Category Archives: Poetry

The Theatre of Life

Sometimes
I feel like a bad actor 
in a play I thought not to rehearse. 
fudging my lines, 
smudging the plot.
Sometimes  my mind slides to 
a distant place and time
and I forget I'm on stage.
The fans must surely 
perceive I'm a sham.

Sometimes it's like
I've failed an audition
for a part in a thing called The Human Race
and having been banned 
from the theatre of life
                                       due to some kind 
                                        of failure or something I lack 
                                        that no-one explained
                                        and I don't understand
I've broken through the roof 
and am watching the acts
with my back to a grey-blue sky.

                                        Sometimes 
                                        I see evil, destruction,
                                       hunger, need and corruption
                                       and I find myself screaming again and again
                                       Not In My Name
                                       Not In My Name.
                                       At least it was not me
                                      who stole a killers role in the play.

Sometimes I know I am inept with those 
who sprang from my womb 
and I think of the myriad ways 
in which I have failed, yet 
I see 
their wisdom,  insight and grace
and feel forgiven.
I am inept with friends 
yet they see me, understand, love
the why and what of who I am.
Even strangers like 
the incomplete face I display to the world,
so I leap from my peeper's perch,
my alien ship,
to embrace the living earth.

Sometimes I cognise, re-cognise
I belong.
I am real.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Improvidence

Today 
             fell
into paperback fiction, bled 
into bundles of black ink sheets
each smudged moment
mutely becoming my shamed history.

Once 
I might have wished
to re-read the book in reverse;
to sweep today's waste  
into my hands, re-absorb 
those hours and minutes:
recycle them to better use. Once 
I would have felt remorse 
but today I shrug, 
say I enjoyed the read 
and brew a cup 
of Earl Grey. 

Such improvidence on my part:
in prime my feet 
paced trusty ground.
Now I stand small at the base 
of a vast hourglass whose sand sifts 
over my face
                            to smother my  sagging flesh.
.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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

Fairer Sex

A beautifully crafted poem penned by my guest poet, PW.

Abuse can take so many forms
the worst of which a bitch that's scorned
who shoots untruths from lips not hip each time her man takes stand or slips.

Her hands hold grip around your throat and with her words she bounds and chokes. No room to breathe, your freedom gone and with it youth, the truth along
with peace of mind and decent times - deceit then reaps to beat you blind. So blind in fact your tragic eyes can't see the traps or magic die.

Imagine why, I can't, can you? She kills the thrill of love so true then blues come back with blackness too to swallow up and hollow you. On borrowed time, the signs were clear as years of tears had disappeared the hope you held so very tight to live and love and bury spite. My plight can't end, my friends are hers to bend and break, my mates dispersed and curse me now just how she likes while I bleed red on beds of spikes.

She fed them lies and tied them well while hellish bouts of shouts and yells consume me still and fill my mind, an ever-growing hill to climb. So now I know, I start to grow and leave behind the crime and crows and start out fresh the best I can but torn, I warn the rest of man - don't be a sap, this patterns old. Be bold and brave, don't slave or fold and hold your head up high and cope, don't mope, just mend. I'm sending hope.

©PW

PW’s heartrending verse highlights the sad fact that men – as well as women – are sometimes subjected to repeated acts of abuse… yet their voices are rarely heard or listened to.

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

Poor Old Santa

Written for Word Of The Day Challenge: Reflect

With apologies to the oft-disputed author of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

 It's a dim little Christmas we're having this year,
 stranded from family and friends we hold dear.
 Factions are splattered all over the place,  
 there is fear and denial, ragr and bad grace.
 World leaders sit haggard on prickly fence
 while scientists struggle to make them see sense.
 Conspiracy geeks prittle predictable prattle
 and the papers continue to treat us like cattle.
 Mother is shielding and father is fraught
 by the dreadful cost of the gifts that he bought.
 Business is failing, his debts are a-growing,
 since Covid put paid to the seeds he was sowing.
 His children are sleeping in confident bliss
 faithfully dreaming of generous gifts.
 Santa has packed up his sleigh with great care,
 he's padlocked his storehouse and fed his reindeer.
 He's flying up high on his usual rounds;
 although visits are tricky, he won't let us down.
 Since rulings preclude him from entering chimneys
 he drops down the presents and flies away nimbly,
 with a groan in his throat and a tear in his eye;
 he'd be glad of a drink or a lovely mince pie,
 to fill his fat belly and give his heart ease -
 but he cannot risk catching a nasty disease.
 As he smoothly directs his crew through the air,
 he's pleased to be giving but filled with despair.
 He reflects that it's been a difficult year:
 There's lots of goodwill, but damn little cheer.   

©Jane Paterson Basil