Daily Archives: April 4, 2016

#atozchallenge Crowning glory


my sister was pretty
but my eyes, nose and lips were bland,
so, after examining my face and discovering
no feature that they could label beautiful,
those who did not simply give up, saying,
you must be the one with the brains,
lit upon my golden hair,
faking admiration, exclaiming over my crowning glory,
plucking, examining it, asking me
what do you call this colour, is it strawberry blonde?
as if I would know; I didn’t get it out of a bottle.
I was not born with the inate ability to name
the colours that grow out of my scalp,
and what is a name, anyway?

when I looked in a mirror I saw the reflection
of those well-meaning descriptions and omissions
given to me by foolish adult aquaintances.
the only answer for this plain girl
with a pretty sister
was to hide behind my glowing tresses
so gloriously highlighted with the hint
of blushing roses in a hundred summer shades.

I grew up behind that curtain,
presenting a pretentious air of mystery
which fooled all of the boys, and even fooled me,
a quiet child when in company, but wild among the trees,
seething with rage against my errant genes
which hadn’t deigned to make me pretty,
while pretending not to care.
even when they clammered to be with me
I believed I had them fooled with the cunning trick
of concealing the perceived ugliness behind my hair,
and hiding the dullness beneath an air of devil-may-care.
I didn’t know that I had grown beautiful.

I went with a boy to the woods,
and in that familiar homeland, forgot to hide.
as I climbed the boughs, the drapery fell back from my face,
revealing my eyes, my smile, my vitality,
those features and flaws which are the source of all reachable beauty.
He instantly wanted pull me from the leafy branches,
drag me to the ground,
and possess my body.
though I fearfully denied him his desire,
his interest fed my hungry ego.
over the months that followed I climbed trees
in the company of at least one Simon,
two Daves, a Chris and a Steve.
each one returned home aching for my virginity,
believing he had seen all that was hidden
behind my crowning glory.

the first time I saw Him, all fakery dropped away.
he was a stranger, and I thought I was out of his range of interest,
but I had dropped every hint of disguise
and he had seen me.
when he held my hand gently held in his
I realised it was not my crowning glory which had concealed me,
but all the layers beneath.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Revealing all


Written in response to Michelle Toussaint’s thought-provoking post.

In the land of the naked, the clothed human is a freak.

The opening paragraph of this post took me back to a time, perhaps twenty years ago, at Glastonbury festival. It was a sweltering summer, and no amount of hastily smeared wetwipes could make me feel clean. I decided to brave the communal showers, which, short of squatting naked beneath a standpipe in the corner of a field, were all that was available in those days. I walked into the shower tent, and found myself at the back of a queue of men and women of all ages. Those immediately in front of me were hastily removing their clothing, while the people ahead of them appeared relaxed in their nakedness. The act of disrobing was uncomfortable. I felt shy, embarrassed, ashamed to expose the scars from forty-odd years of living; if I had been younger I would have been ashamed of the tiny flaws of youth.

The strange thing was, as soon as my clothes were off, I relaxed. Shedding my garments made me feel empowered. I became at ease with all of those strangers. My self-esteem got a lift; I felt as if after all, I was not so different, perhaps I was even the equal of others. We all had the same aim, to wash off the dirt – there was no other agenda. They weren’t checking out my quivering bits any more than I was checking out theirs. If any of us happened to notice the celulite or unsightly mark on the body of another, we accepted it as part of their being. No negatives judgements were made. If I learnt anything that day, it was that we are all physically imperfect – except for the georgeous, long-legged, fine featured young Affro-Caribbean woman with a ring in each perfect nipple; there was bound to be an exception to the rule. She and I showered side by side, chatting like two people standing at a bus stop, and she told me all about her college course.

Michelle doesn’t ask us whether we would prance naked in Piccadilly Circus, but if we would be prepared to share our darkest secrets with others; to rip open the envelope kept in a hidden compartment beneath all the important documents, where we hope it will never be found, and throw the ignominous contents to the eager throngs. I consider myself to be unusually open about my past, and the weaknesses which currently beset me, but even I cling precariously to a little dignity. There are snippets about myself which I wouldn’t be prepared to share. I say that not with pride, but with a degree of mortification, because I believe that if we were all entirely honest about ourselves, it would be a little like standing naked in the shower tent at Glastonbury Festival. There may be more love and less judgement in the world. None of us could pretend to have the right to cast the first stone, except perhaps the beautiful Affro-Caribbean Goddess, but I don’t think she would wish to bring herself down to that level.

While this is a little simplistic, and doesn’t take into account the psychopaths of the world, I think there is something to be said for it. Am I being naïve? I’d love some feedback on this subject.

If the only way that I can respond to a post is by writing my own post, with a link to the post which interests me, then so be it. Maybe I’ll keep doing this until I sort out my technical difficulty – ie. my comments disappear from your blog when I click Send.

©Jane Paterson Basil