Tag Archives: childhood

Going Home

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Skinny river beckons,
breathing an echo of days when these feet
measured the thin edge
a centimetre before the leap,
when the landing deftly skipped the breach,
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 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 air of pride.
But 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 Russian Man From UNCLE,
my brothers; spies from THRUSH.
My gun will eradicate evil until
it’s time to switch sides, and then I’ll be
the 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 into the shallows of the 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

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Liquid Gems

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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.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

A Silvered Shadow

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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.

<> <> <>

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Author of my Being. Part 1

MY DAD. By Jane Basil, aged 8 years and 7 months

My dad’s the best. He can do anything. He can draw and paint, make sculptures and pots,build walls and shelves, and fit doors and window frames. He can answer any question and tell you whatever you want to know. He’s the cleverest dad there is.

My dad’s quite famous and is sometimes on TV. People want to meet him, and talk to him about art. I think he likes the women that come to see him best. They come a lot. 

My dad treats me well and tells me I can do whatever I like with my life. He says the only limit is my ambition. He knows I’m a girl, because everyone says that when I was born he was thrilled to have a daughter, but he lets me do the same things as him. I can help to mix concrete, and put up a course of bricks. I can knock nails in straight almost every time. Yesterday I carried tiles up a ladder, and handed them to him, so he could mend the roof, but today I’m helping my mum in the kitchen.

Dad’s in the studio side of his workroom doing stuff I can’t help him with.

My mum’s lovely and ever so kind, and cooking’s all right, but it’s for girls. I’m certain there’s been a mistake; I was meant to be a boy.

>

I’m ten years old.
Naked women crowd our living space,
their painted shapes pressed against framed glass,
or shaped in oak and in clay, arranged just so, on every flat space.
Shelves bend beneath the weight of fat albums
brimming with glossy breasts and hips, captured in Kodak Bromide.

In the workshop, chippings curl beside finest chisels.
Deep within an oaken block, another naked form
waits patiently to be unpeeled by her master’s eager hand.
No more than a coy shoulder is yet revealed.
Her eyes have not been created, and cannot see the devan,
where a lady lies, and the camera clicks.

My mother speaks gently of the aesthetic beauty of the fleshy curve,
making no mention of lascivious urges.
I see no trace of bitterness on her face,
or guess at any untold ache.

I’m too young to think of lipsticked kisses,
of tangled tongues or stolen intimacies.
Too young to place the scent of my father’s sins.
I think he’s the best; I bask in his praise
and revel in every task he sets me.
He seems to silently accept that I need to be a boy.
Maybe he sees that it’s better this way,
as girls are prettier than me

To my shame, my body is changing.
I can’t stem the growth, or the flow of blood and time.
All the same, I feel proud when my father suggests photographs;
he’s taken no pictures of me since I was three years old,
and even then his act was unwilling.

I choose a bulky jumper to cover up my determined bumps.

After a couple of clicks, he wants me to take it off.

He’s my father, so where’s the harm?

(A lifetime later, I still blush when I see what he has done to me. My blouse is a shiny sky blue, and he has made me pull at the hem, exposing the shape of my breasts, and look down, as if I am admiring them.)

Next, he wants me to remove my top. I love this man;
if it were possible,
I would stand naked for him, but I can’t.
I’m embarrassed, but there is something else,
something very wrong.
I try to grab it it, to find a diagnose,
but I feel dizzy.
My ears ring, making me stutter as I utter my refusal.

I’m hot, and something is dying. I can feel it in the air.

His game lost, he selects his consolation prize.
He chooses disgusting French kisses, and a grinding grope.
I see his eyelids droop as he considers the ultimate crime,
but he crushes the idea.

With a sneer he says
“I think you enjoy being kissed like that.
I think it makes you feel good,
but you’d prefer it with someone younger.”

I can’t speak for horror and lack of oxygen.
I feel nausea rising.
Grasping the door handle, I stagger
out into the fresh air and spit.
I spit and spit,
but the taste of my father’s iniquity has spread
to my gut. It has filled my lungs
and is making its way to my heart.

I

am

ten

years

old.

Without warning, war has begun.

There will be retribution for my denial of his will.

There will be revenge that he dare not steal his filthy thrill.

He will bend my childish spirit and redesign my mind.

>

I chose not to include images, as none would be appropriate, except the photos he took of me, and my scanner won’t let me upload them – perhaps it’s concerned for my modesty.

to be continued…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Autumn’s cruel joke

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Beyond my window,
Autumn beckons with false promise.
Bare branches bend their beckoning fingers
before the blue beyond where cottonwool clouds meander.
Baby breeze murmers at fall’s command;
“See the beauty,” it seems to say,
“I’ve mended the weather.
Come to me and I will fill your dreams;
Let you live one remembered childhood Sunday.
Come outside, come outside, and breathe my carefree air;
run with me, prance with me,
spin and dip and dance with me.
Be a child again.”

But I hide behind my door where I am safe
from those autumnal lies which taunt me so cruelly;
I know if I trust them, the spell will evade me.

A trick of the light will lead me to wander
in search of the joy of yesteryear’s freedom.

The brow of the hill will pull me toward it,
and when I arrive the goal will be yonder,
down in the valley, then on to the river,
and still my yearned-for destination;
those faraway trees and lush green meadows,
will be around many corners,
long miles beyond me.

A storm will steal up.
Thunder will crack,
and darkness will cover
the land all around me.
Rain will pelt me,
and flood will drown me.

©Jane Paterson Basil