Tag Archives: nostalgia

Mortal

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When I was four feet tall
I believed I was immortal;

that knives
could not scar me

oceans
not drown me

mistakes
not taint me

evil
not weaken me

age
not change me

pain
not
break me

and that strength
would never fail me.

I was confident I would shape
a sensational destiny.

Yet I am mortal after all.
No ogres quake at the sight of my face,
no lame man walked.
no blind man saw.
no orphans were fed,
peace was not restored.
I was somewhere else,
someone less;
not the giant
of my idle fantasy,
only a wind-blown flake, adept
at making a mess.

I do not scream
or beat my breast
yet I bleed.

Ignominiously,
I bleed.

I scrub at the seepage
but it will not come clean,
leaving an indelible stain
for posterity.

In recompense,
the forgiving flowers of my womb
grow over my stain,
creating a fertile garden
with fresh running streams.

They illustrate
that my bungled life
has not been
a waste.

Although this poem doesn’t contain to the wordSequester‘, it was inspired by today’s Word of the Day Challenge. I was going to give it the title ‘Sequestered in Fantasy’, since that is a good description for the way I was as a child. However, that title doesn’t suit the poem.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Crepe Paper

Back in the day
The Chamber of Commerce
attracted tourists by calling this town
the sunniest corner of Devon.
We all laughed and said “Is that a fact?”
but the tourists came to see the famous market
and to take in places marked upon the map.
Coaches drove down scarred roads
to set down in the long-stay coach park.
Drivers guided old folk who shuffled off the bus
to follow the trail.
Mumbling
“I’m glad I brought my coat,”
they splashed along pavements
emblazoned with flattened splats of bubble gum.

Crisp packets skittered in the wind.
Twisted drinks cans and bottles
vomited from stuffed-up rubbish bins.
Used condoms lay vanquished in the gutters,
their flattened swell bragging sticky acts
of safe sex in the back of rattling vans,
and the public lavatories stank.

I overstated the rain;
we’ve been known to suffer or enjoy weeks of dry heat,
but the Chamber of Commerce knew
that their claim, too, was exaggerated.
They updated their slogan; these days the bywords
are “ancient” and history.
The long-stay coach park has been demolished;
these days, less guests are treated to the sight
of flying litter.

In September, the kids go back to school
so most of the holiday makers have gone.
They miss our laughable carnival.
A factory ceased supplying lengths of bright nylon
to drape around the floats
since it closed, many years ago,
The nylon has been replaced by crepe paper,
which is a shame;
all the locals know
it always rains on carnival day.

This is a bit rushed as I’m going out for a celebratory meal in about an hour, but I couldn’t resist the prompt, since today is Carnival day in my town. Watching though my window, I see parents trudging, children skipping, on their way to watch the display. The pavements are wet, but it’s not raining. The procession starts in half-an-hour. The floats will already be ruined, and now I see drops of rain appearing on the glass.

Word of the  Day Challenge: Carnival

©Jane Paterson Basil

Musical Hypocrisy

Today, the Haunted Wordsmith posted Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley PTA. It always reminds me of The Son of Hickery Holler’s Tramp. Both songs are about mean-minded, small-town hypocrisy. I was in my teens when these songs came out, and I still remember how  real the protagonists were to me. I wanted to march right over to Harper Valley and give the PTA a piece of my mind, backing up the ticking off they’d already received. Then go on to Hickery Holler and adopt the kids.

If I was more organised, I might choose one day a week to post music. Since I’m not, I’ll just continue to throw in the odd record on a random basis. This is the original version, sung by O.C. Smith.

Here goes:

 

That’s it, folks.

For Eric

First morning of Autumn term.
I’m in the crush-hall, slouching with Bett and Marion,
stuttering into “business as usual” mentality,
shrinking from school-house stink,
bitterly regretting the absence of a time-machine
to take me to last week and drop me in a tree,

when

a cacophany of cat calls;
a confusion of piercing wolf-whistles
rudely explode from 3C’s nuisance crew –
led by Bill, with noisy aid from sidekick Dick and the usual losers.

A wit who is in on the obscure joke
yells “Blossom!”

Clutches of kids spin
away from crude authors to their protagonist;
a casually-dressed grotesque strolling toward us
by way of the students entrance.
Nobody but schoolkids use that door; the teachers
flatten their own, hallowed lane.

 The man  is setting a precedent
which he alone will follow for as long as he can tolerate
hypocrites and foolish heads of schools.

Later, he’ll be known by all as Eric,
sports coach by day,
youth leader in evenings and weekends,
heroic defender of child-friendly themes even while he sleeps.
A man who accepts our weaknesses
as natural or pained stages toward our individual choices  
of growth or decay.
He’ll never trill the truths we know,
instead planting daisies on the paths we scrape,
to illuminate the better way,

In his presence, my self-disgust will shrink,
and forever, memories of his generosity will boost me.
In latter years we will meet by happy accident and chat in the street.
I’ll reminisce, while he will weave his wise philosophy
like an invisible thread, darning the holes in my head.
He’ll speak of his yesterday’s hockey game,
of next week’s holiday in Thailand,
where he’ll visit his adopted son.
He’ll promise me saffron when he returns.
I’ll want to detain him, that I may bask
longer in his company.

In morbid moments I will think of his age, and imagine
that the sky will collapse, the planets collide
the moment he dies.

The Saffron will never arrive; instead a final announcement;
“The well known hockey coach, Eric Gale, after a brief illness…”
for an instant, I will hallucinate;
see the planets crashing to earth, the sun dying,
then his voice will come to me.
saying that life is about giving; in death,
he will never take away.
Grief and abiding gratitude will engulf me.

but today,
I only hear a nickname, “Blossom”,
whose background will remain a mystery.

As he passes through the hall, the bravest rebels repeat:
“Whoa, blossom; drop ’em, blossom,”
yet he smiles benignly, nodding and hello-ing as if
his tormentors are friends.

My friends and I shake our heads,
disgusted by the hecklers,
fascinated even as we are repulsed
by this track-suited, rucksack hugging man whose face
resembles a mismatched collection of unkind jokes
crafted by a demented plastic surgeon.

We do not yet recognise his glory.

Eric passes by,
his smile open, my eyes averted.
I glance at Bill’s elated crew
for a trace of shame,
but that will only come later.

.

Written in haste for yesterday and today’s Word of the Day Challenges: Blossom and Abiding

©Jane Paterson Basil

Going Home

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Skinny river beckons,
breathing an echo of days when these feet
measured the thin edge a an instant before the leap,
when the landing deftly skipped the breach,
in the days when danger was a game
unfettered by sticks and stones of age,
and gunshot death was fun to feign;
tumbling play that entertained
till hunger called away.

Skinny river
whispers skittering memories,
whisking up a risible sniff of magic, as if
a giggling wish will lift me, and  carry me back
to the beginning that knew no measure
of length or breadth; that imagined
no end.

For an instant
I am loath to leave this empty crypt,
feeling a momentary need to stand sentry,
lest I miss my dusty trinkets,
my piddling, middling strides,
my thin wisp of pride.

Yet
if I go, the sky
will again be mine
and I will recognise my hands.
Adult battles of fact and habit
will be banished to the monochromatic land
of flim-flam.
I shall be Ilya, the handsome Man From UNCLE,
my brothers; spies from THRUSH.
My gun will eradicate evil until
it’s time to switch sides and be a baddie.
Naturally, Ilya will shoot me; the Right Side always wins.
Hamming it like a weak comedienne, I’ll expire in traditional style
with agonised grunts, thrashes and sighs,
finally rolling with a splash
into the shallow river
to die.

When dinner arrives,
I will obediently dine,
forever a child.

girl-cartoon

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Inspired by A River Runs Beneath Us, which was written by  Paul at Cafephylos

Written for Word of the Day Challenge: Loath


This is what Bruce has to say about the river…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Ask Me Why

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When we were families,
grandma’s house was a shared nest, and her attic
held history’s secrets beneath
dust that had caressed generations of kin.
Fingerprints revealed the smudged sheen
of an oaken music box, broken
by children’s rough love.
Though empty, it retained memories
of seamed silk stockings and a mother’s kiss.
Buried in a leather trunk an unworn
wedding dress told a musty story of domestic hope,
its promise stolen by the guns of war;
beneath the yellowed crepe-de-chine
lay mothy remnants
of a bridal bottom drawer.

When we were families,
most of us had somewhere
we could call our family home.
It may be humble, rough-and tumble,
with crumbling bathroom walls,
but it was many times better than no home at all.
When cold weather crept through our vests,
we’d pile into the kitchen through a welcoming door
and nestle next to a warming fire.

   * * *

Beyond my window, rain splashes passers by.
A billowing wind blows them forward, to where dry warmth beckons .

Half a mile away an encampment of flimsy tents
does little to protect our homeless friends.

At night they crawl inside their sleeping bags, fully dressed.
Curling up tight, they pretend to themselves that their nest is safe,
while council officials continue their plot
to rob the dispossessed of what little they’ve got.

©Jane Paterson Basil

A Silvered Shadow

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Night follows day,
giving way to night, then day, then night again.
Weeks pass, months speed away, swift as driving rain.
My mind drifts along yesterday’s empty plan
as I trip through the weight of today.

Gone are those fast forever summer games
we played around ponderously ticking clocks;
their tocks now sprint to fling each moment into history.
Ice cream dreams will me to childhood archives,
pulling out threads of longing that stretch,
yet fail to breach the barrier of years.

I see sparks of sunlight dancing on the river,
yet cannot feel a floury hand of love upon my back.
I see drowning pups beneath the water,
but cannot reach to pull them from the sack.
A silvered shadow flitters through the meadow
to stand beneath a wide-branched tree.
The shadow climbs as I stand watching
an airy ghost of who I used to be.

I see her every day, this little wraith;
spinning down her emerald path toward the tree,
and for minutes every day, I try to feel the grazing bark upon my knee,
to feel her heart beat, be a part of her, just as she’s a part of me,
and to ascertain that she’s as free
as she and I pretend to be.

As I trip through the weight of today,
my mind drifts along yesterday’s empty plan.
Weeks pass, months speed away, swift as driving rain,
night follows day, giving in to night, then day,
then night descends again.

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©Jane Paterson Basil