Monthly Archives: September 2015

The return of the prodigal sock


My sock came back!
My sock is back!
Oh joy of joys
my sock is back!

I went to the laundry room to find
my blue sock hanging on the line.
Imagine my relief and surprise –
it wasn’t even traumatised.
It gave me a look as if to say
“I’ve only been on holiday.”
Its other half is so excited
now that they are reunited,
and I’m as happy as can be;
my sock has been returned to me.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Blue without you

BeFunky Collage Sock

Maybe I seemed to take you for granted,
maybe you always felt supplanted
by my oft and careless controlling acts,
but I thought you wanted to tread in my tracks.
I always loved both of you equally,
you and your sister were kind to me.
We walked about the world with pride.
the two of you marching side-by side
while with my feet I’d lead the way,
revelling in our intimacy.

I feel the guilt; was I to blame
for your twin sister’s grief and shame?
While wrapped around my toes she stares
at my left foot so stark and bare.
I haven’t the heart to put on my shoe
and cover that sad scrap of blue.
Friends may shake their heads and say
You’ll have to throw that sock away –
it has no use with out it’s twin.
Put it behind you and start again.”

I haven’t the heart to forget the past,
I thought I’d found a love to last.
I should have checked the washing machine –
I blanch at what a fool I’ve been.
Two socks went in, just one came out
and though I’ve wept and searched about
the sock is gone, it is not there
and I am broken past repair.
Oh! blue cotton beauty, come back to me,
I’ll love you throughout eternity.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Always there for me


three weeks clean
no pain of waiting, hidden
in unlit lanes, for sleazy meetings
with hooded dealers
no needles
no more the game of shame
and ignominious endings

but every day she is there
she is always there
the deadly witch, weaving pictures
sprinkling the image before my eyes
of glittering, golden brown powder
as she whispers
only this will lift your spirits
only this
God in highest heaven
give me the strength not listen
please help me; blind me
from the sight of her shimmering hell

three years clean
no needles
no pain of waiting, hidden
in unlit lanes, for sleazy meetings
with hooded dealers
no more the game of shame
and ignominious endings

no more does she weave pictures
or sprinkle the image before my eyes
of glittering, golden brown powder
or whisper
only this will lift your spirits
only this

every day
she was there for me
she was always there for me
but no more. I expelled her
the witch is dead

©Jane Paterson Basil

Posted for Esther Newton’s Monday Motivations



A Hidden Ember

when I am broken
my protective shell smashed on
the bleached sands of all lost things
my sticky innards beached and caked with grit
frightened, squeamishly wriggling
while silence screams lies in my ear

and someone makes a remark, which
leads to a thought, which
leads to a smile, and
I give a laughing retort.

I sparkle and shine when everything
lies in pieces around me
and without a tiny tap on the funny bone
I may expire.


Sparkle and Shine

knows me
like my siblings do
we share our first

the waste of all which
has since been
a hidden ember glows, and
sometimes when we speak
we are one again, unchanged
though age has bent us

and familiarity
sends a spark from the
ancient fire of childhood
setting us aflame with merriment
it is then that we shine
we turn dark into light
we sparkle and
we shine

Written for Calen’s Sandbox Challenge

©Jane Paterson Basil

A new baby has been conceived!

Embed from Getty Images

I feel like celebrating. After two days I have a four thousand word foetus.
My new baby book is well and truly conceived, ready to develop limbs, and I’m excited.

Thank you Anton, and everyone who has given me the inspiration and confidence to keep on writing. That goes for you:

Dancing Echoes

There are so many others out there whom I haven’t named. Thank you all.

This post has two purposes: the first is to express my gratitude. The second is to ensure I put myself into a position where I will be too embarassed to abandon this book halfway through.

Magic blanket


you bring them
into my living space
in hidden pockets
these devious, creeping spiders
(perhaps you think that you are
innocent of misdeed when, in my simple home,
which I try to keep clean, you free them
to spin and to weave and
to trap each negative mote
before it is able to leave
through the open window)

just because I cannot see them it
doesn’t mean they are not there
but I am rarely prepared

as soon as I enter the living room
they tangle in my hair and as I inhale
they sting my nasal passages
and with each intake of wispy air
anxiety rises and
I know that once again
I have sniffed those cobwebs
into my brain

you force me to imbibe them
every time you feel unable to take the strain
but you have no right to hand them over
and you cannot make them mine

I wish that you would leave
so I could sweep the pain away
then with net of gauze in rainbow shades
I’d trap dazzling particles of happiness
with eager hands I’d tease and spin and weave them
into an indestructable magic blanket
which would shimmer
as it wrapped me in laughter

©Jane Paterson Basil

Why I don’t achieve my goals

This week in The Sandpit Challenge week 6 Calen asks us “What prevents you from reaching your goals?”


I have made several attempts at writing this post, and rejected them all. It’s not that I don’t know what my two main goals are, but I’m embarrassed to share one of them, and the other one brings out truths which are painful to think about.

I’ll begin by confessing to my secondary goal: I would like to write one great work, to have it published and to be recognised for it. It would not have to be a long piece of writing; a three stanza poem would be enough. It would be a gem which would compel readers to re-read it and perhaps try to memorise every word. It may contain an essential truth , told in a new way, it may illuminate, it may be funny or it may bring tears to the eyes. Ideally I would like it to fulfil all four of these requirements, but one of them may be enough.

Here is a small sample of some of my favourite poems:

Jenny Joseph: When I am am old woman I shall wear purple
Alfred Noyes The Highwayman
John Masefield: Cargoes
Alfred, Lord Tennyson: The Lady of Shalott
Elizabeth Barratt Browning: How do I love thee
Thomas Hood: The song of the shirt
Christina Rossetti: Remember
Spike Milligan: Have a nice day

Perhaps with the exception of the Spike Milligan poem – which I couldn’t resist including because it’s my favouriite of all of his poems – these have all been read, repeated and memorised by countless people. They are all unforgettable. I’d like to write a poem which takes the breath away, just as these do.

There is nothing to prevent me from doing that, except that I may not have the skill. If I wrote such a poem, I doubt that I would recognise it, because it is hard to be objective about one’s own art. When I write something that may be considered good, my mind ricochets from thinking it is the best thing I have ever written, to one of the worst, and then back again. My style is too familiar for me to be able to tell whether my work is good, bad or indifferent.

As for getting my poetry published, the only obstacle to that is my 100% lack of effort. I don’t have the confidence to go out there and risk rejection. I took one small step, once, towards trying to get a children’s book published. I researched agents, approached one by email, and got an email back from them, telling me they were not currently taking on new clients. This was about two years ago, and it had been so emotionally exhausting that I gave up.

My fear is not so much that I’m not good enough, but that nobody will bother to read what I have written, because I’m so boring/mousy/introverted – in other words, I’m such a loser that I won’t make my work sound tempting. I’d probably apologetise for being a nuisance.

I need to find a friend who has so little going on in their life that they’re prepared to act as my agent to find an agent for me!

There are goals and there are wishes. To fullfil my wishes would involve others changing their behaviour. In order to fulfil my greater goal, I have to let go of those wishes. My second goal is to achieve that which every normal person desires: Happiness.

I don’t need to be physically well in order to be happy. My symptoms, while they are limitting, are not painful. I get dizzy, hear noises in my head, the world shudders and jumps, I become confused and don’t know what day it is, or what I’m supposed to be doing. I get tired. My brain switches off and becomes a blank. But these symptoms would just be an entertaining distraction if I was happy.

I don’t wish to be misunderstood; I have many moments of joy, and I laugh a lot. When I am able, often with the help of family and friends, I grab at every excuse for laughter, but I am not deeply happy or even fairly contented with life in general.

I suffer from anxiety and depression, brought on by the addictions of my two younger children. My wish is for them be well. But, while I am prepared to support them in their efforts to recover, their destinies are out of my control, so I need to stop agonising over them. They make this difficult for me, as, although they are both in their late twenties, they behave like children, needily clinging to my skirt without the slightest concern for my sanity and well-being, then as soon as they get my attention, they run off, they hide, they play dangerous games with sharks, making sure that I know and am afraid.

Yes, my goal is to be happy, and in order to be happy I have to disable the switch in my head which is labelled “Mother of my two younger children”. I have to close down the battens, lock away a portion of my heart and give the key to someone I trust, to be returned to me if appropriate.

©Jane Paterson Basil

If we were having coffee


If we were having coffee today
we would reach a new level of intimacy
I would learn your deeper history
you would speak of your trials and your triumphs
I would listen, and where approriate
I would console and congratulate

If we were having coffee today
I would tell you that this evening
we are having a birthday celebration
a happy family get-together
I wouldn’t mention that my youngest daughter, Laura
won’t be joining us
because she is not welcome in her sister’s home
I let you know that my eldest Grandson
will be nineteen tomorrow

If we were having coffee together
I would tell you I rarely feel well these days
the leaden ache in my shoulders and neck
is creeping into my head
I get confused and often feel dizzy
I’m always tired and I want to sleep
yet I avoid going to bed,

because I’m always trying to catch up with time
I’m always behind where I once was ahead

if we were having coffee together
I would give you too much information
and then shrug, make little of it
change the subject
I would tell you that Laura is doing well
that she seems ready to go into recovery
I would suggest that her lack of ability
to concentrate on, or understand
the things which are said are likely due
to short-term memory loss
which is probably temporary
I’ll tell you that she assures me she is going to
continue to live

I won’t make you uncomfortable, because
I have practiced smiling with my eyes

If we were having coffee today
I would tell you that Paul is doing his best
that it has been difficult for him

since he came out of prison
that things will be better now
because he is coming home to us
I would look out of the window, avoid your eyes
and say all will be well

I would probably notice a doubing glint
so, again I would smile with my eyes

If we were having coffee together today
I’d distract you with carrot cake
I’d addle your empathic responses
with distractions, having prepared myself
by checking the books on the cafe shelf
I would leap from my seat, shrieking
“The Pied Piper of Hamelyn! This you have to see!”
and pull out a beautifully illustrated
fairy tale written for adults
I would whip up humour for dessert

If we were having coffee today I would conjure up
a basketful of giggles, a bucket of hilarity
as a salve for those ears I so recently infiltrated
and leave them ringing with laughter

For Writing 101. Day 10

©Jane Paterson Basil