Category Archives: free verse

A New Chapter

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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 I switched my computer on to find that all of the unpublished poetry I have written over the past six months – including the poem I was planning to post today – has disappeared.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…

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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.

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.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 painstaking 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 at this time of year
bright colours vacate to hot places
like Italy or Spain.
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 crisscrosses laid bare,
bereft of the layered frock
that veiled 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

Transition

Just like tormented teens
scratch secret passions in wet cement
before builders bring bricks and mortar
to smother initials framed in hearts
and pierced with cupid’d darts,
I write.

I present my abortive tales of trial
like frosted slices
of erringly early halloween cake,
but the story moves forward,
the genre transforms leaving no regret
as soon as my poetic icing is set.

Houses rise, filling the landscape,
sandwiching old ache between hidden nature
and newly fulfilled need.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Cancelled

A winter sun warms baubles
which glint as they cling
to their fingers of fragrant pine.
Thoughtful gifts lie neat
next to ripped paper.

Screaming sirens
are silenced by the peace
which sits fat on this traditional day.

Soon,
thrilled, sucrose-filled grandchildren
will demonstrate new electrical gimmicks and gismos.
We will feast while I stand firm with myself, refusing to over-eat
so I don’t ruin the treat of evening cheese.
When the table is cleared, we’ll play silly games.
As dark deepens, the children will play and the over-eighteens
will take turns to choose music,
praising or abusing the chooser of each tune.
We will all be equal;
all equally insulting, equally insulted, with one
short-lived exception; there will be
a brief act of deference when Leonard Cohen
serenades me with a single song.
We’ll tell jokes, talk movies, tastes, politics,
hand-slapping when views concur,
mock-raging when we disagree.
The racket will rise; we will be
ever more raucous until we must shout
in order to be heard.
We are united in love.
We do not celebrate quietly.
You might mistake our solid core for a battlefield,
yet it is a haven of peace and safety.
We laugh while we yell, and our laughter
describes love.

It’s time
to cease musing and leave, time
to replay the untiring Christmas theme.
I reach for my coat.

The phone rings.
I lift it, and listen
while careful words
cancel Christmas.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Paper War

“There is a war between the rich and poor” (Quote from Leonard Cohen’s song “There is a War”

We fought a paper war
to save
our children from illiteracy,
our minorities from indignity,
our poor from the trap,
our innocent from attack,
our sick from relapse,
our planet from collapse.
We fought for equality and opportunity,
for compassion and fair shares of wealth.
We fought for clean earth and breathable air.
We were cheated, defeated.
Our paper war
was fought in vain.

Now X marks the spot
where millions
forgot how elitist the heart that beats
beneath a blue rosette;
forgot its traditions, forgot
its need to quench the furnace
that feeds families’ needs,
forgot it’s self-seeking greed.
I guess they got lost in the flurry of fog
that was blown from the lips of the blustering trickster
to cover his billowing, right-wing flag.

X marks the spot where millions
punched themselves in the gut
and shot our country in the foot.

We fought a paper war.
The ballot boxes spilled their weapons
and the count began.
So many X’s etched in the same place,
landing like angry kisses,
like sarcastic, soggy smacks
soaking my face.
The media blames Brexit,
which suggests our electorate waved aside
the higher stakes
and now it’s too late to explain.
We can only say we fought bravely,
but in vain.
.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Stain

When vile truth
shatters complacency, when his pupils
shrink to obsidian pins, he will refuse
to meet your eyes.

He will mutter:
It was only once or twice, just
for fun, just to try it out, just to find out, just
to know what it was like. You’re
too old to understand but I
can handle it. It’s not
a problem.

The years and the lies trundle by,
punctuated by multiplying shades of dread
until all that appears on each succeeding page
is smudged punctuation in black, brown
and blood red.

At night, drear bundles
slump in damp sleeping bags.
Bent heads sink. Limbs sag. Limp lips
beg change to spend on the devil’s silence.
As I pass the darkened bank, a man says:
Excuse me lady, have you got any…
I swivel my head, and see
my son’s face.

Outside Tesco Express
a second voice invades my space
and though I know he’s miles away,
again, I see his face.

To keep tears at bay
I formulate rhymes whose meter
matches my pace.

I despise my weakness
and hate the unbidden ache
that hides in my skin.

I need my bed,
but I fear the demon in my pillow
which won’t let me forget.

In sleep, my mind
plays playground games,
raging and grieving in turns.
For once I dream my son uncurls.
Washed clean of the streets,
he stands tall, his flesh
advertising vitality.

My joy negates all of the pain.

Yet when I wake
I know that nothing has changed;
the blood in his punctured veins
still stains my soul.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Brother

By day
I revel in the airy treats of life
sipping up the sounds and sights
inhaling scents and relishing my simple tastes –
but through the weighty hours of night
I read to flee the waking dreams which take the place of sleep.
I read until my eyelids droop and I must fight to concentrate.
With all my will I fight to stay awake until my eyes
can no more see the script nor keep my lids
from blinding me
so by the time the pillow finds my head
my mind rests in tranquillity and I
have no more need to fight
since slumber reigns
and slumber brings me peace.

Each day I wake too late to see
the break of dawn
and as I rise I tell myself the war is done;
I say the foe is dead
and yet if I let down my guard, an ashen finger
slithers from its dusty urn to torment me.

Today I told you how my loved ones’ lives
were skewed and stunted by our enemy
like we were trees and he sent out a hurricane
that tore us from our bed of loam
to drop us on a rocky mountain top
where he controlled the heat and cold
and every time his rage burned red it singed our flesh
and every time his fury cooled
he froze us with his cutting gusts of tempered snow.

Brother,
when I saw the roughened sword clutched in your hand
and felt your longing for revenge
I said there was no more to do, yet I
am grateful for the love that prompted you to stand.
I look within my soul to find a flower blooming there
a flower sown by you
and I am less alone.

I’ve been trying to do an audio of this poem, but notifications keep pinging, and the software is a bit rough, and I don’t have a microphone – which isn’t essential since my laptop has a built-in mic, but it would improve the sound – and to cap it all, my accent sounds silly – particularly the way I enunciate words like ‘down’ and ‘sound’. To prove my point I recorded the following two sentences:

“I am renowned for round” (snigger) “brown found” (giggle) “sound. Like a hound” (snort)  “I pound the ground” (guffaw) “and flounder” (pause while I unsuccessfully attempt to create a dignified air) “as the ground” (shameless laughter) “resounds.”

You won’t get to hear the recording, or my irrepressible laughter, since, after weeks of playing with sound for the purpose of laying it at your feet, dear friends, I have finally discovered that my free WP account doesn’t support audio. It seems a shame, since I’m pleased with the way this verse flows. Try reading it out loud – see what you think.

Maybe it’s time to upgrade…

©Jane Paterson Basil