Everything In Its Place

 
 
 
  
 My father was a talented man. He  
 drew, painted, pressed clay, carved stone 
 into naked feminine shapes with big bums and 
 tiny waists. He was practical, too. 
 When we moved to Devon, he
 mastered the art 
 of plant husbandry, and grew 
 much of our food.
 He pulled nails from reclaimed wood,  
 saved metal scraps and screws, used them  
 to build, to make tools.
 When I was eight, I helped him 
 create a two-room caravan from waste.  
 This space became a base 
 for his creations. Wood, chisel and clay lived 
 at the front end with his workbench.
 Hammers, drills and related accoutrements 
 were neatly arranged on shelves. 
 Beyond lay his photographic studio, complete 
 with convenient divan and blankets. Everything  
 had its place -- cameras, hammers and  
 home-made pottery wheel of his design, powered  
 by peddling a recycled bicycle -- all
 neatly in reach.
 
 When one of his scented women came -- her waist 
 not that thin, her bum
 not that big, and her painted face never 
 as pretty as in his imagery -- we knew 
 The Artist Was At Work 
 and we must turn away. 

 When they left, some 
 made a quick getaway, while others 
 played innocent, dripping 
 into the kitchen for a quick visit. 
 My mother was friendly, polite, never 
 accused, never raged or complained, 
 ostensibly dismissing his sickening betrayals,
 gently raising them on the pedestal 
 of art. No-one could have seen her pain, or known 
 she was afraid.
 
 Yes, my father was a  
 gifted man. Everything  
 was kept in its place. As 
 an innocent child, I worshiped him.
 Then my breasts grew, and I began to understand  
 the depth of his despot views:  
 e-v-e-r-y woman's place was
 pressed
 in the palm  
 of his 
 grasping 
 hand.  
 
 
 ©Jane Paterson Basil 

 Written for Word Of The Day Challenge: Practical

Obscure Miracles

 Morning brings a fragile visitation: 
 the hint of a poem whose silken threads
 ebb and flow,
 playing hide-and-seek with my mind, 
 gradually reproducing into compatible flecks 
 which swim like dust motes 
 on a sunny day.
 
 Words and phrases  
 float through an open window: tender gifts 
 bestowed by an unknown source;  
 obscure miracles which mingle with the mix,
 transforming raw verse till it fits, 
 displays a hint of beauty, 
 and on occasion, blooms 
 with exhumed truth. 

©Jane Paterson Basil

Oak




This brave beauty
has been buffeted 
by autumn's steely breath,    
robbed of its faded cape.
Not one thread clung 
to shield it 
from winter chill. 
Twigs snap, strained limbs 
creak and break, 
yet victory is gained; the tree 
remains staunch,
tall and erect. 
Vanquished 
by harsh wind, 
leaves crumble 
and decay into mulch 
to feed next season's 
stunning display.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Poor Old Santa

Written for Word Of The Day Challenge: Reflect

With apologies to the oft-disputed author of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

 It's a dim little Christmas we're having this year,
 stranded from family and friends we hold dear.
 Factions are splattered all over the place,  
 there is fear and denial, upset and rage.
 World leaders sit haggard on prickly fence
 while scientists struggle to make them see sense.
 Conspiracy geeks prittle predictable prattle
 and the papers continue to treat us like cattle.
 Mother is shielding and father is fraught
 by the dreadful cost of the gifts that he bought.
 Business is failing, his debts are a-growing,
 since Covid put paid to the seeds he was sowing.
 His children are sleeping in confident bliss
 faithfully dreaming of generous gifts.
 Santa has packed up his sleigh with great care,
 he's padlocked his storehouse and fed his reindeer.
 He's flying up high on his usual rounds;
 although visits are tricky, he won't let us down.
 Since rulings preclude him from entering chimneys
 he drops down the presents and flies away nimbly,
 with a groan in his throat and a tear in his eye;
 he'd be glad of a drink or a lovely mince pie,
 to fill his fat belly and give his heart ease -
 but he cannot risk catching a nasty disease.
 As he smoothly directs his crew through the air,
 he's pleased to be giving but filled with despair.
 He reflects that it's been a difficult year:
 There's lots of goodwill, but damn little cheer.   

©Jane Paterson Basil

Spring

 
 
 
Winter
      had clung,
  its bitter wrap of ice-flinted snow 
             suffocating  fleets 
                       of sunny seasons,
          clenching my gut.  
                     
Fevered hope 
            pricked me 
                    with uneven heat.   
      Faith
          was feeble, thin;
                 a hand-spun fishing line, plucked 
                          from the gleam of halcyon days;
            it frayed and broke,  
               frayed and broke, to be knotted  
                                          again and again;  
     my fumbling fingers fighting in vain 
                   to cease their trembling shake.
 
 
 In the end,             
                estrangement
       felt safer, less painful, yet when it came,
                    it bit,
                            it stung;
                  as events remained uncelebrated and months  
       mounted, it 
                   ate me away.
 
Sometimes, change is sudden:
 
as if on a whim, the world spun, 
whipping up a conglomeration of fear and isolation,
an unheeding pandemic of sickness and death, yet 
 
grace 
 
was the gift this year brought me; 
banishment hit him,
helped him to battle his searing addiction;
his demons had scarred him 
but now they were bleeding, while 
his wounds 
were healing;
I could see they still ached, but
Spring 
had returned. 
Reunited with my child,
with pride and relief I can see
he carries the family genes:
the blood of the Phoenix  
surges 
through his veins.
 
 
 
©Jane Paterson Basil
 
 

Over the past few months, I’ve found it difficult to write. I put this down to the fact that my soul is less tortured. So, last Friday I began a poetry course which was offered by our County Council as part of a mindfulness programme, to help people through the difficulties of Covid, so it wasn’t really designed for poets. However, I thought it would be useful as a kind of refresher. The above poem is the fruit of my first session’s labours. I hope you like it x

Reprimand

You can't beat addiction by beating the addict;
it will hitch up their need to reach for a fix.
Shame on your actions,
you showed no compassion.
You oppressed and tormented and drove her to drink,
then you slammed her and thrashed her, but she didn't sink.
Throughout your life and long after you died
her beautiful spirit and body survived.

 
 
 
©Jane Paterson Basil 

Toll

Nobody told me
you say:
no-one explained; it seems
at each road you pay a toll.
Where crossroad meet,
signposts scribe lies, or mud
smudges each destination,
you claim.
 
You've lost control: you 
never know where the next path will lead.
Looks like a dead-end street.

Your hands 
shake, shame
numbs your brain.
 
So many mistakes.
 
Nobody told you, you say,
then you heap blame
on those who are blinded like you.
 
Loved ones tried,
their words blurred by your need,
your potential curdled by wild hurtle 
into dim thrill of needle 
and sleep.
 
Deep sleep just short of eternal.
 
Mornings bring cravings,
day follows day filled with theft and sale, theft and sale 
to pay for your sleazy escape
again and again.
 
Always the same
peppered with desperate efforts and creasing failures and cramping pain and careless mistakes and fleecing arrests and imprisoning cells
while your head forever screams
to be clean,

while your need
to appease the clamouring beast that clamps your frame and grabs your guts and clings to your skin and kidnaps your mind and steals
your very being
rejects the thought.

...
  
How times change:
these days
you clean my home,
cook my meal. We share expenses and I
marvel at your strength of will.

I ask you:
what was the defining moment
that inspired you to strive
for the light?

This is how you reply:
 
 I gazed
at the signpost ahead
and as I wiped the mud which had blinded my eyes,
I read where each of three roads led.
the first was a dire, familiar trail,
the second pointed to sudden death.
I chose the third road,
the hard road, the right road, the sane road, the safe road,
the stuttering shock.
It was a toll I had to pay:
that searing act of cleansing agony.
I'm glad I grappled through the pain
which led me back 
to hope and health.
 
 
 ©Jane Paterson Basil 

Cultivation


Weed,
you spit. 
Anarchist,
you accuse.

You snap stems,
discard seed,
grasp leaves, dig dirt 
until each root is forcibly freed, 
or maybe you apply herbicide
for ease

"Die, weed, die
you cry with glee. Double dahlias
are what we need. Chemical feed
will raise crowds of blowsy blooms
from cultivated seed"

Bees leave
to seek pollen that they
can reach

Along steamy streets
pockets of green tickle pavements
reaching to conceal heaped waste
which feigns
innocent sleep

Beyond greedy shops,
magnates' dreams emigrate overseas 
to where labour is cheap, and workers 
too poor to complain. 
Industrial relics rot in the rain, 
Britain's shamed industry, obsolete. 
Filth, obscenely tipped into rivers,
fails to biodegrade.

Far from plastic parade and urban decay, 
wide roads surrender to narrow lanes,
white lines submit to green blades, and hedgerows
exhibit kinship between living species,
yet earth's tilth 
tips into sickness; trees strain
to erase our mistakes 
and seasons
struggle to progress.

A frayed leaflet
flitting in the wake of a chance breeze
asks:

Which Path Will You Take?

©Jane Paterson Basil

Paul’s Words: 2

swallow- paul2

Just lemme fly, I’ll death defy.
I miss the bliss, regrets and lies.
I wished for this, I’ll testify to dish Death’s kiss
and let me die…

A change of plan please if I can.
I’ve spanned and scanned of all lands and sands,
and stand a brand new, handsome man,
with standing, standards and a clan.

I cannot stand those scams I ran,
I danced and sang, while ranting slang,
I sang my sting to land it in.
It’s branded in, I planned to win.

There’s more to this than meets the eye,
ignore the shit, the streets passed by,
the struggle and the drugs,
I’ve tumbled into humble love.

©Paul David Ward

Since the lockdown, I have strayed further than ever from my blog. My normal activities have been replaced by gardening; sowing seeds, watering them, pricking them out, and clearing space in a disorganised communal garden that had to be cleared of masses of montbretia, ivy, creeping buttercup, dock, dandelions, bindweed, wild garlic, three-cornered leak (often mistaken for wold garlic, but even more invasive and less useful in the kitchen) and several kinds of annual weeds. I’ve been moving – or dispensing with – ill-placed plants and pruning untidy or overgrown shrubs.

I am exhausted from the time I roll out of bed until I crawl back in. My back and my legs constantly ache. My emotions are released: I cry at the drop of a hat.

And… I am happy, filled with a joy that is far less tinged with fear than could be expected during this pandemic. My son and I are rebuilding our relationship

When I took out the restraining order on my son, I knew the risks and they terrified me, but I also knew that the risk of not doing so was greater. For years I had been losing the bright, funny son that I loved so much. I had watched him turn into a sick, drug raddled, destructive stranger. He had to strike out on his own; to do or die – perhaps literally. I had known for a long time that I couldn’t help him to survive.

He didn’t die. He suffered, and that terrible suffering brought him back to the fold. We have not yet spoken since there is a danger that my voice could be a trigger for him, so the only contact I have with him is through text messaging. He sends me his poems and tells me what he’s been doing (deep cleaning and decorating his flat, drawing… and writing, of course), what he would like to do (he’s looking for voluntary aid work, but his record could go against him).

The blood of the phoenix runs through his veins. In addition to having cut out drugs and alcohol, he’s also in recovery from an abusive relationship with a very damaged young woman. He says his poetry helps him to work through his issues. He’s agreed to me posting some of his poems, and I am honoured to do so.