The Gale That Bent The Tree

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From your back seat view
it might seem polite
polite to explain my reasons, or at least
say goodbye before leaving.
I see you’ve never been buffeted
by a hurricane that would have you believe
that you
are the gale that bends the tree, while he
is the frailest leaf.
It was never true.

His initial gust was subtle,
his excuse, plausible. His apology,
though perfunctory, was prompt,
manipulating my trust.
Later, when the downpour came
I thought communication
was the solution.
It incited his ire all the more, so I tried
to tread lightly in his tangled wood,
but even the bracken
seemed braced for attack.

My feather defences
were no match
for his clamorous brigade of tactics.
He demanded a white flag, then trampled it.
Love and romance were out of action
once the black knight
had captured the white queen. Turtle-doves
flew for cover, their coo-coos
fading in my grim chamber, beaks
melting in the heat of his rage.

His moods
ricocheted like a moth
locked in a bright closet; at dawn,
he was an orphan who had lost his way.
At breakfast he accused me of taking his keys
or his toothbrush
or one of his boots
and sometimes as many as three of his shoes.
All day I watched his humours fall and rise.
Nights when I begged for restful sleep,
he’d gleefully force-feed me rancid passion
thickly laced with bile and ice.

With tantrums, tricks and lies,
he blindly trained me
to recognise designer madness.
It’s time to leave.
Closing the door, I silently
ease
the catch into place.
I don’t say goodbye.

No brief farewell, no jester’s kiss
no faltering wave of the hand,
no sideways nod, nor backward glance
for the man who can turn a heart into glass,
then grind it back to sand.
.
A kind wind plays on my stretching wings.
lending me strength, sweeping me into flight.
I rise, swooping high, singing my rights,
keeping my mission of freedom in sight
so when the hunter
takes up his gun,
he won’t be able
to shoot
me
down.

Domestic abuse takes many forms, but it generally follows a distinct pattern. The abuser will begin with a barely discernible drip. If left unchecked, the level of abuse will increase. It will become a stream and then a river. The innocent partner/child/parent/sibling will be swept along in an increasing torrent of accusations, threats, excuses, apologies, insults, twisted truths, outright lies, all kinds of weird head-fuckery and sometimes physical violence. Abusers will use any tool they can find in order to undermine, and they can be extremely imaginative and clever.

Many abusers are likeable and charming, appearing to be above reproach – which is how they get away with it for long enough to hone their skills – so when the victim complains, he or she is assumed to be making it up. Even professionals who have been trained to spot the signs might be blind to the perpetrator’s behaviour. This makes a horrible situation even worse for the abuser’s prey, who is diminished beyond all recognition, beyond all capacity break away without a great deal of support.

Fortunately, there are organisations that recognise abuse; who train and employ intelligent, compassionate support workers.  In my home town, we are lucky enough to have one such organisation; NDADA (North Devon Against Domestic Abuse).

Thank you, NDADA, thank you for your warmth and understanding, for advising me, for making me feel nurtured and for putting the strength back to my arms. You helped me to change my life around. Special thanks go to Wendy who started me on the journey and has encouraged me every step of the way.

©Jane Paterson Basil

there but for fortune…

…makes me cry every time

©Jane Paterson Basil

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