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

29 thoughts on “A snail on shale

  1. Powerful statement in that poem. And, I suppose, we are what we observe and believe ourselves to be and what we do with it. To others we are something else. Celebrities have to be what others want them to be and what a mess that makes of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVED your post! ALL the different ways you describe yourself. And I’ve always seen you just as you have presented here. And btw, I can SO identify getting caught up in writing (or something else creative) that you forget to live. I have been there and done that so many times! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It is certainly something. The spam bots or spam gods/demons at play. I never have any issues receiving messages from others, but only from Me to others…

        Ah, alas, another world-wide-web mystery. As long as we are known, aware of each other -it’s cool. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice concrete poetry! A pleasure to have found you through this challenge. You speculate that people have found you ‘weird’. I wonder what that word means…

    Liked by 1 person

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