Tag Archives: childhood

My Friend Johnny

Devon rolling hills nr Bickleigh
(Image Credit: Euro Cheapo)

Drenched by clotting dregs
of a cold-custard day,
too sluggish to juggle saucepans,
plates, food,
I watch cars, and muse,
thinking of armour,
of armies,
of uniforms marching
in single file as if in practice,
yet each with its own destiny.
Some face battle, others flee,
while a few
have been granted
official leave.

Monotonous shades of grey,
white vans, showroom red, more grey.
Sighting the next white van
I rise from my seat; this one
is unique;
embellished with wide wheels,
custom headlights,
boastful
tribal
decals.

“Johnny!”, I cry,
waving like one who welcomes
the first sunrise.
tenderness fills me
as this childhood enemy
who became a friend
drives by.

From this reach
he cannot hear or see me,
but “Johnny”, I whisper with a grin
thinking of how we meet
in the street to speak
of everyday things with an ease
that contradicts distance, remembering
the time he stroked hair from my eyes,
the sweep of his fingers
behind my ear;
intimate, yet more easy
the touch of lover; more like
a brother.

As Johnny’s van rolls out of sight
the evening sun escapes a bluffing cloud.
Effervescing rays needle light
through maple leaves,
seeking
to burnish an oasis
that grows between me
and the road.

The oasis swells.
Trees rise through concrete,
meadows stretch; nature’s blankets
woven in hues of gold and green
whose wild-flower hedges
stitch the patchwork of Devon together.

I burn fifty-five calendars
and race through fields.
Reaching the bank of a stream, I leap,
hair flying, feet finding purchase,
toes curling around smooth rock,
cool water a shock
that soothes and surprises.

Johnny waits on the other side.
No more do I despise his fear of drowning
or distrust his efforts to survive.
In turn, he doesn’t mind my wild eyes.
Like me, he is a child,
we are each ourselves;
He holds out his hand, wraps it around mine
and pulls me to his side;
I am home with my family,
ambling with Johnny,
Johnny, forever  my friend.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Seasonal Fruit

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                             Green leaves
                        rise through the earth
                    unfurling from embryonic seeds
                   instinctively reaching for the sun
                      while  nature  nourishes
                           each blind need

               
               Kittens
         cavort in  a garden
          playfully pawing
               petals

                                         Butterflies
                                    brighten  the  meadow
                                trusting their delicate wings
                               flitting to land on pink lunches
                                    as  they  battle  each
                                       rushing breeze
             
                 Eagles
            alight on trees
       flying free, soaring high
        ignoring blossoms that
            bloom and die

                                         Tall trees
                                  broaden their branches
                                  preparing to reproduce
                                      before leaves
                                           fall

                             I
                           hefted
                      my  gaining  weight
                 across  transmuting  phases
             of embryo, kitten, butterfly, eagle.
             I have played out the part of tree.
              Finally  acknowledging  mortality
               I liken it to a seasonal fruit
                  whose roots must wither
                     to make room for
                       fresh plants
                         to bloom
                           and
                            g
                            r
                            o
                            w
                            .

While this poem has only a tenuous connection to it, it was inspired by something my brother copied down many years ago. I think he heard it on the Sonny and Cher Show. Maybe it was set to music, maybe not. Snatches of it often play in my mind, and yet I can find no record of it anywhere. It speaks of the ego of youth – the feeling that the world is yours, and you can do anything. Here are a couple of stanzas:

Look at you, look at me,
standing ten feet tall are we.
Look at them, look at us
wondering why they make such fuss.

Look at me then look again
and maybe you’ll remember when
you stood this tall and knew it too,
and the whole world turned to look at you.

Does anyone recognise it? It would make my day if I could get a full copy.

Also, I’d really appreciate an honest critique of my poem. I’ve been battling with it for days, and I’m still not sure whether it works. You can pull out all the stops; if it is weak, I’d prefer to know.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Going Home

girl-running1

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Skinny river beckons,
breathing an echo of days when these feet
measured the thin edge a an instant before the leap,
when the landing deftly skipped the breach,
in the days when danger was a game
unfettered by sticks and stones of age,
and gunshot death was fun to feign;
tumbling play that entertained
till hunger called away.

Skinny river
whispers skittering memories,
whisking up a risible sniff of magic, as if
a giggling wish will lift me, and  carry me back
to the beginning that knew no measure
of length or breadth; that imagined
no end.

For an instant
I am loath to leave this empty crypt,
feeling a momentary need to stand sentry,
lest I miss my dusty trinkets,
my piddling, middling strides,
my thin wisp of pride.

Yet
if I go, the sky
will again be mine
and I will recognise my hands.
Adult battles of fact and habit
will be banished to the monochromatic land
of flim-flam.
I shall be Ilya, the handsome Man From UNCLE,
my brothers; spies from THRUSH.
My gun will eradicate evil until
it’s time to switch sides and be a baddie.
Naturally, Ilya will shoot me; the Right Side always wins.
Hamming it like a weak comedienne, I’ll expire in traditional style
with agonised grunts, thrashes and sighs,
finally rolling with a splash
into the shallow river
to die.

When dinner arrives,
I will obediently dine,
forever a child.

girl-cartoon

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Inspired by A River Runs Beneath Us, which was written by  Paul at Cafephylos

Written for Word of the Day Challenge: Loath


This is what Bruce has to say about the river…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Liquid Gems

boys-1149665_640

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That summer

heat clung like sleeping rage,

insinuating unseen rays

beneath burnt-umber skin,

squeezing out beads of perspiration,

pressing lethargy in.

We erected a shelter,

stealing timber from a derelict ruin

where ghostly bones

hid from the searing day, waiting

to be awakened by a grinning moon.

Lumbering

against the dumbing weight

of a dug-in sun, we lugged

a flaking door, broken

shelving, dented sections

of rusty tin roof

until our limbs begged rest.

Stumbling

to the brisk welcome of the stream,

ripping off shoes and socks,

stripping to vests,

we leaped, shattering the whittling ripples,

our screams declaring the thrill of the chill

as we splashed wet gemdrops

across the silver realm.

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Written for the new daily photo prompt from The Haunted Wordsmith: Worth a Thousand Words, 31st July 2018  Check it out and join in!

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Day of the Beech

beech leaves

The neighbourly beech rests dormant
in the Christmas chill, its fermenting finery
forming a crisp blanket at its feet.
Before the weather heats, brave buds
proceed to labour from the tips of twigs; determined spikes
stretch narrowly as if toward a pin-prick sun.
Emerging like wind-burnt field workers wizened by the years,
they peel back their tough leathern tan
revealing tender infancy as Spring
tiptoes in.

The tree
breathes in tune with the beat of my childish heart.
I have built a host of annual rituals, without which, my year
would be incomplete. Nature dictates
the day that each one takes place.
Fingers, sticky with Easter chocolate, itch,
telling me today is the day;
the day of the beech.

Familiar with its generosity, I’m confident
the tree does not resent
my Easter treat.
Reaching up, I pluck
an opening bud.
Later, these unfurling hands
will make complete the beech’s canopy of shadowing green
to keep both sheep and cattle cool in mid-day heat;
all too soon, the adult leaves
will be too tough for me to eat.

Gazing skywards
at the abundance within my low reach, I feel the sweetness
of young leaves between my teeth, and taste
the honeyed birth of Spring.

As I age, I recall:
the fine filigree of a skeleton leaf, emblazoned with a frosty frill,
the seashore smell I toted home, tucked inside a cowrie’s gummy grin,
courageous early snowdrops, rising through a frozen throw,
an orphan feather’s windswept pirouette, its slow descent its frail defeat,
the flavour of a beech bud…
and I remember
the elation that came with every found treasure,
the fascination, the sense that I must not fail
to savour
each
moment
since every single speck of being
is unique.


One day, family and friends will retain memories of what they know of me, but I’ll have no memories of my own; all my unique memories will be gone. No-one will ever know exactly how it felt for me to eat a mellow beech bud beneath a special tree, on a warm Easter day, just as I am unable to taste the precise flavour of your experiences and memories. We come and we go. We are replaced by new life, and that’s OK as long as we reach our full span.

©Jane Paterson Basil

I Shall be Still

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In exercise 3 of The Sandbox Writing Challenge, Calen asks “What prevents you from being still?”

This is the answer that came to me:

As a child,
I exercised a wild kind of control —
play-fighting with nature,
playing my countryside games
as I schemed to fly,
dreaming of coasting over open fields and shady lanes.

Wings on my heels, working with the wind,
sometimes leaning into it to see if it would hold me,
rebelling, balancing precariously above a precipice
while a mild gale tried to blow me over.

Leaping from tuft to tuft of green, knowing
where the sucking bog lurked, unseen,
keeping clear of the mud,
feeling high.

Climbing trees, elated, safe
from skinned knees and careless slips,
sure of myself as my hair tangled in the breeze.
and I breathed greedy helpings of summer sky.

Marching upstream,
kicking feet, splashing sprays of liquid diamonds
that sparkled on freshly freckled flesh.

Laughter bellowing from my belly.

Building dams of rocks and clay,
only to smash them –
revelling in the battle against water,
and in the sudden rush of feigned defeat.

Swimming against the flow, making the water go
where I chose.

Over time, your stubborn cross-flow builds momentum.
Torrents flow and banks are broken,
Whirlpools form as if from nowhere.
It takes a while to know that you are sinking,
and longer still to find your loved ones
swirling in a deeper hole,
drowning in the distance.

Dragged down
by so many years of weak decisions.

Not a warrior after all —
I had lost control.

Buffeted by the results of a vast range
of calamitous actions, meandering ways and artist’s haze —
of all those lost and loping days,
I clamber to the shore
and struggle to put the river back on course.

I cannot rest until
I have corrected its direction.

Soon, my children will all be well,
and I shall be still —
at least for a spell.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

A Silvered Shadow

child-62

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Night follows day,
giving way to night, then day, then night again.
Weeks pass, months speed away, swift as driving rain.
My mind drifts along yesterday’s empty plan
as I trip through the weight of today.

Gone are those fast forever summer games
we played around ponderously ticking clocks;
their tocks now sprint to fling each moment into history.
Ice cream dreams will me to childhood archives,
pulling out threads of longing that stretch,
yet fail to breach the barrier of years.

I see sparks of sunlight dancing on the river,
yet cannot feel a floury hand of love upon my back.
I see drowning pups beneath the water,
but cannot reach to pull them from the sack.
A silvered shadow flitters through the meadow
to stand beneath a wide-branched tree.
The shadow climbs as I stand watching
an airy ghost of who I used to be.

I see her every day, this little wraith;
spinning down her emerald path toward the tree,
and for minutes every day, I try to feel the grazing bark upon my knee,
to feel her heart beat, be a part of her, just as she’s a part of me,
and to ascertain that she’s as free
as she and I pretend to be.

As I trip through the weight of today,
my mind drifts along yesterday’s empty plan.
Weeks pass, months speed away, swift as driving rain,
night follows day, giving in to night, then day,
then night descends again.

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©Jane Paterson Basil