Call it what you will


I cannot scroll down to the future
to reveal the mysterious code
written in hieroglyphics
upon sacred, hardened sandstone.
The time might come when the reason
glows out from a golden tome,
but I cannot predict what life I may meet
or what the penance or prizes might be,
though I stare at twisted shapes
and question reality,
and I hope that one day the reason
will be read from a hallowed page,
but although I can’t know I don’t believe
any truth will be shown in that way to me.

I squint down the street where babies
discover their fingers and toes.
I gaze at their faces and wonder
what their future might hold.
Even a mother can’t tell
if the future’s a river of honey,
or a motorway paved with stolen money,
or a misconceived living hell.

I roll past the stuttering changeling,
that grew from the child with wide eyes
who visualised dreams in the clouds of the skies,
then watched them evolve and go scudding by,
curling to misshapen needles and knives,
death on the streets and mouths that yawn wide
in shouts of hatred and silent screams,
and what went wrong with his dreams?

What ill-wind blew his dreams out of shape?
How do so many innocent babies
become haunted orphans and fiends,
and when will the suffering end?

Maybe one day the reason
will be read from a shimmering sheet
and when truth is revealed we’ll fall to our knees
filling the air with our thanks and our pleas,
as we burn in flames or take ring-side seats,
but this is not my belief.

Some say that we’re ants on a dung-heap,
some say we are angels supreme,
but we’re all of us sentient beings
on planet that used to be green.

I search for the secret message,
but the only thing I can see
is the wildest guess in a world that’s a mess
and although it suggests that faith is a boon,
we need to change the future,
and we need to do it soon.


For The Sandbox Writing Challenge 2018 – Exercise 23, I allowed a stream of consciousness to came flooding in…

©Jane Paterson Basil


Let’s get Naked



I can’t find the words to reveal me,
to show all my angles and blades;
the side you might never see,
all of my renegade shades.

Its not that I think that I matter;
it’s not that I’m self obsessed,
though compliments flatter and I like the patter,
you’ve only seen me at my best,
and if I could only show you
all of my failures and flaws,
then maybe you’d see you’re no less than me;
my faults are no smaller than yours.

Let me take off all my clothing
on a festival opening night;
let me display my self-loathing,
let you be absolved by the sight.

I want to stand bare by the window
I want to throw open the blinds;
I want you to know all my bulges and holes
and the tempest that bubbles inside.
I invite you to meet me there;
let your fists cease clutching the wings,
let’s share the length of our hidden hair
and the breadth of our personal sins.

Let’s all take off our clothing
on a festival opening night;
let’s all display our self-loathing,
we can all be absolved by the sight.

If we could only stand bare;
reveal all the weakness we hide –
no need to compare, but simply to share –
we’d forgive our mistakes and lies.
In some ways we all are the same
we’ve all done weak things and wrong
so take off the blame and the ravaging shame,
and  join with me in with this song:

Let’s all march out of hiding
on a festival opening night;
let’s all fly free from self-loathing,
let’s all be absolved by the light.


I’ve been tinkering with this for a while, and I’m still not entirely happy with it. I’m not sure if it puts the point across, but I wish I was a musician. I’d like to tie a tune to it.

While I was writing, something on an entirely different note kept popping into my mind:

You can find the adult version HERE, but you have to sign in.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Too Many Times

Reena’s Exploration Challenge #Week 43 is a picture challenge:


I was born where a crumbling wall
was all that separated me from the wild, mother’s tame child
who became feral whenever I hit the fields.
Our cottage lane looked wide to my beginner’s eyes,
and the pink road to town seemed like a motorway.
I believed that life would stay the same –
that wild strawberries would always taste as sweet,
my strength would never waver,
I wouldn’t need to grow
and all the world was green.

I wasn’t told how many parts
could get broken.

I didn’t know how many times
and in how many ways
I would die.


Check out Reena’s site and join in with the challenge.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Trinkets and Treats

Embed from Getty Images


Seen from the street, the shop itself seems
neither eager for me to browse, nor to push me away.
It emits an air of indifferent dignity; the sense that –
should I frown – it will ignore me, yet if I show interest,
its welcome will be warm.

The window holds yesteryears’ extravagant
trinkets and treats;
their sepia hints pricked with the kind of modest pride
typical of old gold and porcelain.
If these elite items  vie for purchase,
they do so with quiet grace.

Inside, gifts of both love and duty, mingle with acquisitions
of status and desire.
They pose in glass cases and perch on polished shelves,
with large sculptures artfully arranged within their own floor space.
Some might conceal untold secrets, while the tales of others
were told and retold long ago, by glazed grandparents
to children who wriggled with impatience, their minds
scrabbling for cake tins or trees to climb.

Old treasures are looking-glasses of the dead –
those whose eyes are blind, who leave
no mist on the filigree mirror –
such pretties contain no memories;
yet they retain an air of history, even when separated
from the ghosts who wrote their stories.

Were the proprietor other than Mark Parkhouse,
I might suggest that the glinting acquisitions
were the pillage of thieves, but
I trust this antique dealer.

As I enter, a female assistant greets me.
Mr Parkhouse is a man who knows how to dress;
his quiet presence is such that I hardly
have time to register the grey suit
before my attention becomes concentrated on his face.
It is only when I walk away
that I picture all of him.

As I explain my mission, he rises
from behind his tidy desk and speaks in a warm tone.
I open the box, show him the brooch,
making my usual apologies; I doubt
that this example of costume jewellery has more
than miniscule monetary value,
but it is a beauty, and while I would like
to offer our customers the opportunity of ownership,
I want to charge whatever is due to it.

A lesser man
might fling it aside,
arrogantly spitting the words, “ten quid”,
but he shows respect for the charity that I represent
and for the small vanity which glitters in his hand.
Examining it, he tells me what to look for
and recommends a ten pound ticket.
When he says it hails from the 1930s,
I can’t resist a smile; it matches
my estimate.

The box contains two other brooches;
a slightly damaged, but charismatic marcasite
plus an attractive 1950s piece – another correct guess from me;
I’m getting better at this, but I am still
a beginner.
He takes the trouble to value
my humble offerings.

Before I leave, he exhorts me
not to be shy bringing my optimistic discoveries;
he will willingly impart
the knowledge of his forty years in the business,
and one day Oxfam might hit the jackpot.

Walking back to Oxfam,
a wide grin splits my face.
I let it stay, making the most of the moment.
My heels and my joints are suddenly
well-oiled springs.

Mr Parkhouse knows a lot. This
is what he doesn’t know:
raising the maximum for the charity
matters a great deal to me, but more to the point,
this gentle, rare man
adds bonus points to my store of happiness.
It doesn’t matter that when I see him,
he doesn’t seem to recall having met me before,
all that is important
is that he is


©Jane Paterson Basil


cheese platter.jpg

Rigid in bed I glared at the ceiling,
belly-ache imparting a ghastly feeling.
Hurt so bad I didn’t sleep all night
belly-ache giving me quite a fright.
The veggie bake was a big mistake;
too much cheese gives me belly ache.

Couldn’t pretend that I didn’t know –
the belly-ache had hit me weeks ago;
from baking up the very same meal,
belly-ache made me squirm and squeal.
Swore back then that I’d forsake
the cheese that gave me belly-ache.

It happened again since I couldn’t resist
the lovely cheesy belly-achy dish.
Guessed the reason and it’s not too sad
belly-ache’s caused by a rocky gall-blad.
The rich cheese sauce gave me personal proof,
when belly-ache pain shot through the roof.

Knew right then what I had to do –
take my belly-ache to the medical zoo.
Personable doctor prodded me,
gave me extra belly-ache for free.
We nodded our heads and we both agreed
an ultra-sound scan was what I’d need.

Waited seven weeks in sober mood,
sticking to belly-ache reducing food.
All of my favourite cheeses are out –
Don’t want another belly-ache bout.
Letter came and it offered me a date
for checking the reason for my belly-ache.

Crawled to the bus-stop in the heat of the sun,
went to the hospital, belly-ache all gone.
Lay on the bed for the friendly technician –
pleased that my belly-ache was in remission.
She greased my belly and employed her skill
to find what was causing my belly-aching ill.

Technician told me her name was Nelli,
as she viewed a grainy movie of my ache-free belly.
She was sweet and funny and extremely kind-hearted –
this was the belly-aching news she imparted;
Belly is filled with a truckload of rocks,
that’s what tied me in belly-aching knots.

Don’t know how long the wait will be,
but the belly-aching bundle will be cut out of me.
I’m looking forward to the glorious day
when I can throw my belly-ache diet sheet away.
This is the reason that I feel so pleased;
I won’t get belly-ache when I eat cheese.

<> <> <>

The technician really was called Nelli…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Ten Minutes


I’ve been given ten minutes, so
spastically spiffy, I write in a jiffy
whatever mad jangle jumps into my mind.
I don’t have leisure to pause for thought
or practice the grammar my teacher taught,

(as my eyes reflected in the buckle of his belt,
bees buzzed snaps of sonnets in a head
that swam through a green fantasy of reaching hands,
of lips that would kiss, 
of his voice that would promise sweet everything.
Unfettered thrills uncoiled
in my adolescent groin).

but write down whatever words I can find.
A breeze relieves the waving heat,
whisking the leaves of the elegant trees
into shimmering silver and green bouquets.
I picture the forest that closed
the holes that split long after procreation,
and vestiges of evil deflate and are blown away.

The clock face submits a message of haste,
but I can’t concentrate with the seconds ticking this way.
The woodland recedes, stealing my rhyme.
I panic and grab, but inspiration escapes
and I’ve run
out of

Written for June Writing Prompts:  Spastically spiffy

©Jane Paterson Basil

Did you Drop?

We are like innumerable leaves
fluttering in a rainforest,
often lost to all but our neighbours.
Some cling long past withering winter, while others
fail, dropping even as the chlorophyll
sings green songs in our veins.

Billions of humans dance and strain
to build a future or live another day.
As we struggle and sleep through life’s jumbled melee,
some of our intimates and compadres go astray.
Acquaintances lurk in old dairies whose pages are never turned.
We could have been friends, but  we pass them on the street,
uncertain –
unsure if a discreet smile
would be welcomed or shunned.

A single click, and your blog filled my screen.
Over the weeks, you tore screaming secrets
from your cavern of shame,
displayed them across a page stained
with typos and spelling mistakes, writing like
you were running out of time.

You’d promised the women in prison that if you were bailed, you would tell their tale; shout the truth about prison conditions, to try to improve them; the blog was the only way you knew.

I read your story, wore your mess
like a faded vest you’d courageously thrown off
to stand naked, displaying ill-chosen,
amateurishly inked tattoos,
because it was the right thing to do.

My pained flesh swelled
through the tattered shreds of your history.
You could say I felt pity
for an existence so splintered by addiction that you risked
losing your children, your freedom
and maybe your life,
but I call it

I liked you.

Avidly, I followed your blog, commenting on every post, offering emotional support and words of comfort. I don’t expect you knew how much I meant it.

You said that when you pressed the trigger, you didn’t intend to send the bullet through the bedroom wall. It was the accident of an agonised mind, suffering the struggle between another breath and final silence. I believe you.

For a few weeks, three years ago,
you wrote feverishly, but
the posts ceased.


I haven’t forgotten you.

If you are a leaf,
did you drop?

You matter to me.

Did you


I hope not, but I may never know.


©Jane Paterson Basil