Monthly Archives: July 2017

A Different Poem

You aimed your insipid quill at my head,
scratching for glib metaphoric descriptions of shallow waters,

scribbling ill-conceived inaccuracies
while your bitter heart
flattered you with fairy tales of poetic skill,

piddling insults on exercise paper
with the optimistic aid of a gold-plated pen,

pretending Dylan depth
where only an inch of silt sprawled.

Have your short-shrift eyes ever stared into a clear sky,
while you pondered your dimensions,

Have you held a silvery moon in your hands,
and just for one instant, did its supreme beauty
sweep away the stench of snarling beasts,

have you reached for a penny to feed your soul,
felt it slither between your fingers,
seen it plummet to the chasm beneath your feet,
and felt yourself slide.

have you spooned tatters of fading glitter into your heart
just to keep it beating,
even as your head fought a call for six feet of crushing soil,

have you asked the question, and heard silence in reply,
and did you find your way to the next chapter
through a tangled network of collapsing tunnels.

Have you safely reached a clearing filled with spring fragrance,
and known that you were only a guest in this calm haven,
resting for the next leg of your journey.

Did you breathe deeply of the clean air,
and appreciate the fragrance of wild rose and meadowsweet,
fixing your mind on the vision of delight
while mud sucked at your feet.

Did you.

If, since your last effort,
you have travelled in my vicinity,
I give you permission to write a different poem
about me.

Written for The Daily Post #Shallow

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Mellow morning grazers

Today I offer you a quintessential picture of rural North Devon, beautifully painted by my sister, Christine, and borrowed by me. You can find more of her paintings [here].

Today I offer you a quintessential picture of rural North Devon, beautifully painted by my sister, Christine, and borrowed by me. You can find more of her paintings [here].

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The She-Devil

hidden

Well, the doors had been padlocked for sixty years or so. Rumours had been adjusted and embellished, and now there were several – tales of goblins, witches’ curses and even one about a stairway to the underworld. Anyway, us oldies knew the truth.Many of us had been unfortunate enough to have seen the she-devil that lurked inside the shed. She possessed a strange, alluring beauty that not all who gazed on her sweet curves and glowing skin could see, but many who were prone to her charms had fallen under her spell. It wasn’t just men; women could be equally powerless against her, though, in those days, it was less common, as women weren’t so open about that kind of fascination, or if they were they often kept it under wraps. Obviously, she had no power to harm you if you didn’t fancy her. That’s how it works with them.

So they kept her locked away. Quite right, too.

This pub was famed for miles around for its old-world ambience and fine home-cooking; deservedly so. I can personally recommend the steak-and-kidney pudding; it’s very tender and full of flavour, although my husband, George – may he rest in peace -preferred their toad-in-the-hole (with onion gravy). He liked his food did George. He was such a wonderful man. In twelve years he never once forgot to put out the bin, though I did feel he let me down a bit in the end… I mean, wasn’t I enough for him? I used to say to him, “Curiosity killed the cat.” But did he listen? Oh, no, he just upped an’… sorry, what was that you said? Oh yes, the pub.

As I was saying, the Ring-o’-Bells enjoyed an excellent trade – as you can see, it’s gone downhill since its present encumbents took it over. Back then it was crowded with both locals and tourists who holidayed in the nearby caravan park, so little old Maisie Goodenough from the thatched cottage… yes that’s the one, at the edge of the cliff… Maisie enjoyed a tipple, but didn’t like to pay for it, if you know what I mean, so she used to sit around in here waiting to pounce on the nearest visitor and tell them the gory story about her brother who’d been carried away by that she-devil in the old shed. It got her a few free drinks, you see. She was a scrounging old-so and so… the drink got her in the end. I say she was old; she couldn’t have been more than fifty, but she looked ancient. Mutton dressed as lamb… and she was no better than her brother, though I don’t like to speak ill of the dead. I could tell you a few tales about… what’s that? Oh yes, the story.

It was back in the early 60s. I remember it well, but I never went running around trying to scrounge drinks on the strength of it… oh – how kind; seeing as you’re buying, another rum and coke wouldn’t go amiss.

…………

Is that a double? Oh, no, never mind. Single’s fine. Oh, well, if it’s not too much trouble… I’m not much of a drinker, but the flavour of coke is a bit too strong for me…

…………

Cheers…

Her brother was a bit of a tear-away, and one night after they’d had a skinful, he and a couple of friends decided to break in and see what the fuss was all about. You know what young lads are like, egging each other on – all that silly bravado and that. So they forced the lock, and went in, and there she was, large as life, staring them in the face. The other two boys didn’t think much of her – one of them referred to her as a dusty old heap, would you believe, but Maisie’s brother – Sam, I think it was… or Michael… no, I think it was Stan… a good looking chap, but a bit forward, if you know what I mean. Between you and me, he tried it on with me a couple of times, and me only fifteen or so at the time… but I’m not here to tell you about that.

So Stan’s two mates couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. They even made fun of her. Said she was a bit front-heavy, and he’d be in for a bumpy ride, and stuff like that. But Stan just stared at her with this look on his face. It was love at first sight. He was a gonner. The other two must have been pretty drunk, ‘cos when she swallowed him up – and he went willingly, like they do; he was totally enchanted – they started laughing like idiots, and even when she ran off down the road with poor Stan, they were still laughing.

But I tell you what – they weren’t laughing when she turned round and spat him out over the cliff. When what was left of him was picked up, it wasn’t a pretty site. His face was all smashed in.

They drove the she-devil back to the shed, and put a new padlock on the door. About four years later I started courting George. I met him when I was on holiday at Bognar Regis. It’s lovely there? You ever been to Bognar? You should. I met him at an amusement arcade where he was working. He got the job because he was good with mechanics, and those one-arm–bandits were always going wrong. We got married a couple of years later. He moved in with me, as I’d been left the house by my parents… no, they’re not dead. Why would you think that?. Dad had a big win on the pools so they moved away. My George got a job in the garage – he loved ‘is cars, ‘e did – and we settled down all nice and quiet. I thought I had it made.

To start with, he didn’t seem all that interested in the monstrous beauty in the shed – and why would he be? He had me, and his cars in the garage, what more could he want? He even got us a nice little yellow mini. We used to go all over in that.

Then he started going on about the she-devil, asking for details about her. I had a nasty suspicion about what was on his mind, and I tried to distract him with my womanly wiles if you know what I mean, but he couldn’t stop thinking about her. Then one evening he said he was going to the Ring-o’-Bells to play darts – like he did every Thursday, an he upped and broke into the shed instead.

Well, I know what you’re expecting, but it wasn’t like that. You have to remember, my George was a man of experience. I’m not saying he wasn’t charmed – charmed is an understatement; He was besotted. He came home late that night with stars in his eyes. Told me straight out what he’d done. Admitted he’d been messing with her all that time, and said he was going back the next night. I warned him that she was dangerous, but he got offended and said he knew a lot more about these things than me. He said she wasn’t a monster, she was beautiful and she just needed the right handling. After that he went over to her every evening, messing about with her; said he was “toning her up”.

Yes, of course I was a bit jealous, but a man’s got to have a hobby, hasn’t he? And it’s not like she was the first. It was one after the other with him, all through our marriage. Once he got a taste for those little run-arounds, there was no stopping him, But this time it was different. He was in love, and she was dangerous.

Still, at the end of the day, he always came home to me, didn’t he? I could have done with him not going on about her all the time, but you can’t have everything in life. He thought he’d tamed ‘er. I thought it was going to be OK, but about six weeks after the affair started, he was on his way over there when he bumped into a neighbour whose wife had just given birth. A little boy, it was – so cute – at first. They spoilt him rotten, that was the trouble. He turned into a horrid child. Always up to no good, from the time he learnt to talk. There was one time… oh, my glass is empty… it’s my round…

I seem to have forgotten my purse… oh, I couldn’t possibly… well, if you’re sure?

…………

A double? Oh, you really shouldn’t have… bottoms up… oops… could you… just…slap me on… the… back…

Ahem… Where was I? Oh, yes. So George went to the pub for a coupla jars, and then maybe a couple more. By the time ‘e left there he was pretty wobbly, so they said afterwards. ‘e should’a come home, but instead ‘e went off with ‘er, an’ what with bein’ three sheets to the wind an’ all, ‘e didn’t exercise ‘is usual control. ‘E went too fast. I told ‘im she was unstable, that sort always are, and she’d killed before. Next thing, ‘e’s at the bottom of the cliff,  exact place they found young Stan, or Sam, or whatever ‘is name was.

After that they smashed ‘er up; Crushed ‘er ’til she was no more’n a… squashed thing..

Sorry. It still makes me cry. I miss ‘im so, you see. ‘E was so good when it come to putting up shelves… and the bedroom… you know… well, you can ‘magine, a man like ‘im…

Yes, p’r’aps another drink would ‘elp, feelin’ a bit sempi… ssental… sssentilental… oh, you know… thing…

…………

Ssheers… Anyway, before it… ‘appened, ‘e took a photo of ‘er. Would you like to see? I think it tells its own story… it’s in me bag somewhere… I’ll show you – it’s ‘coz there’s two at the front and only one at the back. It makes it unstable. Not safe to go too fast with one of them… ‘swhy they kept ‘er ‘idden ‘way and locked up. Bloody murderer… killed my Graham… whasat? Who wa’n’t wha’? Well, my George, then. Whatever… bloody stupid idiot, s’what ‘e was… thought ‘e knew it all…

‘Ere’s the photo of ‘er…

Messerscmitt KR200 1959.jpg
(Image Credit: Gjermundsen)

‘Sright… Messerschmitt Kabinenroller. German thing. What? Well, wha’ di’you thing I’s talkin’ ’bout?

My glash ish empty…

.

Written for The Daily Post #Hidden

©Jane Paterson Basil

Tea Stains

teastain

Tea

stains.

.

Coffee

wakes the brain,

gives us momentary gain,

so when we flag, we drink again,

and though we know we should abstain,

as ranting babble grabs full reign

and in our heads a caffeine pain

builds until we feel insane,

and manically we complain,

as we shakily maintain

our pitiful refrain:

addiction is our bane;

must we forsake this bitter grain?

.

Tea stains,

yet is more fain

to offer gain.

.

The Daily Post #Tea

©Jane Paterson Basil

Throw me the meds

Sometimes I get tired of it;
the constant turn of the tide,
its lows and its highs,
its sudden rages
and deceptive calm
while it lies in wait to drown me.

I get tired of measuring all of my blessings and telling myself that I should be well, when each time I pile them onto the scales, the state of – the weight of – my depressed mind tips them upwards and sends them flying, and it makes no difference counting my blessings and knowing the number of gems in my pocket;
that chunk of depression still weighs me down.

I’m tired of the times when I try to pretend
that I’m cheerful instead of depressed.
I’m tired of walking and talking and sleeping,
I’m tired of writing and cooking and eating,
I’m tired of going to self-help meetings,
I’m even tired of self-pitying bleating
I’m tired of staring out of the window
with half-blind, indifferent eyes,
I’m tired of constantly carrying out actions
needed to keep me alive,
and even when I’m feeling ecstatic,
I’m tired and I’m waiting to die.

So throw me the meds; I’m not dead yet,
and you might like to see how crazy I’ll get.

Take me to the ocean and watch me drown;
I’ll offer apologies as I go down.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Random thoughts conceived in idleness

planet earth.jpg

In an alternative world,
I could have been you;
you might have been me.

Before birth,
as we curled in our separate wombs,
we could have taken in each other’s places.
What would we have achieved in these opposite stations?
Would I have  done less than you?
Would you have been better than me?
Would this planet be a happier or sadder place,
or would nothing be changed?

And if every person on the earth
had switched places in some random way;
princes to singers and lawyers,
lawyers to authors and paupers,
paupers to dentists and presidents,
presidents to therapists and salesmen,
sales reps to secretaries and landlords
what casual mix may raise our prospects
of ending war, hate and poverty?

Note – this is not a serious question…

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Scent of You

roses-1868669__340.jpg

Oh, but we were young,
and it was so long ago.

We couldn’t have imagined that smoking
would ever be banned from all public places, even bars.

You and bars went together, and later, we went together to bars.

The day I knew I loved you I was in a bar
with a forgotten, forgettable boyfriend,
and you were a stranger holding a pool cue.
I was certain you’d seen me, just as I’d seen you.

I stepped into a crystal pause;
the cleanest place I’ve ever been,
and your spirit was there with me,

and yet, a touch of your sweat,
a clean cotton shirt half drenched in smoke,
a hint of building site in the hair
and the breath of beer –
combined, they’re the essence of you.

Years of secret meetings followed.
We drank and smoked then drank some more.
We hid  in dim places, and you drunkenly drove me home,
going slow to save us from harm, all the time knowing that although the drink-driving laws had not been formed, still it was wrong, and I knew that you drank because you
couldn’t stop.
and yet,
and yet, the cleanest place I ever went was wherever I went with you;
while our acts were irresponsible and you had a problem,
our love was pure.

After I called an end to our beautiful duplicity,
every time I passed a bar with an open door
I inhaled a synthetic form of your essence;
aside from memories it was all could find of you.

The years have passed and now patrons go outside to smoke.
The odour that seeped into the walls of  and floors of bars
has evaporated or been painted away.
These days they smell only of alcohol and aftershave,
with the occasional addition of both clean and unwashed clothes.

I miss the old-time fragrance of you.

As cohabiting lovers age, their palettes mix,
the colours once so brightly daubed, fade to pastel hues,
their fragrance changes too, so if I met you now, my love,
would your perfume make me swoon the way it used to do,
or would it smell of family life;
of dinners, dog, and scented wife,
and would she smell of you?

And if we’d lived our lives as one, right up until today,
would the smell of smokey bars have made me feel that way,
and when the smoking ban was rightly brought to force,
would I, somewhere deep inside, still have felt the loss,

and, darling, would I notice that both your scent and mine
had grown together all those years, until they intertwined?

Written for The Daily Post #Fragrance

©Jane Paterson Basil