Monthly Archives: July 2018

Games with Names

W

Within wildest Wales,
Will will walk with warm, wilting Welsh women,
Wayland will wail with whales.
Warner’s warning whispers will waken wary Wade;
Wade won’t wade – will wonder why Wally wildly wallows.
Watching wistfully, Wiston will wait
while Willow weaves wet withering willow.
Wanda will wander,
Woody will whittle wood, wishing Walter wouldn’t waste water.
Wan will wanly wave wands, wasting wishes.
Warren will waft weak warrants,
Winnie will whinny, wearily watching,
Wayne will whine woefully.
Wendy will wend westward
while Wallace will wince and writhe in shame,
since Jane is tired of playing alliterative name games.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

Liquid Gems

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That summer

heat clung like sleeping rage,

insinuating unseen rays

beneath burnt-umber skin,

squeezing out beads of perspiration,

pressing lethargy in.

We erected a shelter,

stealing timber from a derelict ruin

where ghostly bones

hid from the searing day, waiting

to be awakened by a grinning moon.

Lumbering

against the dumbing weight

of a dug-in sun, we lugged

a flaking door, broken

shelving, dented sections

of rusty tin roof

until our limbs begged rest.

Stumbling

to the brisk welcome of the stream,

ripping off shoes and socks,

stripping to vests,

we leaped, shattering the whittling ripples,

our screams declaring the thrill of the chill

as we splashed wet gemdrops

across the silver realm.

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Written for the new daily photo prompt from The Haunted Wordsmith: Worth a Thousand Words, 31st July 2018  Check it out and join in!

©Jane Paterson Basil

Existential Angst

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My thirst: 

When did it surface?
Is it right to lay the blame
on a fly in my DNA, a crack in the egg,
a badly-placed step in the dance of the sperm?
Did it seep in while I swam in neo-natal simplicity?
Is it lack or a perverse surplus; missing mineral or toxic germ,
or is it quickening depletion?

Can’t slake my thirst.

Oozing through a bruising birth canal,
keening for unseen  freedom, did I forget to collect
my nourishing any-time drinks?

I started to burst

Lying naked at the wide end of space,
thin flesh tingling with echoes, did I relish or regret
my clamorous exit from the womb?

while mother nursed

My mouth spelled an O
around a milky breast, my ready tongue reached to feed –
did not the food fulfil my need?

and dreams were rehearsed

When shadows
ignored each command, did they steal
my core of stability?

and knowledge reversed

When my expanding brain saw
that the world was not me, and I was not the world
did abandonment hurt?

and faith was submersed

When young fingers
plucked springtime flowers that died,
did I mourn mortality?

and pain interspersed

When oak trees
offered me gifts that I could not reach,
did the distance scrape me?

and thunderclouds cursed.

When I tried,
yet failed to describe my existential angst,
did I itch to die?

Flew head-first

When a slick film
thickened over whimpering blood – a second skin to protect me,
did it block entry to the piece which was missing?

for the limits of verse.

How can it be
that even as I embrace life, my lungs
would like to cease breathing?

Still the ache of thirst;

can’t slake my thirst.

~~~

©Jane Paterson Basil

From the Horse’s Mouth

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I ‘spect you ‘eard the rumours back then, but you can’t set too much store by Chinese whispers. I know exactly what ‘appened that day, since I was practically there. See, my mum used to chat with Sally, the fishmonger’s wife, when she went to get our lovely fresh cod of a Friday, and Cuthbert – her ‘usband – well, ‘e used to deliver fish, regular, to the Royal Kitchen. He got quite pally with the Royal Cook, Sally’s Cuthbert did. Oh yes, he moved with the cream of society, ‘er Cuthbert, what with goin’ round to all the best ‘ouses an’ mixin’ with all the best cooks in the realm, an’ all. He was a nice chap so they all made allowances for the smell. Anyroad*, the Royal Cook got the story from the kitchen maid who got it from the chambermaid, who got it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. That’s right; the lady-in-waiting ‘erself, who was peaking round the door just after it ‘appened.

So, like I said, I was practically there at the time, and this is ‘ow it went:

The girl ‘ad been tossing and turning all night – couldn’t sleep a wink by all accounts. The palace was getting ready to celebrate since it looked like she’d passed the test, but now she was turning a nasty shade of green an’ ‘aving difficulty breathing. The king ‘appened by, and he saw it and summoned the lady-in waiting, who called for the chambermaid, who ran to find the courtier, who rushed for the physician.

The doctor examined the girl, then wrung ‘is ‘ands, like they does when the king looks at ’em, and mumbled something about balls.

“Speak up, man, and moderate your language, or I’ll order the guards to cut off your head,” cried the king. Just like that, an’ I wouldn’t put it past ‘im. I could tell you some tales would make your hair stand on end, but me lips is sealed.

The physician gathered up ‘is wits and spoke more clear. “Your majesty,” says ‘e, “there hhis no cure for this lady’s hhallergy. I fear the worst. If only Hhi had had been hhinformed, Hhi would have recommended a golf ball and a dozen extra mattresses instead.”

(Physicians is trained to talk proper, for all their funny ideas about leaches and blood-letting. They knows where the aitches is meant to go.)

Just then, the girl sits up like some knight ‘as stuck a red-hot lance up ‘er unmentionables, gives a scream, and collapses as if dead, poor dear. The worst of it was, when she fell back so sudden like, the pile of mattresses started wobbling, and before you know it, she’s rolled out of them and plummeted all the way to the floor like a bloomin’ bag o’ teddies*.

Oh, bless, don’t go upsetting yourself, dearie – I’m sure she didn’t feel nothin’, but like I was about to say, next thing,  all them mattresses got to slippin’ an’ slidin’, and before you know it, the floor’s plastered in ’em. By the time the dust settled, she was buried up to her neck – just lying there underneath those stuffed wodges of striped ticking, with only one pale arm sticking out like the dead end of an amputee party or what-all.

And what did they see but that little green pea, released from its feathery prison, rolling across the floor, like it didn’t have a care in the world. ‘Course, it was quickly absolved of that notion, since the dog – I forgot to tell you about the dog; there was a dog asleep in the corner of the room, an’ it’d managed to sleep through having a mattress land on its back, but it must have ‘eard the pea, makin’ its way across the royal rug, takin’ a straight line between two of them puffy mattresses. The daft dog musta thought it was a rabbit or what-have-you. It was up and on the pea like lightnin’. In a blink, the evidence o’ cause o’ death was down ‘is gullet.

So then the prince come ambling in, with that clipboard they made for him from the last o’ the gold what ‘is previous wife had woven out of straw. I’m talking about his second wife, mind. I ‘spect you ‘eard about the first one, who broke an old glass slipper, trying to prove that her feet were the same size as back when they first started courting. Turned out they wasn’t. She’d bled to death, which was a shame, ‘cos she was pretty, but ‘e married again.

The second marriage had started off awright, what with all them roomfuls of gold and all – bound to make you ‘appy, seems to me – but pretty soon it was all around the palace that his wife was ‘avin’ an affair with a short ugly bloke with a bad temper, who kept comin’ out with strange rhymes an’ wouldn’t tell anyone his name, and if you ask me,  I’d say the rumours was true; she weren’t no better than she shoulda been.

Well, that’s another story, and I’m not one to gossip, but it’s worth a mention since it was ‘cos of ‘er that they weren’t taking no chances this time. The next one ‘ad to be a proper princess – the thing they tried with the glass shoe ended in tears, and they didn’t want any more of that hobnobbing with commoners who makes ‘oles in the floorboards and disappears down ’em before you can cite them as just cause for divorce. See, it’s not like they wanted to behead her – they’d rather have done it the nice way, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Not that they was beggars; they was royals, but still.

Getting back to the prince; the shock of seeing the grisly scene before ‘im give ‘im a bit of a start and his bowler ‘at slid down over ‘is eyes. Did I mention the bowler? ‘E liked to wear it for official stuff like checkin’ for the authenticity of princesses – reckoned it gave ‘im an official air; professional like, along with ‘is important clipboard with its long checklist of names of all the virgins in the realm what claimed to be princesses – or was it all the princesses in the realm what claimed to be virgins?

None of us was sure, but no matter.

Regaining ‘is balance an’ dignity, ‘e slid the bowler back into place an’ stepped over to what he could see of the young woman. Kneeling down, ‘e reached toward her slender ‘and. By all accounts, it looked like a romantic what-‘ave-you, till ‘e pressed a finger to her wrist, where the pulse should ‘ave bin. He looked up at the doctor, ‘oo avoided his eyes, and then at his father, the king, ‘oo rewarded ‘im with a “you win some, you lose some’ kind of a shrug.

Smartly getting up from ‘is knees – princes is good at that kind of thing; standing and sitting and generally moving graceful like dancers, it’s their upbringing, you know – ‘e pulled a pencil from beneath his silk doublet, licked the end and neatly crossed ‘er name off the list.

Written for 3TC: Mattress, Golf ball, Green

*anyroad: anyway

*teddies: a regional name for potatoes.

©Jane Paterson Basil

You Who Read Me

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In fledgling days
when I obeyed the angle of light,

my sky side
woke at night,
describing lives I had never known,
written on stolen pages torn from school notebooks,
secrets and stories to be stored
deep in the left hand drawer.

My earth side
spun in the sunshine,
spilling glee over barn yards and fields,
dousing in streams, trailing wet jeans up beckoning trees,
and I believed that never-never land
would never ever cease, and I
would never leave,

until
it began
to recede.

And oh, how I led them,
but how flippant to treat them like geldings;
slyly watching them watch me walk a tightrope
while they safely crossed the bridge that spanned two planets,
hanging from brittle branches while they squinted against the light,
plotting to test my agility,
looking for rips in my frills while I climbed high,
slinking through twisting limbs,higher still,
rising into the pit where nothing
is green.

Slow-dancing in quicksand
until I couldn’t feel my feet.

Still, there was the writing;
words that stretched in flair and length,
eager guests in a world of turned-away faces,
approaching from nowhere, blowing kisses on my brain,
reeking of grace and sensitivity,
wafting a fragrance of sociable escapee
from false imprisonment in coventry.

In between wording times
I covered my coffin with noisy achievements.
Builders’ merchants gulped, scowling at the cheek
of this mis-gendered heretic constructing fireplaces,
mistrusting any feminine figure who fiddled
with timber and drills.

Fighting exhaustion,
I carried on weaving rainbows from straw,
filling my space with a haberdashery of tools and scrapings,
an art school of paint,
a caterer’s larder.

Neighbours sprayed my surface with praise,
hailing my zest, my skills, asking how I found the time.
I smiled enigmatically, failing to say that it kept me
from what dwelt in my head,

knowing
that nobody listened,
nobody heard.

In search of fresh cities of silence
I rented a retail space in the main street, where strangers
reached to be friends. I hid my pretence,
letting them sketch my silhouette,
splotching in the colours they could see
and tinting my flesh with wild shades of misconstrued fame.

Still, there was the writing;
words that strolled into phrases, willing to stand in line,
matching their pace, that they might aptly describe
the flight of a dust mote,
the puffball of pride.

Yet the words were unread.

I found flowers,
pressed them neatly into my smouldering heap.
Healing herbs dug roots through every layer,
my hungry space feeding their blooms.

And still, there was the writing.
Words danced quicksteps in my chest,
spinning fiction, facing facts,
linking arms to make a metaphor that said:
The best way to break free from ice
is to melt it with sweat.

Even the warmth of soil could not sway
my mental creativity.

I was told I would crash.
Years on, when collapse came,
they suggested it was age;
a natural process of winding down.

I recognised it more as a grinding down,
a sign that too much breakage had occurred,
a need to curl around the cuts.

As I kicked off the covers to roll myself tight,
my sighs rose to cries, then dwindled to whimpers, receding
until you could think it was the whisper of an overused wind
fading into the distance until even the echo
grew indistinct, leaving me
with little to fear, and nothing
to hide.

Anxiety, like concrete,
is a heavy weight to lift, but changes of life
can chip swathes of it away.

Just as I have written for survival,
I write every wrinkle of shame into history.

So,
the writing remains,
my first passion, a myriad of faithful words that float with love unending,
requesting no return, begging only
to be poetry.

It is these that saved me,
finding me, offering unfailing constancy,
giving breath where air was thin,
and finally delivering me
to you,

you who read me.

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Written  for the Word Of The Day Challenge: Sensitivity

©Jane Paterson Basil

An appeal to my friends

 

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Please, friends and visitors, click on THIS LINK. Read Niki’s post and feel the terrible weight between the lines, then pray or  meditate, chant or create a safe bubble in space; do whatever secularity inspires or faith dictates. If it is your way, join me in the collective consciousness of positivity. Who knows what a difference  we might make.

<<@

I know you will want to reach out.

 

 

Words

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Words which clamber for birth,
eager to cling to the page,
words which would raise to self-worth
modestly seeking a place.
Words which admit, words which deny,
words deftly-chosen, words misapplied.
Dominatrix words which try
to overpower a subtle punchline.

Words which have something to say,
each syllable tuned in its own way,
conciliating or armed for the fray,
screaming surprise or mumbling cliché.

Words that edge to the ideal mate;
working their way towards standing up straight,
shuffling their way into ship-shape phrases
like uneasy conscripts with falsified ages.

Words scrubbed out and aptly replaced,
jackets buttoned and shoes tightly laced,
a tidy battalion of lines and stanzas;
meter supplanting the weapons of battle,
bragging the spit and polish of rhyme,
till all might concur that the verse is sublime,
the meter is perfect, the message shines.

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Yet words,
for all their courageous claims
of muscle, weight and girth,
often wither and fade
into an insipid blur

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Written for Word of the Day Challenge: Insipid

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Last Laugh

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I got a soggy dog-lick-kiss, breakfast on a tray
with the dreaded birthday sentence: Fifty years today.
Gifts enshrined in angry bills, ring box on a tin can,
and on the bed beside me, my oh, so funny man.

I wouldn’t touch my breakfast; the tea was weak and cold,
the bread was stale, the marmalade thickly furred with mould.
I unwrapped all the presents; fake poo and inked perfume,
I threw aside a birthday card, then marched out of the room.

He chased me to the kitchen; he knelt on knobbly knees
to offer me the ring box, said: Please don’t be a tease.
He looked so hurt and serious I thought he was sincere.
I’m glad I chose to take it, or he would still be here.

I carefully prised it open, expecting glittery bling,
but in that stupid jewellery box there was no diamond ring;
no long-denied proposal, no promise from my champ –
curled amidst the velvet was a grubby postage stamp.

I glared at him in fury, but he waved my rage away,
and laughing shrilly, said to me: It’s for a holiday.
Climb into this box, I’ll add the stamp and the address
of any destination, North, South, East or West.

It might be midlife crisis, but I’m weary of his humour;
I wished a heart attack on him, or a most aggressive tumour,
so feeling thus disgruntled, I shot him through the head.
He’s curled up in an outsize box, not joking now he’s dead.

I’m posting him to Timbuctoo, with no return address,
So I will never get him back, and I’ll suffer no redress.
It’s funny what you think of, when you scrub a bloody floor,
kitchen units and two windows, one kitten and a door:

We met on Friday the thirteenth, an unlucky day for me,
but the thirteenth has returned; how unlucky now is he!
I don’t regret the past, and there’s something I will miss;
I’d like to give him one last breath and see him laugh at this.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Written for Three Things Challenge: thirteen, midlife crisis, past

©Jane Paterson Basil

Three Sisters

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A grave motorcade
rolls along the old pitted lane.
Amidst the relay of mourners, three sisters
lurch in separate cars, each clutching a tissue,
each nursing a lonely grief.

Lily-laden funeral wreathes cast cruel shade over flashes of sensory screenshot:

mother reading an article from the Guardian, words falling on deaf ears that would be keen to hear her words today;

the Saturday fragrance of vanilla and yeast, of cocoa sifting into a blue-striped bowl, while she recited poetry, the selection of which reflected her mood;
the humour of Carroll and Lear, the beauty of  Shakespeare, the passion of  Yeats;

the ballet of her every movement.

Joyful memories
choked by white-trumpet odour
chased off by the celebrant’s tribute,
distanced by mortality’s truth.

Heavily, they host the wake,
making sad celebration in a room where once
they ate and fought and played.
Greeting the sombre-suited guests, a sense of
distance
marks each sorrowful hug, a feeling of
alienation
punctuates every platitude. A dun-coloured wilderness
gapes
where a mother’s rainbow love once encircled
a fertile horizon.

Three blonde heads
dutifully nod in a jaded knot of grey, brown and red,
keeping their distance like amnesiac triplets,
unable to acknowledge the bond between them,
though grieving the body that links them.

And yet…

Esther breaks away, promptly retreating from the pompous uncle
who once told her to pull her socks up.

Sophie escapes from the neighbour who ran over her favourite doll.

Marie extracts herself from the babble of a virtual stranger.

Three sisters, divided
by the gifts and thefts of time, estranged by perversity
of personality; yet each makes an unplanned dash
in search of an echo of childhood laughter.

Landing together by the river,
the sisters silently step back, form a line,
firmly grasp each other’s hands, unsurprised
by this impromptu contact; this once
cherished routine.

With one accord they take
a running leap, screeching with fear and hilarity,
bracing for a wet slap, sinking, rising encircled by
a naughty water-dance of funeral garb.

Treading water,
spluttering with mirth,
they smack the surface, watching diamonds spray
in the late-summer light.

Their thoughts play in silent harmony:
Forty years. Forty years since mum, grinning at our antics, leapt,
describing a perfect pirouette, to land with a blithe ripple
that danced in a widening embrace as she swam back to the bank.

The river steps back in time,
The coffin regresses to become a strong tree.
The lilies of death are gone; are less than a twinkle
in the eye of an unborn seed.
The three sisters feel the length of their mother’s reach.

In this divine moment, she lives.
Three giggling children await
her refined splash.

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Written for today’s Word of the Day Challenge; Mirth

©Jane Paterson Basil