Monthly Archives: June 2018

Trinkets and Treats

Embed from Getty Images


Seen from the street, the shop-face seems
neither eager for me to browse, nor to push me away.
It emits an air of indifferent dignity; the sense that –
should I frown – it will ignore me, yet if I show interest,
its welcome will be warm.

The window holds yesteryears’ extravagant
trinkets and treats;
their sepia hints pricked with the kind of modest pride
typical of old gold and porcelain.
Should these elite items be vying for purchase,
the contest is  concealed by dignified grace.

Inside, gifts of love and duty mingle with acquisitions
of status and desire.
They pose in glass cases and perch on polished shelves.
Large sculptures artfully swoop and arch on generous floor space.
Some might hide deep secrets, while the tales of others
were told and retold long ago, by glazed grandparents
to children who wriggled with impatience,
their minds scrabbling toward cake tins or trees to climb.

Old treasures are looking-glasses of the dead –
those whose eyes are blind, who leave
no mist on the filigree mirror –
such pretties contain no memories;
yet they retain an air of history, even when separated
from the ghosts who wrote their stories.

Were the proprietor other than Mark Parkhouse,
I might suggest that the glinting acquisitions
were the pillage of thieves, but
I trust this antique dealer.

As I enter, a female assistant greets me.
Mr Parkhouse is a man who knows how to dress;
his quiet presence is such that I hardly
register the perfection of his grey suit
since my attention is concentrated on his face.
It is only is recollection that I see all of him.

As I explain my mission, he rises
from behind his tidy desk and speaks in a warm tone.
I open the box, show him a brooch,
making my usual apologies; I doubt
that this example of costume jewellery has
more than miniscule monetary value,
but it is a beauty, and while I would like
to offer our customers the opportunity of ownership,
I want to charge whatever is due to it.

A lesser man
might fling it aside,
arrogantly hissing the words, “ten quid”,
but he shows respect
for me, for the charity that I represent, and
for the small vanity which glitters in his hand.
Examining it, he tells me what to look for
and recommends a ten pound ticket.
When he says it hails from the 1930s,
I can’t resist a smile;
it matches my estimate.

The box contains two other brooches;
a slightly damaged, but charismatic marcasite
plus an attractive 1950s piece.
He takes the trouble to value
my humble offerings.

Before I leave, he exhorts me
not to be ashamed to bring my optimistic discoveries;
he will willingly impart
the knowledge of his forty years in the business,
and some day, the charity I represent might hit the jackpot.

Walking back to Oxfam,
a wide grin splits my face.
I let it stay, making the most of the moment.
My heels and my joints have become
well-oiled springs.

Mr Parkhouse knows a lot. This
is what he doesn’t know:
this gentle, rare man
adds bonus points to my store of happiness.
It doesn’t matter that when I see him,
he doesn’t recall having met me before,
all that is important
is that he is


©Jane Paterson Basil


cheese platter.jpg

Rigid in bed, glaring at ceiling,
belly-ache imparting ghastly feeling.
Hurt so bad, didn’t sleep all night
belly-ache brought on quite a fright.
Veggie bake was big mistake;
too much cheese brings belly ache.

Can’t pretend I didn’t know –
belly-ache gripped me weeks ago
from baking up delicious meal:
belly-ache made me squirm and squeal.
Swore back then that I’d forsake
cheese that served up belly-ache.

Once again I failed to resist
lovely cheesy belly-achy dish.
Guessed the cause; it’s not too sad
belly-ache’s inspired by rocky gall-blad.
Rich cheese sauce gave personal proof
when belly-ache shot through the roof.

Knew right then what I had to do –
take belly-ache to medical zoo.
Personable doctor prodded me,
gave me more belly-ache for free.
Nodding heads, we both agreed
ultra-sound scan was what I’d need.

Waited weeks in sober mood,
eating belly-ache reducing food.
cutting lovely cheeses out –
Don’t want another belly-ache bout.
Letter came giving me a date
for looking deep into belly-ache.

Crawled to bus-stop in heat of sun,
went to hospital, belly-ache gone.
Lay on the bed for friendly technician –
pleased with belly-ache’s brief remission.
She greased my belly and used her skill
to find the secret of belly-aching ill.

Technician told me her name was Nelli,
she made a movie of ache-free belly.
She was sweet and funny and quite kind-hearted –
this was the belly-aching news she imparted;
Belly filled with truckload of rocks,
Tying me in belly-aching knots.

Now I have to wait and see,
when belly-ache will be cut out of me.
looking forward to the glorious day;
I’ll throw my belly-ache diet sheet away.
Here is the reason that I’m so pleased;
Won’t get belly-ache when I eat cheese.

The technician really was called Nelli…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Ten Minutes


I’ve been given ten minutes, so
spastically spiffy, I write in a jiffy
whatever mad jangle jumps into my mind.
I don’t have leisure to pause for thought
or practice the grammar my teacher taught,

As he walked between duos of deadening uniforms,
I perused the circle of his belt, my sight slipping lower,
bouncing in virgin shame over the masculine swell, down,
down to his shoes, up to his knees,  up,  jumping again dangerous

searching north of his waist for a place where love was safe,
my eyes embracing fingers, wrists, shoulders, chest,
coming to rest on his face
whenever he glanced away.

but write down whatever words I can find.
A breeze relieves the waving heat,
whisking the leaves of the elegant trees
into shimmering silver and green bouquets.
I picture the forest that closed
the holes that split long after procreation,
and vestiges of evil deflate and are blown away.

The clock face submits a message of haste,
but I can’t concentrate while the seconds tick this way.
The woodland recedes, stealing my rhyme.
I panic and grab, but the magic escapes
and I’ve run
out of

Written for June Writing Prompts:  Spastically spiffy

©Jane Paterson Basil

Did you Drop?

We are like innumerable leaves
fluttering in a rainforest,
often lost to all but our neighbours.
Some cling long past withering winter, while others
fail, dropping even as the chlorophyll
sings green songs in our veins.

Billions of humans dance and strain
to build a future or live another day.
As we struggle and sleep through life’s jumbled melee,
some of our intimates and compadres go astray.
Acquaintances lurk in old dairies whose pages are never turned.
We could have been friends, but  we pass them on the street,
uncertain –
unsure if a discreet smile
would be welcomed or shunned.

A single click, and your blog filled my screen.
Over the weeks, you tore screaming secrets
from your cavern of shame,
displayed them across a page stained
with typos and spelling mistakes, writing like
you were running out of time.

You’d promised the women in prison that if you were bailed, you would tell their tale; shout the truth about prison conditions, to try to improve them; the blog was the only way you knew.

I read your story, wore your mess
like a faded vest you’d courageously thrown off
to stand naked, displaying ill-chosen,
amateurishly inked tattoos,
because it was the right thing to do.

My pained flesh swelled
through the tattered shreds of your history.
You could say I felt pity
for an existence so splintered by addiction that you risked
losing your children, your freedom
and maybe your life,
but I call it

I liked you.

Avidly, I followed your blog, commenting on every post, offering emotional support and words of comfort. I don’t expect you knew how much I meant it.

You said that when you pressed the trigger, you didn’t intend to send the bullet through the bedroom wall. It was the accident of an agonised mind, suffering the struggle between another breath and final silence. I believe you.

For a few weeks, three years ago,
you wrote feverishly, but
the posts ceased.


I haven’t forgotten you.

If you are a leaf,
did you drop?

You matter to me.

Did you


I hope not, but I may never know.


©Jane Paterson Basil

The Song of the Peacemaker


Disarm, disarm all worldly harm,
while we sleep in midnight calm;
oh speckled stars of cleansing light
prepare the mists of change for flight;
watch their curling cloud-forms flow
through all life-forms here below;
that they may balance rain and sun,
creating food for everyone;
melt mad greed from heads of State,
banish anger, war and hate.

Disarm, disarm all worldly harm,
while we sleep in midnight calm;
Cleanse this spell in mountain stream;
build the future from a dream.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Song of the Three Witches, from Macbeth:

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Blood on the Streets


Like a tough flint
honed by a hungry stone-age hunter
two million years ago –
faithfully chipping off slivers
that winked dully in the midday sun –
you sharpen your rage, poke at
your gangsta habit of revenge,
cold to the sabre-tooth-marks in the one
who you hate and blame, not stopping to think
that though chance has led you to be foes,
your histories are the same.

Compassion is banned;
you stick the killer and you slink away,
the new abuser; in one foul move ceasing to be accuser,
taking your place as the accused –
just a slim link in the striped chain of retribution,
the latest player in a city game, unhindered
by guilt or shame.

The opposing team is obligated to whip up
its hate, to ignore the history of pain that emaciated
your better nature.
They paint your sticky crimson fate
across a careworn street where angels whisper benedictions
and a lone mother listens.

As your blood rusts in the gutter,
happenstance brothers take their deadly place
in the self-defeating spiral
of vengeance.

The sane man proselytizes from a sagging soapbox.
Raising his hands in supplication, he claims
that all which flows from our veins is red,
all of it smells the same,
all death leaves a similar bitter taste,
and we are all related.

Declaring he’s crazy, friends and foes
unite to chase him away.
Nothing changes;
loading their guns,
they shoot another brother.


©Jane Paterson Basil

Funny Bundy

I love this slice of Father Madness from Dorna at Madasahatter. Click HERE to read her brilliant poem about Al Bundy.

I was a bit disconcerted at first, but as soon as I realised that I was getting  Al Bundy mixed up with the repugnant Ted Bundy, who would be described as something rather more ominous than “cheeky”, I breathed a sigh of relief, quickly followed by a gurgle of laughter.

Moving swiftly on, forget Ted Bundy and click HERE to read Dorna’s poem if you didn’t already click above – or even if you did – it is worthy of a second read.

The Day of the Beech

beech leaves

The neighbourly beech rests dormant
in the Christmas chill, its fermenting finery
forming a crisp blanket at its feet.
Before the weather heats, brave buds
proceed to labour from the tips of twigs; determined spikes
stretch narrowly as if toward a pin-prick sun.
Emerging like wind-burnt field workers wizened by the years,
they peel back their tough leathern tan
revealing tender infancy as Spring
tiptoes in.

The tree
breathes in tune with the beat of my childish heart.
I have built a host of annual rituals, without which, my year
would be incomplete. Nature dictates
the day that each one takes place.
Fingers, sticky with Easter chocolate, itch,
telling me today is the day;
the day of the beech.

Familiar with its generosity, I’m confident
the tree does not resent
my Easter treat.
Reaching up, I pluck
an opening bud.
Later, these unfurling hands
will make complete the beech’s canopy of shadowing green
to keep both sheep and cattle cool in mid-day heat;
all too soon, the adult leaves
will be too tough for me to eat.

Gazing skywards
at the abundance within my low reach, I feel the sweetness
of young leaves between my teeth, and taste
the honeyed birth of Spring.

As I age, I recall:
the fine filigree of a skeleton leaf, emblazoned with a frosty frill,
the seashore smell I toted home, tucked inside a cowrie’s gummy grin,
courageous early snowdrops, rising through a frozen throw,
an orphan feather’s windswept pirouette, its slow descent its frail defeat,
the flavour of a beech bud…
and I remember
the elation that came with every found treasure,
the fascination, the sense that I must not fail
to savour
since every single speck of being
is unique.

One day, family and friends will retain memories of what they know of me, but I’ll have no memories of my own; all my unique memories will be gone. No-one will ever know exactly how it felt for me to eat a mellow beech bud beneath a special tree, on a warm Easter day, just as I am unable to taste the precise flavour of your experiences and memories. We come and we go. We are replaced by new life, and that’s OK as long as we reach our full span.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Weapons of Feathers


I catch the eye of your smokestack attack,
your knick-knack decree, your prickly glee,
your steel filigree of quack accusations;
your erroneous, odious, misconceived notion
that you hold the skeleton key.

How dare you presume to assess my position,
to deny my depths, my needs and my reasons,
How dare you declare that mistreatment thrills me;
why do you wish to further diminish
this unwilling detainee?

You misread my desires when you speak of agendas,
dismembering debris from my deadened embers,
placing the blame and incentive on me;
yet you can’t oversee my weighty life story
you’re not even a nominee.

I repudiate all of your fool’s accusations;
the self-satisfied sewage that you blithely peruse,
denying the truth that the root of abuse
lies with the abuser, who uses his beastly repartee
to make a recluse of me.

Each time he unlooses his sly war-cry ruses
that criticise and vilify, and meanly seek to crucify,
the savagery is magnified, and all the while
he denies or justifies every stultifying lie,
crushing me like a flea.

He steals all my strength and my self-belief;
leaves me convinced that I’m too weak to leave.
I want to break free, to seek my redemption,
but all I have left are weapons of feathers;
I am a failed escapee.

How can I fight or escape the mind-rape;
I can’t fan a fire whose flames have died,
I’ve no place to flee and no way to hide.
Your ignorance stinks, you’ve wakened my ire,
you are mistaken, you see.

You proselytize bootlace, bottled psychology,
lamely proclaiming I’m playing a game,
of break-ups and make-ups and titillation,
of lusty fun with fumbling seduction,
but you are wrong about me.

I high-time you booted your latchkey untruths,
stop denying what lies in the core of abuse,
you have no knowledge to back your excuses;
don’t spit slick idioms as you lick your silver spoon,
and finally, leave me be.

I’ve run out of internet data 8 days before the new month begins, and am publishing this via my daughter’s account. This is the fourth month running that this has happened. Up until then, I always had loads left at the end of the month. I’m not using the internet any more than I used to. I feel confused and frustrated, so instead of doing the sensible thing – ringing my supplier and asking what’s going on – I’m taking it out on someone who wrote an insulting post about a million years ago, claiming that women who are abused, stay because they enjoy the abuse…

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Cut of his Jib


He meets a woman
the general
image of his florid dreams.
Flexing his biceps he feels the sleeves
of his long-suffering shirt
squeeze. Somewhere between elbow
and armpit a punished seam
gives up the ghost.
Shoulders bulge, muscles
swell his chest, threatening
to burst his buttons.

He preens, his regiment of
all-the-better-to-eat-you-with teeth
standing neatly to attention.
I’m built
to protect myself, he says,
should someone come to shoot me dead,
I need no bullet-proof vest;
I’ll disarm them with a flicking blow.
I’ll take the life of anyone who tries
to cut me with a sword or knife.
You’ll be safe with me,
and I will show you all the ways I know –
all the sweet techniques that go –
a homecoming queen.

She surveys the stranger,
taking in
his toned build,
his suntanned skin,
his hair the hue of a fox’s
mane, every strand contrived to
look stylishly out of place, the ice-
blue eyes that gaze, the handsome
face, chiselled in such a way…
the cut
of his jib.

Get outa’ my way, she coldly cries,
killing him with her scimitar eyes.

©Jane Paterson Basil