The only way to change is to embrace truth, and if you are able to do so it might help with your recovery. Sit in a safe place with all your guilt and shame. Be brave, allow it to breathe. Don’t try to smother it with drugs; it only comes back, stronger and more fuelled every time. If you have courage enough for that, you will become a better human being, finally able to make amends and move forward.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.”
breaks through decay,
willing the frayed remnants of pain to dissipate.
I take a breath of clean air
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
The grit of a dozen
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
©Jane Paterson Basil
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
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
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,
like a thief or a breast-fed cub,
your possessive caress
in that heavenly rush
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