Category Archives: free verse

The Distance Between

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Son,
if time was a kindly two-way lane
I’d turn my laden truck around and speed toward the East,
blanking the maggoty road-kill that festers yet
on the tracks of your pickled yesteryears

your needle pricks
your blood and spit
your flinging tantrums
bunching fists
stealthy falsehoods
blatant tricks
the wars you fought with phonic swords fast-honed on flowing tears;
your armies marched to split my walls
which let in gales of filth and fear
leaving me in defeat
with nothing to eat but the waste from the streets.
You grinned while I choked on the gruesome mince
as if I was having a treat
but your smile couldn’t hide the spin of your mind
or the pit beneath your feet

driving in a straight line until your skin is smooth,
accelerating to let my lorry leap the fall,
then lifting my toes for the peaks of the show.

Never leaving the road,
I would pursue my goal
until I nestled the warm weight of my youngest child,
you, my only son,
your arms enveloping my neck,
fresh-formed fingers hooking my hair,
finding my ear lobes,
nose pressing my throat,
your caress needy,
greedy
like a thief or a breast-fed cub,
your possessive caress
enfolding me
in that heavenly rush
of motherly
love.

Your caress,
your sweet, owning caress
would be my destination,
and the things I know
would sink in an ocean of parental ecstasy.

But time is not a two-way lane;
it’s a taut chain that leads forward
to obscurity, obliterating diamonds in its wake.
If I concentrate
I can synthesise a fleeting sensation of the elation
brought by each childish embrace;
a hint of silver that glitters
beneath the skin of a silted stream,
yet I cannot feel your breath on my neck
or the texture
of your skin warming mine,
and linear time
has no way to erase
the mistakes of the distance between.


My son is currently banished from my life, but I hold him in my heart. I will not capitulate and I will forge forward in life, but I grieve for him and hope that one day he will return to the family that loves him.


©Jane Paterson Basil

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Charm Bracelet

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Beneath the dust of rusted dreams
the precious bracelet swings and gleams.

No simple trinket this,
no tinsel sliding from a wilting tree,
no lace that slips from silken locks
to rot, forgotten, in the street.

The blood of ancestry
pulses through this eager chain, its genes
sown in the root of love, its links
tempered in the knitted cogs
of mutual reality.

We can not know
when first we join the clasp,
or as we add each precious charm,
what fist might grip the slender wrist,
or what corrupted implement
might chip and scrape its dancing gems.

We do not always see the claw
before it locks upon a treasured one,
but of this we can be sure;
we hear the thud as it hits the floor.

The lessened weight upon our arm
might give an instant of relief,
but as we rub our tender flesh,
our innards crease and we are flipped
into a keening
pit
of
grief.


Above is the raw version of a poem I wrote today.
Beneath is the start of a more traditional cooked version.
Which do you prefer, salad or stew? Is it worth persisting with the poem below?


Beneath the dust of rusty dreams
the precious bracelet swings and gleams.

No tuppence ha’penny trinket this;
no tinsel on a baubled tree;
no flimsy frippery that slips
from careless tresses to the street.

Within this chain run veins of blood
whose links are tempered through the years;
Knitted loose ’round roots of love
and seasoned by our joy and tears.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Fairy Tales

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We were children, trapped in coddling innocence.
Our future a blurred dream,
our expectations reflecting limited experience:
dappled shadows dancing beneath sun-lit trees,
daisies on a fragrant lawn,
icecream on the beach,
flares that burnt fast-fading holes in our sight,
leaving scars that would not be discerned
until we reached a certain age.

Avidly, we absorbed oft-repeated bed-time stories
which left us believing
that evil was easily recognised,
since it arrived in ugly shapes
and was always defeated.
Only the good were beautiful;
all aches rinsed away by the chaste kiss
of a handsome Prince;
all kingdoms gained by betrothal.

Sometimes
injustice was perverted
by the person who pushed the pen.

Jack trespassed in the giant’s den,
following up his crime with killing and looting,
that he may live out his days
in tainted luxury.

Dick Whittington was assisted by a sly cat,
thereby obtaining his elite position
through deceit and lies.

The unfortunate daughter
of the silly miller who issued false boasts
was locked in a cell
by an avaricious king who wanted more gold.
Rumpelstiltskin offered a tough deal, but the girl
agreed to give him her first-born.
His mistake was in singing out his name, thinking
that no-one was listening.
In retrospect,
the entire cast behaved in a shabby way.

As for Goldilocks,
at least she learnt to steer clear
of burglary.

Not all the stories had happy endings.

The Babes in the Wood were buried beneath burnished leaves
by grieving birds and beasts, their lives curtailed by starvation,

The Little Match Girl was taken to a better place when she died,
yet I decry the shuttered eyes that caused her suffering in life.

So many fictions to pick through
in our sheltered realm
where parents swept salve on every wound,
our consciousness trusting that we
were charmed and good.

We would win the Prince;
a Kingdom we would rule.

We never knew that corruption
had mingled with truth
and sullied our very bones.


P.S.

Let’s scoop away the fairy tales
that recommend a life of greed
and justify the crimes we sweep
beneath our rusting thrones.
The whole world knows that children weep
while mothers die in hungered sleep
and thieves will feed on living flesh
engraving teeth-marks in the bones.

Don’t feed on living flesh,
don’t scrape away the bones.
Live an honest life of peace,
and leave the fairy tales alone.


©Jane Paterson Basil

I Will be Safe

I built my mansion from moonlit bricks,
painted it with pale rays of dawn,
created terraces and lawns
bordered by dwarves of nature’s ornamentation
to afford unscathed sight from here to the horizon.

I live in solitude,
play silent movies in my mind,
warm these tired hands on gaps between grey matter,
my muslin shroud
stitched into a rippling gown
that flutters with grace.
My elegant swish emulates a silvery darling
from yesteryear’s screen,
my hair rests in whimsical wisps,
the tilt of my chin apes inborn dignity.

Gleaming walls recede in awe,
trusting authenticity,
ignorant of my history.

Even beneath these palatial ceilings
I feel tall.

“I
am safe,” I tell the echoing rooms,
“no corners to cut me, no rugs on which to slip and break,
no stove to sear my skin.”

No fire, no ice,
no storm within these sturdy walls.

The drapes shiver;
their drifting folds whisper a warning;
“There is danger beyond our weft.”

A slight figure approaches;
a midnight ghost which tricks the sun into shining on him.
Cloaked in the clothes that he chose two decades ago,
he droops on the lawn, his false frame shaking,
his face describing hunger, grief.

“Mummy, mummy, please,
the chill wind blows,
please love me, please,
please don’t leave me
to die in the cold.”

He looks like my child;
moves and sounds like my only son,
but an ogre has invaded his soul.

I try to say, “Go away,
leave me alone,”
but my throat rebels, allowing only choked shreds
of broken breath.

I cannot make safe the windows; their hinges stray,
leaving a gaping space
with no fingerhold, no latch, no lock
to keep them closed.

Like a lisping snake, he slips through the gap,
then, like a demon displaying its teeth,
his figure expands to the height of six feet.

I race through my cracking haven,
bare feet slapping smooth cedar floor,
course words chasing me, describing obscene hate.

I find no corner in which to hide,
no wardrobes, no outsized drawers.
No leaden bolts nor wooden weight
to press against the doors.
No clear escape
from the shapeshifting ghoul who grows
with every step that he takes.

My only hope is outside.
I will plant my toes between roses,
feed the dirt with bloodied love
to cultivate my thorns.
In the garden, my organic armour will grow.
My dress will get torn. It will fall away,
but my petals will glow and fade to be replaced
in synchronicity with the seasons.
I will regain my freedom.
I will be safe.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

No Pain

Last night

rotted by toxins

the branch broke.

I would not have believed

that all these years of ache and tears

could be so briskly whisked away

by the last straw,

yet today

the wound

leaves no pain.

.

I haven’t posted here since the first of January; my depression has been so severe that I didn’t feel able to write. Suddenly, big changes have come into force. This post is to reassure you that I’m still breathing, and the air is clean.

©Jane Paterson Basil

 

 

The New Year Game

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Fat from festive meat
we rise from fusty beds
to saunter through the samey sales
displaying goods that we would like
and tacky trash that we don’t need
all for half of last week’s retail price.
We storm heaped halls with gastric greed
to raise our weighty store of treats,
selecting children’s food that children shouldn’t eat,
and children’s drinks that children shouldn’t drink,
adding trendy fizzy wine
in case a neighbour calls in by surprise.

As we display this toxic waste
on tables laid with paper plates,
we flick away mistakes we made in 2 0 1 and 8
and soon we celebrate the dawning of
the final slice of this decade.

Around the globe
at spaced-out times, midnight strikes.
While fireworks flash
and mobiles hum with messages of risen love
and bloodstreams pump with liquid cheer
we raise a long-legged crystal glass, and toast
the birthing of another year.

Another year, and still
next morning dawns the same as yesterday.
We wake with hopes defiled by stiffened bones and aching head,
to ascertain how easily our drunken vows
can be returned to barren dust,
to join the wasted lore of history
that sweeps,
ignored,
along the planet’s turgid crust.

Sober now, we recall
the calendar is just a tool
that helps us map the time and organise our lives.
The opening page contains no magic cure,
and yet we fling last-minute dreams
of global health and lasting peace
toward a blurry breeze each New Year’s Eve.

But if we eke out all our vows
freeing them to thrive throughout our lives;
if we strive each day to turn away from pricking pain
and reach for solidarity;
if we close our eyes to our own gain and focus on another’s needs;
if we try, at every opportunity
to make our world a kinder place,
I believe we will succeed.

.


<<@

My New Year wish for everyone:

May we all find ourselves in a kinder place in 2019 and throughout our lives.

May we all share the kindness.

<<@


 

©Jane Paterson Basil

Christmas Catatonia

Both day and night
I keep my windows opened wide,
inviting chill winter air
to reside in my bones.

Voices from outside break into my thoughts;
greetings, brief weather-based talk,
merry Christmas and goodbye.

Along the road beyond,
motorists consider last-minute gifts
they plan to buy,
While they whizz through supermarkets picking up too much food.
Soon they’ll scrape the waste into the bin,
saying that next year
they won’t get so carried away,
adding that everyone had a good time
and that’s the main thing.

In the distance, I picture busy shops,
imagine men choosing frillies and fripperies in an instant,
irate mothers queueing to pay
for Uncle Ray’s aftershave,
grandma’s pot-pourri.
While they grab extra chocolates just in case,
children wriggle,
itching for the big day.

In houses all around, parcels
pile high beneath Christmas trees.
Soon, floors will be festooned
with discarded ribbon and glittery litter.
Kitchens will be fragrant with rich flavours.
Kids will bounce and shout,
too overwhelmed to play with new toys.
Grandparents will recall when Christmas
contained both less and more.
Families will be cosy
behind closed doors.

Tables will be lined up in church halls,
serving turkey to the dispossessed.

The date for posting gifts and cards
has passed.
While there is still time
to buy gifts,
I cannot whip up a miracle
inspiring this hiccupping brain
to make it right.

With windows opened wide
I feel the winter air
bite my bones.
I focus on the cold,
noting that my emotions are not frozen,
only edged
with ice.

This year, all I can provide
is love, and a crossed-finger vow
that the ice
might melt
tomorrow.

©Jane Paterson Basil