Tag Archives: poetry about loss

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


You hoard
names of the dead
like the pain of loss is yours alone;
cataloguing, quantifying, dwelling,
possessing, obsessing,
rooting for excuses
to imprison them inside your head.

Memory upgrades acquaintances to friends,
distant kin met once in your thumb-sucking days –
when you spun away in disdain –
become uncles that you always loved.

Haven’t you lost enough?
Don’t you suffer enough?

It smacks of greed for sick fame;
a wish to obtain the world’s most comprehensive
collection of grief,
as if you have a grand ambition
to be listed in the Guinness book of records,
or to become a respected expert
in your field of graves
where flowers wither
while you sift sand
in the desert of self-pity.

Clinging to the dead brings misery;
care for the living instead.


©Jane Paterson Basil

Three Sisters



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
marks each sorrowful hug, a feeling of
punctuates every platitude. A dun-coloured wilderness
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.


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

©Jane Paterson Basil

Dry-eyed Teardrops


Used to wonder why the snowdrops
hung their heads as if in sorrow,
then a young man died and I watched my child
grieve the loss.

When they showed their pale faces again,
I understood.

These early harbingers of spring ease us
towards blossom and bursting buds,
ever obedient to the laws of time –
yet the residue of wintry death hangs behind them,
thinning down optimism.

Twenty-one years have been swept aside
yet each January they gaze mournfully at my feet
to remind me of his smile the day he hugged the shawl
I crocheted
for my unborn grandson.

Nobody saw it coming.
Two months later, the baby
took the name of his late father.

Some say it’s PTSD, but whatever the reason,
while my children grieve their dad’s sudden death,
it’s another face I see.

Soon, there will be a new family in this house
that lies beside my beloved wood.
We will be banished from our place of history.

I’ll whisper goodbye
to the walls that Paul and I wrote on,
laughing in the face of his father’s enraged disapproval
as we made ready to conceal them beneath two coats of paint.
Maybe some day the emulsion will peel away
and folks will see the wild, mild,
childishly anarchic scribbles of a mother and her son:
goolies, boobies, poo and do-do.

I’ll say goodbye to the rooms I repaired and painted,
the kitchen and bathroom I designed and created,
breaking down walls and building new, mixing plaster, sawing wood,
drilling, fixing, making,
working through the night to keep sleepless thoughts at bay
until the day I found the courage to walk away
from the home I loved
with such passion.

I’ll turn away from the garden I worked so hard on,
shaping flowerbeds and terracing,
sowing seeds and watching perennials grow,
only to see it wrecked when I left.

I’ll shout goodbye to memories of misery
and hope that the happy times
might be restored in my mind.

I’ll wave a regretful farewell to the trees
and to my dry-eyed,
virgin teardrops with their frill of new-born green.
Goodbye, goodbye.
I will think of you at this time of year
forever more,
and always recall a young man’s warm smile
as he contemplated the birth of his child,
never suspecting it may be
his final
in time.

©Jane Paterson Basil