When she was born I hoped she'd be an eagle but like a feather torn from a crippled wing she got caught in a stinging breeze spun through grey mist and swept into a turbulent pool Numb to the ache of an ancient break I thought I was healed until she tried to take flight ©Jane Paterson Basil
Tag Archives: family
The Theatre of Life
Sometimes I feel like a bad actor in a play I thought not to rehearse. fudging my lines, smudging the plot. Sometimes my mind slides to a distant place and time and I forget I'm on stage. The fans must surely perceive I'm a sham. Sometimes it's like I've failed an audition for a part in a thing called The Human Race and having been banned from the theatre of life due to some kind of failure or something I lack that no-one explained and I don't understand I've broken through the roof and am watching the acts with my back to a grey-blue sky. Sometimes I see evil, destruction, hunger, need and corruption and I find myself screaming again and again Not In My Name Not In My Name. At least it was not me who stole a killers role in the play. Sometimes I know I am inept with those who sprang from my womb and I think of the myriad ways in which I have failed, yet I see their wisdom, insight and grace and feel forgiven. I am inept with friends yet they see me, understand, love the why and what of who I am. Even strangers like the incomplete face I display to the world, so I leap from my peeper's perch, my alien ship, to embrace the living earth. Sometimes I cognise, re-cognise I belong. I am real.
©Jane Paterson Basil
The gulls cry to be fed and the woman raises the sound on the TV. Hungry for love, the gulls screech and the woman preens her hair. Desperate, they beg. The woman slings slices of white bread They land just within reach She straightens their feathers, takes them to a place where a man coils words around their beaks, their eyes and shoots framing their formal guise The woman places the portrait on the living room wall. The gulls see. This must be love, they say. The woman Switches on the TV to drown out their squall. The gulls grow. raise families of their own. Their polite poses crowd the woman's wall. Not a hair out of place, Many mouths saying “Cheese” many obedient eyes gazing into a stranger's face. He clicks, and it's done. He clicks. He clicks, and the children - for they are children - stretch their muscles, appreciating release. The proud matriarch of three generations turns from the TV and and reaches to make space in her spick and span home for another trophy.
©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
Paul’s Words: 2
Just lemme fly, I’ll death defy.
I miss the bliss, regrets and lies.
I wished for this, I’ll testify to dish Death’s kiss
and let me die…
A change of plan please if I can.
I’ve spanned and scanned of all lands and sands,
and stand a brand new, handsome man,
with standing, standards and a clan.
I cannot stand those scams I ran,
I danced and sang, while ranting slang,
I sang my sting to land it in.
It’s branded in, I planned to win.
There’s more to this than meets the eye,
ignore the shit, the streets passed by,
the struggle and the drugs,
I’ve tumbled into humble love.
©Paul David Ward
Since the lockdown, I have strayed further than ever from my blog. My normal activities have been replaced by gardening; sowing seeds, watering them, pricking them out, and clearing space in a disorganised communal garden that had to be cleared of masses of montbretia, ivy, creeping buttercup, dock, dandelions, bindweed, wild garlic, three-cornered leak (often mistaken for wold garlic, but even more invasive and less useful in the kitchen) and several kinds of annual weeds. I’ve been moving – or dispensing with – ill-placed plants and pruning untidy or overgrown shrubs.
I am exhausted from the time I roll out of bed until I crawl back in. My back and my legs constantly ache. My emotions are released: I cry at the drop of a hat.
And… I am happy, filled with a joy that is far less tinged with fear than could be expected during this pandemic. My son and I are rebuilding our relationship
When I took out the restraining order on my son, I knew the risks and they terrified me, but I also knew that the risk of not doing so was greater. For years I had been losing the bright, funny son that I loved so much. I had watched him turn into a sick, drug raddled, destructive stranger. He had to strike out on his own; to do or die – perhaps literally. I had known for a long time that I couldn’t help him to survive.
He didn’t die. He suffered, and that terrible suffering brought him back to the fold. We have not yet spoken since there is a danger that my voice could be a trigger for him, so the only contact I have with him is through text messaging. He sends me his poems and tells me what he’s been doing (deep cleaning and decorating his flat, drawing… and writing, of course), what he would like to do (he’s looking for voluntary aid work, but his record could go against him).
The blood of the phoenix runs through his veins. In addition to having cut out drugs and alcohol, he’s also in recovery from an abusive relationship with a very damaged young woman. He says his poetry helps him to work through his issues. He’s agreed to me posting some of his poems, and I am honoured to do so.
A winter sun warms baubles
which glint as they cling
to fingers of fragrant pine.
Thoughtful gifts lie neat
next to ripped paper.
are silenced by the peace
which sits fat on this traditional day.
thrilled, sucrose-filled grandchildren
will demonstrate new electrical gimmicks and gismos.
We will feast while I stand firm with myself, refusing to overeat
so I don’t ruin the treat of evening cheese.
When the table is cleared, we’ll play silly games.
As dark deepens, children will play and over-eighteens
will take turns to choose music,
praising or abusing the chooser of each tune.
We will all be equal;
all equally insulting, with one
short-lived exception; there will be
a brief act of deference when Leonard Cohen
serenades me with a single song.
We’ll tell jokes, talk movies, tastes, politics,
hand-slapping when views concur,
mock-raging when we disagree.
The racket will rise; we will be
ever more raucous until we must shout
in order to be heard.
We are united in love.
We do not celebrate quietly.
You might mistake our solid core for a battlefield,
yet it is a haven of peace and safety.
We laugh while we yell, and our laughter
to cease musing and leave, time
to replay the untiring Christmas theme.
I reach for my coat.
The phone rings.
I lift it, and listen
while pained words
©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
Introducing my beautiful new grandson
Joshua Reuben Galliford
Born 10.27 pm Monday, 28th August
At Southmead Hospital
Birth weight 6lb 12oz (3.62kilo)
Image: Joshua, 18 hours old.
With gratitude to the delivery team at Southmead Hospital. A special thank you to the amazing midwife, Sandy, who delivered him.
knowing that which she
can only imagine, yet her agony
does not outreach her anticipation.
Even the searing pain fails
to twist her into anger
or fleeting regret.
As I watch, I remember
the first time I held her,
hoping that her life be joyous –
a hope which she now fulfils.
Sandy is reassuringly calm, but I detect a flicker of urgency as she glances toward the monitor, the instant before she tells Laura to grasp her legs, pull them toward her, and push. The baby needs to emerge very soon.
For an instant,
fear traps our lungs,
but Sandy silently commands
our trust. We exhale and it feels
like the room breathes with us.
Laura is magnificent,
as if she had given birth
a hundred times before.
My chest swells with pride
while I try not to enter the space
that exists between this mother
and her successfully married child.
Tomorrow, she will speak of trauma, not comprehending the strength she showed as her son was expelled from her womb. I will tell her she she was brave. I will say she made it look easy, but she will not believe me.
After a time,
the recollection of pain
will dim, becoming little more
than a tale she tells; an acceptable
paragraph or two
in her unique story.
One last push
and the room explodes with love.
Mother and son are skin to skin.
She holds him, kisses him.
He is beautiful.
She speaks his name, Joshua.
crooning in the soft tone that she used
all those months while he grew inside her.
He turns his head. His blurry eyes
seem to seek and quickly find
the face of his mother.
is a violent, traumatic act, and yet
within a minute or two of his emergence,
he is contented,enfolded by
my daughter,his mother,
his whole little world.
He recognises her.
When she speaks,
the very sound describes the deepest,
In the days that follow,
Laura’s is the only voice
he responds to.
I leave my miraculous Phoenix
smiling softly, watching her long-awaited son
as he suckles at her warm breast.
Didn’t she do well…
While this is about Laura, her husband deserves an honourable mention. Dave is a caring, experienced father who adores his new baby son.
©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
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
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