Category Archives: word prompt

Exhaustion

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Commitments and decisions
swirl in a simmering curry of confusion.
Bubbles pop, spices sting the eyes.
Exhaustion blurs the colours
into sludge, sprinkled
with thrilling spots of glitter.
I dare not explore the flavours
or add the smallest a dash of doubt;
it is my duty
simply to cook each course to perfection,
not ignoring a single side-dish.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Chiaroscuro

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I soaked up a soggy sense of betrayal
each time I failed to find a toenail gap
between cruel cuts of shrapnel and scorched waste –
a haven where red-eyed ash and steely scraps
did not mingle or seek to compete,
where nature remained unscathed.

Whispering, I would inquire:
who am I, and why?

Feel like a downy feather,
 fallen from an eagle’s wing, floating
in a pool of happenstance dirt.

Feel like the cracked shell
of an oyster that shaped a pearl from
a grain of sand.

Feel like a blade of grass
waiting for chance to decide whether
I may remain upright, or be crushed.

Feel like a bee searching
for honey on the surface of a gilt-framed
landscape depicting summer’s haze.

I have been patient amid the chaos
waiting to find the silence that would allow a reply
and today my answer was delivered to me:

I am a dark and light animal,
shaded to reflect this chiaroscuro planet.

We all contain darkness and light.
These qualities make the patterns which illuminate colour and scale.
They allow us life and give us sight.

I will still try to give the light a brighter hue
and cast some warmth within the dusk,
even as my limitations become clear to me;
I am so much more than dust, but
so much less than deity.

©Jane Paterson Basil

This Time

 

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Year upon year, you have held me
in a cunning grip, trapped against my wishes
in this ugly
c
o
r
n e r.

Each time my eye locked upon a possible escape route,
you blocked it like a shot from a gun armed
by a mindless robot.

A small crack in the wall
winks its way into my thoughts, begging consideration.
It may have been there all along,
but I missed it

until
today.

Perhaps it was made by the shock of your last
artful attack.

Even the shameful blush on your face
was a rude sham to manipulate me.
The abuse leaves no bruises
but it sure scars the soul.

The split is too small for you to to see, or maybe
you think me too clumsy to squeeze through.

Your skills of observation are blunted by self-obsession.
If you cared, you’d be aware that the stress
has flayed away my excess flesh.
I only need the strength to walk through
this small fissure.

I won’t crawl or beg for empathy;
it never helped before.
A hidden trace of dignity remains;
this, I must display.

When I gain my freedom,
I hope to grow so tall that you will never consider
torturing me again.

Rather, if a heart still beats in your selfish chest,
you might choose to nurture me.
If not, my child,
I shall be bereft, but our planet
will continue to breathe,

and so shall I.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Gravity

It’s like an egg breaking inside your head;
a sudden flood that controls your mind, telling you
to run to the window and dive
down
down
down
to the soulless ground below.
In the instant before your thoughts recover,
you move across the room, ready
to turn your eggy impulse into messy reality.

Out of step with the moment, you feel
the shock of the drop forcing you
to release all oxygen from your lungs, though you want
to draw a greedy last gasp of cool air before
the end… and then you realise
it hasn’t happened yet.

Grasping for sanity, you clutch the back of a dining chair.
You shudder, knowing how close it was this time,
and you wonder, had you jumped,
how desperately would you regret your imminent death
in the few seconds before the concrete smashed your skull to shreds,
and would those seconds stretch
into eternity?

©Jane Paterson Basil

Fire and Snow

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From my window, I watch the snow as it dances to the tune of the wind. Unhurried, it rises and sinks, slowly floating toward the ground. It seems too casual to weave a thick blanket, yet the ground becomes increasingly white. Please let me be snowed-in tomorrow. Let the roads be impassable.

If I do much more, I fear I might end up throwing all of my possessions out of the window onto the garden below.

When they ask me why I did it I’ll tell them they are no longer required. If they mention the damage to the flowers, I’ll tell them that they are no longer required, either.

I’ve spent weeks trying to clear my ex-partner’s house on my own. He died a couple of months ago. My son lived there with his girlfriend and he’s been given notice to quit as it’s a rented property. So far, Paul is incapable of making any decisions about what to keep and what to discard. He didn’t want to let anything go until he’d decided, so I’ve been piling his dad’s stuff in my small flat.

I haven’t got room for all of the furniture, and Paul won’t need most of it anyway, so my daughter and her fiance drove down to help, over the weekend. We took some stuff to a charity shop, and we brought a lot over to my small flat. Laura and Dave have been wonderful. I don’t know what I’d have done without their help. I don’t even drive.

It was too late to arrange for any of the charity shops to take anything away, so on Saturday night we had a massive bonfire. It wasn’t my idea, but I was beyond caring. A sofa, three reclining chairs, two leather armchairs, a king-size bed and a lot of other items were burnt to a cinder. There was still more than enough left to fill a one-bedroom flat.

That was intended to be the end of my duties. They have to be out tomorrow. Paul’s girlfriend’s father had vaguely agreed to hire a van for today and tomorrow, collect the things they wanted to keep, and put them in his storage unit. He was also going to dump what was left over. I had a premonition that he would let them down. I was right. I don’t think he ever really intended to help. He’s not even going to let them use his storage unit.

My nephew and sister-in-spirit have kindly agreed to step into the breach. We have nowhere to put the items like the cooker, fridge, freezer, washing machine, a large chest of drawers and their bed, so I’m hoping the landlord of the house we’re clearing will agree to let us store it in the shed outside the house. The place will have to be gutted before it’s fit for new tenants, which will take a while.

We’ll collect their clothes and personal items. I’ll have to somehow find space for them in my flat until they are rehoused. It’s a good thing I’m a genius when it comes to space-saving. I spent today neatly packing what I already have of theirs into the smallest area possible (this includes and Ikea chest of drawers, two Ikea cupboard units, two tall shelf units, a large coffee table, a wardrobe,some smaller pieces of furniture and a lot of boxes of sundries), and separating what I think they won’t immediately need.

My living-room sofa is piled up with bags of goods to be delivered to Oxfam. Under the window I have boxes of tools which I hope to find a home for. By tomorrow evening, I doubt that there’ll be more than a narrow corridor between my bedroom door and my bed. Owing to Paul’s mental health issues, the council are legally bound to rehouse them, so from tomorrow night they should have temporary accommodation. I hope they get rehoused soon.

Until I spoke to my nephew, about twenty minutes ago, I was almost at the end of my tether. I was afraid to allow myself to cry. If I gave in to it now, I might never stop.

Exhaustion is making me weak: I’m bending in the direction of  self-pity.

Mothering never ends.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Conflicting Emotions

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Conflicting emotions cluster,
stumbling through grey matter, 
as they fight to be top of the pile.
Low thoughts, high thoughts,
where, how and why thoughts.
Grief and elation, hell and damnation,
botched conversations, recovered relations,
lost revelations, failed determination,
dead ideas and un-shed tears,
day-to day chores and clamouring causes
 all perspire
   while they battle for regard,
       colours blurring to mustard and rust,
               verity becoming encrusted
                           in the annals
                                         of my mind.



©Jane Paterson Basil

Bus Driver

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Dear driver, you
don’t know me;

Maybe you dislike
your job and your wife,
you might even hate your life, but that
is no excuse for the fuming stare which says
“I despise you.”

You block my smile, your expression suggesting that you consider me a minor criminal. If you think this is not a designated bus stop just say so, or check with your boss. You’ll find you are wrong, while to continue in ignorance is an unwise mistake to make.

Meanwhile, why not try a compromise;
stop treating passengers like undesirable wasps
to be stomped on by your
callous eyes.

Don’t you know
that very day you make the world a little colder
for yourself, as well as for others?

Do you like being a lonely island?

Friendliness should be high on the list of priorities when hiring bus drivers. At the very least, it could be part of their training.

I used to insinuate myself
between the bars of barbed little fences such as yours,
persuading snickering scorpions to be
more amicable, but recently,
I’ve run out of energy.

It’s time for folks like you
to get wise to your public duty
and treat passengers more like friends.
.

©Jane Paterson Basil

No Place to Go

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When he enters,
his animal scent clears out the buyers and browsers
and the assistant exits in haste.

I wonder if other charity shops blocked him.
Few operate like Oxfam.

Smiling like he’s a friend,
I take shallow breaths though the nose,
keeping my mouth closed except to speak.

He tells me he got a twenty quid drop and needs to buy jeans.
I ask for his size, and pick out two pairs.

“I’m just a drunk,” he slurs, his eyes
clutching at mine as if to defy me to deny
a universal truth.

I refuse to be intimidated.
“Not just a drunk,” I reply. “At your core, you are who you have always been. You have your history, your memories, your moments of reflection. Once you played in the street, or climbed trees. Once, you laughed at your own antics and believed
you were free.”

“Don’t be pedantic,” he growls,
“and tell me where I can have a shower.
I shit my trousers and I need to get clean.”

He’s been waved away away by every hand I recommend.
Then I remember the leisure centre.
We both pretend to believe that he might receive help there.

As he staggers off along the street,
sleek and limber legs reject his presence. Even the pavement
hardens itself against his weaving feet.

From her place in the past, my mother looks askance.
Tears skitter in the sky as I speak to the breeze.

“I treated him like a human being.”

My mother agrees. That is true, at least.

“If I lived somewhere different,
I would have invited him back.”

My mother silently absorbs the lie;
her kindness inhibits her from lecturing me.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Like a Sister

My friend,
you are like a sister to me. I regret giving you
the impression that I’m pushing you away.
Please forgive me.

When we speak, the words
get shuffled and swallowed by my throat, so I’m
writing this in the hope that it will explain my difficulties.

At present, I have so little time between tending to my responsibilities and I need
private
moments
to breathe; to
listen for the clean

silence

that sits lightly beneath my clamouring brain. Lately, I yearn
to separate my clashing thoughts and
examine
each
one
in turn,
that I might extract
peace from this confusion.

Please be patient with me, yet
understand this; while I yearn to amass
an ever greater wealth of empathy, I am neither
lonely or deeply unhappy. I find myself in a position
of unlikely privilege, and will do what I can
to fulfil the duties which this
particular privilege brings.

Soon, I anticipate
calm.

Should you be absent
from my life on that day
it would be a tragedy, but I
have seen your loyalty –

you will not desert me.

Thank you for
embracing me with your friendship.
You are important to me.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil