A snail on shale



I emerged from the womb,
a solid product of genetic soup;
ladled out by lost generations of those
who dripped their natures onto my naked back
in hues which slipped and ran together,
digging deep beneath my skin;
a secret, unseen history.

My subcutanous tattoo;
my aid, my bane, my unique soup;
remains, unaffected by all influences,
letting me work within its broad-spaced fences.
It refuses all blame for my iniquity,
for I have had plenty of time
to get used to its limits.

How I describe myself
depends on the colour of leaves,
the buzz of a bee, the shape of the day.
The tone of spoken words, the patterns in my brain,
my mood, my pride, my sense of shame,
my courage or my cowardice,
all factor into my reply.

I say just this of me;
sometimes I make mistakes;
walking lanes where danger creeps,
or I may fail to show compassion for a heart
that strikes out in confusion or pain;
I often err in a tough decision,
or let anger hold sway;

but I grow a little each day,
not at day’s pace but like a snail,
forever trying to improve my human ways;
climbing life like it was a bank of sharpened shale.
Slipping back, crying out at each fresh gash, pausing,
then, blood-streaked, in a sweaty blur, I carry on,
determined, cheered by each brave bloom
that blossoms on these rocky hills.
Slowly I climb higher, confident
I will conquer the peak.


Written for the Sandbox Writing Challenge #60

This week, Calen asks us to describe ourselves in five words or sentences. I chose to cheat, and instead wrote a five-stanza poem.

Now I’ve decided to make up for this and describe myself first in five sentences:

I’m an honest, compassionate, ethical person who strives to improve myself and my environment, but I find myself unable to carry out the majority of my good intentions, because I have difficulty tearing myself away from my writing.

I have an obsessive personality which is usually focused on something creative, and throughout my lifetime I’ve always been submerged in one activity over all others, to the extent that I resent taking time out from that activity to cook meals, spend time with friends, sleep, or do any other ordinary day to day things; however, I have always written, and writing has now taken over my life.

If you read the story of my life, you’d perhaps consider it sad, dotted as it is with abuse and tragedy, but I’ve had many happy times, and still do, despite unsolved family difficulties, because I’ve learnt to extract both joy and laughter almost from thin air, and I have good, caring family and friends.

My family are grown up and I now choose to live on my own, as living with a man never made me happy, and, apart from the love of my life, who I haven’t set eyes on in years, I believe there is only one other man I could love, but he’s at least twelve years my junior, and too busy offering an essential service, free of charge, to our drug-stricken area, to have any interest in the most scintilating woman in the world, let alone li’l ole me.

I’m shy, and lack confidence and self-esteem, possibly because, when I was a child, my peers – understandably – mostly avoided me, finding me weird, but there is a gregarious, funny side to my personality which comes out when I’m in the company of those I love and trust.

To make up for the protracted length of the sentences, I now describe myself in five words:






and to further make up for it, in five letters:




©Jane Paterson Basil

The summer of 1979



summer, 1979
punk rock was booming,
bringing pseudo-anarchy to the UK
giving us spitting in the street
laced DMs and black PVC
a new ripped-jeans generation
lolled by the road, smoking rollies
swearing and hoping someone would notice.

greetings were a sneer or a two-fingered salute,
the rich said they were skint, and dressed with care, to suit
joining ragged queues to prove their identity
playing follow-the-leader, proclaiming on live TV
and waggling their sharp mohicans to show they agree

but the music
it rang in my ears
at local gigs we’d hear songs
bursting with rage against the system
written by those too young to know the difference
and having too much fun to take an interest
yelling hurriedly-scribbled lyrics
only to be drowned out by screaming electrical feedback
from cheap guitars
sweat dripping, we’d pogo in the mosh pit
buzzing, bumping, spilling beer,
never wanting the night to finish

some summer evenings
our band-member friends would visit
we’d sit on the floor drinking coffee
smoking cigarettes
and making jokey plans for revolution

it would begin in the park and end in time for tea
deep down we all wished our plans were real
and we were waiting for a signal

seeing how successive governments
have damaged this land
it might have been a good idea
but I’m still waiting

The Daily Post #Waiting

©Jane Paterson Basil

Not too late


and the streaming insult of petrol-driven traffic
three arms generate the turbine, as
churned by sturdy autumn wind
they gracefully rotate against steel-grey skyline

slow circling
you would think they have all the time in the world
but the world is unfurling, controlled by a bigger machine
and a clean, spinning angel is too little
for the needs we daily create
try as it may, it cannot feed our technological greed
it is time for us to change

while this issue is urgent
it is not too late for the human race to learn from history
step back from our mistakes
and return to simpler ways

The Daily Post #Urgent

©Jane Paterson Basil



you trussed me like a goose to this old bedfame
you told me a lie, said it’s a just a game
twenty hours later, I’m still tightly trussed
feeling like my bladder is about to bust
I’ve tried to work loose, but no can do
it makes me wonder, why did I trust you?

The Daily Post #Trust

©Jane Paterson Basil

Should the mirror crack


on icecream days,
when serene waves ripple,
tickling the sands at the frilled edge
of an ocean whose calm belies its guilty middle depths,
we forget the seasonal cheek of the moon,
and the sunken wrecks which fester
deep beneath the wet pretence of friendly skin.

when sea gleams flat, like glass,
ships glide as if melting a guiding groove
to slide smoothly through;
but should the mirror crack, giant breakers shatter the facade,
railing against polite behaviour;
rising high, falling hard, disregarding all that floats;
forcing fishermen to fight
for their boats, and battle for their lives.

blinded by salt, they bail water, lower the sails,
hurl jetsam to lighten their weight;
and they pray,
their frightened minds gripping children; mothers; wives,
the pictures slipping, failing in this grim reality
as timbers creak and oars stray,
stolen by spuming nature.

too late they recall that for all its base generosity,
they do not understand the morality of the sea;
and as timbers smash to flotsam,
flailing, they sink,
to be nibbled by that which they wished to eat.

the next day as loved ones weep or wait for news
the brine may shimmer and appear subdued,
shamed by wicked midnight games.
but sailors be warned;
at the behest of a tempestuous moon pulling at the waves,
whipping up a waiting storm,
it will rise again.

The Daily Post #Subdued

©Jane Paterson Basil

The ferris wheel



They say that some nights, if you stand downwind, you can hear the screams of those children who never went home from the fair.

It happened way back in the ‘forties. The first time, it seemed like a tragic mishap; the second, a terrible coincidence.

All the same, word got around, and kids were too frightened to ride on that ferris wheel. The proprietor swore that all the bolts were tightened, but people were still scared. Teenagers woud dare each other to try it, and the bravest of them paid their money and climbed on board, alighting safely at the end of the ride.

After a while confidence picked up, and a couple of ten-year olds went on it. The car broke away and crashed to the ground, like the other times. One boy was killed instantly; the other died later from his injuries, bringing the number of fatalities to eight.

A journalist had been following the story, digging up dirt. Turned out the ferris wheel guy had lost a son. This lad had foolishly climbed the big wheel, to the top. He lost his footing and fell, breaking his neck.

The journalist reckoned the father was reeking his vengence on innocent children. He alerted the police. An enquiry began. The day the police went to the fair to arrest the man, he scaled the wheel, and leapt to his death.

They say that some nights, if you creep closer to the sound of screaming children, and look up at that rusting car, right at the top, you may see a misty man sitting in it, hugging a wispy young boy close, expressions of love and joy written across both of their faces.

Written for Michelle’s Photo fiction #59

©Jane Paterson Basil

This love of mine


this love of mine
like the unfurling buds of a beech tree in spring
yet evergreen
like the yew we lay beneath that day, beside the stream
and you, like that firm yew tree
strong enough to lean on
ever young to me

this love of mine
like the bricks that soaked in the summer sun
yet giving
like roses that day they opened their buds, displaying radiance
for all to see, but you said
their fragrant show
was just for me

this love of mine
like swirling leaves dying in the autumn breeze
yet alive
like my love; from that far-gone night when first I saw your face
until this lonely dreaming day
my love has survived

this love of mine
like sparkling icicles in a winter waterfall
yet constant
though tomorrow, the ice may melt and drip, then rush away
I remain faithful to our stolen moments
through the seasons
of my life

©Jane Paterson Basil