Category Archives: free verse

Trophies

The gulls cry to be fed
and the woman raises the sound on the TV.
Hungry for love, the gulls screech
and the woman preens her hair.
Desperate, they beg.
The woman 
slings slices of white bread 

They land just within reach

She straightens their feathers, takes 
them to a place where a man 
coils words around their beaks, their eyes
and shoots
framing their formal guise

The woman 
places the portrait 
on the living room wall.
The gulls see.
This must be love, they say.
The woman
Switches on the TV
to drown out their squall.

The gulls grow.
 raise families of their own.
Their polite poses  
crowd the woman's wall.
Not a hair out of place,
Many mouths saying “Cheese”
many obedient eyes gazing 
into a stranger's face.
He clicks, and it's done.
He clicks.
He clicks, and the children - for
they are children - stretch their muscles,
appreciating release.

The proud matriarch of three generations
turns from the TV
and and reaches to make space 
in her spick and span home
                                            for another trophy.
©Jane Paterson Basil

Agoraphobia

Jacket on, my fingers 
reach 
for the latch 
which leads me 
to the other side of the door
which would take me outside.

Its arrival is always 
sudden,  
sometimes a surprise, yet 
routine as the seasons, 
pumping through my veins like
a sullen child dragging me back, like
a whining child unwilling 
to go outside.

Out loud, I say
you can do this,
it's just laziness, 
but the tainted blood 
           shoots 
      needles 
through my heart.

I call myself a coward, 
recall the feats of my youth,
the heights attained, 
the dangers faced and erased, yet
my feet refuse to move and 
my hand is stayed inches 
from the door.

I say to myself,  I can do this
can't I?
Silence but for the hard beat of my heart.
I repeat:
Can I do this today?

No, yet 
I trip over the reply, doubting 
my level of intent, feeling shame, even 
as the shudders wither my brain - even
as the room sways.

I need milk and a dozen other things. Please 
let me do this today.

No. The reply comes from deep inside.
No no no.

I back away, 
back to safety,
back to my lair, 
my table, 
my chair. 
Defeated, I glare at the cars passing by 
beneath the grey horizon.

Milk, vegetables and eggs
will wait another day.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Ghost

In long-gone days, the wraith
came at my beckoning, materialising clear
as a leaf in a clean running stream
brightly clad in nature's hues
With wings of light
she'd flitter through fields
greeting trees, spinning
in whirling dervish twirls 
till balance failed 
and
she fell 
helpless with glee
revelling in endless freedom

I watched her mount the Oak,
childish fingers clutching ever slimmer limbs
climbing
high 
higher 
Taunting a fleeting theory of God
challenging death 
placing her feet 
on the flimsiest twig
willing the wood to take her weight
even as she dared it to defy 
her credence 
that her breath 
would never cease

Frozen in time, the child 
remains forever nine

When the world growls and bites I call her
and she arrives.
She always shows  
consoling me through the years
with her reminder of joy
 
Time breathes mist over my eyes
and leads my senses toward a vacuum, yet still 
from time to time 
my wraith twists through 
the claws of time 
 lending me memories 
of crowning days. Her margins 
have long since blended into the landscape, 
her flesh faded to grey 
evaporating into smoke

Her diaphanous wisp
floats over fields and streams
beside my childhood home; the ghost
of the child who was me 
and I recall 
that once upon a time 
I felt immortal 
and believed I was free

©Jane Paterson Basil

Kensington, Philadelphia

They stutter and creep along filth-ridden streets, 
tattered sleeves hiding the blood as it seeps,
far from the arms of mothers who weep.

Turn away, 
cover your eyes, 
blind to the shame of the crimes you perceive
as you hurry away from the flesh-eating streets.

They wade through the scud of society's greed,  
shuffling their feet, hungry for succour 
then numbed by fulfilment of lethal need.

Turn away
pretend you don't see,
blind to the shame of the streets of pain
or blaming the victim for all our mistakes.  

They're slipping through cracks between fleshly paving;
our brothers and sisters struggle and bleed 
and end on those streets.
Who finds the dead and where are they buried?
Do we really not notice? 
How can we not care?
How can we not weep as they slip between 
the cracks created from selfish greed.

Few of us focus and few of us see
that there but for fortune or luck of the genes 
go him and her and you and me.
There but for fortune  
go we.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Butterfly Kyodai

You can't think straight. The reins 
were always slack. They slipped 
from your hands again. You can't 
remember when; could've been 
in your sleep or while you  
escaped into butterfly flight, 
clicking: once, twice, watching  
colourful wings flit...
as if 
they 
could save you...  

anyway you let go or maybe 
those reins were stolen and 
now there is no escape from 
the claw that clamps your flesh,
forcing you 
back into the cold  
of an echoing cave. 

©Jane Paterson Basil

A New Chapter

feather-1626492_1280
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I am entering a new chapter in my life… so… this morning I got out of bed uncharacteristically early – roughly the time normal people are expected to rise. I switched my computer on to find that all of the unpublished poetry I have written over the past six months – including the poem I was planning to post today – has disappeared. Gone forever! I shrugged my shoulders, smiled and glanced out of the window. That’s when I saw the feather. I wrote this poem:

A pale feather swims,
gently ascending,
leaving no scrape on the empty sky.
Swept by the wind
from a dying bird, it flies free,
distanced from risk
of dirt and decay.

Then I edited it…

.
img_0920-11

A pale feather swims,
gently ascending,  leaving
its modest breeze on the clean sky.
Swept by the wind
from a bombastic bird, it flies free,
distanced from danger
of jabbering shame.

img_0920-11

.peace symbol

©Jane Paterson Basil

Stiff Upper Lip

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.

We Brits
prioritise
excretory hygiene
over finding food to spoon between our
stiff
upper
lips,
perhaps forgetting that if nothing
goes in one end, the other end
tends to become
redundant.

To clarify; toilet rolls
were the first target of panic buyers.

Only when the bits that we hide
between butt-cheeks and thighs were ensured
of a year’s supply of snowy wipes
did we think to mind
our
Ps
and
Qs;
Shoppers scraped up
every scrap of Potato, Pasta, Paracetamol… and
— being a nation of animal lovers —
Purina Pet Phood.
By the time I set out
for my fresh supply of modest gruel
the shelves were stripped of Quorn, Quark
and Quail’s Eggs.

(Note the poetic liberty; to my knowledge,
Lidl shops don’t stock Quails eggs)

fortunately, there were lots of bouquets
since we were warned away from floral displays
on UK’s flayed Mothers’ Day.

Last night, my
tulip bourguignon was a flop.
The vase-water gravy might have been
a grave mistake. I won’t go wrong with tonight’s recipe;
chrysanthemum bolognese lightly sprinkled
with kibbled gypsophila.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The End of the Line

rose-stem

Valentine’s day
Pre-planned passion
hangs in the balance

Suspense

reigns

He lopes home
hugging a rain-drenched
bouquet to his frame, hunching
keep rain from staining petals, hoping
the beauty, the ruby hue, the perfume
of these hot-house blooms will halt
the drift. He’s humming a tune.

He walks in, singing
Roses are red

my love

He presents the spray
She feigns cat-lick surprise, yet
her greedy eyes betray

dismay

disdain

the end of the line.
Cheapskate flowers again;
hints for a cruise, or at least
a long weekend in Spain
were in vain.

rose-stem1

©Jane Paterson Basil

Recipe for Happiness

Embed from Getty Images


Chipped nails choked with scraped grit.
Blisters swell unfelt, then burst;
a wet revelation on shaft of spade.

Weeds deftly parted from precious roots,
left in bins to rot
and someday feed the plants whose food
they recently plotted to rob.

Working around worms whose blind cycles
play their part in our survival,
digesting, evacuating, aerating the earth.

Shrubs catching my hair,
tangling it, taking loose strands as souvenirs.
Thorns scratching, blood dripping as I squeeze
between close neighbours, secateurs
gripped tight in my hand.

Snip, snap;
sure of my skill, I amputate weak limbs, lending health
to good wood.

Chipped nails, burst blisters, tangles and scratches
might not sound like life in paradise
yet it is my recipe
for happiness.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Winter Cocktail

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At cocktail hour when summer fails
bright colours vacate to the Mediterranean
Skies slide into leaden grey,
grumpily gunning to fulfil a bleak threat of rain,
their perfidious clouding slyly announcing
that dusk is well on its way.

Brittle twigs cling to knotted limbs.
Catatonic in the bitter air,
their scribbled criss-crosses laid bare,
bereft of the layered frock that veiled
the bland dwellings which crouch, blind-eyed
beneath my lofty window.
Spring’s brave growth crumbles to mulch,
all pride, grace and levity faded away,
its flesh consumed for future gain.

I pause mid-thought, my mind
resorting to fantasy:
might these spectral skeletons recall
unfurling
to make safe hiding places for fledgling birds?
Perhaps they remember saluting the June day sun
their emerald hands swaying in celebration,
and nudged by a temperate summer wind
dancing, jiving, twirling.
Perhaps they relive
the betrayal, the brittle break,
the skittering fall.
Maybe they grieve, and yearn
the loss of green youth.

©Jane Paterson Basil