Just a kid

when it visited your street you were just a kid –
flying kites, swimming in the sea
eating cake with your sister
fighting over who had the biggest slice –
you were just a kid
too steeped in your innocent life
to take an interest in your neighbour’s strange sickness

when they spoke of Addiction you were just a kid
your questioning eyes flitted towards the window
taking in hastily built bars and an anguished face within
mouth screaming for release, pleading for one last hit
you turned from his shame and you said
Why does he do it?
It doesn’t make sense. How silly can he be.
behind you, your mother sighed her relief
but you were just a kid
you’d only just put away your plastic fire engine
your Pokamon cards, your Superman suit
you had far to travel
before adolescence stole your wit.

she slithers through unresisting skin
racing through veins to swallow your brain,
fitting in place, taking you, flooding you with golden nectar
so close, so close, but never quite as you remember her
never the roundness, the ecstacy of that first kiss
she keeps her distance by an inch
like a femme fatale with one eye on her next victim
like a siren singing you to her side to see you die
you know her love is exempt
but you need her to survive
you need her though she has robbed you
of friends, family and pride,
and next she may take your life

so many times you’ve tried to leave
with gritted teeth you’ve begged for your release
angered, she squeezed you as you writhed
holding tight until you agreed
to yet another parting hit

©Jane Paterson Basil

Like Judas

Weeks of running, chasing the tail of crack and smack, the opposing demon siblings. Dodging police, each narrow miss another weight on him. Paranoia, like a fever, seizing him, flinging him into prickly bushes; chasing him across lines of fast traffic, pushing him to scale walls, scrape his shins, fall; leading him to muddy waters, dunking him.

If the police didn’t get him
he’d grow too weak to swim.
He would sink.

I prepared his last supper, and, like Judas, I attended, smiling while he tasted; chewed; passed compliments on the food, all the while assessing his pitiful condition: face and hands cut and bruised; ripped jeans stained where the blood had seeped through.
I looked at his eyes, hooded by brows that I had not designed, pupils working overtime; taking in the room; flicking to the curtained window – his tormented mind visualising police in the darkened 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 beginning a short chain of events resulting in a tense knot of uniforms beyond my door.

As the handle turned, my heart churned, altering the shape of my fear, but offering no relief.

a
six
year
prison
sentence
was expected.
it felt like
eons,
like
f
o
r
e
v
e
r

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, but suddenly, as if he’d been baptized, arrest had cleansed him of his sins, sloughed away the years of filth the drugs had left behind. The feeling of grief and loss redoubled, splintering beneath my ribs. Pity dripped into my soul. I had to fight to hide my tears: crying wouldn’t ease his journey to the cells. When we parted, a brave smile clung unconvincingly to my twitching lips.

My eyes stayed dry;
I didn’t shake; I didn’t hit the floor –
until I heard that final sound –
the slamming
of the
door

This post was inspired by a heartrending post on grieving and healing mothers. My poem tells of an event that occurred over two years ago, and is therefore no more or less than a part of my history. My son was arrested and 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 will remain in prison until September, after which time his sentence will be over.

Junkie

When a great post like this comes along, it needs to be shared.

Holy Addiction

“Junkie”

“Let’s just ban Narcan altogether,” I once heard someone say; “we should just let Darwin do his thing and let all the junkies die off.”

“Junkie.” What an ugly word that is. It brings to mind a dirty emaciated human being, maybe resembling Christian Bale from The Fighter a few years back. They might be wearing tattered Salvation Army clothes. Maybe they live in one of the countless tent cities that stud towns like Brockton and Lowell like pimples on a high school freshman. Worthless, disposable, leeching off our precious taxpayer dollars…a junkie.

This concept, above all others, pisses me off the most about the avalanche of cheap heroin flooding the Northeast. You cannot reduce a person to this level. Yes, actions have consequences. Yes, the only way for an addict to begin recovery is for themselves to be ready to tackle their habit.

And in my time working…

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Happy land

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did you find that place?
glimpsed so clear and clean in the split-second
when you tripped from doubt to decision
so clear and clean that you could almost feel the
toothpaste-tingle as your lips stretched across your teeth

did you find that happy land?
where the wraps from yesterdays tricks and treats
have been blown from your soul and into the bin
where hope has been reborn and grown
(deep rooted like a noble oak) to become reality

did you find that place?
did you stagger, did you crawl, to reach it?
did you cry out for mercy or relief?
rolling in you own vomit, odour of the devil’s shit up your nose, curled up stretched out writhing cramping agony, aches through every inch of you thinking it’s big so big like the planet like the Universe nothing but this this is all there is brain screaming out its need brain screaming for release screaming for
one
last
pinprick
that little pinprick would take away the pain
did you give in?
or did you reach that happy land?

did you reach that place?
did you escape your prophesied fate?
or do you still die a little every day?

©Jane Paterson Basil

Laura’s detox Part 2

Laura’s detox is over. at about 8.30 this morning she was in pain, and twitching. At about 9.15 she rang her sister Sarah, probably hoping that the sound of her voice would strengthen her resolve – which it did for a short while – but at about 10.15 she started hassling me for a tenner she saw in my purse yesterday. I had to keep repeating the same refusal over and over, but she wasn’t hearing me, because it was too late. She’d already made the decision to use.

Her dad, Mike was in bed, because he had to work early this morning. She went upstairs and begged him for money. When he refused she took £20 out of his trouser pocket. Instead of refusing to give her a lift untill she returned it, he agreed to take her to Barnstaple immediately. I had slept – badly –  wrapped around my bag, and held on to it all morning, but when Mike agreed to take her into town I momentarily forgot all about it. I went to pick up my belongings from the spare room, upstairs. As soon as I got to the top of the stairs I realised, but it was too late. I found Laura crouched over my bag. She jumped away quickly, but it was too late. My wallet was open and the money was gone. She vehemently insisted she hadn’t taken it. There was nothing I could do. I asked Mike not to go anywhere until she returned the money, but he refused to co-operate. He said he was driving into town straight away.

It has always been like that. Apparently we should not apportion blame, but I find it hard not to, as I’ve watched my children grow up with no boundaries, because the ones I tried to build were deliberately saboutaged (Mike resented my ability to take on almost any task, and carry it out well, so he punished undermined my parenting without the least concern for their future) and Mike was too lazy too build any himself. Laziness usually results in extra work later on, and parental laziness can be disastrous, as my two younger children demonstrate.

I was furious with Laura, and unable to cover it up. I was also furious with Mike, but there’s no point in venting my spleen on him. It only makes matters worse if he sees me as the enemy.

Mike sometimes drives a van, because he delivers newspapers over the weekend, and that was what he was using today. I put Laura in the front seat because she was feeling nauseous – as could be expected – and she needed to be able to get out quickly if necessary. She asked me to reach over the seat and  hold her, but, because I was so angry and frustrated, I refused. Then I glanced at the newspaper on top of the  pile beside me, and saw the murdered MP Jo Cox’s smiling face gazing at me. I remembered my promise to myself, made only three days ago, to think of Jo every time I got angry.

I felt ashamed. I knelt behind Laura’s seat Laura’s seat, reached my arms out and got as much body contact between us as I could, resting the side of my head against hers, and I stayed in that uncomfortable and increasingly painful position until she got out of the car.

24 hours earlier Laura had been talking about ending her life. I don’t know what her future holds, and even if I did, that would be no excuse for witholding love from my sick child. She shouldn’t have stolen from me, but I knew she had reached the point when she would if she got the opportunity, and I gave her that opportunity, if only for a moment. She suffers enough. She shouldn’t have to suffer for my mistakes too.

Here’s the amusing (?) thing – When I told her to give the money back, and she told me she hadn’t taken it, she pulled everything out of her pockets, and the ten pound note wasn’t there, but I saw a five pound note sitting on top of the bag she had slung over her shoulder. I picked it off her bag, because otherwise it would have floated away. The extent of my honesty is such that instead of hanging on to it, I placed it in her palm, and she quickly shoved it into her pocket. When I got home and unpacked all my stuuf, I noticed the following items in the bottom of the bag which contaained my wallet: 1 pouch of tobacco, and £1.71 in change, and I suddenly remembered the only cash purchase I’d made while in South Molton. Laura had asked me to buy her a pouch of tobacco, and it had cost £3.29. I’d paid for it with the tenner, and been given £6.71 change. The fiver I had given back to her had been mine. When she said she hadn’t stolen £10 she was telling the truth. She’d only taken £5. When I caught her in the act, she pushed it up her sleeve, and it fell onto her bag.

For a few hours Laura and I were close again, and the fact that it didn’t end as I had hoped, does not detract from the experience. I feel enriched by it. She wants to get clean from drugs, but hasn’t got the strength to cold turkey. She’s engaging with the drugs services, and she will be put on a script if she doesn’t have another wobble and miss her appointments. It’s not my idea of the best way to get clean, but for her and many others like her, it may be the only way. Knowing that I still love her as much as I always have, and will be strong for her, will help to urge her forward.

Laura’s Detox

I woke up yesterday feeling tearful. Too many bad things are happening, and I just wanted to hide away. I was supposed to be going to a get-together with some friends, and had been asked to make coleslaw – they have the idea that there’s something special about my coleslaw – but going out to buy the cabbage and carrots seemed daunting. However, I managed to get myself down the road. The shop where I was going to buy the vegetables isbeyond the Oxfam shop where I work, and by the time I reached Oxfam I was exhausted -although it’s only five minutes stroll from home – so I went in to see Karen, the manager, but was so upset that I was unable to talk for a couple of minutes. She made a cup of tea, and with tears streaming down my face, I managed to explain all the things that were troubling me. Karen put me back together as only she can, and helped me to make a decision about how to cope with the rest of the day. I went and bought the vegetables, took them home, and started cutting up cabbage.

That’s when my daughter Laura rang my doorbell. I went out to see her, because she’s banned from  the the block of flats I live in.

The things she said made me forget my morning’s struggles.

We sat together on a wall nearby. Laura was very depressed. She said there was nothing left in her life, everything was destroyed and there was no way back. She needs drugs but she has no money, and no way of making it, because she’s lost her phone and her particular route to cash involves ‘clients’ contacting her by phone. She has no life. She needs to be in town to have any possibility of making money, so she can’t live with her father, who’s about nine miles from town. As a result she lives as a homeless person, and she’s used up all her friends, so nobody will agree to give her houseroom. She says everyone hates her, and while I wouldn’t put it that strongly, they do dispise and dislike her for several reasons. She’s managed to become an outcast even amongst the addicts.

She was talking about suicide – not in the angry way people sometimes do – she was seriously considering it. I told her that even as her mother I have no right to try and change her mind, but if she chose to do it I would like her last thought in this world to be a happy one: that I love her and I will never forget the good times she and I had together. I will never forget the particular closeness that I shared with her and with nobody else. I told her that she was unique, that her school friends love her and are waiting in the wings for her recovery. I reminded her what a nightmare she was to them sometimes, yet they still love her because she possesses something wonderful and magical that they will never find in anybody else. I told her a lot of things as we sat on that wall, because although I was going to do my utmost to keep her alive, if she makes the choice to die, I want her to die at least knowing that, whatever addiction may have done to her, she has been loved, and been worthy of that love.

We sat in silence, while I let her digest the things I had said. After a couple of minutes I said that the alternative to suicide was cold turkey. She said she’s tried it several times before, and the last time was only a few days ago. I reminded her of all the times she’s had no money and been ill over the years, and all the times she will rattle if she carries on using. I reminded her that her body appears to be shutting down, that she is dying slowly. That’s when I saw it – that spark – she no longer wanted to die.

I suggested we go back to her father’s place together, and I hold her while she rages, while she screams for heroin, while she throws up on me. She seemed reluctant. She told me I didn’t know how bad it would be – I haven’t seen her at her worst. She said her bedroom still smells like someone had died in it, from the last time she clucked. And then she turned to me and said “Do you want to come out to Filleigh and go in my bedroom, and smell it?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Just give me a few minutes to tidy up and grab some stuff.”

I ran up the stairs to my flat, called my friend to apologise and explain why I wouldn’t be able to make it for dinner, at the same time clearing up the half-made coleslaw, grabbing clothes, washing stuff and other essentials.

Half-an-hour later Laura and I were on a bus, and I was on the phone to her dad, asking if I could stay there while Laura detoxed. He was fine with it.

It was only when we had been at Filleigh for an hour or so that I realised we could do with some medication to help Laura with the symptoms, so we jumped on another bus and went to South Molton, four miles away. The lady in Boots was very kind, and took us into a consultation room to discuss it. I bought everything she recommended, we went to Sainsbury’s and picked up some food, then we caught the bus back.

On the bus I looked at Laura, and she was smiling.

The evening passed quietly. She fell asleep on the sofa, so I left her there and slept on the floor. She woke up at about 1.30 am, feeling a little unwell, with a strong desire to go to Barnstaple, then she fell asleep again. It’s now 8.20am. We’ll see what today brings.

Missing you – for Laura

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missing you
is a colourless statis
a bland taste on the tongue
a distant white noise
echoing in my ears

memories of the life we shared crowd me
seeking attention
the fine dust of yesteryear floats in stagnant air
settling on me as my sights dim
into the endlessness of missing you

missing you, even as you sit here
drinking coffee, struggling to engage,
your numb fingers twitching,
frayed from their tenuous grip on a thin thread.
I’ve witnessed each agonising inch-by-inch effort
to climb out of addiction, and every slip,
as with crimson, blood-slick hands
your tragic spirit sinks.

I long to rescue you, but rescue is not an option
so I will kiss the fog that surrounds you.
I will whisper soft words of love and free them to the wind
that they may get caught in the eye of your storm
and like dandelion seeds, take root and bloom
filling in the existential cracks that childhood couldn’t mend
healing the cuts and rips of an accidental life
but if they lie fallow,
I shall spend the rest of my days
missing you

©Jane Paterson Basil