Letter from prison

hi mum,

I’m looking at the things I did
those months when I was free,
how often I have hurt you,
while you have cared for me.
all those times I bullied you;
I should have let you be.

as much as I need prison
I know it will be hell
but I have made a mess of things
and this may make me well
though whether you’ll forgive me
only time will tell

now I ask nothing of you
I’ve given up the right
if you should want to turn your back
I won’t put up a fight.
I won’t resist if you choose
to banish me from sight

so many empty promises
so many tricks and lies
so many times you trusted me
when you looked in my eyes
but eyes can be deceiving;
an intimate disguise

as I look back at recent months
I’m filled with guilt and shame
I’m sorry that I caused you
such agonies of pain
I promise that I’ll never do
those things to you again

please understand my one request;
don’t visit me in jail
just know I love you very much
and don’t want this to fail
if I don’t feel the loss of you
my weakness may prevail

I’m looking at the things I did
those months when I was free,
how often I have hurt you,
while you have cared for me.
I promise I will try to find
a better way to be

©Jane Paterson Basil


I hunger

I hunger
to be free of the pain
which eats at me
every time I see my children
in knee-bending oblivion
laying insipid alibis
at my feet

I hunger
to be free of the pain
which eats at me
every time
I think of the needles
that stab their skin
stealing their

I hunger
to be free of the pain
which eats at me
every time
a friend asks me
if they are well
or I get a schizoid text
from my daughter
or my son promises
he’ll be with me in a minute
but leaves me waiting
all evening, and
I don’t cook dinner
as it will be cold
long before he gets here.

reminders of their childhood days are too painful to face, I have hidden the baby pictures, the framed school photos, the holiday snaps, those smiling faces caught so long ago by the click of a camera

I blank out the memories of their first steps,their hopes, their successes, their trousers, their dresses, the soft feel of their tresses, their teddies, their toys and their games. I aim to forget that I ever dreamed, that I ever expected their lives to be better than they have become, because therein lies a trap with teeth of steel that will swallow me up in an instant

I hunger
to be free of the pain
which eats at me

Written for The Sandbox Writing Challenge #33 “What do you hunger for?”

©Jane Paterson Basil


when I run out of milk, bread, eggs, I take myself shopping
stepping fast, racing against the danger
sometimes even forgetting why I have to make such haste
but then I remember. I turn back
and see myself
balancing on the edge of a precipice

I come home laden, heart beating fast, feeling momentarily safe
and although my muscles may ache
I regulate my breathing, and my core begins to relax
but then I remember. I turn around
and see myself
balancing on the edge of a precipice

I recall the many attacks that felt like the final one,
the one that had taken the breath from my body
toppling me, sending me into an eternal, grief sodden freefall,
ears throbbing with the screams of the damned,
to join the blameless eyeball-popping crazies
who had been driven insane by pain like mine
but every time I came around
to find that I had stood my ground
and I was still
balancing on the edge of a precipice

years pass, with no day free from hope or despair
in a constantly rotating combination, and I stand
wobbling precariously, wondering whether I can survive indefinitely
whether something will save me
or whether I will eventually
fall off the edge of the precipice

©Jane Paterson Basil

Another tasty morsel



my daughter’s in the grip of a ghastly ghoul
which cannot be constrained by the laws of the land
it grows fat on the flesh of those poor lost fools
who have staggered onto its chemical hand
once it has grasped them it won’t let go
it consumes the flesh and it addles the head
and fear and conspiracies enter the soul –
they all end up crazy and some end up dead

and while self-seeking governments ignore our young
in their bid to find excuses to starve the poor
the outlawed crystal lewdly wags its tongue
grins at its victims then squeezes some more
with feline cheek he plays with my offspring
he stretches her tether then he sets her free
but within his reach, confidently offering
another tasty morsel, dispite the guarantee
that the next fix will bring more devastation
she’ll be stalked and abused by invisible foes
her madness will drive her into isolation
she ignores the inner warning
and she takes


Written May 2015

©Jane Paterson Basil

A wisp of hope

An unsent message to my daughter, written last year.

Although I can no longer look at you, I picture the image you left the last time you came into my place, filling my formerly safe space with danger and pain. You were so thin that I swear I could see the white of those bones which threaten to crumble to dust while I still live. Your skin a strange hue that defies description. Angry sores on your face. Blank eyes swimming in madness.

What do you want from me? Could it be that you feel the need of a mother’s love? Do you wish for sympathy or are you simply driven by the desire for drug money? I cannot give you any of these things. Even my love for you is locked so deep inside that it cannot be released.

I don’t ask you to listen. I write this not for you, but for me. Wrapped in your soft, blood-stained armour of golden brown liquid, you cannot hear me now, and when your inability to score strips you naked you are in too much pain to feel anything but your need for more poison.

Heroin submerges, deep beneath her lies, what you once knew to be the truth. She tells you you need her in order to survive, and although something inside you whispers that you are going to die, it no longer seems such a high price to pay because your sight is too dimmed to see what that means.

She led you to care so little for your life that any drug would do. Now she keeps her distance as you trip through amphetamine insanity, with black, staring eyes, and limbs akimbo. She lets the leash stretch knowing you are still within her reach.

These words are bent out of shape and refuse to be a goodbye. Hard as I try I cannot make them say what I wish you to know before you go, because within me a wisp of hope still exists.

The wish that you may recover, and learn a way to live.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Lost boyhood


you hid your growth for so long
shimmying on childhood’s holy ground
no proof of lost boyhood showing
now with cloth of smoke you shroud your youth
truth folds within you, hiding in your lost soul
your surly thoughts poison your mind
now, forging unborn horror, you go
down low, down into thick, sticky mud-slick dirt
if I could find within your blind-fold mind
your pot of gold, willingly I would burnish it
I would throw your surly untruths, told to you by fools
into oblivion to rot; to blot out your hurt.

Written in March 2015 – an exercise in constraint: limiting myself to three vowels.

© Jane Paterson Basil

That dread eternal instant

Ten thousand night terrors


                         s t r e t c h e d - o u t
                        when I found you
               before your
                         air -
                     it was
                         that culmination
                     of ten thousand night terrors
                was filled with lifetimes 
          of the grief of loss
that dread eternal instant
then a message surged into my brain
demanding that you live again
I needed you to be alive
You must survive you must survive

heroin was the heartless whore
that held you in her needled claw
and though I feared her murderous might
I wouldn't let her win this fight
the weight of my love gave a beat to your heart
as I gave you the massage of life
and matching my pulse was the chant in my head
you can't be dead you can't be dead
my body became a machine of revival
rhythmically working for your survival
and when the paramedics came
 and tagged me in my desperate game
  they had to fight heroically
     to finalise recovery
            the terrors
           extending outwards
            to become 
              the very core and
                  crust of my existence

© Jane Paterson Basil