Tag Archives: grief

Butterfly Kyodai

You can't think straight. The reins 
were always slack. They slipped 
from your hands again. You can't 
remember when; could've been 
in your sleep or while you  
escaped into butterfly flight, 
clicking: once, twice, watching  
colourful wings flit...
as if 
could save you...  

anyway you let go or maybe 
those reins were stolen and 
now there is no escape from 
the claw that clamps your flesh,
forcing you 
back into the cold  
of an echoing cave. 

©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

I feel
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.
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

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


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,
like a thief or a breast-fed cub,
your possessive caress
enfolding me
in that heavenly rush
of motherly

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

Charm Bracelet


Beneath the dust of rusted dreams
the precious bracelet swings and gleams.

No simple trinket this,
no tinsel sliding from a wilting tree,
no lace that slips from silken locks
to rot, forgotten, in the street.

The blood of ancestry
pulses through this eager chain, its genes
sown in the root of love, its links
tempered in the knitted cogs
of mutual reality.

We can not know
when first we join the clasp,
or as we add each precious charm,
what fist might grip the slender wrist,
or what corrupted implement
might chip and scrape its dancing gems.

We do not always see the claw
before it locks upon a treasured one,
but of this we can be sure;
we hear the thud as it hits the floor.

The lessened weight upon our arm
might give an instant of relief,
but as we rub our tender flesh,
our innards crease and we are flipped
into a keening

Above is the raw version of a poem I wrote today.
Beneath is the start of a more traditional cooked version.
Which do you prefer, salad or stew? Is it worth persisting with the poem below?

Beneath the dust of rusty dreams
the precious bracelet swings and gleams.

No tuppence ha’penny trinket this;
no tinsel on a baubled tree;
no flimsy frippery that slips
from careless tresses to the street.

Within this chain run veins of blood
whose links are tempered through the years;
Knitted loose ’round roots of love
and seasoned by our joy and tears.


©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

Goodbye, Mike

When Paul rang me from the ambulance that was rushing his dad to hospital, I knew I had to be with him. I phoned his sister in Bristol, to let her know, then phoned my son-in-law. He jumped in the car, picked me up, and we were there within twelve minutes of getting Paul’s news.

The ambulance hadn’t arrived, so I announced myself and waited outside. A policeman was standing nearby when a nurse came out to show me to the visitors room. She took me through the “Ambulances Only” doors. I turned to the policeman, gave him the thumbs up, and flippantly said “Hey – I’m going through the restricted doors – it’s anarchy in the UK.” The nurse and the policeman laughed with me.

I haven’t laughed much since that moment. I hadn’t known that “Visitors Room” is a euphemism for “Bad News Room”.

She brought me up to date. The words “cardiac arrest in the back of the ambulance” dropped me into an abyss. The paramedics got his heart going again, and were doing all that they could for him. Deep down I knew it was over, but I said,

“He must get through the next year. He has to.”

She asked me if there was some particular reason, but I just repeated my demand. I didn’t want to talk about how vulnerable our children are right now.

I rang Laura’s fiance, Dave – told him that Mike had had a massive heart attack. Dave accelerated.. Nobody can drive like Dave, in an emergency.

I lost track of the time. I didn’t know whether Paul had called in the early evening or the middle of the night. Everything in me was focused on Mike’s survival, and on Paul’s strength.

The door opened. Paul and his partner, Krusti, were ushered in, both weeping, leaning on each other, hardly able to stand, through shock and grief. Krusti’s eye make-up was smeared over both of their faces.

I’d been asked if I wanted to be with Mike while they were working on him. I’d replied that I needed to be wherever Paul chose to be. When asked, Paul said he couldn’t watch it any more.

He kept repeating that he’d seen it when Mike’s heart stopped, seen him cease breathing.

“I thought he was dead. I thought we’d lost him.”

He went through the events of the day; how he’d been worried about Mike, but he and Krusti had needed to come into town to collect his daily meds, so he rang for an ambulance while he was on the bus, but was told that an ambulance couldn’t come unless the caller was with the patient. He’d gone home to find his dad sitting downstairs, apparently well and cheerful. They’d sat together for a while, talking and joking, then Mike said he wanted to go to bed. He didn’t have the strength it make it up the stairs, only getting as far as the landing. Paul knew there was something terribly wrong. He said he’d call an ambulance. Mike protested, but Paul phoned the emergency services, and they came.

Someone came in and gave ups an update about Mike. It wasn’t positive. They questioned us about details of his state of health. There was something missing from the puzzle. They didn’t know what he had suffered the cardiac arrest.

The visitors room door opened again. Krusti’s dad came in.

A doctor showed up. Mike was on life-support. The doctor gently explained that he had no chance of survival. I finally allowed the truth to surface.

Stephen, the younger of Mike’s two sons from his first marriage, turned up with his girlfriend. Stephen’s pupils were huge. He was sagging, but he put up a brave front. We waited.

Out in the world, clocks ticked, informing the general public of the speed of time, while in that room, time got lost in the agonised air.

A charge nurse came and told us that we could be with Mike. Everyone filed into a room that was partitioned off with blue, wipe-down curtains. Mike was unconscious. A respirator tube protruded from his mouth.

I looked around, pleased to see that my family were supporting each other, and I could feel Laura and Dave approaching in the car. I wanted to get them to Mike as quickly as possible, so I ran outside just as their car screeched to a halt. I opened the passenger door and took Laura’s hand, trusting that Dave had prepared her for the worst. He had. I led her to Mike’s bedside.

I watched this little group of people; my two younger children, my stepson, his girlfriend – who I had never met – Krusti, Dave, Krusti’s Dad. Paul was locked into his own emotions, but embarrassed by his extreme grief. Krusti was grieving; at the same time supporting Paul. Laura’s shock was already dipping her in and out of reality. Stephen’s girlfriend was doing all she could to fill in the cracks that he couldn’t hide. Stephen was amazing in his own indefinable way, hugging Paul, hugging Laura, then going back to his girlfriend for an injection of strength. Dave was standing by for whatever might happen, and Krusti’s dad was unreadable. I later learned that he was devastated.

I tried to be with the right person at the right time, but I kept looking at Mike, my estranged partner of over twenty years, and I realised that I wasn’t only there to support my children.

I bent over him, and spoke words that were for him alone to hear. I wanted him to move on in peace.

Mike’s arms were twitching involuntarily. We were told that it was because his blood pressure was dropping.

I went over to Stephen, and asked him how he felt about the ventilator. We agreed that it was time to let Mike go. The charge nurse had told him that Mike’s that “Mike’s body was “unhappy”. Mike had been showered with love and kisses. There was no more to be done. The agony of waiting was stretching out.

With Stephen’s blessing, I asked the charge nurse to request that the doctor switch off the respirator. He showed up soon after.

What followed was horrendous. I expect it always is, but then Mike’s body calmed down. His breathing slowed. He became peaceful.

Breathing ceased within a few minutes, at 12.24 am on Sunday morning.

Goodbye Mike. I know that you tried to be a better person, and I appreciate it. Maybe at some point in the next few days I’ll get a bit of time to myself, to analyse my feelings.

Meanwhile, our beautiful children need me. Rest assured that I’m here for them, and for Stephen, should he wish it.

©Jane Paterson Basil.

Who they may have become


Some squeeze into lonely, ignoble deaths, leaving loved ones grieving, inconsolable, screaming the loss, their dreams stolen in that icy moment. No-one
will never see the greatness of who their beloved may have become, if they’d lived another day.

Backs sag, knees bend, wet eyes watch the coffin drop, long years
of pinprick horror forgotten — stolen by a final tickle in the vein.

So long they grieved, but not like this,
never like this.

Old tears swim through fishes’ salty fins
to swill in the ocean of lesser loss,
while this monumental pain will always taste the same.

It makes no sense in heavy heads which rattle with the raddled question of where the connection may be, between

the child with smiling eyes, whose chubby fingers reached for the rising sun, the girl who laughed to see stars in the night-time sky; the boy who cried when the dog died,
and that cold pair of letters that nudge together: O.D.

O.D. Odd. Ode. Overdose. Too much of something, somewhere beneath the skin. The old hands now know that their first shot was an overdose. Too much of a drug that the body didn’t require, which twisted the mind into thinking the needle of death held the elixir of life.

Photos spill from pine tables in rose-garden homes, they pile upon worktops in slick city buildings. Suburban parents and council house tenants squint at pictures in search of their children, eyes stinging as they make believe there is a secret hidden behind their youthful skin that will bring them back to life again.

Weeping, they recall
the day he won the game,
the way she longed for fame.

They can’t escape the horrid thought that hammers in their brains:
“Was I to blame for the fall?”

Misplaced guilt and memories increase the weight of pain,
but still it tastes the same,
still it tastes the same.

“Another day and he may have gone straight,”
“another day and she may have been great,”
“They may have seen the light,”
they say, and they may be right,
but tomorrow came too late,
too often, it comes too late.

Some struggle with hope, and some recover to become great.
These are the lucky ones, for whom tomorrow was not too late,
but they have to be brave to break the chain
that binds the brain with links of lies;
their wills must be strong to beat the Devil at his evil game.

Those who win are grateful that the reaper waited
until it was too late to stake his claim.

Should you ever meet a recovered addict in the street,
know that it is an honour to be in his company.
In his weakest hour he has risen from his bed,
kicked away the painkilling killer
and writhing through sickness and agony of body and brain,
has beaten foul fiends the like of which you and I have never seen,
to come out cleaner than we may never be,
and to become much more than he may otherwise have been
even if he had always been clean.

The Daily Post #Elixir

©Jane Paterson Basil