Tag Archives: free verse

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
silently breathes
in tune with the racing 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.
I know 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 shady canopy of verdant 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 childish 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.


I marvelled at the beauty of every detail of my childhood world of nature. My life felt vast, bottomless, without beginning. I tried to bring to mind the time that it started for me; the moment when sentience began, hoping that once I got there, I could take another step back, thereby entering into the instant before my conscious existence. I couldn’t imagine how it was possible not to BE. Perversely, I wanted to know how if felt not to feel. At the time, I didn’t know how many fundamental laws I would have been cheating, had my unattainable ambition been a success. 🙂

Recently, for the first time, I saw the faded spark of consciousness leave a body before death, and I heard a final breath as it made its defeated escape. It helped me to understand, on an emotional level, that one day, those who knew me will retain memories of what they knew of me, but I will 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. That’s fine by me.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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The Cut of his Jib

biceps

He meets a woman
who
fits
the general
image of his florid dreams.
Flexing his biceps he feels the sleeves
of his long-suffering shirt
squeeze. Somewhere between elbow
and armpit a punished seam
gives up the ghost.
Shoulders bulge, muscles
swell his chest, threatening
to burst his buttons.

He preens, his regiment of
all-the-better-to-eat-you-with teeth
standing neatly to attention.
I’m built
to protect myself, he says,
should someone come to shoot me dead,
I need no bullet-proof vest;
I’ll disarm them with a flicking blow.
I’ll take the life of anyone who tries
to cut me with a sword or knife.
You’ll be safe with me,
and I will show you all the ways I know –
all the sweet techniques that go –
to
please
a homecoming queen.

She surveys the stranger,
taking in
his toned build,
his suntanned skin,
his hair the hue of a fox’s
mane, every strand contrived to
look stylishly out of place, the ice-
blue eyes that gaze, the handsome
face, chiselled in such a way…
and
the cut
of his jib.

Get outa’ my way, she coldly cries,
killing him with her scimitar eyes.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Dragons

dragonslayer1

Childhood picture books
depicted booming ogres, looming giants, slavering wolves
and my favourite foe, the fire-breathing dragon
with ominous scales and arrow-tipped tail.
Red eyes glowing, jaws agape,
he salivated as he swooped from an ashen sky
anticipating a tasty treat.

Gripped by iron chains
which tightly tied her blue-veined wrists,
a doomed virgin cowered,
writhing to escape a burning demise.
Her ruby lips described refined agitation,
her face haloed by a loose- curled mane which retained
its gracious style despite a wild wind’s whip;
even simple village folk were au fait with fairy-tale fashion
which stated that the bedraggled look was reserved
for bare-footed beggar girls dressed in rags.
Furthermore, only ladies of refinement or station possessed
the required qualifications which enabled one to save a hamlet
or city or kingdom (for a brief month or a season)
by becoming a dragon’s lunch.

These were days of yore, long before women were deemed worthy of learning to read; they knew not the stories, so no maiden expected a knight to arrive just in time to prevent the singeing of her silky tresses, or for the sun to affect a gleeful presence, directing its rays in such a way to make his swash-buckling sword gleam.

The metal-clad hero always triumphed,
gallantly relieving the maiden of her anticipated fate,
leaving the beast beheaded at his clanking feet,
and as I read, I dreamed of being the victor;
valiant slayer of dragons,
benefactor of freedom.

Through the years, I have been thrown
onto many a sacrificial stone.
Now I am old, I know that a steel blade
is not the weapon for me; to evade a killing
I douse the dragon’s flames with ink;
I anaesthetise him with my needled pen of wit;
one by one, I loosen all his teeth.
When he wakes, in seething rage
he snaps his mighty jaw, and grates…
freeing his loosened teeth.
Confused dismay dims his formerly fearsome face
to see them scattered in the filth of his dank cave.

He will live, but is disabled.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Daughters of Eve

Eve1

WARNING: ADULT CONTENT… I got a bit carried away. If you expect to be offended, close your eyes to the sections printed to the right side of the page, in RED. They are not  essential components of the poem.

I am the spirit of a Biblical metaphor,
raised beneath a celibate sky,
nourished by fertile dirt’s clean creations,
nurtured by trees whose lenient branches
were cradles that rocked me, and whose growing leaves
gave glorious shade against the noon-tide haze. Nature
was my nursery, my playground, my adventure trail,
my safe, serene haven, a concert hall
where birds, conducted by seasons and sun
sang heavenly songs for me, to the backing
of ticking crickets and buzzing bees.
This was my Eden.

Since the original sentencing, endless generations have meekly bled away their weeping days, bones brittling  and crumbling away, juices sinking into the speckled detritus of history. Those with time and rage enough have fought for truth, yet still, by dint of my sex, I stand accused by those who would rule and defile me.

I offer you my defence:

It was another who plucked the fruit, not I.

I beg you to see that I had a wholesome balance and bounteous range of flavours within reach. Had I felt the desire for more variety, I expect there was a plentiful supply of untried legal foods in the nethermost regions of Eden.

The world was new; sophisticated tricks
to trap a virgin girl
had not yet been invented.
No budding rose, no dainty sweets to tempt my tongue,
no ardent vows or subtle wheedling
led me to my fall.
Neither did I simper or whisper lewdly wicked words
in man’s unyielding ear, or plot in any way
to take heart or prick as jewellery or trinket.
I did not know the form reflected in man’s eyes
was no more romping child but nubile wench,
until the moment that he grabbed me, forced my jaws apart.
and made me swallow. Even as I choked and retched,
failing to eject the stinking fruit,
he threw me to the forest floor
and roughly ravaged me, injecting me
with toxic stench that stole from me
the world that I held dear.

It was man who separated me from Eden.
Now he slyly lays the blame on Eve.

The judge glances down. Glossy prints display scars on sickened flesh. Documents testify to my ruptured hymen, but where is the record of the lies repeated since the dawn of creation, and what care has he for my suffering mind? I wait for the inevitable hoodwinking protestations.

Licking his lips, he looks my way, then promptly dismisses my pain. He claims circumstantial evidence, or says that I alone am to blame, citing historical temptresses, his finger pointing as he intones felonious accusations of the lascivious nature of all females, dating from Eve’s days.

His Honour’s cock
ticks out a seashore rhythm of lust, a foaming
hot blood throb concealed beneath His Honourably billowing gown.
A thickness of phlegm
sits heavy on his chest. A quick cough
dislodges it; affording him
a viscous dewdrop of pleasure, no more.
There are bigger things to shift, he thinks. His hidden hand
inches
toward the swelling itch. Fiddles. Just
a tickle of anticipation
which must later lead to a drawn out, ecstatic
scratch.
He visualises phallic fungi
thrusting capped heads through the thin throats
of calla lilies, shredding delicate membranes,
while his sensitive finger
gently strokes,
his finger, so slim,
so
similar
to a choir boy’s…
oh, yes.. A choir…
boy’s…
budding

From the witness stand, I interrupt
his surreptitious clutching.

I had the perfection of Eden, I say.
I had the wonder of childhood.
How could I dream of anything else?

Behind the bench,
the judge
massages
his groin
just…

just
a
little…

just a little…

more.

He regains self-control, postponing his goal until he’s alone. Gone are the golden days of summoning young scraps of flesh that would not dare threaten his authority or breathe a word of his greedily inflicted sadism. But he must not yet dwell on the tears. He must refrain from picturing so many pitiful pairs of defeated legs which limped so prettily away. It would only increase the emergency of release.

Soon he’ll be free to bolt his door, and summon every supreme detail.

He takes pains to concentrate, to focus
on closing the case.

Raising his gavel, he lets it slam.
He calls for order and proclaims the witness
guilty again.

Guilty of inciting rape.
Guilty of consuming the fruit.
Guilty of causing the fall.

Guilty down to my chromosomes.

.

That’s it, folks. Time to drop the subject…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Being There

week-38.jpg

It is a collage this week. Writers will connect to it easily.

challenge-38.jpg

So, let the fingers align to imagination, and bang on the keyboard. The format can be a a story/poem/rant/anecdotes/journalistic coverage of events/ reflections as usual.
Pour out, and let it flow ….


Flipping in long grass,
skipping, leap-frogging, cartwheeling over stiles,
feet so fleet it feels like flying,
flopping to sit cross-legged on fragrant nature’s floor.
Grass stained shorts. Grubby fingernails
cut careful slits through slim daisy stems.
Threading, making chains to dangle from supple neck.
Carefree sunshine and family love.

Once, this was me.

Breasts swelling, bursting
from a shock-horror bra, hips curving,
and worse, a monthly sticky thing that hurts,
which Grandma calls the curse.
Father stealing small licks to assuage the tip
of his hunger.
Mother loving, supporting
this poor little changeling.

Feeling dirty. filthy images of hot flesh slapping,
moist organs fitting,
slipping wetly together. Precocious hormones
that battle against desire,
hermaphrodite side crying “Let me
be a child”,
yet all the while learning the wanton game.

A teen with a siren’s face,
miming like a pro. Anything goes,
as long as it excludes loosening her clothes.
No sense of danger, blindly embracing
masked neighbour that ambles her way.

Rape and beatings, beatings and rape.
burst head, bleeding flesh, blurred vision,
cigarette burns, fractured limbs, bruises
that cannot be hidden. Torn wings
of a butterfly, entrenched in threats
that he may fulfil.
“I will kill”, he says.
“I will
kill
your family,
I will kill them if you hide from me.”

Weeping admission. Gentle assistance.
A groggy leap from the sizzling grill, only to slip
into spinning with trolls, a racy dance of ring-a-ring-o’-roses,
taking risks to prove she’s ahead of the game,
trying to hide her confusion and pain,
all of it fake, played out in vain.

Atishoo, atishoo,
she’s falling again.

Learning to stand,
wooing and wedding a kindly man,
only to fling him away.
To add to mistakes and shame,
the new man she catches, rapes her brain.
Years of fighting to gain control,
while the monster hints that she’s going insane
tripping and falling and failing again. Flailing.

An ill-planned, yet helpful escape.

Too late, she examines the damage.
Trailing her feet along a rough cloister, wrought
from life’s ill-conceived choices.
To the right, bright window panes reveal smiling faces.
Hands wave. She stretches her arms,
but can’t reach.
To her left, dust, rubble, crumbling walls.
Jagged scraps from her womb bear witness to her weakness, grimacing
as they juggle with jesters and thieves,
screeching to be healed.

A mouth opens.
A silent scream struggles out, to ricochet
off the ceiling. She swallows it in one.
It crushes her lungs.

“Please let me breathe.”

Rising up. Her children will not
be defeated by their demons.
Whatever it takes.

Whatever it takes…

This, too, was me.

A lone woman,
wizened by a boxed-up heap of experience,
sits in a high backed chair,
watching trees. The leaves expand into a screen
which conceals iniquity.
From her position, she can see
a clean horizon, distant meadows, whirling angels
that create sustainable energy, life-giving earth,
acres of sky.
Sometimes it rains,
but the sun soon breaks through.
When tears threaten, she strokes the jagged splits
that ripped deep through her skin, and feels
smooth silver strings weld and heal.
She is satisfied.
At night, she catches her reflection in the glass.
The allure that shaped her darker days
has faded with age.
Now, she is beautiful.

This woman is me.

.

Any life which stretches to reasonable longevity is like a massive chunk of quartz, cut from rock. Depending on the angle and brightness of the light, and on where you are standing, different facets can are visible. Also, the viewer approaches the quartz with his own pre-conceptions, interests and focus to detail. Furthermore, our aspects can change over time – even in the blink of an eye. This is one story of my life,  but – apart from the closing stanza – I displayed it from the dark side of the moon. I have many happy memories.

… an afterthought; reading through this longwinded poem, I learnt a horrifying new fact about my past – a detail that was staring me in the face, and yet I didn’t see it. While it won’t harm my emotions too much, I don’t think I’m ready to talk about it, but I mention it because, even viewed through the muddiest of lights, its still possible to spot new facets

Thanks go to Reena, for the inspiration.
©Jane Paterson

I am Woman, See Me.

baby-12.jpg

I am woman.
The heart of the future beats out
a serene rhythm in my womb.
I sustain it with my meat,
feel it stretch my welcoming belly,
anticipating motherhood with joy and
a tinge of trepidation, acknowledging
responsibility and risk.
When the pains of labour retreat,
I staunch my uterine blood, and nurture
the divine new fruit which emerges.
I do not deny my need
of your seed to fertilise the egg,
but it is not your due to despise
or to rule me.

I am woman.
Throughout the ages
I have been reviled, raped, beaten, enslaved,
burnt as a witch for doing my duty,
stoned for a whore while the guilty parties
whisper proud secrets of sowing wild oats,
or claim ensnarement in the wiles and the web
of this victim whose viscous red liquid
shamefully stains the villagers’ dust.
Backslapping and taunting, my victors kick me
and jauntily walk away free.

I am woman.
You rip off my rags and you call me a slut.

I am woman,
created to serve and to lead,
to learn and to teach,
to feast and to feed, or to fast if need be,
as I acquiesce to my destiny,
bequeathing the breath that I have been gifted,
passing it on to my next of kin.

I am woman,
trapped by the base victories
of archaic man’s wish to trample me.
Dark patriarchy seeps through the skin of history
to become tradition
while my strength is trapped, sapped
by my tasks.
Were I self-seeking, you would not
have a chance against me.

I am woman,
measured against the planet
I am invisible as an ant climbing a skyscraper,
yet set against the iniquities of humankind,
I am a giant.

I am woman.
See me, respect me.
Let me be.

.

Written for The Daily Post Word Prompt: Archaic

Inspired by this stunning poem, written by Candice at thefeatheredsleep.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Upcycling

beads_chains.jpg

Bags of beads dissembled from their strings, soon
to be dispatched to Oxfam, that they may sell
and be threaded afresh.

Pendants awaiting examination, findings
laboriously sorted into colour, size and functionality.
Earrings bedecked with gems, bracelets dripping
with jingling charms and shells.

Diamante, painted clay, hearts and stars, creamy pearls and wiry curls.
Repro art deco, retro pop, lots of wood and polished rocks.
Every kind of chain boasting various metals,
rainbow ropes of globules in plastic and glass.

Contemporary, classic and all in-between,
mementoes of places that people have seen,
waste from a spendthrift’s unreachable dream.

Speckled memories of a thousand brief vanities.
Fashion which faded to old hat,
yesterdays mass-produced tat concealing
tepid treasures and better shards of a class,
recently rejected by browsers who briefly scanned
the second-hand display as they walked past,
or maybe unseeing, turned away.

It would be premature
to bin this tarnished beauty, so
my living room has become the last-chance saloon
for unloved jewellery. It’s time
to give it
a new kind of shine.

Let the upcycling begin.

Written for The Daily Post Word Prompt: Premature


Shop sustainably. Buying responsibly recycled/upcycled products cuts down landfill and slows the increase of pollution from mass-production. Also, if you buy from Charity shops, you are furthering their cause as you save money – and then you can donate the goods back to them. Ethical charities that receive donated goods that don’t sell, recycle as much as they can. It’s a win-win situation.


©Jane Paterson Basil