Tag Archives: death

Farewell to Jenny

Last night

while I wrote remote history, last night
while I revived lowlights of my life, last night
while I cried over a spilled note, last night

Jenny died.

<<@

Jenny,
you wept
even as you entered
the scented season of life.

You felt
– long before the sickening Fall –
– ere grief’s canker grew organic form –
you felt
your roots being gnawed
by flown protectors of your youth
while your sore heart languished between
the spectral hands
of the child
of your womb.

<<@

Jenny,
the woman
that everyone died on;
a truth that consumed you.

Ashes
sullied your cloak of bright colours,
choking your willow courage, yet you fought
far past the darkest hour, beyond the point
where salt
ate your rainbow disguise.
Untiringly you stitched, yet
each time you tried to repair
the flimsy attire
the thread broke.

<<@

Jenny,
I waited, somehow knowing
that we would meet some day. Long before
I saw your face, I sensed your breath on my cheek as if
your spirit whispered to me, yet I did not guess
that our acquaintance would be 
so brief.
We met but once,
a singular meeting which conceived
an embryonic friendship, aborted
by the decree that would
steal you to eternity.
Jenny, it was an honour;
for in those brief moments
you exceeded my hopes.

<<@

Jenny,
you must have shed
a lake of tears deeper than
the raging stream that swept her
to her death. Now
the flood ebbs, eased by your stilled flesh.
Today and for evermore,
may you rest
with your daughter
in peace.

<<@

©Jane Paterson Basil

Go Gently, old Friend

daisy

Go gently, old friend.

Leave only
sweet ashes, drifting
through minds that
sift away
the silt.

Memories
of confusion and pain
are the dust in our tears;
we rinse them away.
What remains is a
kind reminder
of the
best
times
of your life.

Gone is the child
who reached for hands to hold,
the child who hungered for a loving touch.
Gone are the fists that rained cold blows
on your bewildered sensibilities.
stealing away what might
have been.

Now
you are free.

Go gently, and rest in peace.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Last Breath

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They say
that life can end
in the blink of an eye,
but when the last breath
whispered from his lips,
his eyes were still,
and so were
mine;

still
and
dry

~

Our
weeping children
quickly left the scene, leaving me
to tie off ends as if I were his next of kin.
Strange to think his skin no more contained
his thoughts and hopes, his good and bad,
his lonely soul, his half-arsed plans,
his generous acts, his secret crimes,
his spongy rage,  his happy days,
his lifelong pain, his crazy lies,
his shrugged-off shame,
his efforts and his
failed amends.

“Goodbye,”
I said.

~

Leaving
to attend to
our children’s needs,
I fixed my face
in an attitude
of quiet
grief.

~

©Jane Paterson Basil

Cold Substance

Their tears spill over my lids,
sting my eyes, drip down my skin.

Some families direct their rage at other victims,
laying blame, unable to comprehend that their children’s choices
were freely made.
I have been like them, and there are times when I wish
I hadn’t learnt my lessons so well;
that I could rise up and say, “it was him”;
anything to take my mind off the streets of pain, the losses
that gain in number every day —
but the perpetrator is faceless;
a brown powder with no individual markings
and no sentiency.

When I was a child, dessicated coconut was often sprinkled onto our school puddings. I thought it was the worst thing that had ever been invented; hate seemed an appropriate word to use in connection with it.

Now I direct my seething hate
at tiny packages that once cost thirty quid, but have since
dropped to twenty-five.

I want to shout obscenities at heroin;
to voice my hatred, to threaten the needle of death with annihilation,
to spit foam at the filth, as I scream: kill, kill…
but every time I get there too late, and with no weapons,
while passionless heroin builds up its armoury, boosting itself
with hidden fentanil,
another cold substance with no brain,
no wicked heart to whisper: death to the meek,
yet it enters the veins of pained seekers,
and fills up our graves.

As fatalities leap,
we repeat the phrase: rest in peace,
please rest in peace, we beg,
rest in peace with the rest
who rest forever in peace.

We brave the rain to lean bouquets against
wet walls where grieving souls will weep
to see wilting petals push those they love
into history.

We walk away, wishing for white doves,
their beaks holding gifts of gentle serenity,
and helplessly, we say:
At least he is finally at peace.

Rest In Peace, Nathaniel – your friends will remember you as one of the best.

I was eleven years old when I first heard the following song. I was deeply affected by the horrific imagery. The words stayed with me, playing in my head when my best friend at college became addicted to heroin, and all through the years of my children’s addictions.

©Jane Paterson Basil

In the Pink

in the pink

You hate the smell of the place. The sickly stench of cheap air freshener, rather than neutralising the compacted odour of aged bodies, urine-soaked furnishings, and stale cooking, highlights it. You loathe sight of the magnolia walls, the  poorly reproduced generic prints of countryside scenes, the institutional, mint-green, dralon seats. You pity your grandfather’s baggy frame, his wrinkled incapacity, his silent distance. When he doesn’t recognise your voice, it makes you want to cry.

You wonder why he smiles so freely, at the walls, and towards the fluttering, fading curtains.

You think his restless flitting eyes are nigh on blind, but he sees sights to which you are not privy.

He sits at a dinner table, relishing shepherd’s pie with home grown potatoes and carrots. The sun’s rays fall onto a dark green mantlepiece on which sit several crinolined ladies, fashioned in porcelain. Monochrome photos of two young heroes who have yet to die for Britain, shoulder their rifles, proud uncles eager to do their bit. A third photo shows  a shy couple, frowning as the camera clicks. The man wears baggy corduroys and a tweed cap. In his hand he holds a shepherds crook. The woman cradles a baby wrapped in a woollen shawl.

The three white plates are scraped clean, knives and forks placed neatly together, glasses emptied of water. His father sighs contentedly, leans back in his chair, and tamps down tobacco in the bowl of his pipe.

His mother sends him out to play, safe in the knowledge that this rural farm is far from the danger of bomb attacks. He skips down gritty lanes, grabbing at plumes of meadowsweet, stripping off the sweet, creamy blooms, flinging them in the air, watching them fall like confetti. Grinning to himself he thinks how much better life is for a child than a man. He wants to stay forever in this perfect time – never to grow up, never to have the responsibilities of a job and family. He wants his days to be a constant round of  romping in the fields, soaking in the summer sun, returning home when his stomach tells him it is dinner time, enjoying board games with his parents in the evening, or helping his tin soldiers to defeat Hitler’s armies, and bring everlasting peace.

His eyelids sink, and you think he’s asleep, but his head slants just so, and an expression of ecstasy floods his face.

He hears a recording of Vera Lynn’s voice, drifting through a cottage window.

“There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,”

but you are too far in his future to hear the music. All you hear is the traffic roaring along the busy road outside. You reach for his wizened hand. His smile widens.

You can’t understand what reason he could possibly have to smile. Living in this place, you’d think he would want to die. You don’t realise that in his mind, he is in the pink, having the time of his life.

“Tomorrow, just you wait and see.
There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after.
Tomorrow, when the world is free,”

The ghost of a squeeze makes your hand tingle. His old bones feel so tiny, so fragile.

His lips lips part. His voice is no more than a whisper:

“Mummy.”

A chill goes through you, and lodges in your heart.

“Grandad,” you say, your voice urgent, “Grandad Jimmy!”

He can’t hear you, your voice is too far away.

Vera Lynn has such a beautiful voice. He knows – has always known – that she sings her song just for him.

“The shepherd will tend his sheep.
The valley will bloom again.
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again.
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.”

With horror, you notice your hand is tightly gripping his, crushing his fingers together. You think you’re hurting him. You let go, and his hand flops. He sinks sideways, the beatific smile frozen on his face.

Outside, the light has a pink hue. A blue bird flies past, swooping and soaring, up, up high into the sky. You watch until it is out of sight.

blue-bird

.

.

.

.

The Daily Post #Pink

©Jane Paterson Basil

Still silent

 

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Sly
sunshine
serenades
Sally, staring,
~ sitting still, silent ~
seeming shyly serene.
Silken skin sweetly shimmers,
sheen suggesting summertime sweat.
Slowly she slides ~ so slowly ~ slipping
~ speeding ~ sinking southwards ~ slumping, senseless~
seated still. Someone sees; screams seer sky.
Small scarlet splashes seep, swelling,
staining Sally’s shorts, shirt, skin,
swamping sweat, soaking seat.
Somewhere, sirens sound ~
speeding, shrieking.
Still, silent,
Sally
stares

<<>>

A double etheree this time (100% alliterated) – still playing wordgames…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Somewhere he walks with children

balloon-1046693_1280

I loved my uncle Robert even though – or perhaps partly because – he was an irrepressible, irrisponsible alcoholic.

I was nine the first time we sat at the mouth of a river, drinking cider that he’d hidden inside his jacket. My mother and aunt believed him when he said we were looking for shells.

In the mornings it was best to leave him sleeping until late, when he was ready to wake, to evade his ill-tempered hangovers, but the rest of the time he was endlessly entertaining to we children, even though he may irritate anyone over twenty eight or so.

I must have been eighteen when his lung cancer was diagnosed. What with his dicky heart, his schlerotic liver and other complications, his body was not strong enough to survive.

After he died, my brother’s best friend, Pete, with whom I had dallied for a while, wrote a eulogy. The guy wanted to be Bob Dylan, but couldn’t, as the post had already been taken by a better poet.

Pete’s pretentious poem was read out at the funeral, accompanied by his inflatable ego. It claimed that my uncle knew something clever about glass houses which the rest of us didn’t. It sounded good, but wasn’t true; all my uncle knew was where to get the next drink, and how to blow up balloons so children would follow him down the street, in a parody of the pied piper, but without any harm coming to them. He loved children because he never ceased being one.

They laughed as they ran, and so did I, but the laughter stopped for a time after he died.

Maybe I grew up that day, standing with my family as his coffin was lowered into its resting place. I tried to see his face through the wood; to take in the truth of what it cantained. I had seen him several hours after he stopped breathing, and yet it was difficult to understand this final leaving.

My left hand clutched a sodden tissue to wipe my stinging eyes; my right one was plunged deep inside my pocket, fingers squeezing secret balloons in the bright hues he had liked. I’d placed them there with the intention of filling them with air while the grieving trickled dirt into the horrid oblong hole, but when the moment came I thought it would appear pretentious; just as Pete’s poem bore no relation to my uncle in life, so the balloons bore no relation to him in death, and there was a risk they may upset my aunt, who already gave the impression that her face was melting.

Those balloons stayed in my pocket for months before I threw them away. Even then I wondered if, in not inflating them, I had let my uncle down.

The last wisps of resentment cling tenuously as I admit P. had previously written a bitter poem about me, making the damning claim that I was a fake (to which I would have liked, childishly, to respond, “It takes one to know one). The reason? I didn’t love him.

Maybe he thought my uncle did, but Robert was pretty indifferent to all but children, mothers, relatives and alcohol.

The one thing P. said which made sense was:

Somewhere he walks with children

I hope he does.

fiction-1296651_1280

©Jane Paterson Basil

Did you die?

 

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You are with me again, your eyes supplicating, then the skin of our spirits clash in a loving embrace which my body does not risk.

I love you. I will always love you. I want to cup your face in my hands, run my fingers down the lines in your cheeks, furrowed since last we met.

I crave to take back the years, change the pattern of time and live in you, thrive in you, die in you, and when our bones crumble to dust I want the wind to lift us, so I may fly with you

My daughter clasps my arm and my heart separates.

I chose my fate forty years ago and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Rather than break your family I made my own, but I beg for a short time with you, so she backs away as I drop a promise in her eyes. I will not uninvent my children.

Your arms wrap around me. Cheek to cheek we speak in single words representing sentences, paragraphs, chapters of our loss. Our mouths meet, eager for one final kiss, but as our lips touch you fall asleep.

The phone rings, waking me, and a voice steals you from me, calling me back from your cooling jaws.

Fear drags at me as the tears form.

Was this a dark dream or did you die in my arms?

rose-149593757

©Jane Paterson Basil

They come to me

ghost2

one by one
they come to me
those wakeful nights
floating like a grey dream
their water-stained bodies painted
in bony monochrome
shadows of what they used to be
lost souls in supplication
straining for what they think they need
I don’t know why they come
to me

in a queue
they come to me
each one with a request
uttered in urgent words that I can’t discern
then as if sticking to
a rule of etiquette for the dead
they pass by my shoulder
making room
for the next
sad shred of lonely memory
to beg for a lost possession
or physical release
and in this
seemingly endless stream they come
to me

limbs askew
they come to me
with their lips shaping silence
in some far language
unknown to I whose beating heart
pumps blood
I whose clear eyes can relate a story
and yet, desperate for help they come
to me

unremitting
they come to me
leaving with no more than their pain
no more than a picture of human pity
and I wonder if they know
they are ghosts

Written for The Daily Post One Word Prompt #Ghost

©Jane Paterson Basil