Category Archives: prose poetry

Entertainment

Some homes boast a TV in every room, some have three or four, others have just two. A few have but one.

I have none.

I watch a shapeshifting cloud, while low in the sky, the golden sun sinks.

Hiding behind a hill, it sends its rays to paint the horizon a soft shade of peach, lightly touched with lilac streaks.

The cloud changes shape from a cute pup into a hand held up in a farewell salute, but though it dissipates with the dusk, the show is not over.

The streaks have darkened to mauve; they eat the peach, their gases swelling, and as they grow, they meet to become a deepening sheet across the sky.

On the road, cars flash by, their headlights lighting up the leaves on the trees.

It is night, and reflections make complex patterns on my window; glassy imprints of my interior merge with the sleepy town and the midnight sky.

I revel in the eclectic shapes of my world, and the pictures which change as I move about the room.

Some folks feel the need for four TVs, or three, or two, or only one.

As for me, I need none.

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Photo taken from my window at night – not a clear depiction; it was taken with my Samsung Galaxy, so the balance the reflection and the outside world is very diferent to what I see, and far less interesting.

The Daily Post #None

©Jane Paterson Basil

Leaving home

leaving home

Whenwe  left the smog of the city to live in this backwater place, I lay curled in my mother’s womb. Although my family was looked upon as foreign by the rural folk, this is the only home I’ve ever known. As the popoulation grew, attracting those from distant towns and counties, I rose from my outsider status to become a local. My roots struggled to find a way through the stony soil, and tenaciously they clung. My four children came into being, and were raised here; seeds of the next generation which now thrives. All of my descendants save for one – my grandson, currently at University – are within this ancient burrough, within easy reach of me.

My daughter is at the graveside of her beloved, saying goodbye. Her bags are packed. I put them in the car, to save having to slog later. I come back to the flat and switch on my laptop. It’s slow to warm up, so I go to the bedroom to apply some hand lotion, and see the gap where her possessions had been.

With a jolt similar to a jagged bolt of electricity, it hits me. Aged thirty-one, my little girl  is leaving home.

Written for The Daily Post #Jolt

©Jane Paterson Basil

Free love

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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.

xxx

©Jane Paterson Basil

Building Stockholm

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“Capture me,” he said. “Make me your slave. Step on my face, take my wages, make me pay to decorate your mansion. Please, make me your slave.”

“Please, make me your slave… please.”

She listened, too mean and greedy to resist. Together they built a Stockholm den. He sweated and whimpered, lifting bricks, slipping in his dripping blood, while she became the cream of screamers, the boss of abuse, and he, the  castrated, slave.  

His bones grew old with her; grew cold beside the witch’s bitter flesh, her skin, thickened by chill trickery, folded into wrinkles. Her manifold control led him to an empty den, where he felt the chill of twenty winters, his distant gaze forever skimming the unreached heat of as many summer seasons.

From his dungeon, he dreamed of plump women primping in flimsy summer silk, stained the colour of dimpled sex – stilettoed angels riding white geldings – and wishes one would save him.

She’d speak soft words of love, and he’d lay roses on a pillow, where golden hair flowed into his eternity. His prison would lie between clean, scented thighs, and he would gleefully serve his time, hearing her whisper:
“Be mine,
forever, be mine.”

His bones grew old with the witch; yet still blood heated the extremities each time he dreamed of sheer summer silk.

A minor mission leads you past his prison, maybe a wish for milk, or a brisk stride. You ride no mutilated horse, wear no silk, own no stilettos, but his eyes strip off your crisp linen, remove your blue denim, dress you in red, give you stick-on angel wings, and sit you on a neutered white equine.

And yet: “Capture me,” he begs you, “make me your slave. Step on my face, take my wages, make me pay to decorate your mansion. Please, make me your slave.”

Through rusting bars he gives gifts of flowers and sweet promises, seeing your key, and thinking you will use it to set him free.

His education doesn’t run to Stockholm syndrome, and you’re not that bothered anyway. Figuring he should find his own way out, you amuse yourself, running a bunch of keys across the rusting rods, as he reaches, hungrily, for you, on lucky days grabbing your hand, or clumsily caressing a strand of hair, but Stockholm syndrome holds him there, between he who he has shaped into an angel, and the witch. After some months have passed in this way, frustration, desperation, love, or lust leads him to bend the thin bars, and – with a guilty glance at his ugly captor – step out of his den.

You shrug. Even if it mattered, it would be too late, and it doesn’t matter anyway. But you have been dragged into the game of three, so you play in some indifferent way, while the witch grinds her teeth, and retreats into the west to plan her strategy.

He looks to the East, where golden hair flows into his obsolete eternity.

“Capture me,” he cries. “Make me your slave. Step on my face, take my wages, make me pay to decorate your mansion. Please, make me your slave.”

The crone’s old-fashioned three-fold plan is drawn; mildly entertained, you fold your false wings and watch the first wet offensive, as raging rhetoric foams and spits from her aging throat, only to be pressed back by his desire for those sweeter meats which have driven Stockholm Syndrome into a deep sleep.

Next, she sets the spoilt daughter on him; wraps her round his neck, but Stockholm Syndrome sleeps on, letting him wriggle free, but she – seeing symptoms of weakening – leaps, feet flying, into her final, foolish strategy.

Crying like a crocodile, she says she’s sorry for the misery she imposed – the daily dose of insults, the criminal damage, the black-and-blue bruising, the theft and the greed. She claims she has seen the light, and promises that from this day on, she will worship at his feet.

Stockholm Syndrome stirs and is woken by pity. He forgets she is a scheming witch, and though he has no wish to be with her, his wilfulness bends to her will.

He finds you on your imposed gelding, and begs to keep your friendship, hints at secret meetings. His body speaks louder than his lips. His tears dampen your wings, loosening them. A weight is lifted from your back as they flutter and fly, to be taken by the wind.

“Capture me,” he murmers. “Make me your slave. Step on my face, take my wages, make me pay to decorate your mansion. Please, make me your slave.”

Yet he seems to think the wings still cling, and to believe he needs to be sweetly enfolded in them, though his deepest wish -hidden only from him – is to be squeezed between them, so tight that he can’t breathe. He can’t perceive his own strange, dank deviance.

You  think of the many symptoms of his extreme idiocy, and you give him a pitiful smile. He is declaring his unending love even as you turn away, refusing to make him your slave.

The witch approaches, and rubs her skin against his. At his first flinch, she knows that her victory is hollow. She has won his company, but lost most of the control he teasingly forced upon her. He loves you, and it shall ever be so, but you wouldn’t make him your slave, so he returned to the only Stockholm he will ever know.

At last they have a couple of things in common. They watch each other from opposite ends of the room, staring, glaring through icy eyes, and they cry, each for their own, lonely loss. They share a supreme, stupendous, mutual stupidity, of which they had both shown strong symptoms from the beginning. He’s afraid to leave, and she refuses to let go.

And what of you? Fortuously stripped of your silly, misfitting wings, you feel whole. You give a wicked grin, you are happy to be free of the idiosy, but you do not forgive rejection. Walking beneath their window, you raise your voice and sing:

You hear the clear, painful clink of twin sets of chains. A naughty giggle escapes your throat, to grow and become an uncontrollable guffaw, as you picture two puppets pulling each other’s strings, and becoming hopelessly entangled, and you know they are both to blame.

An echo fills the air: “Capture me, make me your slave. Step on my face, take my wages, make me pay to decorate your mansion. Please, make me your slave.”

“Please, make me your slave… please.”

 Laughing heartlessly, you step up your pace, and walk jauntily away.

Written for The Daily Post #Symptom

Stockholm syndrome is a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity. These feelings, resulting from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time spent together, are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims. Generally speaking, Stockholm syndrome consists of “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” – Wikipedia

©Jane Paterson Basil

Out there (Stream of Conciousness)

Out there.jpg

In the enclosure below, white buses wait for children playing soldiers, intending to defend a country that doesn’t know where it’s going. Behind red brick and jagged wire, Army green shreds of a greedy empire cling, ragged, to their skin. Sergeants scream at lagging lads, as the keen stand to attention, toy guns polished and ready for the killing game, never questioning that they are on the right side. Whatever the cause, they will blunt their bloodied swords and raise the tainted flag of false victory, as the foe breathes his final breath, to find the only peace he will ever know, in death. Yes, they will say they have killed the beast, yet our fear will continue to fester, until we learn to live together.

Along the road, cars drive by, intent on many urgent or indifferent missions, while buses carry harried housewives home with their cache of nutritious food; but I am forgetting – those days have receded into history. The women are working, or fearfully trailing, to the Jobcentre to be sanctioned for something they didn’t understand, wondering how they will buy bread next week, knowing they may have to join what they see as the queue of shame for a free food handout. These days, the buses drag students to and from uncertain lessons in subjects they don’t want to learn, and can’t, because the courses are substandard, except for the fortunate few, who have up-to-date tutors and superior curricula.

Meanwhile, in a city we used to call The Smoke, due to the smog that hung over it, parliament buildings rumble with government people who shoulder the true blame, yet walk without shame. They jumble justice and shuffle the cards; each card bearing the name of an unwilling servant whose choice has been stolen by corrupt officers with too many ticks in too many boxes, pencilled in by people who thought only to make their own lives richer, but didn’t think to look for the truth behind the lies. Too late to take back the mistake they made, their spirits turn to sludge as they trudge though Satan’s paperwork, getting tripped at every step.

Outside, rain dulls the senses, though the day is brightened by a fading line of bright sky on the horizon. Through dripping windows I watch the traffic lights go by, to sweep around the roundabout nearby.

Suddenly I catch sight of the golden glow on the central island, and I wonder how, or why, it passed me by. My eyes are awash with yellow narcissi, trumpeting silently, promising that Spring will come, as it always does.

I feel shame; it is the daffodils, and not me, which have become the change I want to see.

I let the feeling trickle through me, feed me, maybe improve me.

The rain ceases, the sun shows its face, painting the sky blue again, making the trees glisten with drops of nature’s liquid saviour.

The world turns at its usual speed, and even with our destructive nature, we are tiny, and we cannot slow it. We can kill the deer, and ourselves, but the planet will endure until infinite space holds up its hand.

But that is not enough for the deer,  or for you and me.

Image: The least attractive  portion of the view from my window, showing the army cadet building on the right, with the white buses below, and the daffodils on the traffic island behind.In summer the trees cover a lot af the scene, leading the eye toward green hills on the horizon.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Recovery

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Last year, though drug-riddled and ill, still she wanted to please me. She saw a vintage sewing machine – my favourite make – in the window of a charity shop. She thought of me, and asked to see the manager, who told her she could put down a deposit. The manager knew it was for me – we go way back to schooldays, when we used to spend our weekends together, sitting on five-bar gates, swinging our legs, flaunting our budding sexuality, watching cars go by, and getting into scrapes with unsuitable dates, using each other as an excuse for escape. But that’s another story.

When I next saw Laura, she asked me if I would like a sewing machine, and I gruffly said that all I wanted for my birthday was for her to be clean.

She bought the machine anyway. It weighed a ton, but she carried it back to my flat, and I was grateful. It was beautiful, and worked like a dream. I thanked her, gave her a hug and told her I loved her, but I couldn’t resist smiling sadly, and saying, “Maybe I’ll get that other gift next year.”

I turned 62 yesterday. She gave me a book and a lovely card, hand-made by her, but most important of all, she delivered the miraculous gift I had been longing for.

Laura is clean.

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Laura was a child of spirit, born into a world of flesh, and she didn’t adapt in the way that most of us do. She spent her childhood confused and unhappy, but she was brave. She tried to fit into a world that understood her no more than she understood it. She was beaten down, time after time. The day came when she couldn’t take another beating, and she turned to street-medication.

She has felt, and witnessed, things that we cannot imagine. She knows what the bottom of the pit looks like, because she’s been there – in a place where we have never been, because our hearts beat differently.

I knew that she had to witness pure darkness before she could see the light, so I turned away from her. It was horrible – I looked down on her from my safe window, saw her staggering by, and felt my insides shredding. I coped by being angry, by feigning indifference, by talking to Serenity, my mannequin, by chanting affirmations – any way I could, I coped. I woke some mornings terrified that she may have died in the night, all alone – yet knowing she hadn’t, as I would have felt it as her life ebbed away.

She was sliding on black ice. She slid until there she was in utter darkness, with her eyes closed. When she opened them again, there were glints of light twinkling in the distance – not one, but many. There was her boyfriend Joe, me, her sister, Sarah, and other family members who never stopped loving her – and not only those, there were many – twinkling away, in this country, and all over the world – in America, Australia, Canada, Africa. I hope you all know who you are – all you who sent your good wishes, your healing thoughts, your love and your prayers – she saw your light. I know I’ve mentioned it several times, but I can’t get over what you have all done for her.

Laura’s 31 now. She’s no longer a schoolgirl; she no longer has to try to fit into a tight box for the convenience of school or society. She can practice her own unique dance, and she will be admired for it. She’s been burnt and frozen by life. She’s been cut, bruised,and fractured, but her scars make her more beautiful. She is her own person, brave, strong and creative. She’ll achieve her own kind of greatness.

Joe says that when the world points its finger and speaks of the mistakes of others, they speak out of ignorance. They don’t know the background. They don’t know that what they call a mistake may have been the right thing for the individual at that particular time, or that it may have seemed like the only choice available. I think he’s right.

We have a lot to learn from those who have climbed out of that dark pit.

I’m in shock, and for once it’s happy shock. I keep finding myself smiling about nothing – except that it’s not nothing. It’s all-consuming.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Foul Frederick

When they cut the dead men down from the gallows they carry them to Newgate cemetary, and throw them into a pit where the tangled limbs of unnamed, unclaimed and unwanted convicts rot and stink in one mass grave.

On hallows eve each spirit disencumbers his crumbling bones from those of his neighbours, to walk alone, as, following his nature, he haunts, punishing those mortals who cannot forget him, or visiting those for whom he aches. Some malicious ghosts with a taste for tradition shamble in rattling chains, making a cacophoninous clank which grabs at the entrails of all unfortunate folk who hear, leaving them quaking in fear. Others, with theatrical flair, can be seen only through the corner of the eye; they disappear at the turn of the head. These phantom tricksters rustle papers in the corner of the room. They requisition the wind, which swings windows wide open. They slam doors shut. They sigh and moan while an eerie chill fills the firelit cheer.

Many of the victims of the hangman’s noose are innocent of the crime for which they were convicted and killed. Lost in endless misery they drift, desperate for deliverance from their dragging affliction. They appear in dreams, to be half-remembered when we awake in the deep of the night. Their stories slip and slide in our minds as we try to hold tight to them. In the morning they are an insubstantial smoky wisp which drifts, thins in the atmosphere, then disappears.

Foul Frederick steps on fetid limbs as they reach for the lip of the grave, kicking them back in, to land, bone on bone, with a clatter on the weakest, who wait their turn. With every kind of weapon, with fists and teeth and squeezing hands he murdered friends and foes and strangers, showing no favoritism, and less sympathy. He needs no sweet lips to smile at him, no kiss to warm his breath. He lived for the thrill of bringing screaming death to those who crossed his path. The people of London celebrated on the day that he was hanged.

The dread demon ghoul could have been a teacher in a ghostly school for all the tricks he knows. But he tutors nobody. His skills are for him alone. See him roam the darkened roads, grabbing the throats of foolish folk and desperate souls who walk the Newgate streets at night, lost and cold or reeling drunk, all of them fodder for his hungry hands. But this is no more than an hors d’oeurve. He hunts the pockets of the slumped body for a knife, and when he finds it, he is in his element.

Dawn finds Foul Frederick daubed in damp scarlet rags, beneath the soil, contentedly rotting away until next year’s joyous party, while the blood of last night’s losers soaks into the bones of innocent and guilty victims of Newgate Gaol.

On November 1st every year, screams and weeping echo through the streets of Newgate, strangled and slashed bodies are removed, blood is washed from the streets, and the hunt for the Halloween killer is renewed.

The Daily Post #Eerie

©Jane Paterson Basil