Category Archives: memoir

Free love


They called it free love,
as if it was a store giveaway – a sample to get our juices flowing,
tempting us to pay an exhorbitant price
for the full package.

They called it free,
like there’d never be a debt to pay.
For some there may not have been,
but others paid
in shame, discomfort, and broken dreams.

They called it love;
that intimate act used for the purpose of reproduction or fun,
which hitherto had been a dangerous occupation
for those who didn’t want children.
The pill made it an everyday game
to be played with whoever was available, vaguely hygienic
and sporting a twinkle.

They called it free,
but some of us felt obliged to give it away
to prove we weren’t frigid,
or afraid to rail against the aging status-quo,
or gay –
as if it mattered anyway.

They called it love,
even as they flailed, naked and indifferent,
between questionable sheets or by the gritty evening shore,
questioning whether this was the best they’d ever feel,
making fake orgasmic noises to conceal a failure
to be as they ought – or maybe that was just me.
There was no ecstasy in what I gave away.
I sweated unwillingly;
my aped eagerness a brave or cowardly act.

They called it love,
and fearing loneliness or disdain,
I partook at every disappointing opportunity,
but my heart was always loyal to yours.

They called it free love.
It’s true I was free with my body,
but you were the only one for me, the only man
who loved me enough
to wait until I wished to give myself freely,
even if that day never came.

Only you
recognised and soothed
the broken child
inside me.

Your love was truly free.


©Jane Paterson Basil

The words hurt

Today in The Sandbox Challenge (16), my wise friend Calen asks us:

If you could foresee one accomplishment in your future, what would you like it to be?

If I could only accomplish one thing for the rest of my life, it would be to get my memoir published.


when I began it seemed so easy
even when the words hurt
when the truth I had placed in those air-tight cases –
(lead-lined, so even the sour fragrance could not reach me )
escaped, attacking my face, my scalp, my
poor childish heart
felling me, bending me double –
even then I stretched my fingers again
removed my distant history
(I will harbour no excuses, no self-pity)
and continued with my woeful tale
of failure and threatening doom
until the full story was spilled

I rarely paused to think
until it was all written
I immediately began my first edit
but within minutes I wished I had
digital elbows
to electronically push away the grasping memories
which radiated through my eyes and into my gut

when I lived through those days, those years
each new terror turned a page on the last and
there was no space beside my fear for tomorrow
to meditate on yesterday
but it never went away
it just waited until I was ready to pull it all out
examine it
and although I wished I had never begun
still I continued,
through my second and even my third edit
even to my fourth
but with forty pages to go I am sore all over
and though eager to complete the healing process
I have slowed to a stop
I want to rest

but every day I delay
could take away an opportunity
to make a difference in some small corner of the world
my story could help someone
in some tiny way

©Jane Paterson Basil

Fifty thousand words


fifty thousand words of pain and shame
fifty thousand words begin to tell my tale
revealing so many dark secrets and failures
five decades of history written but not yet finished
while half-remembered incidents swirl, churning me inside
rising, clarifying, adhering to the surface of my mind
I sniff back a million tears which have lain hidden
behind my eyelids, building up these fifty years
into a river which tickles beneath my skin
and clings within me, whispering
“I am in your imagination
in your wish for attention. I am not real.”
they wriggle and swish, they take the piss
cruelly telling me to retain my dignity
hinting that if I cry it will be for sympathy
to fulfil my desire for flimsy dissipation
my clinging need to hear the music
in one simple sentence
“Oh, you poor thing.”
these are lies
like those which
for so many years
have attacked
my ears

I know

©Jane Paterson Basil