Category Archives: The Sandbox Challenge

I don’t understand us

deforestation-405749_960_720.jpgwe can build a brain

and yet we cannot embrace

our weeping planet


submachine-gun-new60_720we can reach the moon

yet we cannot turn ourselves

away from hatred



caught up in the flow

we race toward our demise.

stop. stand still. listen.


planet-9.jpgearth sings without need

of our accompaniment.

we are out of tune


world-342-228.jpgwe know the answers

but we pretend that we don’t.

surely we can change.


Written for Calen’s Sandbox Writing Challenge #47  “What don’t you understand?” I don’t understand what is the matter with the human race. It’s taken us millions of years to advance to the stage where we can build a vehicle which is able to travel through space and reach the moon, and make a machine which, in a fraction of a  second will answer a mathematical question that would take an average human brain years to work out, and yet we still aren’t able to keep our planet or ourselves healthy.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The envy of many


I don’t wish to be smug,
but they tell me I am the envy of many.
It’s not the aspect of the house,
although, since I restored it, it is pretty,
and it’s not the garden, carefully lanscaped and planted by me.
Neither is it the beauty of its interior;
each room was so gloomy when we moved in,
but with a lot of thought, a little flair,
and questionable assistance from my paint-splashed offspring
I redecorated it, taking care to accentuate its finer features
and scupulously removing all ill-conceived details.
I’m sure all of this helps,
but what makes my guests look wistful every time they visit
is the way the sun shines from the eyes of my four children
as they play together, and when they look at me;
the loving smile of their father, when
after a hard day at work, he greets his family,
and how eagerly we hug him back;
the way we sit at the table and chat
instead of dumbly eating in front of the TV.
It’s the pleasure we take in all we do together,
the joy in each other’s company.

Posted for The Sandbox Writing Challenge 38  Something Wonderful

©Jane Paterson Basil

To be a poet


I have always been hungry, hungry for life, for the beauty of creation, for the strange white creatures that float, forever shape shifting, in the sky,  for all of the magic things that surrounded me. They told me the world was a chemistry set, but I always knew the truth; knew it was magic.

I ate up all of the magic, the art, the literature, the trees, the wildflowers, the oxygen, the gifts of strength, balance and acrobatics, of writing, drawing and creating, swallowing magic of life in great gulps, and I thought these things were mine forever.

I was hungry for success, for fame. When, at the age of nine, I defeated Graham,the twelve year-old school bully, I gained notoriety, and that seemed like a good beginning. Being allowed on the school climbing frame when conditions were not deemed safe enough for any of the other kids made me a minor legend. My death-defying balancing tricks on the very edge of a viaduct at the tender age of thirteen increased my kudos, fascinating boys, but causing sneery, nudgy comments to drift my way from the girls’ corner. They disliked and feared strange animals such as me, and they hated the male attention I attracted.

I was considered to be an extraordinarily talented writer for my age, which was encouraging. I expected to be a famous writer one day, listed among the all-time greats – the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Somerset Maugham, et al.

I was hungry for love, or anything with a similar feel. My desire to be accepted resulted in a self-destructive politeness. Yes, I was hungry, and way off in the distance, at the end of a poker-straight path that ran uphill, I could see a banquet that could keep me fed for life. The courses were laid out for me; career success, followed by the right kind of love – the love of somebody worthwhile – security, and all kinds of interesting desserts. But there were many distractions along the way, and soon I was off the path, eating greasy chips and mass-produced sandwiches, because it seemed rude to refuse them, when it could be seen that I was hungry.

I strayed further and further down precipitous, rocky lanes, tripping, falling, righting myself, taking care not to limp in case someone may see my loss of dignity.

Most of my life has passed me by now, but here I am, trudging a lesser path, but one which is straight and narrow, though not so steep.

I have come to terms with the fact I will never again perform death-defying feats on the edge of the viaduct. In my youth it was a disused railway line, far from anywhere, but these days a main road runs along it, and if I were to attempt the acrobatics of my youth, cars would screech to a halt in a misguided effort to dissuade me from suicide.

I have come to terms with the fact that a happy marriage is not for me, and I no longer have any desire to share my life with a man. I am far happier living alone.

I still have the beauty, the art, the literature, the music, the oxygen, the wildflowers, the trees, although I rarely climb them now.

These days I only hunger for success. I hunger for my words to be recognised and respected in the wide world, because if they are not, I will never be sure whether I have earned the title of poet.

And more than anything, I hunger to know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that I am a poet.

Written for The Sandbox Challenge #33 “What do you hunger for?”

©Jane Paterson Basil

Locked and barred

This week, in the Sandbox Challenge, Calen asks us: What door have you closed in your life, and why? Will you ever open it again?

Embed from Getty Images

I used to dream of love and romance;
of marrying a reasonably handsome man
who would be the perfect companion
in every way. He would never fire me to anger
and would understand and support my many passions.
Together we would fashion our own private paradise
and he would never look twice at some big-busted bimbo
or overpriced impulse buy.
He would fill my days with laughter and smiles
and we’d while away the nights in intimate delight.
We would wish to die in each others arms
and pray there was a heaven,
so we’d never have to part.

But it all went wrong, and I gave up hope.
Now I take up my hammer and a heap of oak.
and even though I closed it six years ago or more,
I place a weighty plank across the door,
grab my tool, and drive the nails straight through.
I fix up a second plank, and then another two,
then check them and find that they’re secure,
but I add a load of screws, just to be sure.
Only now can I guarantee
that no man will ever try to romance me,
because they’ll never fight their way through the door,
and through all those heavy timbers which I pulled from my floor.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The most secret of secrets

Posted for The Sandbox Challenge


I will not leave you in ignorant bliss;
my most secret of secrets is simply this:
I don’t know whether my life is a truth
or a habitual deceit I’ve carried since my youth.
I always believe that my motives are pure
but I have never been completely sure.

In The Sandbox Challenge #21 Calen asks us to share our deepest secret. I don’t have many secrets, but this is one I don’t think I’ve shared before.

©Jane Paterson Basil

If I could

Written for Calen’s Sandbox Challenge


If I could erase anything from my persona
I would be without this sickness of spirit .
the fear, constantly digging into me.
the indignation which inflates into rage
whenever my daughter tries
to push her brother to destruction.
I would sling from my sight
the impurity of my desire for her imprisonment;
I would throw out
my pathetic impotence against the beloved enemy
as she wields her filthy weapons
in an effort to kill everything in her vicinity.

©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

Squashing my feminity

This week, in The Sandbox challenge (5) Calen asks us:

What is it about you that makes you different?

When I started making notes for this post, I had forgotten what made me different. Most of my quirks and preferences, while they may not be run-of-the-mill, are faily normal. I went back to my childhood, and that’s where I found it. My ancient – and fairly unusual – secret, although it is no longer a secret.


as a child others defined me by my differences
while blind to what lurked behind them

all the other girls twirled in skirts
experimented with illicit lipstick
giggled and trilled in pink-frilled gaggles
pulled scraps of badly stitched fabric
over Barbie’s alarmingly pointy plastic bra

not me!

mild wind whipping my hair into a tangled streak
feet so nimble I was almost flying, with reaching limbs I ran

down the drive and across the lane
jumping on the hedge and leaping
with stretched legs, my fleet feet leading me
across the stream at the edge of the field
breathing the green scent of spike-leaved grass
startling soft snouted cows, heads down, feeding, I streaked

scissoring over the electric fence
lungs straining, heart beating, legs weakening, I streaked

alongside the ancient, crouching hedge
studded by a rotting row of hawthorn and elms, I streaked

to the raised tree-filled platform beside the parent stream
my secret place, my very own forest of dreams
where no-one would find me, where I could be
who I believed I was meant to be

not a tom-boy, as others coined me, but just a boy

when my mother said I needed to wear a bra
this is where I came to cry
a boy in a bra, crying shamed girls tears
and when the next cruel womanly symptoms appeared
I wanted to slip through the leaf mould
sink into the sweet friable soil
and let the roots wrap around me
squashing my feminity

I grew up, I married, I willingly gave birth to children. I was never physically attracted to women, and yet, in my head, I was a man in a woman’s body. At the age of forty I toyed with thoughts of changing my sex, but knew it would be difficult for my daughters and son. For the first time, I talked about my feelings, to a caring young gay friend who knew me well.

I won’t go into the things that he said in response to my desperate words, but he made me realise that I was mistaken; that I didn’t want to be a man after all.

It’s tough, feeling as if you are trapped in the wrong body, but it worries me when I read of children taking hormones to for a sex-change, and having surgery. I think few people can speak on this subject with authority, but I can. While sex change has improved many lives, there are others who have regretted it. I wouldn’t advise medical or surgical assistance of this nature for a child.

©Jane Paterson Basil