Tag Archives: growing up

Fairy Tales

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We were children, trapped in coddling innocence.
Our future a blurred dream,
our expectations reflecting limited experience:
dappled shadows dancing beneath sun-lit trees,
daisies on a fragrant lawn,
icecream on the beach,
flares that burnt fast-fading holes in our sight,
leaving scars that would not be discerned
until we reached a certain age.

Avidly, we absorbed oft-repeated bed-time stories
which left us believing
that evil was easily recognised,
since it arrived in ugly shapes
and was always defeated.
Only the good were beautiful;
all aches rinsed away by the chaste kiss
of a handsome Prince;
all kingdoms gained by betrothal.

Sometimes
injustice was perverted
by the person who pushed the pen.

Jack trespassed in the giant’s den,
following up his crime with killing and looting,
that he may live out his days
in tainted luxury.

Dick Whittington was assisted by a sly cat,
thereby obtaining his elite position
through deceit and lies.

The unfortunate daughter
of the silly miller who issued false boasts
was locked in a cell
by an avaricious king who wanted more gold.
Rumpelstiltskin offered a tough deal, but the girl
agreed to give him her first-born.
His mistake was in singing out his name, thinking
that no-one was listening.
In retrospect,
the entire cast behaved in a shabby way.

As for Goldilocks,
at least she learnt to steer clear
of burglary.

Not all the stories had happy endings.

The Babes in the Wood were buried beneath burnished leaves
by grieving birds and beasts, their lives curtailed by starvation,

The Little Match Girl was taken to a better place when she died,
yet I decry the shuttered eyes that caused her suffering in life.

So many fictions to pick through
in our sheltered realm
where parents swept salve on every wound,
our consciousness trusting that we
were charmed and good.

We would win the Prince;
a Kingdom we would rule.

We never knew that corruption
had mingled with truth
and sullied our very bones.


P.S.

Let’s scoop away the fairy tales
that recommend a life of greed
and justify the crimes we sweep
beneath our rusting thrones.
The whole world knows that children weep
while mothers die in hungered sleep
and thieves will feed on living flesh
engraving teeth-marks in the bones.

Don’t feed on living flesh,
don’t scrape away the bones.
Live an honest life of peace,
and leave the fairy tales alone.


©Jane Paterson Basil

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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

Who am I?

You ask me who I am,
this fool whose home-made skin
once glistened
with a million shades
of fake and real, incorporating
all the human I hungered to be
and wished to be envisaged in me;
this fool who
from a distance, glowed,
yet seen up close,
singed the eye.

You ask me who I am;
this woman so deeply seared
by uncertainty.
I can tell you I erred,
and that in erring,
I learned to learn,
crawling toward the cure
as each vain expectation,
each flaking fantasy,
each false pretence
was slaked away,
leaving me both less and more.

You ask me who I am
as I watch my multi-coloured dream-coat
shrink to flickering embers,
surrendered by my own hand
to the questing flames
of questioned truth.

You ask me who I am;
I’ll tell you what I know.
Old flesh shows through the vest
my mother dressed me in
long before I chose
my own showy clothes.
Its creases advertise passion
for laughter,
cheesecake
and peace in every corner.
Now and then my heart
aches from human disgrace
and residual shame.
beyond that,
I’m not yet sure
who I am.

This is my last-minute response to Gina at Singledust, who last week put out a call for bloggers to write a poem to introduce themselves, to be featured at The Godoggocafe.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Call it what you will

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I cannot scroll down to the future
to reveal the mysterious code
written in hieroglyphics
upon sacred, hardened sandstone.
The time might come when the reason
glows out from a golden tome,
but I cannot predict what life I may meet
or what the penance or prizes might be,
though I stare at twisted shapes
and question reality,
and I hope that one day the reason
will be read from a hallowed page,
but although I can’t know I don’t believe
any truth will be shown in that way to me.

I squint down the street where babies
discover their fingers and toes.
I gaze at their faces and wonder
what their future might hold.
Even a mother can’t tell
if the future’s a river of honey,
or a motorway paved with stolen money,
or a misconceived living hell.

I roll past the stuttering changeling,
that grew from the child with wide eyes
who visualised dreams in the clouds of the skies,
then watched them evolve and go scudding by,
curling to misshapen needles and knives,
death on the streets and mouths that yawn wide
in shouts of hatred and silent screams,
and what went wrong with his dreams?

What ill-wind blew his dreams out of shape?
How do so many innocent babies
become haunted orphans and fiends,
and when will the suffering end?

Maybe one day the reason
will be read from a shimmering sheet
and when truth is revealed we’ll fall to our knees
filling the air with our thanks and our pleas,
as we burn in flames or take ring-side seats,
but this is not my belief.

Some say that we’re ants on a dung-heap,
some say we are angels supreme,
but we’re all of us sentient beings
on planet that used to be green.

I search for the secret message,
but the only thing I can see
is the wildest guess in a world that’s a mess
and although it suggests that faith is a boon,
we need to change the future,
and we need to do it soon.

.

For The Sandbox Writing Challenge 2018 – Exercise 23, I allowed a stream of consciousness to came flooding in…

©Jane Paterson Basil

The woman in his life

I was always the woman in his life.
Through all of the abuse.
he knew he could rely on my love
and he loved me, he always loved me.

He stole my money and more;
he took all of the things he could sell.
I struggled to keep the heart beating in my chest;
I fought to keep those gems that fade when all is not well;
the seasons, with their soft and crisp textures and breath;
the goodnight kiss of each evening sunset;
each mealtime caress on the tongue.

As a last resort
I curled up in a tight ball;
with less inches exposed to the air,
less pain could enter my body
while I thought about:
the pull of the moon;
the ancient hills of my home;
the hazel eyes of a long-lost love;
the waves crashing on the cliffs at Porlock;
the thrill, as a child, of holding an unread book;
and soon I would unroll, take up my laptop,
and write much of the remaining pain away.

Just recently
I have been superceded
by a wild and lovely young rose;
who with one blow, has tamed my son.
so long I have waited for this day to come;
a day when he would cease tormenting me;
when my suffering would evaparate,
as my beloved child’s life
finally came together.

I celebrate
and am relieved,
while the edges of me
ache with the
grief of
loss.

The Daily Post #Together

©Jane Paterson Basil

Before my memory

My father’s roll of selotape
was slightly rippled, as if from the damp
and I couldn’t remember a time
when it had looked any different.
Although he used it, it never seemed to shrink.

One day he told me it had been in his possession
for twenty years,
thereby joining a reel of elastoplast
and a plethora of other items
for which he claimed two decades.

I had lived for less than half that period, and yet
my past was an indefinable eternity;
with markers where I had achieved so many things.
I had learned to read;
broken my ankle;
gashed my head open against a stone wall;
and climbed the singing tree,
to swing on a branch with my brother Neil.

I examined my father’s roll of selotape
and concentrated until my head hurt
in an effort to imagine any kind of existence
before my memory;
but all I could see was a blank, leaden space
with neither sun, moon or stars to brighten the sky.

©Jane Paterson Basil

That day

Embed from Getty Images

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They told me I was growing and one day I would be an adult. I was old enough to know this must be so, but too young to truly understand.

Eyeing my tanned feet encased in their summer sandals, I thought: surely they’ve always been this distance from my face? When my mind reached back it seemed that I had ever changed.

It must have been the first time my three brothers had taken me beyond the end of our stony lane, and we stood for a moment by the backwoods signpost.

I was familiar with the road which twisted ahead, and the one that led to the right,
but we chose the untapped trail to the left, a thrilling path full of mysteries which I longed to see.

A jaded adult may have ambled and dashed past so many wild summer banks that they all looked the same, but to this happy child each one was unique.

In nearby hedges I had seen the wild glory of vetch and meadowsweet, I had bent with stained fingers to to pick wild strawberries, and I felt as if I had been breathing such beauty for eons, but this road and this day were beauty incarnate.

Above me the sky was a Van Gogh shade without the melancholy. The complex scent of miriad summer blooms attracted scores of butterflies, bees, and other flying insects, while beyond the buzzing in the still heat, birds sang and a distant tractor hummed as it harvested the wheat. Four of my five senses were being fed to a joyous fullness. The early morning dew had dried, leaving emerald nature glowing with health.

It was a perfect morning,
and in a moment of clarity I recognised myself,
knew that I fitted perfectly into the world
and I had no need to reach forward
to find out who I would be.

Written for The Daily Post Word Prompt #Reach

©Jane Paterson Basil