Category Archives: prose poetry

Wake Up.

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— Wake up. Please don’t sleep. The danger isn’t over.

Helplessly, I hang above my prone body, trying to communicate an urgent message to my brain. I’ve come so far, endured storms that threw me from the boat to struggle and choke in chilling water, sun that seared and flayed my salty skin, thirst that forced me to drink my own urine. My food supply was washed away even before I lost count of the days. Sometimes my grip on sanity has drifted off on the monotonous waves that can turn so suddenly into evil monsters determined to drag me down to the bottom of the sea, to become a fishes’ feast.

Yes, I’ve come so far, and survived many perils, and now, unconscious of any danger, I sleep soundly on the beach, lulled by the slipping solidity of sand, as the waves sneak relentlessly closer to me.

— Please wake up. Don’t sleep. Please.

They’re intent on stealing me away. See how they swell, snapping at my flaccid ankles. A huge breaker approaches, building in size and strength as it comes closer. Like a giant claw, it curls above my body, crashes over the whole of me, drags me toward it, shifting the fine sand, before losing its grip. In an instant I’m back inside myself. I wake as my spirit returns to that hidden place within me.

Salt water stings my eyes and burns my throat, making me retch. An urgent scrabble, on hands and knees, conveys me up the beach.

From the safety of a sand dune. I watch the ocean carry away the broken remnants of my boat.

Written for Michelle’s Photo Fiction #98.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Symphony of Life

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The sea whispers in the distance, its waves telling tales of where it has been, all it has seen; our history crowding its every note.

Listen as the waves hiss toward the shore, each one inching forward a little more before crashing with a shoosh, raising a subtle rustle as sand shifts and smashed specks of shell swoop and rollick in salt water, sinking to silence as stillness momentarily descends, ready for the next wave to skiffle them again.

Seagulls circle, searching for fish, their racket rising to a crescendo, then calming from screech to squawk when they spot a shoal.

Listen to the Beach balls bounce as mothers squirt and slather sunscreen. Small feet splash in little land-locked lakes, young throats vibrate with laughter and high-pitched screams until ice cream time arrives, accompanied yummy hums and dripping, slurpy licks.

Listen to the beach orchestra as it plays its holiday symphony.

Somewhere, in a far away forest, cheeky breezes tickle tunes from the leaves of trees; a startled stag crashes through bracken; small creatures scratch and creep; rain taps on all it can reach; branches creak; a distant storm rumbles and cracks, but this equally complex piece can be replayed some other day.

.

Written for The Daily Post #Symphony

©Jane Paterson Basil

Another Beer

He swallows another beer as he wallows in loss of a broken doll that he never wished to repair; to mend it would be to lose it forever, and to forego his fun.

He opens another can as he drunkenly hunts for a plan to win her back.

A hundred pounds should seal the deal. The doll will feel a dash of guilt or greed. He’ll sow the seed in her account and it is bound to yield. She’ll buy a bag and run to heel. It cannot fail. By next weekend he’ll possess her again.

But what is this? It’s all going wrong. She told her she’s happy where she is. She doesn’t want the hundred quid and doesn’t want to hear from him.

He drinks another beer and has another think. Another hundred quid should do it. He knows her sort, they’re no better than they aught to be, and that’s why they keep him warm in bed. They’ll do anything for some squid to buy a day’s escape from pain.

She reminds him it’s over, that he doesn’t know her, he only remembers an addict he thought he could buy, and though she can’t recall the sordid details, and can’t recognise the person she was now she’s found a different life, he should know she was only for hire, and the lease has expired. Her body is her own private property, as are her mind and her soul. None of her form, functions or faculties have any connection with him.

He feels frustrated so he takes a break, and has another drink.

Now he is angry, and soon, so is she. Another hundred unsolicited smackers in her bank account, yet still she won’t listen. She should have crumbled and spent it on gear. He’ll speak to her mother; he’s convinced he has tricked her, she thinks he’s a charmer, with his grammar school twang and his good education. She will believe him when he spins his tale.

So he’s texting her mother to say that if she doesn’t help him, she’s not the mother that she should be. He writes that he is in love with her daughter, and adds “You should send her to me.”

His mother succinctly explains (most politely) that he is a git and a pervert also, and that she’s always known it, but had to go slowly and retain his trust, ’til she got her daughter out of his clutches. She’s pleased she’s succeeded, and says that she hopes he will leave well alone. She mentions his age and compares it to daughter’s, she points out the difference of thirty three years, says she’s aware of his filthy intentions, wishes him well and she puts down the phone.

So he necks another beer.

His left arm possessively clutches a bucket of fine filmy dust while his right hand hurls mouldering tatters of insults and sick psycho tricks which harmlessly sink through the rug at their feet. He shouts and he swears and spits evil invective. He threatens to stab them and shoot them and send out police to arrest them…

Pardon me, could you repeat that last piece?

Stab them and shoot them and send out police?

What, all three?

And how will he find them? He has no address.

They were very upset, but now they are laughing. Three months of plotting and drunken scheming and now he is screaming arid threats. Can he do no better than that?

Somewhere in a lonely town, he chokes on his beer…

and the brave phoenix extracts a heap of cash from the bank, slaps it into the hand of a representative of a cherished charity. She modestly waves away the receipt, and whispers “A stranger gave it to me. He thought I looked a bit like someone he knew. He refused to take it back. There was nothing I could do.”

She turns to leave, but briefly turns back. Smiling, she says “Free.”

At last she is free.

.

Quid:- one pound sterling.
Squid:- same as quid.
Gear:- heroin.

©Jane Paterson Basil

A Flurry of Dust

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This is all that is familiar; this prison and its skeletons, the barren garden, and the gate; the gate, its frame aggressively clinging to walls too high to climb, its peeled paint drawing the shape of a threatening grin, its rusty padlock keeping her in, and the knothole in the middle, like a single eye, watching her as she plots.

She makes scattered plans that she doesn’t believe in; she’ll scale the wall too high to climb, smash the locked gate, eradicate its seeing eye.

Her brain is distracted by the ticking of a long gone grandfather clock.

Yellow macs and matching hats and days when rain brought indoor games and laughter shaped her every day and noses pressed upon the panes. Breathing misty, steamy shapes, fingers doodling crude cartoons, dismissing hints of stormy gloom, while mother in another room cooked a meal and baked up treats, and weekends seemed to last all week and freedom was a word she heard, and she believed that it referred to prisoners set free, but now she knows that it described the way life used to be.

She shakes away the memories, looks through her glazed prison window, scrabbling for the gist of her plan. Like all others, it has crumbled, or it lurks in the towering wall, somewhere in the cracks where dusky shadows imitate the faces of those she has known.

But no, the past cannot free her now.

Staying inside where she feels safe, she studies the gate, muddied by splashing rain. She longs for escape, but has no faith in her capabilities, so she waits for something to change; for the hinges to give, the padlock to rot away, the timber to splinter and break; meanwhile occupying her spare time with dreams of what has been.

Years go by. Time paints the grime of existence on her window pane. Spiders weave their webs and hide in wait for flies. Bit by bit, her view of the gate is obliterated . Coming to terms with the increasing murk,  she gives up on the window.

Drips from yesterday’s deluge leave a fading patch on the floor. Above it, bright canary coats and hats hang against the door. Scribbles appear in the glazed mist, brightened by a backdrop of trees rinsed clean by a summer shower. She holds a tea party for plastic people with vintage clothes and poseable limbs, plays tic-tac-toe with her sister, totters, giggling, in grown-up clothes and shoes. She revels in the sound of laughter; feels it teasing her throat. She inhales the scent of vanilla. Her  mother calls from the pantry, and she follows the aroma of freshly baked cakes.

Beside the gate, a dandelion breaks through arid land; its brave petals opening to embrace life. The gate swings wide, and the world waits outside for one whose sentence was self imposed. The bolt had not been shot. The gate had not been locked.

Yet, free at last, her spirit eats cake, savouring every last crumb, while in the lonely room, her body slumps, to be welcomed by a flurry of dust motes which briefly float free, and with soft caress, come to rest on her cooling flesh.

The Daily Post #Gate

©Jane Paterson Basil

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

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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