For Jane

A poem

A flash of lightning
His life was gone
Hurled up in the air by a car

Ragdoll-like, puppet with no strings

Without knowing, in that second
She was bereft
Rap rap on her door, police
He’s cold an hour now

Cards flowed in, meaningless,
Her love was gone
She was a puppet on a string
Thank you for coming

No sophistry for thishow could she
Plan to be a widow?

Hurled up in the air her life
How does one proceed without her late- no,
Her dead husband

Published in The Lark


I am in hospital…

My plan was to always avoid hospital. But today I struggled to breathe and called paramedics.

It felt like I was being assaulted.They simply started taking my temperature and blood stats, without pause. I exclaimed ‘I feel like you’re assaulting me , you haven’t even told me your names, and you are so tall and I’m tiny’.

My sats were 88. Later, the nicer one told me I looked so dreadful they thought I was near death. And they were right. I have viral pneumatitis. An unknown viral cause that affected my heart from working properly. It might be Covid-19 or it might be a blood clot on my lungs.

They told me if I stayed at home I would die. I said that I would go if they would use Open Access – having a GP admit me to a ward by phone. They phoned my GP who asked to speak to me and he treated me like a child, saying I had paramedics there, go with them. I replied that the noise and lights in A and E are very bad for neurological conditions, and the paramedic took the phone back.

They did make the effort of getting me a single room. I showered and dressed, with a little help, only getting feet into my trousers, and needed more oxygen. Every time I moved, my sats dropped.

Then, arriving here, I was not comfortable. I kept having things done to me and pain in back kept increasing until I felt almost insane. I had taken my drink bottle and kept getting thirsty but being told to wait. All the time, the pain in the small of my back was getting worse. I became short tempered because of it. The staff nurse looking after me was so kind. I kept apologising for being so ratty. She replied that she thought I was very patient.

A junior doctor asked me how often my pain occurs. Well, never as bad as that because I manage my situation and don’t allow pain to get so bad.

Finally, after five hours with paramedics and nurses and a doctor, I was given pain relief. I am exhausted but now only slightly uncomfortable. Four cannulas dropped out of me as they were being secured. Another fell out after half an hour. Blood was pouring everywhere. Now one is truly plastered down and bandaged. A touch of superglue.

I had an injection in my stomach. I forget the reason. To do with blood clots. Embolisms. I’ll have an MRI tomorrow.

I may die. I just want to see my daughter.

I was careless in not making sure to have an enduring love. I did not take hold of love from good men. I felt too insecure.

The man I married was real love, until our daughter was born. He became bullying, and undermining. I found myself hiding money to be able to get away.

My next relationship was with someone who had issues. We got along well, although he would sometimes dwell on self pity, and a bit of I’m no good. He was also very jealous of man I spoke to, or he ‘saw the way I looked’ at his step brother. I actually only had eyes for him. He was mean with money, and although we had a joint mortgage on a house, I told him to go.

The third was sweet and thoughtful. Every gesture he made was heart felt. I was just beginning to feel love when he was yanked away. He is an alcoholic and often in black out.

I have only just started working through the shock of when he appears in my bedroom. Thirteen years ago, a man broke into my home and stood at the end of my bed watching me sleep. In my subconscious, I thought it was Lara come to get into bed with me. Except something was wrong. When I heard footsteps running down the stairs, I called out to her asking where she was going. She called out that it was a man. I grabbed the phone, dialled 999 and the police were there in before the call was ended.

Today’s voyeur is next year’s rapist.

Today I have been in almost constant touch with my friends in Virginia. He rarely keeps his phone ring on, but when he learned about my condition, he kept the contact going.

I’ve never experienced such an alarming day. I am in a ward now, a single room which is miles too hot. I asked for the windows to be opened, but it’s not much different. I’m hoping to sleep well but I’m right by the nurses station. They talk and shut drawers.

I’m so glad the paramedics persuaded me to come here. I’m a bit sad that my GP would not admit me over the phone. It would have saved me so much pain and stress.


I didn’t post for over 2 weeks…

I got broke. Too many things piled on me, but mostly the death of my sister. So many people behaved badly, I got blocked up and so I broke. I need to grieve for Pamela.

I am not fixed, but will carry on now though not every day.


I was interviewed…


Who I am

Christine, in years to come you will hear words spoken about you,be asked questions you know not the meaning of, you will be as an exhibit, a fascination, reduced to symptoms of medical interest
Resist the urge to live,let yourself go into the gloomy stupor of death which leads to the light beyond. Ignore the instinct to survive, to grab hold of life, your suffering will be ignored, your pain unknown, you will never find love on this earth
Let all the confusion you will know wash over and away, the years beyond will be too many, with not enough of anything to sustain, not love, not friends, not family, your own daughter will desert you, your sister die in your arms
Dad will love you, mother will poison your life more than disease, let go, when death comes, say yes, and let it be short, don’t live long while you are dying, acquiesce, embrace the light, go to the everlasting arms, don’t exhaust yourself with living
People live in their cocoons, what destroys your life is of no concern, no one will care about you, empty words will fill your ears, enjoy the sunlight and say goodbye while you can speak, everyone you love will disappear, fade away, words have no meaning, life is dust, let go

Published by Hedgehog Press

This is the most autobiographical piece I’ve ever written. My editor invited poems on the theme of who we are. I chose to write to my seven year old self. I was broken up over recent events, I thought about the man I married, my love for him that had water poured over it and yet the support I gave him when a mother’s nightmare happened to us. He took, he took and took. Another relationship, fairly uneventful but he was jealous. He slipped a disc and I nursed him, he took and took. And all the time I was a mother putting my daughter first. Then a boring little man, who asked permission to go to the shop for his lunch stuff, got into my bedroom at three in the morning and molested me while we were talking. While making amends for that he seduced me and began a relationship with me. I started to fall in love but he obeyed his owner. I was fine but he came to visit me, and that was the undoing. I have a folder of emails I thought were from his owner, but apparently are from him. A lot of emails over the last nine months. And then he crushed me. Told me I only wanted a carer. He smashed me and the pieces are many


Michael Ebsworth doesn’t want me to die alone…

He crooned this to me over and over as he held me.

The following day he left me after jumping to wrong conclusions. And I am afraid that I will die alone.


Writing Grief

Naja Marie Aidt’s new memoir, When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back, translated from the original Danish by Denise Newman, begins with an epigraph from Rilke’s “The Tenth Elegy.” The lines are all about grief—“The new stars of the land of grief,” the first line tells us, “Slowly the lament names them.” The epigraph proceeds for a few lines, naming the different stars, before concluding, “But there, in the southern sky, pure as the lines / on the palm of a blessed hand, the clear sparkling M / that stands for Mothers……—.” And so begins Aidt’s book, putting a specific form of grief on the mind and heart of the reader—that of a mother grieving her lost child.

On March 16, 2015, Aidt’s son Carl died. His death was an accident, self-inflicted while in the depths of a particularly dark mushroom-induced psychotic state. When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back is Aidt’s reckoning with that death—with how it could have happened to the son that she knew, with why the police’s response to the emergency call of Carl’s friend was so slow, with how Carl could have jumped out of a window to his death but that death not have been suicide, and much more. It’s raw and angry as Aidt yearns for understanding, yearns for her son to not be dead.

As Aidt goes about the Herculean effort of wrestling with her son’s death, she utilizes a remarkable variety of forms; her grief is expressed not only through the substance of her words, but also through the structure of her text. The work includes passages from her diary composed in the years of Carl’s childhood; quotations from writers as varied as Anne Carson, Stéphane Mallarmé, and C. S. Lewis; passages that read like rants at death, at life, at what she’s having to live through (“DEATH WALKS BESIDE US IT IS REAL IT IS NOT CALLIGRAPHY NOT A FUCKING IMAGINED SUFFERING IT IS REAL,” reads one stream of consciousness passage); poems and journal entries pulled from Carl’s papers after his death; and more. All of it taken together leaves the reader with a real sense of the author’s lostness, her groundlessness, of what the death of one dearly loved leaves in its wake. A coherent form no longer seems reasonable, nor possible, in the book Aidt has constructed.

Indeed, Aidt actively wrestles on the page with the idea of making art out of her son’s death—an inherent contradiction in the book she has produced, which is an undoubtedly beautiful artistic achievement. “Beauty has abandoned my language,” she writes. “My language walks in mourning clothes. I’m completely indifferent.” Another passage, from a page-long rambling paragraph, aptly describes Aidt’s conundrum in the work she’s doing: “It’s not possible to write artistically about raw grief. No form fits. To write about actual nothingness, the absence of life. How? To write about the silent unknown that we are all going to meet, how? If you want to avoid sentimentality, the pain stops the sentence mid-sentence. Words sit inadequate and silly on the lines, the lines stop abruptly on their own.” The task Aidt has in front of her with this book is three-fold: to reckon with the death of her son on the page; to create a work of art out of the “inadequate and silly” words her grief produces; and to remain honest to her experience in doing so.

By these measures, the book is a real success. Aidt’s willingness to wrestle with how inadequate and foolish her effort feels, and to leave that wrestling in the book, reinforces the reader’s sense of what Aidt is experiencing. She must pursue understanding; understanding is fleeting. She’s a writer, so one of the ways she can conceive of wrestling with the death of her son is through putting it down on the page; at the same time, the words feel foolish and inadequate. Nothing is sufficient.

The reader’s access to Aidt’s grief deepens through Aidt’s rejection of conventional notions of how text should be laid out on the page. The reader navigates variations of text formatting throughout the book—it’s aligned to the left in some places, and scattered throughout the page elsewhere. The size of the text varies, sometimes in coherent and traceable patterns, at other times seemingly at random. Italics and bold type are used generously throughout—discernibly in a few instances, elsewhere with no traceable intent. All of this textual experimentation cements the triumph of honesty and self-expression that this book becomes—the triumph of honesty in self-expression, complete and unmitigated. Aidt is writing what she will, in ways that feel appropriate to what’s being expressed. Her experience is unorderly; she has produced a text to match it. It’s a testament to Aidt’s translator and her editors at Coffee House Press that the finished version of this book feels essentially unedited.

Her formless work is generated from what feels like a formless life in the absence of Carl, in line with the effect Carl’s death has on her and her community of grievers—“We find ourselves in a futureless time,” she comments at one point. Time itself has lost its coherence; just as form, style, beauty in writing no longer feel tenable, so time has lost its sense of forward movement. “We sit around a kitchen table and survive second to second; we rarely get up. We’ve become rigid, while the spring light rises and falls in the sky outside: Now that you can no longer be in chronological time, neither can we.”

Even still, the reader is presented with a coherent narrative. Aidt employs a smart technique of telling the actual story of Carl’s death within the larger recounting of her grief, within the sensory depiction of that grief. Aidt tells the story in stops and starts, in italicized, set-apart paragraphs. Each paragraph tracks back a couple sentences prior to where the previous concluded, slightly retracing steps in the way, perhaps, that Aidt retells the story to herself—halting, repetitive, delaying the conclusion as long as she can.

As it happens, Aidt’s form-less, beauty-less language of grief is not the only thing that produces its own kind of beauty. Carl’s death itself brings beauty in the despair, and it’s a triumph of this book that Aidt’s recognition of this truth does not come off as trite. Coming as it does near the book’s conclusion, after the devastating majority of the book has imprinted itself on the reader’s mind, it feels surprising when she recognizes it, but not forced.

Aidt recounts two poems that she wrote while Carl was still living; his death was still in the unimaginable future. The first poem begins with the lines from which the book’s title is drawn:

When death takes something from you
give it back
give it back what you got
from the dead one
when he was alive
when he was your heart
give it back to a rose,
a continent, a winter day,
a boy regarding you
from the darkness of his hood.

“I thought intensely about you as I wrote those two poems. I saw you before me as I wrote them,” Aidt recalls. She goes on to consider the power of poetry, its role as the receptacle of omens felt but not understood—“It becomes an experience which belongs to the future, which can express, though it is not yet experienced in reality.” There’s another quality to poetry, though, that Aidt chooses to highlight: “But poems also say something about the giving back what the dead gave us when they were alive. That the dead’s being in a way still needs a place in life, and we should pass on the love they gave us. Here lies the hope. A hope that what you gave me will grow in others, if I am able to share it. And that my love is strengthened and made more beautiful because now it contains your love.” Aidt’s loss will never go away, but her hope, even in the midst of her pain, is that she can harness the love she received from her son. That good may come, even from this—a conclusion that feels trite in my writing, but earned and true within Aidt’s work.

Books change based on who is reading, though as a reader, the default I have to push against is to universalize my own sense of a book. This book, however, had me particularly conscious of my identity as a reader—namely, as one who has never experienced such grief, and never will experience this particular type. This, of course, deeply informs my reading experience. When I read this book, I see its structural and emotional intelligence and honesty, and recognize it as such. I imagine, for a mother reading this book—for one who knows the horror of which Aidt speaks – that this reads more like recollection.

Taken from Ploughshares the newsletter from Emerson College.

I feel this so much since my older sister’s pointless death almost a year ago. My dog, my best friend, died a week later.


Sharing this poem…

  • My Mother and Lucille Clifton Have Tea Parneshia Jones When I get to where I’m going
    I want the death of my children explained to me.

                                                 —Lucille Clifton

    They meet over tea and potato chips.
    Brown and buttermilk women,
    hipped and hardened,
    legs uncrossed but proper
    still in their smiles;
    smiles that carry a sadness in faint creases.
    A sadness they will never be without.

    One asks the other,
    “What do they call a woman who has lost a child?”

    The other sighs between sips of lukewarm tea.
    There is no name for us.

    “No name? But there has to be a name for us.
    We must have something to call ourselves.”

    Surely, history by now and all the women
    who carry their babies’ ghosts on their backs,
    mothers who wake up screaming,
    women wide awake in their nightmares,
    mothers still expected to be mothers and human,
    women who stand under hot showers weeping,
    mothers who wish they could drown standing up,
    women who can still smell them—hear them,
    the scent and symphony of their children,
    deep down in the good earth.

    “Surely, history has not forgotten to name us?”

    No woman wants to bear
    whatever could be the name for this grief.
    Even if she must bear the grief for all her days,
    it would be far too painful to be called by that name.

    “I’ve lost two, you know.”
    Me too.
    “I was angry at God, you know.”
    Me too.
    “I stopped praying but only for a little while,
    and then I had no choice. I had to pray again.
    I had to call out to something that was no longer there.
    I had to believe God knew where it was.”

    “I fear death no longer. It has taken everything.
    But should I be? Should I be afraid of what death has taken?
    That it took and left no name?”

    The other who sighs between sips of lukewarm tea
    leans over and kisses the cheek of the one still with questions.
    She whispers…

    No, you don’t have to be afraid.
    Death is no more scary than the lives we have lived
    without our babies, bound to this grief
    with no name.
           Copyright © 2019 Parneshia Jones.

I am sharing this poem as a mother. I taught my daughter to be independent, to not allow anyone to touch her in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable, to tell someone if a conversation makes her uncomfortable. I taught her how to use public transport, to go to school and other places on her bicycle, I taught her how to drive. She used to ride her bike with friends to a jetty and spent summer days jumping into the sea, they rode bikes in woods, they did water sports. My daughter did two Duke of Edinburgh Awards and excelled in them.

I knew I was teaching her to live with danger, and did my utmost to equip her for danger. My worst fear is to be told of her death, or serious injury. The is no name for a parent whose child has died.

I once wrote a poem about the non existent rooms in a courthouse. There are Ladies and Mens Rooms but no room named Raped, Husband Murdered, Child Killed, and other descriptions of unspeakable pain.


Repost from Dissident Voice


by Chrissie Morris Brady / May 15th, 2016

They talk about being in harm’s way,
your son, father, husband
They’re in slaughter’s way and
often don’t see another day.
Bullets tear open guts,
blow their brains out spilling on the dirt.
Grenades blow limbs off, shell shock,
blood soaking shirts.
Killed, maimed, driven insane in harm’s way.
Collateral damage, friendly fire,
euphemisms to placate.
Civilians ravaged, murdered, raped,
bombs rained down on, crossfire
and soldiers mistaken for the enemy,
shot by compatriots.
This friendly fire has no love,
ironic way to meet life’s end.
Body bags, toe tags, no coffin yet,
but finally draped by the flag.
Field hospitals, ankle deep in blood,
limbs cut off, the mind numbed
Going home a hero, but soon forgotten,
driven to drink, homeless, alone.
Isolated by night terrors,
dead mates they would have died for,
and wish they had, better a grave than a living hell.

That’s just our soldiers who live by a convention,
now starvation is a weapon against the innocent.
Those made homeless by indiscriminate bombings,
Children made orphans, parents made into the nameless
Of losing children, sisters, brothers, cousins.
How the belly aches for food, for love, sheltering arms
There are none.


Untitled – poem published by Anti-Heroin Chic


you remember those summers,

after Germany, long and hot

on the grass or in the apple trees

our world, our castles really in the air,

branches so familiar, smoothed by jeans

and you’d sing into the skipping rope

later I’d hear them on the radio

and think you were magic, a moonbeam

you styled my taste in music for a long time

I wanted to look like you, have style

not look so young, so childlike, so thin

it was your love, your arms I craved

and then, much too soon, I’m your bed

as you begin to die, fading,

a moon beam fading

into the morning


Further on this Odyssey

Procrastination had a bit of a  grip until now. I’m finding the honesty needed to write this very draining. Also, around two weeks ago, I had a ghastly thought – what if I don’t die of this? What if I continue in pain and exhaustion, unable to breathe properly, my world becoming smaller as time goes by?

Whilst I am not anxious for my demise to occur soon, the thought of dragging on in this way brings me misery, which is not an option as it will increase my pain and cause suffering. I need to bring some meaning to each day, whether by writing, socialising, being kind to others, being kind to myself, enjoying my daughter, engaging with discussions, meditating, eating lots of chocolate (the only dairy I allow myself), and great ice cream now and then. (OK, that’s dairy too, but rules never really work do they?)

Last week, I read an interview with someone with whom I had a strange acquaintance and with whom I am estranged for the most bizarre of reasons. He is afraid of death. The compassion I felt for him almost brought me to tears. He is terrified of the one thing that is certain in life. I remember that fear, and other fears that the immaturity of youth carries with it, causing one to bargain with God. Please don’t let me die before I (experience intimacy, travel the world, buy this, achieve that…). The variety is large. I realise now how the fear of death affects his everyday living and wonder how much less hectic his life would be without such fear.

This week I have had a bad cold. In fact, this ‘cold’ has hung around for five weeks as my immune system is so poor – the Dystonia from which I suffer is an auto-immune disease among many other descriptions. The first four weeks the symptoms were nothing much, the occasional sneeze, a scratchy throat, the need to blow my nose once in a while. This week, my throat became very painful, sneezing seemed to be non-stop, but the worst was the coughing and breathlessness. At one point I wondered if I should call an ambulance as breathing and swallowing were so painful, dreading that I needed antibiotics. Today I have felt a lot better, although now, having eaten dinner, breathing is harder again. I know that if my throat becomes painful again it will be hard to avoid antibiotics as it will indicate a strep. infection. It seems a pity to let a boomerang of a sore throat cause misery.

So, I continue to choose to be happy. Content. To choose anything else would be pointless and cause the misery and suffering that is so pointless. I have a part-time carer now. It helps a lot with practical things, like washing my hair, getting admin done, my washing. Sometimes it’s good just to have a hand to hold mine (I know this person well). I dread making phone calls or answering the phone. It’s good to be able to pass the buck sometimes. It also makes life a lot less worrisome for my daughter.

I’m in a good place, although this week has been difficult. There is much for which to be grateful. I’m looking forward to having my hair cut, after far too long. I can’t change anything but myself, and I’m glad of that though I am aware that some changes are needed. But that is not my business. Not directly. It certainly isn’t my responsibility.