To Mary: This Too Shall Pass

When I consider the reams
of frazzled verse, written in the days
when my sinews
ached with anger, dread and grief

breaking down dams to drown my sorrow in words
igniting fires to singe the stealthy remains
picking through ashes even as the flames bit
yet still, he blindly drove his bloodied steel
between my ribs, piercing
the heart of me

I feel

remote

from those emotions

as if it was 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, where no friends
could find me to explain
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.

I could be watching a documentary
or reading a book featuring the anguish of families
skewered by addiction
Empathy for the innocents
seeps into me

Yet when I read a verse from this
strangled
chapter of my life,
my heart contracts and my toes
instinctively curl away from a mud slide
which has ceased to be.
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.”

Lately, new growth
breaks through my 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 amazing woman, an Amazon whose strength inspired me, whose words gave me courage and whose very existence made me feel less alone. When I was at my lowest ebb, it was the echo of your voice which ran through my mind: this too shall pass – and (of course) you were right, it always did.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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