Return of the Wall

Black and white stripes
paint equine shapes across my laptop screen,
striking me with an urgency
to escape across the seas
until I reach the African Plains
to find the zebras in the wild,
but how can I when my mind
has me trapped
within this concrete space?

There is no bread.
The only cereal is oats.
Vegetables and protein
are also in short supply.
Yesterday’s rain washed the sky
to a mild baby blue, sharpening the lines
of the shedding trees.
Autumn leaves carpet the grass,
aping the loud floor
of a 1970s living room in suburbia.
The sun looks welcoming,
yet when I consider going outside,
I know my way is barred.

I bought the oats months ago
thinking to make flapjacks.
I don’t like porridge,
but tomorrow,
it might have to do.

Meanwhile I write,
uninspired,
terrified,
by from the wall
that builds between me and outside.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Too Late for Love

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The landlord shows,
rough and grim
in thrown-on clothes.
Raising his mallet,
he splits the door
while I predict a vengeful act –
and yet he seems
to know the score;
to understand my plight.
Efficiently, he evicts
the looming rats,
mends the walls
and cooks a meal for two.

Later, I recall
a white feather
which fluttered
from the left side of his chest
to sink unsullied
to the weathered floor.

As I search for what I need
I watch his smile
erase the midnight lines,
clarifying his kindly cause,
taste the the air
he cleanses with his breath,
feel his heart reach out for me,
and yet I did not intend
to weave this web
that snags his strings;
It happened as I slept.

Briefly stretching silken strands
he bends my way
and kisses me.
His lips’ pink embrace
leaves me thirsting
for completion,
for love, for
perfection
that I
can only synthesise.

My throat closes.
how can I explain
that he arrived too late,
that I am but a shifting wraith,
my lustre but a spectral trick
of unexpected light.
He will not believe me
if I say I am
a victim of time.
He will shake his head
if I tell him
I am dead.

Silently, I step away
to roam the lonely world alone.

Word of the Day Challenge: Spectre

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Size of it.

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Tongue fidgets against fingertip,
teeth graze the nail you ripped
while unwrapping the cake you released from the freezer.

You have to wait to eat the cake.
Meanwhile, you’ll fix the jagged nail the easy way.
Your teeth grip it, tear it free.
You spit out the shard
which lands on the knee of your jeans.
You pick it up,
examine this brittle bit of you;
this dead clipping,
thinking

my mother made this;
if not for my mother, I would not be.

Yet you flick it away like dross;
this slim grating born of the ecstasy of creation;
this small sliver, this souvenir foreshadowed
by squeeze and grunt of delivery.

The word ‘size’ reminds you
of the sight from the porthole of a giant
winged crate high in the sky,
where cloud concealed whole countries below,
yet cleared to reveal
a bland mass of distant desert.

Long before you stepped
from the plane in Mumba,  you were stunned
by the expanse of the globe.

Unmeasurable grains of sand,
deepest seas where strange creatures swim and fight,
minerals, mountains and clamouring cities,
trees, fleas, bees and diverse mysteries
of all sizes. Millions of years,
millions of designs of dry cement and wet sentience
surfacing, existing, sliding into history,
civilizations replaced, to be swept away
by atmosphere, madness and accident.
Fresh animal passions, plans,
every mutation of emergency, miracle and mistake
circuitously played out
on each square mile
of this seething planet.

While you muse,
your teeth absently chew your skin.
Sensing a metallic tang, you check your fingertip.
Blood pools near the cuticle.
Something hurts,
but you cannot
locate the pain.

Word of the Day Challenge: Emergency

©Jane Paterson Basil

If This be Farewell

His lips
shape sinuous words,
but only silence reaches my ears
as he confronts
my still psyche.

This might be
a final goodbye,
yet I let the question
float on the horizon.

I watch,
fascinated
that threats and lies
can be so easily dumbed
by a medicated sky.

All around him,
childhood trinkets and toys
rain around his untouchable frame.
They sink, lost forever
beneath the blind sea.

I recline on sturdy rock;
hazily trusting it will hold me.
If I am strong,
the waves
will not drown me.

Should the message
be his final goodbye,
tomorrow
might bring solemn women or men
whose warning uniforms
and gentle breath
will lower me
into the wild vale of grief.

If this is to be,
I’ll reshape the vision,
paint flowers at his feet,
add a balloon, fill it
with five fathoms of words
describing all the love
he ever felt for me,
but for now
the air caresses me,
and I sleep.

Written for Word of the Day Challenge: Fathom

This is the fear that the loved ones of addicts face every day. We learn to push it to the back of our minds, but it’s always there, waiting until the addict has a wobble. That’s when the fear goes into full attack mode.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Sunk in the Deep

They weep at the shore
feeding fish to the waves,
hoping to bribe the helpless sea
to free you.

Brave souls leap in thinking to shield you
within a synchronised circle of love,
but the vampire dives through
and with eyes honed
by a chemical sharpening stone
he traps you.

You can only swim so far.
When the energy goes you will float
until the weight on your chest
presses you into the drink.

The instant you sink,
let your body go limp.
Take deep breaths;
allow your lungs to sup
until they welcome the salty brine.
The saline will soothe your wounds.

The vampire
will chase you to the ocean bed,
staying close, clinging on,
flaying your mind as it did
when your toes were still dry,
yet lie quiet; you are destined
to lose any fight.
.
No need to say you did not choose this,
it is understood. Few of us
elect to be pursued
by blood-sucking ghouls.

Don’t waste energy wishing
for new tomorrows or reminiscing
over the innocence that preceded
the need to teach yourself
to breathe underwater.
Forget the optimism of youth.
There is only now;
only this;

a silent you
and an angry parody of humanity
seething in the deep.

Daily Addiction: Pursue

©Jane Paterson Basil

Sweet Murder

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A familiar odour disturbs my peace, awakening my spirit. It floats by, ethereal and evasive; the offensive smell of burnt caramel. My raddled nose seeks it a moment before my bones recoil. This fragrance is not designed to be a comforting reminder of mother, as she stirred creamy desserts, measuring vanilla to drip into the mix, grating nutmeg for my delight. Such fripperies ceased long before my fall. I recognise the intent; this cheeky warning of coming chill is repeated annually

The witching hour is nigh. As Big Ben chimes, the wind attacks, insinuating between gaps in my rotting coffin, blowing away the clods of clay that weigh me down, evicting the insects that dig in vain for vanished flesh, lifting grey threads – the only remaining shreds of my skirt – its cold fingers creeping like a pervert seeking entry.

Neighbouring ghosts begin to whisper. Innocent ghouls float free, while convicts clank their chains. Witches intone spells. Captured frogs screech. I hear the eerie breath of demons as they tread between the shifting graves, mocking my predicament.

The wind builds a bony fist which grabs my feet, dragging me, forcing me back into grim history, back to the workhouse kitchen, where ragged shifts and worn clogs torn from the poor lie defeated beside a giant vat of syrup. Once again I see the faces of the helpless, eyes terrified, lips distorted by agonised screams as their naked skin sizzles. The screams quickly die, leaving only the bubbling stink of boiling flesh, combined with burnt sugar. Once again, I feel my bile rise. I see the ruined remains of women and children floating in darkening liquid as blackened flakes rise from the bottom of the pot, and I weep for the loss, the waste, inconsolable as if I had never before been witness to the scene.

My sweets were famous, eagerly devoured in the best houses in Christendom. I used the finest chocolate, the rarest spices, the freshest fruits. Lords and Ladies sought my carefully boiled and moulded treats, willing to pay any price for the rich flavour and texture that only I could create. Jealous competitors constantly spied on me; some hoping to steal my secret, others planning to contaminate the mix, thereby ruining my reputation. Perhaps I was too sure of myself, but my pride turned to shame the one time I erred. I left the kitchen only briefly,  to oversee the storing of  a consignment of walnuts, delivered to the back door. Since there were thieves and desperados all around me, I trusted nobody. All of my ingredients had to be instantly locked away, and the key secreted on my person. When I returned from my task  it was too late. I confess, the blame was mine alone.

Time has consumed two centuries. Have I not suffered enough for my mistake?

It seems I must spend eternity atoning for the simple error of burning one batch.

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Written for Word of the Day Challenge: Atone

With added inspiration from Waltbox: 

©Jane Paterson Basil

Stop

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Sleep, wake.
Eat, excrete,

Meet, part,
practice my art.
Sleep, wake,
eat, excrete.

Start, stop,
walk to the shop.
Meet, part, practice my art,
sleep, wake,
eat, excrete.

Thinner, fatter,
it doesn’t matter.
Start, stop, walk to the shop,
meet, part, practice my art,
Sleep, wake,
eat, excrete.

Starve, eat,
mildew or meat.
Thinner, fatter, it doesn’t matter,
start, stop, walk to the shop,
meet, part, practice my art,
Sleep, wake,
eat, excrete.

Work, play,
face the day.
Starve, eat, mildew or meat,
thinner, fatter, it doesn’t matter,
start, stop, walk to the shop,
meet, part, practice my art,
sleep, wake,
eat, excrete.

Sick, well,
I cannot tell.
Work, play, face the day,
starve, eat, mildew or meat,
thinner, fatter, it doesn’t matter,
start, stop, walk to the shop,
meet, part, practice my art,
sleep, wake,
eat, excrete.

Happy, sad,
shades of mad.
Sick, well, I cannot tell,
work, play, face the day,
starve, eat, mildew or meat,
thinner, fatter, it doesn’t matter,
start, stop, walk to the shop,
meet, part, practice my art,
sleep, wake,
eat, excrete.

Gashes mend
to rend again.
Happy, sad, shades of mad,
sick, well, I cannot tell,
work, play, face the day,
starve, eat, mildew or meat,
thinner, fatter, it doesn’t matter,
start, stop, walk to the shop,
meet, part, practice my art,
sleep, wake,
eat, excrete.

Stop, stop,
Please drop me off.

©Jane Paterson Basil