Tag Archives: free verse

An Announcement in Poetry

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He lit her fire and felt the radiating glow
that lay unkindled through the blunted, charcoal years,
and now, at 3 am, her eyes are closed, her frame in safe recline
while he and I discuss the coming celebration
as if we were alone.

I think that she’s asleep,
but David knows that when her name is spoken,
her lovely eyes will open, and she’ll surprise me with a dazzling smile
which, had I questions in my head, would reconcile them, every one.
She’ll rise up fast and cross the room to kiss his head,
then sleepily retrace her steps to lie back down again,
while both of us devour the sight of reclaimed beauty.

It happens every time.

This is no fickle game, no touch-and-go,
no trumped-up love to end in tears,
no dirty trick to try her luck,
no shameful scam to make a buck.

She’s gone so far beyond her ruinsome loyalty to dangerous desires,
and found a life that’s richer than a pirate’s buried chest of gems.
I watch and know she’ll never lose herself again.

I catch his eye, and it is like a sibling’s hug.

This marriage is no sacrifice, no grateful gift for what he did.
My daughter found a home in him, a home she never knew before.
I love this trying, loyal man who loves to disagree
with all the views I hold most dear,
this roughly mined black diamond who saved my child’s life.
I love our friendship, love our differences and little wars,
but most of all I love the way he loves my daughter,
and I’ll be proud to call him
son-in-law.

This rhyme is artlessly arranged, but I won’t change a word of it. It’s the only way I know to finally share my daughter’s forthcoming marriage to Dave.

Image: My sleepy girl before she decided it was time to lie down on my sofa and go to sleep, while Dave and I watched over her, discussed wedding plans, and generally enjoyed an all-nighter.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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The Words

Embed from Getty Images

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I don’t have the words
to describe how he saved me; how many times he
untied me, his voice cradling me, his
words raising me to a place where I could see the
raised, grey veins feeding the leaves, the
infinite gaps between the atoms, the
perfection of profanity, the
surprised depth of my tenacity, the
secret sinews that stretched for me,
the verdigris beauty
of our cracked
humanity;

I don’t have the words
to say what he was to me.
If he crept inside my head, he
could write my truth for me.

He, and only he
whose honest bricks were
shaped from human frailty and faults;
from love and hate and pain and ecstasy,
from hope and desperation, and finally, from peace,
who showed us places we could almost reach,
who raised his turgid alter high
and humbly gifted it to us.

I don’t claim exclusivity,
my keening sigh is echoed
by a million souls with feeling,
but when he ceased breathing,
I wept for unsung songs
that were destined to be digested and dispersed
in the dank earth by cemetery worms,
and while I believe he was ready

we weren’t.

.

Dedicated, with friendship and gratitude to Ivor, who, in conjunction with Leonard Cohen, inspired this poem.

©Jane Paterson Basil

A Terrible Intimacy

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I have skittered around the jagged rim of it –
have cringed from its septic snag, standing well back,
pressing against the walls of my cell in the undisguised hell of my life,
thinking to escape its gnashing teeth.
I’ve hidden behind a false smile or fallen with
silent or searing scream while the buzzing in my brain kept
sanity away and all the time I believed
I was being brave.
Don’t give in to it. Don’t let it in or
the monsters will carry you away.
It will scratch your skin, but if you have the will you can
be a wisp of smoke, a ribbon of unreality, you can
cease to be if only for the moment. You can
die in spirit so the hurt won’t reach you. You can
escape the worst of it.

And suddenly it engulfs you, all of it, every last bit, every
truth and falsehood they dripped into your head, every
needle that they pushed through the skin designed to protect
those children you loved even as they were forming in your womb,
and you feel it all, every attack and defence, everything
they broke within and without, everything
they did, everything,
every last pain that they inflicted,
every
single
minute of it.

It’s all there, every inch if agony they
pushed into themselves and you. It’s a force that fills
your body, works its way between the
layers of muscle and fat, courses
through the bloodstream and presses against the flesh. It
pulls you to the floor, drags you into a foetal position.
You’re panting like a dog, fighting
to gain control, but it holds fast to you, until
finally your fight is all gone.

That’s when it loosens its grip a little, leaving
you free; free to allow its firm embrace, free to feel
it flow through you, around you, above and below you.
It sweeps through you like
a clean spring of pure love or pure hatred, and now that you have
made your peace with it, you’re no longer sure of the difference
between agony and ecstasy. There is only the fact of it,
the unity, the bond between you and this caressing pain.

You lie with it awhile,
feeling your heartbeat decrease,
hearing the blood cease its humming,
noticing the world become still,
returning its embrace.

You have loved
and you have lain with men,
but now you know you have never let them in.
You have never allowed this
terrible intimacy.

It’s neither the best or the worst moment of your life,
and it is nothing in between these extremes;
it just is. It is all of you and none of you.
It is horror and fulfilment and emptiness.
It is all and nothing.
It is home.

Soon you will continue your life.
Nothing external will have changed, but you will
breathe,
and for a while you will remember
how to cry.

Written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #Week 8

©Jane Paterson Basil

A Speck of Energy

Reena’s Exploration Challenge

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With grateful thanks to Reena who this week asks us:

What is it that makes you feel powerful? What is that strength which makes your time on this planet worthwhile?

A SPECK OF ENERGY

When Spring rains tease, and make believe
this year there’ll be no splashing seaside days —
no beach ball play, no sandy feet, or plastic spades —
I smile to hear my friends’ predictable complaints,
then, when fickle summer deigns to show its heated face,
I bathe in its flirtatious fleeting phase.

When sunny haze gives way to skittering breeze
that flutters fading flags from yawning trees,
to drop them all in heaps
on forest floors and fields and lawns,
it saddens me to see them crackle in the gardener’s autumn blaze,
and turn to ash as if they have
no valid place in fenced-in, trim hedge symmetry,
yet even boot-black ash has energy,
and with a ready partner, synergy ensues.

The winter wind and snowy cold bring mixed emotions to my bursting soul,
but all in all, each season has its virtues.

I’m humbled by the size and quantity of life. I often wonder how I signify,
impotent as I am to rectify the cruel wrongs I see,

but then I feel approaching storm
whose electricity, far from numbing me with fear,
elates each atom of my fumbling frame.
With rising thrill I lock my door and run outside to face the gale
and find a hill to climb
that I may watch the angry might of lightening
illuminate the sky, and hear the thunder rumbling to remind me:
this is power, and it is mine.

It may strike me down,
or it may let me live, but whatever the decision,
I am an invincible, though infinitesimal, grain of matter,
an intrinsic speck of the energy of this astonishing organism
we call Planet Earth,
and, having been created at her birth,
Neither you nor I can be destroyed,
only repeatedly altered in form.

Some future day my nutrients may feed a seedling
or keep a mighty tree alive;
a tree which will contain me even after its trunk crumbles
and it bows to a fresh partner,
preparing to dance to a new tune
in the megalithic cycle of life.

.

Or to put it another way:

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awakens my

elecric energy

and makes me feel

powerful1.jpg

©Jane Paterson Basil

Another Day

You’d like to write, but your cupboards are empty, so you pick up your bag and dash to town.

On the way you decide to drop into Oxfam, but once there you find work to do, so you set to. Soon, all else is forgotten. You buy lunch and carry on.

Someone called Rose phones. You’ve missed a meeting. You say you don’t know a Rose, and no one told you about a meeting.
She mentions the Job Centre
and it sends you

reeling.

“The meeting is on Friday,”
you wheeze, but no, it was today,
and now it’s too late to attend, but
you get away with the mistake
since she knows you’re
halfway to

crazy.

She generously
tells you it’s okay,
and arranges to see
you when you come
back from
Spain.

While helping
carry donations from
a car to the shop you spot a man
slumped senseless on step across the road,
so you check to see he’s not dead,
and discover he’s dead

drunk.

Soon after five o’clock
Karen locks the shop. You check that the man across
the road is still breathing, then go home, where the cupboards
are still bare. You can go shopping after you’ve composed a poem.
The phone rings. You’re supposed to be at a family dinner.
Leaving the flat, you take a route past the Oxfam shop.
You’re pleased that the slumped drunk is gone.

You have a riotous evening,
returning home after

midnight

and you try to write;
try to expand on an idea which
only moments ago
seemed

inspired,

but
you need to
take your

medication,

so you go to the kitchen and
reach for the pills but
the phone rings
you press the
green icon
and
stare
at
the
screen

wondering

what to do next.
A distant voice brings you
to your senses and you hold
the phone to your ear for

fifty-five minutes.

For almost an hour
you must be the oracle,
the one who has the answers
no matter how hard the questions
No matter how your brain
may doubt your

ability.

You are Mother.
You have struggled forever to
see your children well
so you must

know

all the thoughts in your daughter’s brain, and if she can cope
with the unexpected change she made to her care plan three hours ago.
Is she being over-confident? Will her heart stand the strain, will she
collapse, will she weaken, will she sink, or will she rise to the
occasion in the amazing way you think she can? What is she
really thinking, and will the doctor support her
decision, or will he say she must carry
out her plan with precision?
Is it all going wrong, or
is it proving better
than you could have
possibly hoped?
How will it go
tomorrow?
You don’t

know.

You don’t know,
but the questioner must not know that.
Once off the phone,
you start to
write,

then
remember

your

medication.

Tomorrow,
you will

be

focused

.

Words for Peace #4

Welsh:

Heddwch

You can find the pronunciation HERE.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Kiss

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A thin mist sprinkled fine moisture
onto freckled skin, my hair
swelled with liquid gems as I held a
child’s fragile hand in mine;
I, the mighty protector.

The predator stepped with ease through the flesh
of a leaf-scented dream. Dressed
in guise of kind benefactor he promised food
and a dry place to safely  stay.
Details of the walk of gloom which led us to that hellish room
lie shrouded in my mind, yet

still I hear
the grating click of iron in the lock; still I see
the disorderly scheme, still I feel
the shuddering agony of his punishing kick
to my child’s shins, the sharp slap across the face as he spat
out an accusation of laziness, and demanded
my son clean the place. On a naked

mattress that shamelessly displayed
a sordid history in every thread of stained ticking
two women, each with a young son, lay passive
their stoned eyes betraying
blurred focus while slack mouths
slurred flattering words;
burred crumbs scattered by the vanquished,
to placate the jailer.

I silently swore at the
folly of my faith in generous acts; we three females
were slaves, captured for sex, while our children
were taken as drudges of a another sort.

Finding us all trapped, I began to hatch a plan to stab
the villain in the back and smash the door to
make an escape, but as I glanced around I spied a
silent man crouching in a corner, almost
screened by a drape, his forlorn gaze aimed
at the floor. Turning in his direction to determine
what role he played, I saw his face, the face
I see when velvet sheets of sleep gently envelope me;
the face I’m sure I’ve adored for centuries and more;
the soul-mate I have always known and yearned for.
I knelt before him, and as our eyes met
he recognised me. Our mutual joy
erased all fearful thought.

I reached for him,
and our lips joined.

In fuming rage, the predator
pulled me from that short embrace. He threw me
down, and leaped upon my shuddering frame. In his eager haste
he tore my clothes while needled fingernails
clawed blood from my veins. I fought
in vain against the filth and pain as he came
closer to forcing his way into me, my
feeling of degradation reaching a peak. With a jolt I

woke to find myself at home, the ghost of
ravaged rags and ravening attack softened by
the honeyed phantom
of a loving kiss upon my lips,
but as I rose to consciousness, a searing surge
of grief and loss
swallowed sweet relief.

I’m not sure I want to analyse this particular dream, but if anyone out there feels like having a stab at it, be my guest… and maybe you can give me some clue as to who that idealised dream man is. I can describe him, if that would help… 🙂

Words for Peace #3

Norway and Sweden share the same word for peace. It should be an easy one for English speakers to learn, since it’s a commonly used masculine name – and it makes me giggle, since I know a rather angry person who goes by that name.

Swedish and Norwegian:

Fred.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Peace #2

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One word,

spoken by the gentle,

whispered in prayer by quiet souls of faith,

breathed into the air by those who hold out human hope,

sobbed and gasped and beseeched

by the oppressed.

One word, a wish issued

by imploring lips that speak for

you and me, its plea reaching across

the dipping curves and stretched flats of

our burdened planet as it struggles

for its next breath.

One word which will not

be choked back or swallowed by the

butt of a gun pressed into the

tender necks of the

persecuted.

One word whose meaning

we must never forget, whose need

we must understand, no matter

what language

we speak.

One word articulated

by each race and every loving creed.

One word that could

change the

world.

One word:

Peace.

.

Although my intentions are good, I don’t always remember to credit those who inspire my posts. This post was inspired a beautiful post written by Tinasharma.

Those of you who know Raili, will also know about her Steps for Peace. Every day she puts a peace-inspiring quote at the bottom of her post. I wanted to join Raili in doing something to promote peace, and this post has given me an idea. At the bottom of each of my posts, I will write the word Peace in a different language, and I’ll try to learn to say that word in every language I can. It carries the most important message I can impart to any stranger.

My passion for words has been known to carry me away. In case I sometimes forget to carry out my promise, I apologise in advance.

My first Word for Peace is in Hindi:

shanti

Shanti

I wrote this post before I saw Reena’s Exploration Challenge for this week, but it fits the requirements perfectly, so I’ve linked it to her post, which is well worth checking out – maybe you’d like to join in. These are the two images she has used to inspire our writing:

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©Jane Paterson Basil