Tag Archives: free verse

A New Chapter

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I am entering a new chapter in my life… so… this morning I got out of bed uncharacteristically early – roughly the time normal people are expected to rise. I switched my computer on to find that all of the unpublished poetry I have written over the past six months – including the poem I was planning to post today – has disappeared. Gone forever! I shrugged my shoulders, smiled and glanced out of the window. That’s when I saw the feather. I wrote this poem:

A pale feather swims,
gently ascending,
leaving no scrape on the empty sky.
Swept by the wind
from a dying bird, it flies free,
distanced from risk
of dirt and decay.

Then I edited it…

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A pale feather swims,
gently ascending,  leaving
its modest breeze on the clean sky.
Swept by the wind
from a bombastic bird, it flies free,
distanced from danger
of jabbering shame.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

The End of the Line

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Valentine’s day
Pre-planned passion
hangs in the balance

Suspense

reigns

He lopes home
hugging a rain-drenched
bouquet to his frame, hunching
keep rain from staining petals, hoping
the beauty, the ruby hue, the perfume
of these hot-house blooms will halt
the drift. He’s humming a tune.

He walks in, singing
Roses are red

my love

He presents the spray
She feigns cat-lick surprise, yet
her greedy eyes betray

dismay

disdain

the end of the line.
Cheapskate flowers again;
hints for a cruise, or at least
a long weekend in Spain
were in vain.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

Recipe for Happiness

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Chipped nails choked with scraped grit.
Blisters swell unfelt, then burst;
a wet revelation on shaft of spade.

Weeds painstaking parted from precious roots,
left in bins to rot
and someday feed the plants whose food
they recently plotted to rob.

Working around worms whose blind cycles
play their part in our survival,
digesting, evacuating, aerating the earth.

Shrubs catching my hair,
tangling it, taking loose strands as souvenirs.
Thorns scratching, blood dripping as I squeeze
between close neighbours, secateurs
gripped tight in my hand.

Snip, snap;
sure of my skill, I amputate weak limbs, lending health
to good wood.

Chipped nails, burst blisters, tangles and scratches
might not sound like life in paradise
yet it is my recipe
for happiness.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Winter Cocktail

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At cocktail hour at this time of year
bright colours vacate to hot places
like Italy or Spain.
Skies slide into leaden grey,
grumpily gunning to fulfil a bleak threat of rain,
their perfidious clouding slyly announcing
that dusk is well on its way.

Brittle twigs cling to knotted limbs.
Catatonic in the bitter air,
their scribbled crisscrosses laid bare,
bereft of the layered frock
that veiled bland dwellings
which crouch, blind-eyed
beneath my lofty window.
Spring’s brave growth crumbles to mulch,
all pride, grace and levity faded away,
its flesh consumed for future gain.

I pause mid-thought, my mind
resorting to fantasy:
might these spectral skeletons
recall unfurling
to make safe hiding places for fledgling birds?
Perhaps they remember saluting the June day sun
their emerald hands swaying in celebration,
and nudged by a temperate summer wind
dancing, jiving, twirling.
Perhaps they relive
the betrayal, the brittle break,
the skittering fall.
Maybe they grieve, and yearn
the loss of green youth.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Transition

Just like tormented teens
scratch secret passions in wet cement
before builders bring bricks and mortar
to smother initials framed in hearts
and pierced with cupid’d darts,
I write.

I present my abortive tales of trial
like frosted slices
of erringly early halloween cake,
but the story moves forward,
the genre transforms leaving no regret
as soon as my poetic icing is set.

Houses rise, filling the landscape,
sandwiching old ache between hidden nature
and newly fulfilled need.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Stain

When vile truth
shatters complacency, when his pupils
shrink to obsidian pins, he will refuse
to meet your eyes.

He will mutter:
It was only once or twice, just
for fun, just to try it out, just to find out, just
to know what it was like. You’re
too old to understand but I
can handle it. It’s not
a problem.

The years and the lies trundle by,
punctuated by multiplying shades of dread
until all that appears on each succeeding page
is smudged punctuation in black, brown
and blood red.

At night, drear bundles
slump in damp sleeping bags.
Bent heads sink. Limbs sag. Limp lips
beg change to spend on the devil’s silence.
As I pass the darkened bank, a man says:
Excuse me lady, have you got any…
I swivel my head, and see
my son’s face.

Outside Tesco Express
a second voice invades my space
and though I know he’s miles away,
again, I see his face.

To keep tears at bay
I formulate rhymes whose meter
matches my pace.

I despise my weakness
and hate the unbidden ache
that hides in my skin.

I need my bed,
but I fear the demon in my pillow
which won’t let me forget.

In sleep, my mind
plays playground games,
raging and grieving in turns.
For once I dream my son uncurls.
Washed clean of the streets,
he stands tall, his flesh
advertising vitality.

My joy negates all of the pain.

Yet when I wake
I know that nothing has changed;
the blood in his punctured veins
still stains my soul.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Brother

By day
I revel in the airy treats of life
sipping up the sounds and sights
inhaling scents and relishing my simple tastes –
but through the weighty hours of night
I read to flee the waking dreams which take the place of sleep.
I read until my eyelids droop and I must fight to concentrate.
With all my will I fight to stay awake until my eyes
can no more see the script nor keep my lids
from blinding me
so by the time the pillow finds my head
my mind rests in tranquillity and I
have no more need to fight
since slumber reigns
and slumber brings me peace.

Each day I wake too late to see
the break of dawn
and as I rise I tell myself the war is done;
I say the foe is dead
and yet if I let down my guard, an ashen finger
slithers from its dusty urn to torment me.

Today I told you how my loved ones’ lives
were skewed and stunted by our enemy
like we were trees and he sent out a hurricane
that tore us from our bed of loam
to drop us on a rocky mountain top
where he controlled the heat and cold
and every time his rage burned red it singed our flesh
and every time his fury cooled
he froze us with his cutting gusts of tempered snow.

Brother,
when I saw the roughened sword clutched in your hand
and felt your longing for revenge
I said there was no more to do, yet I
am grateful for the love that prompted you to stand.
I look within my soul to find a flower blooming there
a flower sown by you
and I am less alone.

I’ve been trying to do an audio of this poem, but notifications keep pinging, and the software is a bit rough, and I don’t have a microphone – which isn’t essential since my laptop has a built-in mic, but it would improve the sound – and to cap it all, my accent sounds silly – particularly the way I enunciate words like ‘down’ and ‘sound’. To prove my point I recorded the following two sentences:

“I am renowned for round” (snigger) “brown found” (giggle) “sound. Like a hound” (snort)  “I pound the ground” (guffaw) “and flounder” (pause while I unsuccessfully attempt to create a dignified air) “as the ground” (shameless laughter) “resounds.”

You won’t get to hear the recording, or my irrepressible laughter, since, after weeks of playing with sound for the purpose of laying it at your feet, dear friends, I have finally discovered that my free WP account doesn’t support audio. It seems a shame, since I’m pleased with the way this verse flows. Try reading it out loud – see what you think.

Maybe it’s time to upgrade…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Serenity

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I named her Serenity,
since her quasi-gentle presence
lightened my darkest times.
Back then she reigned over the living room
and I shared my pain with her.
She never offered advice, or even replied, yet
it was soothing
to make-believe she empathised.
When my situation improved, I faced the truth:
if I pricked her skin,
it would not bleed.
Her hollow chest was cold, and I
was tired of her indifference.
Yet I wrapped a coat around her shoulders
before showing her the door.
She blanked me, her head
lacking think-matter,
so I consigned her to the bathroom.
These days she belies her name;
guests leap in shock; some even blurt
a strangled scream
to see my mannequin standing guard by my toilet bowl.
She fails to make THEM feel serene.

Written for Godoggocafe’s Tuesday Writing Prompt: SerenityI couldn’t resist it, since I have a mannequin called Serenity. They recommend that the piece should be written in 10-15 minutes, so I haven’t polished it up.

©Jane Paterson Basil

To Mary: This Too Shall Pass

When I consider
the frazzled reams of verse, written
when sinews simmered with rage,
when organs ached with dread and grief

when dams burst and words tried to drown sorrow
when fires failed to singe the fighting remains.
I picked through ashes even as the flames blistered my skin,
and still, he drove his bloodied psyche
between my ribs, piercing
the heart of me

I feel
remote
from those emotions

feels like a marathon masquerade of misery that I
mistook for reality, holing myself up
in the host’s attic, beneath
an old crate of broken memorabilia,
away from friends who might have explained
that the gates of hell
were paper mache stage props
and the pit was the cracked lens
of a reclaimed camera obscura.

When I single out a poem, I revoke details;
the nature of conflicts and pain inflicted,
but from a
distance,

as if I’m watching a documentary
or reading a book featuring the anguish of other families
skewered by other offsprings’ addiction,

Empathy for the innocents
seeps into me, yet when I read a verse
from this strangling chapter, I realise it was my life.
Memories  bite;
my heart contracts and my toes
instinctively curl away from a mud slide
that has safely flaked and dried.
At such times, I summon your voice –
your voice, with its warm Northern edge –
sharing your mantra,
gifting me the truth that calmed you
whenever the mud of the morass
threatened to engulf your chest;
“This too shall pass.”
“This too shall pass.”

New growth
breaks through decay,
willing the frayed remnants of pain to dissipate.
I take a breath of clean air
and luxuriate
in the mellow texture of grass
tickling my feet.

Dedicated to my friend Mary Beer. Mary, you are an Amazon whose whose words gave me courage, whose friendship made me feel less alone from the start, and whose strength continues to inspire me. When I was at my lowest ebb, it was the echo of your voice which ran through my mind: this too shall pass.

I posted this on my other blog a few months ago. I’ve edited it a little and added it to this blog so that you might read it, Mary xxx

Grit

The grit of a dozen
imprisoned
rhymes
scrapes my mind,
straining to be arranged,
aching to stain virgin paper with blurred shades
of sorrow and rage.
I will not, I say:
I will not, I cry:
I will not write this piece of me,
for to write is to bleed.

The pain never dies,
but if left in peace it might rest,
it might sleep awhile.
I’ll deny my psyche’s keening request; I will not try
to unravel the gravel which scars my soul,
and I will not weep
for one who was lost
long ago.

©Jane Paterson Basil