Category Archives: dark poetry

Trickery

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Boil the cauldron till it sings,
then add a pair of spider wings,
leaf of toad and bud of newt,
heart of fungus, rabbit’s root —
Throw them in and mix them up
to make a wicked witches cup.

Worm’s left leg and fishes foot,
frozen flame and snow-cap soot —
add a pinch of ghoulish youth,
a silent laugh, a liar’s truth,
hemlock toenails, adder’s hair —
fling them in without a care.

Eye of creeping pondweed slime
and other stuff that makes a rhyme
will finish off the recipe,
now stir it gently just for me.
Mash it up and make a paste —
not a drop must go to waste.

Now try this recipe on all
insurance men who come to call.
Smear it thickly on your face —
they’ll run away without a trace,
then wash it off, and you will see
your skin will glow more healthily.

Oh! what a foolish girl she is
that she should vainly take notice
of a stepmother like me,
and make my toxic recipe.
Her former beauteous, smiling face
now melts beneath a gruesome paste.

And what a clever witch am I,
I didn’t need tell a single lie;
The silly salesman ran away
to see her glowing green and grey,
and now the mirror will agree;
there’s no-one prettier than me.

©Jane Paterson Basil

I am Here. (A ghostly poem)

WARNING – THIS POEM CONTAINS VIOLENT IMAGERY.

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Tickled out of gritty sleep by
a tingle of  marrow issuing into my dry
spine, I listen as the Church bells chime to wake
we dead, and I think my way
into the mortal world,
if only for today.

Six feet beneath
the earth, my gnarled bones stir.
Joints grate, to lock end-to-end, in preparation
for brief celebration of something akin
to life. A witchy weightlessness
lifts me through rotted timber and the fertile
decay of wormy graveyard dirt.

“I am here!” I think.

Dry organs reclaim remembered nests
beneath this ragged shroud. Muscle and gristle
rebuild – I have no vulgar need
for blood or nerves, and warming fat
has scant urge to return to this cold abode. Even the skin
is unwilling and thin. It hangs in sagging
strips; but I have no time
for primping vanity.

I jiggle, incomplete,
yet whole enough to dance a jig,to stretch and twist
without risk of sliding ribs, of brain
slipping through the gaping space where once sat
soft twitching lips which – but
the history of my lips is
of no consequence

I test my vocal chords:

“I am here,” my hoarse voice calls.

I am here,
looking upon streets still
filthy with the damned. Inebriated creatures stagger, indecently
swaying hips, displaying naked knees
for all to view, as they tout
cheap scarlet sin.
I see that the simpering hoardes of Whitechapel
still have sorely undeserved need of my special skills.
Though death has limited my abilities –
fingers that once were nimble can no more hold
a scalpel, no longer dissect a whorish
heart that recently
stopped beating – yet I have tested a few
phantom neck-severing tricks.

It was cruel to call me
Jack The Ripper; my knives were
surgical, my cuts
clean, and my art, while it was death to some,
was glory to me.
They criticised my calling; callously
ignoring my creativity, refusing me their gratitude, caring not a jot for
my history; they who never listened to the whispers
in the night, the voices that ordered me
– but enough; my psychological profile is not
to be picked over by you.

All you need to know is
that death has honed my hunger for the kill,
and on this day every year,

I am here.

©Jane Paterson Basil

All Hallows’ Eve

 

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All Hallows’ Eve approaches fast
when rotting dead come out at last,
and humans run and flee, aghast
to see the ghosts of days gone past
approaching through the evening mist
as cloudy shapes or smoky wisps,
who reach for you with open fist
protruding from a bony wrist.

Dead paupers and the hangman’s bait
drag heavy chains that clank and grate,
impatient from their year-long wait
in crowded grave at old Highgate,
while others play a sneaky game;
as floorboards creak, they sigh your name,
they slam your window, break the panes,
drip blood on walls and block your drains.

Though normal mortals hide away,
in terror of this haunting day
when skeletons from graveyards stray
to frighten folks in phantom way,
I have no need to turn and flee,
I prowl about impatiently;
I know his bones will hear my plea,
and drag themselves back home to me.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Kiss

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A thin mist sprinkled fine moisture
onto freckled skin, my hair
swelled with liquid gems as I held a
child’s fragile hand in mine;
I, the mighty protector.

The predator stepped with ease through the flesh
of a leaf-scented dream. Dressed
in guise of kind benefactor he offered food
and a dry place to stay.
Details of the walk of gloom which led us to that hellish room
lie shrouded in my mind, yet

still I hear
the grating click of iron in the lock behind me, as I surveyed
a dishevelled bedroom scheme, still I feel
the shock of his punishing kick
to my child’s shins, the sharp slap across the face as he spat
an accusation of laziness, and demanded
my son clean the place. On a naked

mattress that shamelessly displayed
a sordid history in every thread of stained ticking
two women, each with a young son, lay passive
their stoned eyes betraying
blurred focus while slack mouths
slurred flattering words;
burred crumbs scattered by the vanquished,
to placate the jailer.

I silently swore at the
folly of my faith in generous acts; we three females
were slaves, captured for bawdy sex, while our children
were taken as drudges of a another sort.

Finding us all trapped, I began to hatch a plan to stab
the villain in the back, smash the door and
make an escape, but as I glanced around I spied a
silent man crouching in a corner, almost
screened by a drape, his forlorn gaze aimed
at the floor. Turning in his direction to determine
what role he played, I saw his face, the face
I see when velvet sheets of sleep gently envelope me;
the face I’m sure I’ve adored for centuries and more;
the soul-mate I have always known and yearned for.
I knelt before him, and as our eyes met
he recognised me. Our mutual joy
erased all fearful thought.

I reached for him,
and our lips joined.

In fuming rage, the predator
pulled me from that short embrace. He threw me
down, and leaped upon my shuddering frame. In his eager haste
he tore my clothes while needled fingernails
clawed blood from my veins. I fought
in vain against the filth and pain as he came
closer to forcing his way into me, my
feeling of degradation reaching a peak. With a jolt I

woke to find myself at home, the ghost of
ravaged rags and ravening attack softened by
the honeyed phantom
of a loving kiss upon my lips,
but as I rose to consciousness, a searing surge
of grief and loss
swallowed sweet relief.

I’m not sure I want to analyse this particular dream, but if anyone out there feels like having a stab at it, be my guest… and maybe you can give me some clue as to who that idealised dream man is. I can describe him, if that would help… 🙂

Words for Peace #3

Norway and Sweden share the same word for peace. It should be an easy one for English speakers to learn, since it’s a commonly used masculine name – and it makes me giggle, since I know a rather angry person who goes by that name.

Swedish and Norwegian:

Fred.

©Jane Paterson Basil

White Satin

Or Needles and Bones

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There are many safe
places to swim,
but you leaped
into a downriver dogleg,
laughing like it was a lemonade spring,
anticipating sizzling festival fun
and satin wrapped hot-water bottle solace
even while you spun in a spiral;
a blind optimist whose
swimming certificate for
beginners held no dominion over
this whirlpool whose
mocking eyes
watched
you
skimming
on the thin
rim of mortality
while its tickling
liquid grip
stole your cash, your
clothes, your friends and
your kin, your food, your
home, your flesh and
muscle and skin and all
the sane
thoughts in your head.
Even the cheeky
grin and the dimpled cheeks
that your mother had
so delighted in,
receded, leaving
only needles and bones.

A pauper’s coffin
feels cold and grim.
Your bed of white satin
defies all metaphor.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 15 million people who suffer from opioid dependence, and there are an estimated 69,000 opioid deaths a year.

I have often reminded myself and others, that as the mother of two addicts, I am only one of many. Addiction has caused devastation within my family, but I look at these figures and I’m horrified to think of the amount of lives which are affected. As we say in Families Anonymous, addiction is a family illness.

15 million people + their families = horror beyond measure…

and it’s not only the families who suffer.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Audition

Enamoured of the shallow glamour

……….of famous actors on the screen,

…..she answers an ad, eagerly agreeing

………………..to attend an audition.

The address that she’s given looks inauspicous,

……….but ambition prevails over instinct.

…..The man with the camera says

………………..she has natural talent,

adding, with a sideways smile,

……….I’ll make you a star.”

…..With gnawing shame and a little persuasion —

………………..helped by a skinful of drink —

she wears what she’s given,

……….then takes a deep breath, 

…..to prepare herself

………………  for her first audition,

not seeing that it will lead to 

……….repeated sleazy agreements and rumpled sheets 

…..until her original ambition

……………..  .seems like an over-blown notion.

Unwilling, but hungry for riches and fame,

……….she suppresses all memories of helpful suggestions

…..and, malleable to his wishes, 

………………..she kneels.

.

A wisp of titian hair floats free,

to tickle his quivering knee.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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

A Flurry of Dust

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This is all that is familiar; this prison and its skeletons, the barren garden, and the gate; the gate, its frame aggressively clinging to walls too high to climb, its peeled paint drawing the shape of a threatening grin, its rusty padlock keeping her in, and the knothole in the middle, like a single eye, watching her as she plots.

She makes scattered plans that she doesn’t believe in; she’ll scale the wall too high to climb, smash the locked gate, eradicate its seeing eye.

Her brain is distracted by the ticking of a long gone grandfather clock.

Yellow macs and matching hats
and days when rain brought indoor games
and laughter shaped her every day
and noses pressed upon the panes,
breathing misty, steamy shapes,
fingers doodling crude cartoons,
dismissing hints of stormy gloom,
while mother in another room
cooked a meal and baked up treats,
and weekends seemed to last all week
and freedom was a word she heard,
and she believed that it referred
to prisoners set free,
but now she knows that it describes
the way life used to be.

She shakes away the memories, looks through her glazed prison window, scrabbling for the gist of her plan. Like all others, it has crumbled, or it lurks in the towering wall, somewhere in the cracks where dusky shadows imitate the faces of those she has known.

But no, the past cannot free her now.

Staying inside where she feels safe, she studies the gate, muddied by splashing rain. She longs for escape, but has no faith in her capabilities, so she waits for something to change; for the hinges to give, the padlock to rot away, the timber to splinter and break; meanwhile occupying her spare time with dreams of what has been.

Years go by. Time paints the grime of existence on her window pane. Spiders weave their webs and hide in wait for flies. Bit by bit, her view of the gate is obliterated . Coming to terms with the increasing murk,  she gives up on the window.

Drips from yesterday’s deluge leave a fading patch on the floor. Above it, bright canary coats and hats hang against the door. Scribbles appear in the glazed mist, brightened by a backdrop of trees rinsed clean by a summer shower. She holds a tea party for plastic people with vintage wear and poseable limbs, plays tic-tac-toe with her sister, giggles in teetering shoes and grown-up clothes. She revels in the sound of laughter; feels it teasing her throat. She inhales the scent of vanilla. Her  mother calls from the pantry, and she follows the aroma of freshly baked cakes.

Beside the gate, a dandelion breaks through arid land; its brave petals opening to embrace life. The gate swings wide, and the world waits outside for one whose sentence was self imposed. The bolt had not been shot. The gate had not been locked.

Yet, free at last, her spirit eats cake, savouring every last crumb, while in the lonely room, her body slumps, to be welcomed by a flurry of dust motes which briefly float free, and with soft caress, come to rest on her cooling flesh.

The Daily Post #Gate

©Jane Paterson Basil

The latest poem in my motheringaddicts blog…

motheringaddicts

armour1.

I loved you

with a mother’s heart,

thinking my love could save you,

but I was a fool, slave to your determination,

lost in your control from the start.

Your supremacy has been hacked away,

but you still have the power

to cut me apart.

.

Liquid armour

sweats through your skin,

your skillfully smelted weapons rust,

corroded by a war that you could never win.

You sought cheap freedom from pain

but found yourself in chains,

battle-scarred limbs

weakly reaching to steal alms

from scattered compadres and thieves.

.

Once the lady of deceit

soared through clean veins

bringing laughter and a peaceful relief,

your inner warnings melting on a sticky spoon,

your synapses giggling in denial of disease.

.

Did you feel that moment

when the switch flicked from want to need?

Did it creep up silently, like age sneaked up on me,

Or did it swipe…

View original post 40 more words

The Ballad of Dreadful Cecil

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Cecil was a vile pretender
whose cruel disguise was retail vendor;
in market stalls all round the county,
he set up alluring bounty
of stone and marble kitchenware,
then sat in wait upon a chair.
He displayed to avid eyes
pestles and mortars of every size.

On his stall, the largest vessel
was devoid of matching pestle.
“Where could it be?” I hear you ask –
Why; in his hand, and tightly grasped.
Before I tell you of his ruse,
you need to know it won’t amuse,
for he was evil to the core –
a scofflaw who loved blood and gore.

If a housewife took a shine
to a pestle quite divine.
he didn’t sell it as he aughta,
but hit her with his mighty mortar,
then hid her underneath the table
just as fast as he was able,
making sure that no-one saw
her collapse upon the floor.

It gave him joy for many years
to cause such agony and tears –
but one fine day he came a cropper
via a woman in a topper;
when he hit her on the head
she pretended she was dead.
He didn’t know that her dark hat
had deflected his hard bat.

He had caught a clever sort
strong of body, quick of thought;
She jumped up and pushed him under –
was that lightning, was it thunder
he heard crashing in his ears,
summoning his deepest fears?
No, the poor old wormy wood
had taken all the weight it could.

The table smashed to smithereens
to the sound of Cecil’s screams
from beneath the splintering table –
it was like the fall of Babel.
Stoneware hit his back and head,
turning concrete bloody red.
As he desperately wrestled
He got tangled in the trestle.

So enmeshed was dreadful Cecil
he was buried with his trestle.

My best friend challenged me to write a poem with the last two lines ending, respectively, in Cecil and Trestle. This was the result.

©Jane Paterson Basil