Tag Archives: memories

Paper Pig

He ignores  my birthday,
waves away Mothering Sunday,
is always on the take,
but he gave me a pig; a frail paper pig
during his prison time.
Confined to solitary for an inside crime,
the man woke to find a lonely child —
the ghost of my son —
in his abandoned soul.
Engaging his flare for origami
he reshaped a pale scrap of waste,
wrote ‘Oink Oink’ on its flank,
and smuggled it past the screws
when I visited him in jail.
I snuck it through the creaking gates
which locked me back in freedom;
a gift of love from a lost one
to a searching mother.

He came home,
but I couldn’t find my child behind his eyes
and he was blinded by the habit
of hiding in his hooded life.

Since he skipped town for the city,
I’ve scrubbed away the filth,
scrapped the waste
he left scattered in his wake.
Thirty years of memories lie buried
in a crate beneath impediments
I save in case of rain,
yet the pig —
the paper pig he made for me —
the pig stands guard upon my shelf,
defending one last inch of who he might have been,
and hinting at the chance of change.
I lift him up and purse my lips
to blow the dust away,
and even though I banish hope
since hope might bring me pain,
with gentle hand I place the pig
back on the shelf again.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Distance Between

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Son,
if time was a kindly two-way lane
I’d turn my laden truck around and speed toward the East,
blanking the maggoty road-kill that festers yet
on the tracks of your pickled yesteryears

your needle pricks
your blood and spit
your flinging tantrums
bunching fists
stealthy falsehoods
blatant tricks
the wars you fought with phonic swords fast-honed on flowing tears;
your armies marched to split my walls
which let in gales of filth and fear
leaving me in defeat
with nothing to eat but the waste from the streets.
You grinned while I choked on the gruesome mince
as if I was having a treat
but your smile couldn’t hide the spin of your mind
or the pit beneath your feet

driving in a straight line until your skin is smooth,
accelerating to let my lorry leap the fall,
then lifting my toes for the peaks of the show.

Never leaving the road,
I would pursue my goal
until I nestled the warm weight of my youngest child,
you, my only son,
your arms enveloping my neck,
fresh-formed fingers hooking my hair,
finding my ear lobes,
nose pressing my throat,
your caress needy,
greedy
like a thief or a breast-fed cub,
your possessive caress
enfolding me
in that heavenly rush
of motherly
love.

Your caress,
your sweet, owning caress
would be my destination,
and the things I know
would sink in an ocean of parental ecstasy.

But time is not a two-way lane;
it’s a taut chain that leads forward
to obscurity, obliterating diamonds in its wake.
If I concentrate
I can synthesise a fleeting sensation of the elation
brought by each childish embrace;
a hint of silver that glitters
beneath the skin of a silted stream,
yet I cannot feel your breath on my neck
or the texture
of your skin warming mine,
and linear time
has no way to erase
the mistakes of the distance between.


My son is currently banished from my life, but I hold him in my heart. I will not capitulate and I will forge forward in life, but I grieve for him and hope that one day he will return to the family that loves him.


©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.

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Retrace

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If I retrace each pace along my failing route;
reverse each inspiration, every foolish move,
take back each sleeping dream, each waking thought,
unpurchase every acquisition bought,
unlearn my hard-earned lessons, one by one,
unbirth my babies, unconceive them from my womb,
unbreak my every vow; yes, reinstate, to then unmake,
unlaugh, uncry, ungrow, that I may take away
each ticking second thieving time has pleated in its depths,
until you walk my way, that I may slow my backward steps –

If I retrace my past and uninstall full four decades,
then halt my retrogression, behind the choice I made –

If I return to that remembered day
when I wept, yet cut the rope, and walked away —
whatever game my wandering mind may play,
no disparate blots would shape the pattern that I made,
for if all memories of unravelled future were erased
each reeled-in moment would replay the same, unfazed.
My cause would still be thinly writ
in rippling water, and a flickering torch would still be lit —
and if I recalled all the film of forty years,
I’d live it all again, dispite the slurry pit of tears.

If I be weakened by romantic promise
and fall into your arms, and if I cry a joyful “Yes!” –
Should that occur, no-one will be saved.
My offspring will not tiptoe gently to their graves —
There’ll be no grave; and though unborn they will remain,
my memories of what will never be
will fester, every pip of non-existence haunting me.

And so, my love, I would not seek to rearrange, or take away
one moment of this life that broke me, made me;
gave me every foul and fulsome day.
I hold our  wilful, wilesome, smiling secrets hidden in my head,
to ease me into restful sleep, as I lie counting in my bed.
I steal a distant pleat of time,
and side-by-side, we stroll down tree-lined lanes;
I stroke your youthful face, and we are still the same, still the same.

Your phantom eyes are sad, while mine are wet,
and yet within your kiss, I breathe this simple phrase:
“Je ne regrette rien.”

No; no regret; though my dream may leave no physical trace,
its spring-fresh scent will never fade.

The Daily Post #Trace

©Jane Paterson Basil

Dear childhood self

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sweet little start of me
through ancient mist I see you
aping our mother’s daily routine
washing yesterday’s dollies dresses
while she scrubs the sheets
concentration creasing your cute face
as you rinse and squeeze the tiny pieces
your fingers bleached and shrivelled by the task

and later
you mix a cake
grinning in vanilla-kissed contentment
while she cooks dinner
for your father, your brothers and your sister

a ginger cat curls round young calves
his tail tickling your giggly knees
his unpredictability tripping your feet

I see you
distant as as the stony stream
flowing around the stones
in the crook of our childhood valley
silent as a graveyard angel
frozen in the photographs of my imagination

I tried to keep you near
but you sank away
clinging to what you thought you could keep forever
instead of growing with me

I miss you
and what I expected to be

©Jane Paterson Basil

A scrap of green curtain

a scrap of green curtain,
its pattern faded, its fabric worn,
kept throughout my time on this earth,
to remind me of the scent of Sunday mornings
when it was always summer outside;
in the springtime of my life.

a scrap of green curtain
folded in the bottom of a box;
its leafy design
forever imprinted on my mind.

once in a while
I hold it against my face,
inhale its musty age
and reach back toward those days
when I was awakened by the chiming of church bells
from across the hills.

inhaling the clean air,
I watched the fabric dance in time
to the jangling call
their leaves kissing, then separating,
preparing to kiss again.
with a palm on my chest
I could feel the sleepy rhythm of my breathing,
as from beneath the blankets, I made vague plans
for a new day of freedom;
I would swim in the stream, run through the fields,
play our latest and most dangerous game,
climb trees,
throw back my head, and sing like Julie Felix.

when the bells ceased their call to the faithful,
my mother came into the room;
a song from some favourite opera clean on lips
that smiled to see me awake.
later, her chestnut hair would be fragrant with vanilla
and the smell of freshly baked bread;
but not yet.

a scrap of green curtain
takes me back to when, just for a few minutes,
I would listen
to the silence of my world,
before the laughter and play began.

The Daily Post #Silence

©Jane Paterson Basil

That day

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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

That dress

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I was just nineteen
and the term “vintage” was applied only to cars.
Used dresses, coats and jeans were merely second-hand
or old, though if they were older still, they may be called antique.

It was 1974 and junk-shop clothing was a hippy thing.
Audaciously we flounced into charity shops and jumble sales
declaring in voices designed to carry:
I love these places, they’re such fun,
but let’s go to Dorothy Perkins when we leave.
We didn’t want to be labelled penny-pinching
even though our grants rarely stretched to the end of term,
and soon we would be surviving on a diet of spaghetti and tomato ketchup –
until the ketchup dried up, and we had to make do with margarine.

Like sheep that want to be something more interesting
but hope that the flock won’t notice,
we giggled to cover up our middle-class shame
tussling with aging customers, yanking blouses from their hands
as if we didn’t know they were holding them.
It seemed fair, because sometimes they did the same to us,
and anyway, we were young. We were beautiful
and would do justice to the shimmering red satin
or the cool blue chambray.

We pretended it was fancy-dress,
but in truth we adored the look.

Beaded and sequined flapper dresses in swish silk and chiffon
could be easily purchased
for less than a factory worker’s wages, but
that was too great an investment for me,
so I plumped for forty’s austerity
with it’s hardwearing fabric,
its prim sexiness sewn as if by chance into the seams.

I stroked my hips to feel the fine weave
practiced poses before the mirror,
admired the unusual detail.

In the High Street I slowed my pace beside glazed windows,
slant-eyed, subversively scrutinising my reflection.
The shop girls gazed down their noses, sneering at my vanity
while I saw only admiration in their eyes.

I told myself I was an original.
I still think that the dress may have been.
It was beautiful in its conception and its finish.
I wish the moths hadn’t eaten it.
It was treasure. It was Art.

©Jane Paterson Basil