The Last Laugh

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I got a soggy dog-lick-kiss, breakfast on a tray
with the dreaded birthday sentence: Fifty years today.
Gifts enshrined in angry bills, ring box on a tin can,
and on the bed beside me, my oh, so funny man.

I wouldn’t touch my breakfast; the tea was weak and cold,
the bread was stale, the marmalade thickly furred with mould.
I unwrapped all the presents; fake poo and inked perfume,
I threw aside a birthday card, then marched out of the room.

He chased me to the kitchen; he knelt on knobbly knees
to offer me the ring box, said: Please don’t be a tease.
He looked so hurt and serious I thought he was sincere.
I’m glad I chose to take it, or he would still be here.

I carefully prised it open, expecting glittery bling,
but in that stupid jewellery box there was no diamond ring;
no long-denied proposal, no promise from my champ –
curled amidst the velvet was a grubby postage stamp.

I glared at him in fury, but he waved my rage away,
and laughing shrilly, said to me: It’s for a holiday.
Climb into this box, I’ll add the stamp and the address
of any destination, North, South, East or West.

It might be midlife crisis, but I’m weary of his humour;
I wished a heart attack on him, or a most aggressive tumour,
so feeling thus disgruntled, I shot him through the head.
He’s curled up in an outsize box, not joking now he’s dead.

I’m posting him to Timbuctoo, with no return address,
So I will never get him back, and I’ll suffer no redress.
It’s funny what you think of, when you scrub a bloody floor,
kitchen units and two windows, one kitten and a door:

We met on Friday the thirteenth, an unlucky day for me,
but the thirteenth has returned; how unlucky now is he!
I don’t regret the past, and there’s something I will miss;
I’d like to give him one last breath and see him laugh at this.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Written for Three Things Challenge: thirteen, midlife crisis, past

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Three Sisters

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A grave procession
judders along the old pitted lane.
Amidst the relay of mourners, three sisters
lurch in separate cars, each clutching a tissue,
each nursing a lonely grief.

Lily-laden funeral wreathes
cast cruel shade over flashes of sensory screenshot:

their mother reading an article from the Guardian, words falling on deaf ears that would be keen to hear her words today;

the Saturday fragrance of vanilla and yeast, of cocoas, sifted into a bowl while she humorously recited Carroll, or dreamily recited Keats;

the ballet of her every movement.

All joyful memories are
choked by the aroma of white trumpets,
chased off by the celebrant’s tribute,
distanced by mortality’s truth.

Heavily, they host the wake,
making sad celebration in a room
where once they ate and fought and played.
Greeting the sombre-suited guests, a sense of
distance
marks each sorrowful hug, a feeling of
alienation
punctuates every platitude. A dun-coloured wilderness
gapes
where a mother’s rainbow love once encircled
a fertile horizon.

Three blonde heads
dutifully nod in a jaded tide of grey, brown and red,
keeping their distance like amnesiac triplets,
unable to acknowledge the bond between them,
but grieving the body that links them.

And yet…

Esther breaks away, promptly retreating from the pompous uncle
who once ordered her to pull her socks up.

Sophie escapes from the neighbour who ran over her favourite doll.

Marie extracts herself from the presence of a virtual stranger.

Three sisters, divided
by the gifts and thefts of time, the perversity
of personality; yet each makes an unplanned dash
for the place where they might find an echo
of childhood laughter,

Finding themselves together by the river,
the sisters silently step back, form a line,
firmly grasp each other’s hands, unsurprised
by this impromptu contact; this once
cherished routine.

With one accord they take
a running leap, flying, screaming with fear and hilarity,
bracing for a wet slap, sinking, rising encircled by
a naughty water-dance of funeral garb.

Treading water,
spluttering with mirth,
they smack the surface, watching liquified diamonds
as they glitter and drown in the late-summer light.

Forty years, they think,
Forty years have passed since the first time mum,
grinning at our antics,
leapt, describing a perfect pirouette,
landing with only a ripple that danced around her
as she swam back to the bank.

The river steps back in time,
The coffin recedes into the strong tree it must once have been.
The lilies of death are gone; are less than a twinkle
in the eye of an unborn seed.
The three sisters feel the love of their mother’s reach.

In this divine moment, she lives.

Three giggling children wait for a refined splash.

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Written for today’s Word of the Day Challenge; Mirth

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Game of Life

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Teachers say that it’s essential
to reach toward our full potential;
“Make the most of your credentials.
Re-define the providential.”

Life is a game that all of us play,
finding all kinds of dice on the way.
Some will be bright, some dull and grey;
brittle ones crumble and fade away.

They’re tricky blighters, the dice of life,
leading to bliss or riches or strife.
Some require sweat, others take time,
some promise dollars for less than a dime.

Kids blow dreams at birthday candles,
bones grows weak, flesh grows handles.
Ice cream drips from seaside hands,
beached eels writhe on drying sands.

Orang-u-tangs confront destruction,
Women pay for liposuction.
Councils order waste reduction,
Couples practice reproduction

Youths get drunk in ill-lit clubs,
killers shoot up schools and pubs,
Flash floods swallow humble huts,
arid sun cracks idle dust.

A trainee celebrates his rise,
another hungry baby dies.
Protesters wave their placards high,
Leaders whistle tunes and sigh.

Cryptic codes stain lip-sticked faces,
muscled athletes speed through races,
spiders clamber up a wall,
Governments rise, nations fall.

For silent death and wailing birth
cards pile high above the hearth.
Acquaintances and family friends
mark delivery at both ends.

History grows, inventing, repeating,
just as food precedes excreting,
just as farewell follows greeting,
ever creating and deleting.

Never-the-less, it’s preferential
to reach toward our full potential.
Make the most of your credentials.
Re-define the providential.


 

Written for The Word of the Day Challenge: Potential … a couple of days late. I’ll have to try harder.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Tramp off, Trump

Don’t tell me about zero tolerance. I can see
your compassion is at point zero.
How dare you wipe your stinking feet on UK soil,
and how could our misfit PM have the cheek to welcome you,
her skin turning pink at the thought
that her harsh measures are too gentle for your sort.
Who would think she
would ever be considered too touchy feely?
Have you seen how gives to the rich what she steals from the poor,
whistling while Brits fling themselves from bridges?
Come to think of it, that’s right down your street.
As we say around our way, with our irritating gift
for understatement:
It won’t do.

Go home; go back to the USA,
face the shame of your Texan cages.
Set the children free, give them back to their families,
then lock yourself away
and throw away the key,
or pass it to your worst enemy…
if you can figure out who that is.

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He’s gone now – off on a plane, no doubt to see what damage he can do next.

This poem was a lot longer, but I felt it best to cut out a lot of what I wrote, and the clichés are deliberate…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Cold Where Women Are Wet

Written for the Sandbox Writing Challenge 2018 – Exercise 25

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“Do you see something of yourself in this little child?
If so, what?”


You ask what it was like.
Your brows furrow as I describe multiple rapes,
imaginative beatings.

Terror of death.
Cringing hatred blurring the vision.
Images of crazy pistons, runaway trains.
Bruises burns broken bones invasion pain
bruises burns broken bones invasion pain
bruises burns broken bones invasion pain.

You ask:
given my past,
why the promiscuity?
Once, I hunted for excuses,
citing the tail end of the hippie era.
“Everybody was doing it.”
Still the question:
“But why you?”

I could tell you what the records show.

Looking back,
perhaps I was trying to re-enact
the horror, that it might shrink, morph into
a joke or a commonplace memory,
and I thought it could make me
normal, mistakenly believing that frequent practice
between the sheets in all weathers, on the beach on balmy nights, under trees on starlit evenings, on the back seats of a cars, in wheat fields and deep grass, in gardens, behind cinemas, in derelict buildings, under bridges, next to rivers, in my best friend’s den, in strangers’ garages, in  my grandmas shed and that failed time in a smelly public inconvenience, 
would give me a taste for it.

I’ll admit the thrill of each easy catch.
Ego-tripping through pubs and parks, a skilled actor
playing the part of a sylph, twisting hearts, tweaking dicks.
Hiding my dearth beneath a pretty face,
swaying wet-dream curves, displaying a fake sparkle which
splintered
as alien lips kissed the throat that used to choke,
and hands, so like those that wrapped around my neck,
stretched toward my shuddering breast.

Gritting my teeth,
smothering screams,
cold in the places where women are wet,
shamefully failing at pleasure.
Forever unsure
of my cause.

You wonder
how I feel about the past.

I’ll shrug and tell you
the child who dragged her baggage
through hiccuping failure, whose sleepwalking feet
crushed wilting daisies, whose foolish errors
infected the next generation,
finally grew balls

Fresh air embraces me,
leads me into a waltz. Together, we celebrate
the familiar gift of menopause.

Your brows furrow.
You’d like to know how I am now.

How kind of you to ask.
I am like most of us; I have walked and run,
slipped on banana skins, been kicked
by beasts and healed by love.

I retired from lugging dust.

I am well.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

Stiff Upper Lip

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This is your conscience speaking;

I know you feel
like flaying the next-door fiend,
leaving her festering in a smelly heap, to the applause
of almost every tenant on these three floors,

and you fantasise
about an unacceptable, inconceivable set-up with the bed-eyed,
dread-locked sex god you’re forever ogling
in the second-hand shop.

I realise you recently considered
ripping off your jeans and summer vest in the hey-day high street,
screaming “ I hear you knocking but you can’t come in”,
then running away, giggling.

and you are tempted
to tell that frosty screw what her silly victim –
her lily-livered excuse for a libertine loser – plotted to do
to you when she was at bingo, sandwiching his confused pseudo-love
between the pages of a detailed medical dictionary, as if
each irritating phrase was a ribbon-wrapped gift, every
trumped-up twitch and flickering heart beat a treat;
and yet he knew you didn’t want to swim
in anyone’s swan song, let alone
sink through his forlorn
funeral tune.

I understand
that – until you did it – you might think it funny
to cut off your extremities and wiggle your stumps,
singing “Look, no hands,
and no feet, either”,

and you have been dying
to tip your wardrobe through the window, crying, “look – it can fly”,
wait for the smashing crash to attract the neighbours’ attention,
then yell, “and so can I”,
and try.

It’s true that their lives are dull,
and it would give those old folks a thrill
to see your blood churning the earth into rusty mud
to feed the geriatric rose bushes,
but don’t.

This
is your conscience speaking, old bean;
don’t do any of the above – let us not forget
one is British; such activities are simply not cricket.
Extend your stiff upper lip; use it
to lift a kettle, then settle down
with a nice cup of tea.

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©Jane Paterson Basil