Legacy

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they used to act crazy and they said they didn’t care
about the state of their clothes or the cut of their hair
but their jeans had to flare and their locks were always long
and their colour-clashing fashion style was never wrong
their music was appealing, though it wasn’t the kind
you could write without the aid of a pill to shape the mind

they looked looked down their noses at those who had cash
their ashtrays overflowed with wacky baccy ash
they’d float up the road in their long drooping skirts
dragged down by the weight of the grey roadside dirt
they said they wanted freedom, they said they wanted peace
but a lot of them just wanted to score some LSD

the best of them were present at important demonstrations
while the rest of them confined themselves to cliched remonstrations
they complained about the bread-heads, the straights and the dole
they didn’t think that they should have to take a working role
so they sat in cosy corners in a muttering clutch
making ignorant remarks that didn’t help much

they were young and the world pulsed under their feet
and they thought it would dance to their youthful heartbeat
but you can’t change the world when you haven’t a clue
about what is the right and the wrong thing to do
you can’t change the world to fit your shoes
you can try if you like, but you’re bound to lose

the best of them examined the world as it turned
changing their course through the lessons they learned
looking for ways to make the world a better place
for the birds, beasts and fishes, and the human race
or simply settling down to an average life
with house, job, two kids and a husband or wife

and what of the hippies that they left behind
who lived for themselves and chose to be blind?
their years went by in a chemical haze
and sometimes they’d shuffle in a glass-eyed daze
down to the shops to pick up some fags
their psychedelic clothing reduced to rags

every so often an old friend will say
“so-and-so died in the hospital today
he should have been placed on suicide watch
goodness knows where he got that match
but he started a fire and he lay on the bed
they tried to save him, but he wound up dead.”

some of them found heroin and some found crack
some died from overdose or heart attack
some of them are locked in a psychiatric ward
the ones who kept their freedom are all getting bored
sitting in a chair with a warm cup of tea
trying to pull a tenner from fifty p.

we’re the predecessors of the current youth
and it’s time we admitted to the difficult truth
for fifty years the drug disease has been growing
while half the world ignored the seeds that it was sowing
the present generation is the most affected yet
all of us are shocked, but what did we expect?

(reposted from my mother blog Making it Write)

©Jane Paterson Basil

Momentum

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I recently heard the story of an addict who had been using for years, daily staggering through the same old game, hustling for the money to feed his habit before trailing after dealers to sell him his next inch of jaded relief. One day he was sitting in his regular patch when an old friend from school passed by. Without slowing his pace, the man turned slightly, and, glancing his way, said Are you still at it? in a disinterested tone, then continued on his way.

The addict stared after him, shocked by those few, simple words. Only he knows what images of the past crowded his brain, what feelings of loss at his wasted days, what thoughts of his shame and degradation – but in that blinding instant he made the decision to change, to embrace the future he had perhaps, long ago, in his schooldays, taken for granted.

He went into recovery, and now he repeats his inspirational tale to all who he feels may find it helpful.

I like to think that he thanked the school-mate for clicking the switch that gave him the momentum to change his life.

We all have moments of grace, when desire, strength and faith combine to make many actions that hitherto seemed too distant to consider, achievable, and the littlest thing can open our minds to great possibilities.

©Jane Paterson Basil

She left snowdrops

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she sends innocent looking texts
begging my attention,
with overblown love, extravagant kisses,
oft repeated claims of how she longs to see me,
and how much she misses me;
her written words sometimes timerous,
occasionally belligerant,
but more often tinted with simulated humility;
when I reply she frequently ignores me.

yesterday she left snowdrops.

she loves me with an unquenchable thirst,
which may be behind her desire to destroy me.
what better way to do the deed,
and at the same time, to repay a world that she feels
should have been designed to hug her figure,
than to tear down her own walls?

but she left snowdrops,
freshly picked, outside my door.

as the months stretch, my grief sometimes recedes
as if she were already dead, but each time it hits,
the wounds gapes, stretching a further inch.

she left snowdrops;
fragrant snowdrops, promising spring,
and fresh beginnings.

I get regular reminders of her damaging acts,
her statements to the law, exempt from facts;
false allegations of rape and abuses,
directed at any man who finally refuses
to satisfy her single-minded aim
by filling her collapsing, greedy veins,
and anyone who’s kind enough to care,
will quickly fall into her snare.
her former beauty has long since fled,
so she sells ugliness and shame instead;
there are plenty of men with sordid tastes;
mysogenistic types with a longing to abase.
but she left snowdrops;

snowdrops, shy, downcast, not quite meeting my eye,
fragrant snowdrops, promising spring
and fresh beginnings.

I hear her pleas,
recognise her ancient needs,
but fear her stammering serenade,
which precedes unreasonable demands
to become aquainted with her fantasies,
to follow her down greasy alleys
and to watch her shrink,
until she is no more
than withered skin.

she left snowdrops;
snowdrops, radiating white innocence,
snowdrops, shy, downcast, not quite meeting my eye,
fragrant snowdrops, promising spring
and fresh beginnings.

she always hoped that one day,
she’d emerge from her imagined chrysalis
to find she was the most adorable butterfly
in a meadow full of plants aching to feel her weight,
where she would flirtatiously flutter,
gracing only the loveliest of blooms with a kiss,
leaving each one blushingly longing for her return.
but the drugs carried my daughter away,
all that remains is the ghost
of tired habit.

so she left snowdrops,
my beloved, lost child left snowdrops at my door,
pale, dripping tears.

(Written January 2016. Edited April 2016.)

©Jane Paterson Basil

Deep inside

My living room window
looks down on the pavement.
from time to time I see her
passing by
alone,
or with people she pretends
are her friends
but she has reached the stage
where there are only aquaintances,
useful contacts to help her reach more contacts,
or to accuse and blame
whenever her psychosis takes over.
once, she had beauty, dress sense,
her own individual preferences.
as her brain began to fry
her style slipped away,
and her modesty
ceased
to
be

in the early days of her twin diagnoses,
she regularly swallowed the pills
to moderate her bi-polar mood swings;
we were still reeling from the shock of realisation
that there was nothing anyone would do
about the atypical autism,
and she said she didn’t want
to be the crazy woman
that people stare at in the street.
but that is what my lovely one
has become.

she’s given up the anti-psychotics.
now she sticks with heroin and amphetamines.
she’s lost all grip on self-preservation.
her addictions are expensive,
but even now, grey skinned and anorexic,
she has ways to make a buck.
three years ago she got wise;
good advertising is the secret,
professional, promising discretion.
it’s the one thing she gets right.
I imagine her clients are horrified
when they see what they have hired,
and there’s little possibility of repeat custom,
particularly at that extortionate price.

She is my offspring,
and it may seem disrespectful to speak of her this way,
but please understand addiction has taken her
and she was sick anyway.
sometimes I wonder if my little girl
still exists inside that ravaged frame.
but like the child in the Exorcist,
taken over by a sadistic Devil,
in my heart I know she’s
struggling, deep inside.

Most of the time,
I long for my daughter’s recovery.
but in less selfish moments
I wish her eternal peace,
no matter how painful that will be for me.
I tell myself she is beyond feeling,
but I know it isn’t true.
her only escape from utter misery
is to switch off the signals to the brain,
or to rant and rage,
to rail against the world and its family.

there is nothing I can do to help her.
even offering her my love, which I must,
doesn’t alleviate her pain, or mine.
It simply clicks a switch in her brain,
making her more angry,
and yet more insane.

©Jane Paterson Basil