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
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
©Jane Paterson Basil
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.