Weeks of running, chasing the tail of crack and smack, the hateful demon siblings.
Dodging police, each narrow miss another weight on him.
Paranoia, like a fever, seizing him, flinging him into prickly thorns;
chasing him across lines of fast traffic, forcing him to scale walls,
skin his shins, fall, leading him to muddy puddles, dunking him in deep seas.
If the police didn’t get him
he’d grow too weak to swim.
He would sink.
I made his last supper and like Judas, I waited, smiling while he tasted, chewed,
passed compliments on the food. I assessed his pitiful condition —
flesh cut and bruised, ripped jeans stained where the blood had seeped through,
eyes hooded beneath brows not designed by me,
pupils working overtime; taking in the room, flicking to the draped window,
his screaming mind picturing police in the street.
Judas did it with a kiss, but in this age of technology I did it with a click.
My text sent, its single word a simple request activating a chain of events
that brought a tense knot of uniforms to my door.
As the handle turned, my heart churned, altering the shape of my fear,
but offering no relief.
it felt like
The police were kind; they gave him time to say goodbye.
I looked into his face and recognised the child I’d raised
who’d filled my soul with love and pride. I’d thought that child had died,
and yet, as if he’d been baptized, arrest had cleansed him of his sins,
rinsed away the years of filth the drugs had left behind.
The feeling of grief and loss redoubled, splintering behind my ribs.
Pity dripped into my soul. I struggled to hide my tears:
crying wouldn’t ease his journey to the cells. When they took him away,
a brave smile fought to find my twitching lips.
My eyes stayed dry;
I didn’t shake; I didn’t hit the floor –
until I heard that final sound –
My son was imprisoned in March 2014. He received a thirty month prison sentence – far less than was expected, and has since been released on licence on three occasions, only to be returned each time for infringing his licence agreement. He left prison a free man in September 2016, having finally completed his sentence.
©Jane Paterson Basil