Category Archives: poems

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

I’ll be sorry tomorrow

A small glass of wine

is perfectly fine

when you need to unwind

unless you’re the kind

who finds

themselves lying on the floor at the first sniff of alcohol, holding a one-sided conversation with the carpet, and as soon as you manage to pull yourself into a sitting position you post a poem that will embarrass you once you have sobered up.

Hic!

©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

Zero Hours Contract

Gawd save us from the clutches of the gory Tory crew.
Britannia boasts of glory but its roots is rotted froo.

They introduced austerity for us wot ‘ad the least,
An’ though suicide was risin’ they still ‘ad cheek to feast;
They stole the rights of workers til they matched the EU low,
But when us leaves the EU, what rights that’s left will go.

I lives from ‘and to mouth and I don’t know what to do
Cos I’m on a zero contract and me hours is far an’ few.
From time tuh time they calls me up an’ asks if I’s free
I jump froo ‘oops to get there when the call centre calls me.

Gawd save us from the reaches of the greedy Tory scum
Who fill their plates with tasty treats a don’t give us a crumb.

I cancels me appointments wiv the doctor and the bank
Me pain and plans for bankrup’sy mus’ take a lower rank.
I tips me scalding slops away into me chipped-up sink
An’ run to catch a bus, cos me moped’s on the blink.

I sit wiv uvver operatives in a chilly room
An’ in between the callers, me mind’s all doom and gloom.
I worry ’bout the NHS, an’ p’licin’ an’ the rest,
An’ the way that education fails at every test.

Gawd save us from the knuckles of the nasty Tory louts.
Whose silver-spoon advantages keep the riff-raff out.

I miss the last bus back an’ ‘ave to walk ‘ome in the rain,
They tells me I is lucky an’ I really can’t complain.
At least you’ve got a job, they says, but what they doesn’t see
Is that them what isn’t workin’ is better off than me.

Me mortgage isn’t paid and they say I’ll be evicted,
I can’t afford the water and a trip to court’s predicted.
I buy short-dated food, and the gluey lower brands
But the council tax is owin’, and I’m gettin’ red demands.

Gawd save us from the bludgeons of the bastard Tory bunch
We subsists on wat’ry soup while they eat steak for lunch.

I’ve only got one light bulb and me oven’s up the creek,
There’s water on me lino ‘cos a pipe has sprung a leak.
Me central ‘eating’s buggered and me bum is blue from cold
I’d go an’ sell me body, ‘cept me mirror says I’m old.

The work’ouses is gone, so that only leaves the street
An’ beggin’ for the stinkin’ rich to give us scraps to eat.
If they ha’n’t taken ev’rythin’ it wouldn’t be this way;
Though Thatchers dead, her policies live on to this day.

Gawd save us from the throwbacks of the lackey Tory pack.
Thatcher’s gang puts paid to all our efforts to turn back.

Soon I’m gonna exercise my democratic right
to say which side I wanna win a parliamentary fight.
Let’s chuck out all the Tories and ignore the libby dems,
whose opportunist antics in’t meant for us, but them.

The single issue Brexit party’s dodgy to the core,
and UKIP’s stingy racism’s a stance that I abhor,
and while I is impressed by our Jeremy’s ideals
them blue-striped Blairites in the pack is jammin’ up the wheels.

There’s several other parties takin’ part in this ‘ere race
from left to right to centre and a heap o’ about-face,
but the planet needs some lovin’ care as we all ‘ave seen,
so on the 12th December I’ll be voting Green.

Gawd save us from the clutches of the gory Tory crew.
Britannia boasts of glory but its roots is rotted froo.

©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