Category Archives: dark

The Man who Wanted to Save the World

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A seething gang of teens surrounds him,
mocking, calling him names,
Stealing his concentration,
but he will not be defeated; he’s here
to save the world.

Catcalls, insults and derision
almost overwhelm the voices in his head.
He will not listen; they are sent
to deflect him from his divine duty
to save the world.

He strains to hear the angel’s voice,
but the rudeness intrudes,
diluting essential information –
instructions which he is convinced
will save the world.

A Sainsburys receipt floats past his feet,
its jumbled numbers will reveal
a secret code for him alone,
he who was selected by the highest deity
to save the world.

As the youths close in, he strikes out,
screaming, spittle flying from his mouth,
splattering an angry face. Someone cries out
“He’s just a crazy crank, a tramp. Nobody will care.
Let’s have him, lads.”

A slip of paper escapes from a slack hand
to land in a spreading pool of blood. Absorbing the gore,
its empty message blurs as tears forget to fall
for the man who failed
to save the world.

Image supplied by Pixabay.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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The Last Breath

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They say
that life can end
in the blink of an eye,
but when the last breath
whispered from his lips,
his eyes were still,
and so were
mine;

still
and
dry

~

Our
weeping children
quickly left the scene, leaving me
to tie off ends as if I were his next of kin.
Strange to think his skin no more contained
his thoughts and hopes, his good and bad,
his lonely soul, his half-arsed plans,
his generous acts, his secret crimes,
his spongy rage,  his happy days,
his lifelong pain, his crazy lies,
his shrugged-off shame,
his efforts and his
failed amends.

“Goodbye,”
I said.

~

Leaving
to attend to
our children’s needs,
I fixed my face
in an attitude
of quiet
grief.

~

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Lift

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“Doors opening.”

The recorded voice rang out clearly.

“Doors opening.”

Benny upended the bottle. A few seconds passed before he felt a small drop of moisture land on his arid tongue. It wasn’t enough to moisten his cracking lips.

Just before close of business on Friday afternoon, Benny had been asked to take a fresh bottle to the dispenser in the management suite. Several members of staff were already putting on their coats to leave as he stepped into the lift, which rose smoothly to the top floor and stopped. He heard the automatic message:

“Doors opening.”

But the doors didn’t open.

He had sounded the alarm, banged on the metal walls, shouted until he was hoarse, but to no avail. He’d hoped to alert the weekend cleaners to his plight, but if they had turned up at all, he hadn’t heard them, and they hadn’t heard him.

He knew the length of his shoes, so he had calculated the length and  width of the square of floor.  He even knew the meterage from one corner to the opposite corner, but he didn’t know how long he had been trapped. His only timepiece was a phone which currently lay on top of a cardboard box in the ground-floor storeroom. It felt as if he’d been in that stuffy box for weeks, but that wasn’t possible.

“Doors opening.”

He willed the empty bottle to produce another drop, wishing that he had a knife to cut into the plastic, so he could open it up and lick the last of the moisture from the inside.

He sank to the floor, no longer particular about the stale waste from his body soaking into his trousers, despite the shame he would feel when his unsuspecting rescuers arrived for work on Monday morning.

“Doors opening.” The recording seemed to have developed a mocking tone.

A bluebottle crawled through the space under the lift door, took flight, and landed on Benny’s face as he slept. Another followed.

Throughout the offices and on the streets, greedy teeth ripped into the fetid flesh of shoppers, housewives and workers who lay where they had fallen, eight days ago.

With so much to feast on, it was unlikely that hunger would send the rats in search of Benny’s entrails.

©Jane Paterson Basil

His Passing

The final fact floats free in chill November air.
Wispy theories seep through gaps into my living space;
a sluggish swirl too vague to disarrange my hair.

He is dead.
The pathologist estimates two weeks.

When I saw him last week, the wind
seemed to twist him, and his coat –
the coat he wore to keep the winter out –
his coat was out of step with him
as, tied closely apart, they swirled
in schizophrenic dance of love and hate,
flinging exhortation and despair to the wind.

As I watched him spin I had no way of knowing
he was a wraith struggling to escape
an unwelcome netherworld
and return to this place.

A wide road winds out of town,
its white lines blind to distance and insistent tick of time,
flowing past rural scenes and memories
that strangers keep between fading album covers
bulging with sunshine and smiles.
Still more fond secrets lie stored in the archives of their minds.

Distant kin we never knew
sleep silently beneath the fallen leaves;
so many griefs do not reach us.

We hold hands with those we choose, not letting go
until long beyond the final call.

The mindless road winds on to motorway,
passing towns and cities as it goes, while all the way
the straying ghosts of those we never knew
evade our sights;
we’re rarely touched by unknown spirits
passing through our skin.

Somewhere in the erstwhile smoke of London town
a mother weeps to hear the news:
she’s lost her errant son.
She holds no blame, yet that will not console her.

I dare not weigh her loss against his crimes
and what he might have done if he were still alive.
I cannot feel relief while she holds her hollow womb
and teardrops fall,
but it is sad that I don’t feel a twinge
of anything at all.

The police might be treating Joe’s death as suspicious. They’re on the street, keeping their questions low-key. They know him by his reputation and by his history. Those who may have expected to be future victims of his insanity are addicts too weak to be perpetrators. A woman who had been threatened by Joe was approached and told about his death. The police asked her a few questions. She was quite casual about the conversation when she spoke of it to my son. I’m glad she’s no longer at risk; she was bravely supportive toward my daughter after Joe beat her up.

In spite of the suffering he caused, I feel distanced from his death. Even when he was shouting threats up at my window, I felt separated from his circle of psychosis. As soon as Laura went into recovery, he receded into the murky past.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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