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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Rejuvenation

Sometimes
an image skims my brain,
a moment viewed from a distance
or an action that moves in slow motion,
but the faces are blurred, the glare is dimmed;
the intensity erased from each emotion.
Memory cannot reclaim the pain
of one
single
breaking point
that I may compare and fully appreciate
this ease
after those lethal years.

I reach for phrases to describe those times:
my heart hammered in my chest, I write.
I was desperate, losing weight, shedding hair, sinking into destitution, angered by demands, aggression, thefts, manipulation, endless lies and tricks, threats of violence and suicide, frightened of men willing to take revenge on an innocent parent, intimidated by gun-toting dealers who invaded my home, disgusted by layers of filth. I made plans, raised my hopes, tried in naive ways to save my two wasted offspring, only to sink when my efforts failed. I feared the warning toll of the bell; the two solemn uniforms that inform of death. The joys of life slid by me. I felt shame; I was lesser being, someone untouchable, sub-human. I wished I was invisible.
I wanted to die, I write,
I wanted
to die.

I can recall
thoughts, fears, cause and effect,
but not the strychnine flavour. On reflection
it feels like fiction, like a well-written book
I read and gave away
a while ago.

Birds sing beyond my window.
Lofty leaves exercise in the breeze.
Even my neighbours seem peaceful today.
I ruminate on change, enumerate improvements
and think of the strength of family,
of rejuvenation and unity.
Sunshine sinks into my skin
as the tail-end of healing takes place.
I take a hefty slice of cake
and savour it,
leaving not one crumb on my plate.

©Jane Paterson Basil

My Son

crushed-can

My
son,
were I
to measure
the depth of my love
by the dread Gehenna of loss
each time the wind blows your image across my tired eyes,
the ocean could not contain it.
A great tsunami
would rise up;
The world
would
sink

-<>-

So
please.
my child.
let  this  be
the last lager can
I uncover while I’m cleaning.
The last drunken can that ever you concealed from me.
I don’t require such reminders
of our broken ties;
reminders
that I
lost
you

-<>-


A  fibonacci poem…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Release

sky-414199__340

I watch,
intrigued
as if this were a clip of a movie we made
perceiving
how easily excuses and lies
can be silenced by a
break
in the sky.

I watch,
assuming a distant
goodbye,
yet letting the question drift awhile
on the blue horizon
until, resisting temptation,
I permit your image
to fade.

I watch and wait
while sorrow ebbs. The sky
rains beachballs, jigsaw pieces,
a lone, tumbling, soft toy,
describing all the fizz, all the love
you shrugged off long ago.
Leaden with memories
they drop, to be swallowed
by a nonchalant sea.

Feet firm on aged rock,
I watch, reminiscing,
yet separating,
releasing the wisp
of the fruit of my womb,
clawing the ache.

Defiance rises within me:
mettle and muscle contain me.
The waves cannot take me.

Weight recedes,
leaving nothing to see.
I am air, air is me.
I sleep.

Written for my delightful friend, Paul Sunstone, who challenges us to write a post on the subject of Defiance.

©Jane Paterson Basil