Category Archives: free verse

Climb Aboard

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Climb aboard;
all who wish an end to war are welcome;
we beg you to share our message of peace,
that it may reach across the wildest desert,
weave through cities, travel with the waves of the seas
that stroke our shores and soak into our sands.
Let it grow to encompass our nurturing planet;
let every peacemaker of every nation join hands,
and be embraced with love in return.
Let peace become a pandemic
the like of which we have never known.

My dad was a conscientious objector 
who was imprisoned for refusing to kill other men;
for turning down the opportunity to shoot holes in their heads,
to plant land-mines and blow humans to shreds.
He missed the chance to charge into villages;
to burn, rape and pillage.

Despite the claimed cause of our the war,
his decision seemed reasonable to me.

I learned of his humanist history
while my mother held me on her knee,
and, although I had too limited a vocabulary
to arrange the feeling into a neat phrase,
I understood the irony;
had he killed a neighbour in self-defence,
rather than refusing to kill with indifference.
he might have received similar punishment.

When I was a kid, I did a lot of thinking about war; I figured it would be more sensible to select the two best chess players in the countries of enmity and let the winning nation take all. I wondered why it was considered that killing was necessary; It seemed inefficient to me.

I concluded that it must not have occurred to the world governments involved in greed and hate to take such a practical stance.

I planned to write to all heads of state and trusted that they would be grateful, and put my idea into practice.

Non of that happened, of course.

More recently, I had another brainwave; We peacemakers could infiltrate all the places where soldiers are trained for battle; from guerrilla hide-outs to army camps. We’d arm them with cheesecake and fruit and all that is good to eat. We’d teach them to smile and offer food while chatting about their families.

Chocolate guns would be a boon.

That plot fell flat when my best friend said the next war will not be fought by foot soldiers, so I’m joining in with a better plan;

my friends and I invite you to

climb aboard;
all who wish an end to war are welcome;
we beg you to share our message of peace,
that it may reach across the wildest desert,
weave through cities, travel with the waves of the seas
that stroke our shores and soak into our sands.
Let it grow to encompass our nurturing planet;
let every peacemaker of every nation join hands,
and be embraced with love in return.
Let peace become a pandemic
the like of which we have never known.

This was written for our peace campaign which was dreamed up by my amazing friend Paul Sunstone. Yep – remember the name; that man has greatness in him. We want the campaign to go viral. Share his post (see link below) and/or write a post of your own.

Click <<<<<<<HERE>>>>>> to find out more

and find even <<<<<<<MORE>>>>>>>   <——— there

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©Jane Paterson Basil

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Crossing the Street

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“I’m sorry, I don’t carry change.”

That’s what I always say, though sometimes
it’s a lie.

From Goa to Mumbai
it is considered unwise to give to children who beg on the streets;
better to donate to charities that protect them from their tormentors.
I live by that principle on my forays through this English town
where the victims are adult, their tormentors
are chemicals to be melted on a spoon and injected,
and their habit can kill.

These days I rarely engage with them;
they don’t require sandwiches, pasties or practical advice
and I can’t give them a bed for the night, so I can do nothing to assist,
yet those eyes kidnapped me as she begged beside Tesco Metro.

“I’m sorry – I don’t carry change,” I said.

It was the eyes that detained me;
eyes that sang in the storm of cause and effect,
in the chaos what was and what might have been;
eyes that could not be silenced, that trilled above the din,
calmly revealing what she would have liked to conceal,
colouring in the thrill of travel, the regret
of roughened hands which once caressed,
rising to a crescendo to describe the hurricane
that threw her up, and flung her
in the gutter,

and as her eyes glistened,
I listened to the howling wind
as it echoed her dirge of the death
of a wolf of the Steppes,

If we are not all equal, as some believe,
she was much more than many I meet. When we parted,
I flirted with my purse, knowing my money would bring her
a pin-prick of relief, but I crushed the brief temptation,
since it could purchase her doom.

Her eyes watched me while I wrote,
and while I ate and read and slept. When I woke
I thought of her.

Spying from my hallowed side of the street,
finding third parties to relate her trials and treats,
I kept my distance to evade the pain of intimacy,

Just once, I fell again
into those eyes that had swum the skies
before sinking into the blood-flecked mud.
I asked her a question and watched her eyes
while they lied to me.

Her tongue was too noble to verbalise an untruth,
yet her eyes suggested a lie;
thereby giving me fake justification
for my evasion.

Yet I had openly lied to her when I had said
“I’m sorry, I don’t carry change.”

I can’t say I knew her, or that she knew me,
but she affected me.
It seems she touched everyone she met.
I wanted her to find peace, but not like this.

I’m on nodding terms with the other side of the street,
so the news has already reached me:
last night, her spectacular eyes
closed for the final time.

Today, two bodies lie in the morgue,
the tiny one tightly curled in the womb of its mother,
and I try not to weep for the multiple tragedy
of mindless heroin’s dumb victory.

Rest In Peace, Diane

Word of the Day Challenge: Spying.

When I feel inspired, I write a poem before checking out the word of the day. I usually find that it fits. Today is no exception.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

For Eric

First morning of Autumn term.
I’m in the crush-hall, slouching with Bett and Marion,
stuttering into “business as usual” mentality,
shrinking from school-house stink,
bitterly regretting the absence of a time-machine
to take me to last week and drop me in a tree,

when

a cacophany of cat calls;
a confusion of piercing wolf-whistles
rudely explode from 3C’s nuisance crew –
led by Bill, with noisy aid from sidekick Dick and the usual losers.

A wit who is in on the obscure joke
yells “Blossom!”

Clutches of kids spin
away from crude authors to their protagonist;
a casually-dressed grotesque strolling toward us
by way of the students entrance.
Nobody but schoolkids use that door; the teachers
flatten their own, hallowed lane.

 The man  is setting a precedent
which he alone will follow for as long as he can tolerate
hypocrites and foolish heads of schools.

Later, he’ll be known by all as Eric,
sports coach by day,
youth leader in evenings and weekends,
heroic defender of child-friendly themes even while he sleeps.
A man who accepts our weaknesses
as natural or pained stages toward our individual choices  
of growth or decay.
He’ll never trill the truths we know,
instead planting daisies on the paths we scrape,
to illuminate the better way,

In his presence, my self-disgust will shrink,
and forever, memories of his generosity will boost me.
In latter years we will meet by happy accident and chat in the street.
I’ll reminisce, while he will weave his wise philosophy
like an invisible thread, darning the holes in my head.
He’ll speak of his yesterday’s hockey game,
of next week’s holiday in Thailand,
where he’ll visit his adopted son.
He’ll promise me saffron when he returns.
I’ll want to detain him, that I may bask
longer in his company.

In morbid moments I will think of his age, and imagine
that the sky will collapse, the planets collide
the moment he dies.

The Saffron will never arrive; instead a final announcement;
“The well known hockey coach, Eric Gale, after a brief illness…”
for an instant, I will hallucinate;
see the planets crashing to earth, the sun dying,
then his voice will come to me.
saying that life is about giving; in death,
he will never take away.
Grief and abiding gratitude will engulf me.

but today,
I only hear a nickname, “Blossom”,
whose background will remain a mystery.

As he passes through the hall, the bravest rebels repeat:
“Whoa, blossom; drop ’em, blossom,”
yet he smiles benignly, nodding and hello-ing as if
his tormentors are friends.

My friends and I shake our heads,
disgusted by the hecklers,
fascinated even as we are repulsed
by this track-suited, rucksack hugging man whose face
resembles a mismatched collection of unkind jokes
crafted by a demented plastic surgeon.

We do not yet recognise his glory.

Eric passes by,
his smile open, my eyes averted.
I glance at Bill’s elated crew
for a trace of shame,
but that will only come later.

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Written in haste for yesterday and today’s Word of the Day Challenges: Blossom and Abiding

©Jane Paterson Basil

Going Home

girl-running1

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Skinny river beckons,
breathing an echo of days when these feet
measured the thin edge
a centimetre before the leap,
when the landing deftly skipped the breach,
when danger was a game
unfettered by sticks and stones of age,
and gunshot death was fun to feign;
tumbling play that entertained
till hunger called away.

Skinny river
whispers skittering memories,
whisking up a risible sniff of magic, as if
a giggling wish will carry me
back to the beginning that knew no measure
of length or breadth; that imagined
no end.

For an instant
I am loath to leave this empty crypt,
feeling a momentary need to stand sentry,
lest I miss my dusty trinkets,
my piddling, middling strides,
my thin air of pride.
But if I go, the sky
will again be mine
and I will recognise my hands.
Adult battles of fact and habit
will be banished to the monochromatic land
of flim-flam.
I shall be Ilya, the Russian Man From UNCLE,
my brothers; spies from THRUSH.
My gun will eradicate evil until
it’s time to switch sides, and then I’ll be
the baddie.
Naturally, Ilya will shoot me; the Right Side always wins.
Hamming it like a weak comedienne, I’ll expire in traditional style
with agonised grunts, thrashes and sighs,
finally rolling into the shallows of the river
to die.
When dinner arrives,
I will obediently dine,
forever a child.

girl-cartoon

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Inspired by A River Runs Beneath Us, which was written by  Paul at Cafephylos

Written for Word of the Day Challenge: Loath


 

This is what Bruce has to say about the river…

 

©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

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

Tramp off, Trump

Don’t tell me about zero tolerance. I can see
your compassion is at point zero.
How dare you wipe your stinking feet on UK soil,
and how could our misfit PM have the cheek to welcome you,
her skin turning pink at the thought
that her harsh measures are too gentle for your sort.
Who would think she
would ever be considered too touchy feely?
Have you seen how gives to the rich what she steals from the poor,
whistling while Brits fling themselves from bridges?
Come to think of it, that’s right down your street.
As we say around our way, with our irritating gift
for understatement:
It won’t do.

Go home; go back to the USA,
face the shame of your Texan cages.
Set the children free, give them back to their families,
then lock yourself away
and throw away the key,
or pass it to your worst enemy…
if you can figure out who that is.

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He’s gone now – off on a plane, no doubt to see what damage he can do next.

This poem was a lot longer, but I felt it best to cut out a lot of what I wrote, and the clichés are deliberate…

©Jane Paterson Basil