Deep inside

My living room window
looks down on the pavement.
from time to time I see her
passing by
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

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


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

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