Tag Archives: family

Paul’s Words: 2

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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 My normal activities have been replaced by gardening; sowing seeds, watering them, pricking them out, and clearing space in a disorganised communal garden that had to be cleared of masses of montbretia,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. 

 

Cancelled

A winter sun warms baubles
which glint as they cling
to their fingers of fragrant pine.
Thoughtful gifts lie neat
next to ripped paper.

Screaming sirens
are silenced by the peace
which sits fat on this traditional day.

Soon,
thrilled, sucrose-filled grandchildren
will demonstrate new electrical gimmicks and gismos.
We will feast while I stand firm with myself, refusing to over-eat
so I don’t ruin the treat of evening cheese.
When the table is cleared, we’ll play silly games.
As dark deepens, the children will play and the over-eighteens
will take turns to choose music,
praising or abusing the chooser of each tune.
We will all be equal;
all equally insulting, equally insulted, 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
describes love.

It’s time
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 careful words
cancel Christmas.

©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

Introducing Joshua

Introducing my beautiful new grandson
Joshua Reuben Galliford
Born 10.27 pm Monday, 28th August
At Southmead Hospital
Birth weight 6lb 12oz (3.62kilo)

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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.

I watch,
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.

Birth
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,
truest love.

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.

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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

Jigsaw

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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 left 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 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

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 Tears I Waste on You

You besmirched this mother’s love
with every chunk of scum that you could scrape up
from the murky lanes.
You crushed me with the weight of waste
until your insults filled my soul with so much pain
that I could no more bare to gaze upon your face
or glance into your eyes, or hear the lies
that dripped from lips whose smiles
once brought me mindless joy.
I’ve closed my door and turned away;
no more can you abuse, manipulate
or scream your dirty words of hate at me.
The tears I waste on you
will all be shed in secret and in shame;
I will never let you see them,
for if you did you’d use them as you do;
to stuff my shelves with toxic space and steal the gain.

I’ll dance in gardens where my finest flowers bloom;
admire their colours, breathe their sweet perfume.
I’ll tell my friends the sturdy stems have healed my wounds;
they do not need to know I ache for you.

The day might come when empathy sinks through your skin;
should that blazing dawn arrive
I recommend you pray that I shall be awake,
and furthermore that I
shall clearly recognise the change.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Three Sisters

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A grave motorcade
rolls along the old pitted lane.
Amidst the relay of mourners, three sisters
lurch in separate cars, each clutching a tissue,
each nursing a lonely grief.

Lily-laden funeral wreathes cast cruel shade over flashes of sensory screenshot:

mother reading an article from the Guardian, words falling on deaf ears that would be keen to hear her words today;

the Saturday fragrance of vanilla and yeast, of cocoa sifting into a blue-striped bowl, while she recited poetry, the selection of which reflected her mood;
the humour of Carroll and Lear, the beauty of  Shakespeare, the passion of  Yeats;

the ballet of her every movement.

Joyful memories
choked by white-trumpet odour
chased off by the celebrant’s tribute,
distanced by mortality’s truth.

Heavily, they host the wake,
making sad celebration in a room where once
they ate and fought and played.
Greeting the sombre-suited guests, a sense of
distance
marks each sorrowful hug, a feeling of
alienation
punctuates every platitude. A dun-coloured wilderness
gapes
where a mother’s rainbow love once encircled
a fertile horizon.

Three blonde heads
dutifully nod in a jaded knot of grey, brown and red,
keeping their distance like amnesiac triplets,
unable to acknowledge the bond between them,
though grieving the body that links them.

And yet…

Esther breaks away, promptly retreating from the pompous uncle
who once told her to pull her socks up.

Sophie escapes from the neighbour who ran over her favourite doll.

Marie extracts herself from the babble of a virtual stranger.

Three sisters, divided
by the gifts and thefts of time, estranged by perversity
of personality; yet each makes an unplanned dash
in search of an echo of childhood laughter.

Landing together by the river,
the sisters silently step back, form a line,
firmly grasp each other’s hands, unsurprised
by this impromptu contact; this once
cherished routine.

With one accord they take
a running leap, screeching with fear and hilarity,
bracing for a wet slap, sinking, rising encircled by
a naughty water-dance of funeral garb.

Treading water,
spluttering with mirth,
they smack the surface, watching diamonds spray
in the late-summer light.

Their thoughts play in silent harmony:
Forty years. Forty years since mum, grinning at our antics, leapt,
describing a perfect pirouette, to land with a blithe ripple
that danced in a widening embrace as she swam back to the bank.

The river steps back in time,
The coffin regresses to become a strong tree.
The lilies of death are gone; are less than a twinkle
in the eye of an unborn seed.
The three sisters feel the length of their mother’s reach.

In this divine moment, she lives.
Three giggling children await
her refined splash.

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Written for today’s Word of the Day Challenge; Mirth

©Jane Paterson Basil

How to Keep a Fire Alight

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A few years ago, my niece and I spent a summer season working as wardens at a holiday campsite. Unbeknownst to the owner of the campsite who employed us, we were both useless at lighting fires. We had to become experts pretty quickly, as we relied on our campfire for our meals and hot drinks, and we often had to light our guests’ fires for them. In no time at all I could throw a few sticks together any old how, strike a match, and get a roaring fire going with very little effort.

I already knew that in order for a fire to ignite, fuel, oxygen and heat are required, but I learnt something new that summer – in order to ensure the fire succeeds, there is a fourth, labour-saving ingredient you can use:

utter faith in the ability of the flame to spread.

 


 

A Glimmer of Hope

When it arrived
it was no bigger than a fly;
a tiny hope like so many before
which had briefly glowed,
only to stutter and die.

Previously, I’d tried
to make the flickering fire grow,
mothering her, smothering her with my need
to steal her from the hellish end
that looked like her destiny

This time
trust walked by my side.
Believing she had the strength and desire
to heal herself, I breathed this certainty,
and she inhaled my faith.

 A glimmer of hope
radiated to become a shining light
which obliterated all darkness,
making her whole.

<<@

 


 

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©Jane Paterson Basil