A sharp scent from the heart of the wood
takes her ever back to the room where inanimate sex —
dishonestly donned in beauty’s disguise —
was chiselled from each piece of fallen tree which spoke
to the sculptor within.

As she picked up the chisel, he said:
“Be guided by the grain,
let it tell you what shape it wants you to see;
what it would like you to do.
You are but a handmaiden of the tree’s needs.”

Long before her adolescence, he told her:
“You have the capability to be whatever you want to be;
nothing need stop you from fulfilling your ambition,”
but as she grew, burgeoning breasts alerted him to her gender,
and hopes for his little girl became buried
beneath a wave of pheremones.

In an unwelcome husky tone, he spoke low,
grooming her in the art of the aquiescent tart,
reinforcing, at every opportunity, his opinions and desires toward women.

Years later, as she cuts her finger
on a shattered shard of ill-considered life,
the words come to her again:

“Be guided by the grain,
let it tell you what shape it wants you to see;
what it would like you to do.
You are but a handmaiden to the tree’s needs.”

Looking back, she knows he ignored his own rules.
Each time his hands reached out for his tools,
a seductive wench with tiny waist and generous thighs
was fashioned by his creativity.

Most of his wooden women
had been carved before their resinous flesh was weathered;
her father had no time for the coming of age.
He cared not that they split from pert breast to shaved genitals.

Even after he died, they continued to stand,
well-trained handmaidens,
a cunning reminder of how he made them forever pliant
to the desires of man.

©Jane Paterson Basil


19 thoughts on “Handmaiden

        1. I love that side of it. Sitting in a corner and writing on reams of paper that get stuffed into folders to gather dust, is entirely different to chucking it all into the internet and seeing what comes back. It’s the responses that lead you futher into the adventure.
          I’ve learnt a lot about myself, become more confident, and my writing skills have improved.
          Sometimes (shock, horror) I almost believe I’m as awesome – such an overused word – as my readers tell me I am… heh heh heh.


    1. That’s OK. He didn’t do more than stick his tongue down my throat and grind himself against me – though he tried to get me to undress for him. It was the beliefs about myself that he tirelessly instilled in that messed me up. I blocked out a lot of it, so I didn’t even know it was there, but I lived my life by his corrupt desires. Even now new stuff comes up when I write about him.
      About telling me to follow the trees desires – I only occurred to me as I was writing that he didn’t do that. Every carving was of a naked woman, and there were lots of them. It was the same when he sculpted in clay.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. I knew that, glad you got it!

            Often verbalising or writing something brings stuff up … hope you are okay and got the support you need? Or call a friend and chat … whatever works for you

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I’m OK, but every so often something comes up, and I wobble it, like a loose tooth. I didn’t have the strength to stop him from scrambling my brain and changing the course of my life, and I can’t entirely forgive him until I know everything he did.
              In the scheme of things, my troubles are few. By publicly recording them, I throw them out to the universe, to be devoured by the greater horrors and suffering of the world; the destruction of war, the pain of a mother who can do nothing to relieve the gnaw of her child’s hunger, the grief of cholera and AIDS… so many terrible things.
              You could say that it’s a luxury to have the leisure to pick over childhood scabs.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. it is indeed a luxury in comparison to others suffering but I would like to see a world where the vulnerable [you as a child] would be kept safe .. a huge ask as I know the damage is usually done by those close! Stranger danger is far more rare.
                Please don’t underestimate your courage in making this exploration. And by picking your scabs you can heal and in the process help others to gain such amazing courage!

                Liked by 1 person

    1. As it turns out, even now, there’s more. When I try to write about some small detail, all this other stuff comes pouring out, which brings up more stuff. Every time I think I’ve connected all the dots, I discover the grid is bigger than I thought. It’s no big deal, but I can’t seem to ignore it.
      OH! I’ve just remembered something else – he called himself the author of my being. I don’t like that…
      It may all get a bit boring to read…


  1. Absolutely fabulous write about horrible experiences. For me, I also find sanity when writing the words down. It is odd that it is freeing as well painful at times… But I feel necessary. So sorry to hear your struggles, but you do realize you are stronger than you give yourself credit for…

    Liked by 1 person

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