Day Challenge: Fathom

This is the fear that the loved ones of addicts face every day. We learn to push it to the back of our minds, but it’s always there, waiting until the addict has a wobble. That’s when the fear goes into full attack mode.

©Jane Paterson Basil