Tag Archives: past

The Last Laugh


I got a soggy dog-lick-kiss, breakfast on a tray
with the dreaded birthday sentence: Fifty years today.
Gifts enshrined in angry bills, ring box on a tin can,
and on the bed beside me, my oh, so funny man.

I wouldn’t touch my breakfast; the tea was weak and cold,
the bread was stale, the marmalade thickly furred with mould.
I unwrapped all the presents; fake poo and inked perfume,
I threw aside a birthday card, then marched out of the room.

He chased me to the kitchen; he knelt on knobbly knees
to offer me the ring box, said: Please don’t be a tease.
He looked so hurt and serious I thought he was sincere.
I’m glad I chose to take it, or he would still be here.

I carefully prised it open, expecting glittery bling,
but in that stupid jewellery box there was no diamond ring;
no long-denied proposal, no promise from my champ –
curled amidst the velvet was a grubby postage stamp.

I glared at him in fury, but he waved my rage away,
and laughing shrilly, said to me: It’s for a holiday.
Climb into this box, I’ll add the stamp and the address
of any destination, North, South, East or West.

It might be midlife crisis, but I’m weary of his humour;
I wished a heart attack on him, or a most aggressive tumour,
so feeling thus disgruntled, I shot him through the head.
He’s curled up in an outsize box, not joking now he’s dead.

I’m posting him to Timbuctoo, with no return address,
So I will never get him back, and I’ll suffer no redress.
It’s funny what you think of, when you scrub a bloody floor,
kitchen units and two windows, one kitten and a door:

We met on Friday the thirteenth, an unlucky day for me,
but the thirteenth has returned; how unlucky now is he!
I don’t regret the past, and there’s something I will miss;
I’d like to give him one last breath and see him laugh at this.

©Jane Paterson Basil


Written for Three Things Challenge: thirteen, midlife crisis, past

©Jane Paterson Basil

The years pass


In the beginning
it is like this:
you are little and it is.
There is no will be,
no was in your memory.
Your existence is.
You are in this minute.

Learning comes
from beyond your consciousness;
you have no recollection
of being unable to do what you can do today,
no expectation of future ability,
and when you are happy or sad
that moment
of elation or pain
is all there is.

<> <> <>

Time passes all around you
and you don’t know when the knowledge began,
but it is as if you always understood the passage of time.
You think your memory stretches back forever
but you are only five
and though you try
you can’t recall
a time when you weren’t alive,
and you can’t imagine
that some day you will die
or even that you will age.
Life is a series of days that stretch on forever
in a complex but unchanging pattern.
You dread your sister’s Monday temper
but look forward to her weekend games
You have discovered your past,
know there is a future,
but mostly
you breathe the moment.

< <>  <>

You are eight.
When you don’t understand long division
you remember how reading
was once so difficult
and yet now it’s easy.
You think of all the changes that have taken place in your life,
all the things that you have learned.
You are clever and you know that one day
you’ll attain teenage status,
but thinking ahead to a time when
you’ll no longer be under the protection of your parents
is too distant,
until that horrific day when your friend
turns up looking miserable and you ask her what’s wrong.

She tells you her mother has died.

Something crashes, noisily, in your head
spreading crimson through your brain
thickening, blocking your ears,
constricting your throat.
There are no words
and when they finally come they are the wrong ones,
thrown out in panic, because all this is outside your experience,
and because suddenly you know that one day
what has happened to your friend
will happen to you.
You will be alone. It could be forty years from now
or it could be tomorrow.
You could come home from school
and find your mother dead.

At night, when you lie in bed,
the fears crash in
like vandals breaking the windows of a vacant property,
and they don’t stop kicking until you have cried yourself to sleep.
They won’t let you alone, and yet
you still don’t think of how it will be when you are grown up.
You tell people you want to be a journalist
but it isn’t real.
There is only the past, the present, tomorrow, next week
and your terror.

< < <>

Your teens
are driven by twin needs for excitement and love,
complicated by unsettling hormones
setting up battles in the brain.
You trip again and again,
rarely regaining your balance before a further fall.
You turn blind corners and scale forbidden walls.
You scale, you tire, you fail, you fall.
You scale, you tire, you fail, you fall.
it becomes boring, but you cannot stop
because you are lost in a lonely shadow
looking for something which you think
is out there.

Somebody says
you won’t find it until you find yourself,
You catch the the words as they tumble from his lips,
but they get jumbled on the way to your mind
and although you try you cannot untangle them.

You want to find your way in life,
but amidst all the confusion
you do not have the vision
or the time.

<> < <>

On your twentieth birthday,
looking back at your errant teens
you think you have learnt all your lessons
and there are no more mistakes to be made.
You’ve escaped your most recent error
and you’re having a good day.
You assume you’ve cast
a healthy pattern for your future,
but when you try to imagine the rest of your life
you picture yourself cartwheeling through a sunny meadow,
arriving at the other end with skin still fresh
and energy fizzing.

You don’t know you have just hit
that quintessential moment of youth.
You walk down the street feeling the spring of your feet.
Your spine stretches and the sky tickles your chin,
and when you laugh
your laughter scoops merriment out of a void,
pulling it from the throats of strangers.
You feel like the chosen leader
in a land you have freed from
the tyranny of misery.

You think the planet is turning
just so it can look at you from the best angle,
but for five minutes you own the world.
For five minutes you think that life
will always be that way.

You will live long enough to learn
that those five minutes were worth more
than your finest rose-petal romance.

< < <>

Forty years pass.
Forty years of missed prizes and misdirected action,
of rubbings-out and scribbled correction,
resulting in good and bad things,
many of them enduring long enough
to cheer or chill you as you age
and when you ponder it,
you know that if at any stage
you had seriously thought about your future,
you would not have dreamed that so many of your days
would be so infused with pain.
But then, if you had thought about your future,
it probably wouldn’t have.

You enjoy the better things you’ve made
and you’ve learnt from your mistakes.
It would have been no education
to have come through life unscathed.

<> <> <>

Posted for The Daily Post’s One Word Prompt: Clock

©Jane Paterson Basil

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Just a Dream.”

This poem describes a recurring nightmare I used to have.


They’re crawling at speed

and my leaden feet

are letting me down

while their chemical needs

fill their minds with treason

which blinds them to reason

and feeds them with fervour,

making them faster than me.

As they chase me

the weight of the air all around

is pressing me down

and all I can hear is

the sound of my fear;

my laboured panting

and heart-beat pounding

as it tries to escape through my ears.

The end of the alley is darkly looming

and I see no escape

from death’s grinning face

as the figures draw nearer

disturbing the air with their

fetid breath and their skin-flaying cries.

And then I see three doors before me,

and hope of escape

floods through my veins,

bringing adrenalin forth in its wake

to help me select

the correct door to take.

The first one is fakely fashioned and fancy,

foolishly aping the noble oak’s grain

The second is painted in pink plastic gloss,

and I know that an entry would offer no gain

the one that I choose

is ancient and flaking

and chipped, with the dust

of long years overlain

I grab at the handle,

it opens with ease and

welcomes me in

then ceases to be.

It’s served its purpose

and sealed me safely

away from the drug crazed,

desparate faces

that sink from my mind

as I survey this place.

Before me a corridor stretches and curves

and the walls are constructed

from industrial shelves

with broad sheets of metal

which tower around me,

above me so high I can’t see the ceiling,

and the shelves are stacked

with miriad treasures and trash

and boxes and cases of leather.

Though I feel a desire to stop and examine

the curious curio stacked all about,

I know I must hurry and find an exit

as the grumble of thunder

is crumbling the ceiling

and pieces of plaster

are dropping on me.

While I am racing

to find an escape route

I see that the treasure is all from my past.

The bagatelle board

that I loved as a child

is tucked at the back

behind an old dress

and further along looking

fresh and un-used

is a bottle of perfume I lost long ago.

There are dolls and fossils

and fairy tale stories

and memories of glorious days in the sun.

And preserved

in this heart-space I finally find

the fetish that’s held me

through all these years.

It was lost in the dust of

a moment of absence;

a rose from my lover so long ago.

Now the rain is seeping

and soaking the ceiling,

damping and swamping all that I was.

I redouble my hunt

to discover an exit,

and as I am running

I hear my possessions

collapsing and crashing

through the floor,

Then I turn the next bend

and I see the old door

which welcomes me warmly

so I quickly step through,

onto a platform

with the sky overhead

and a drop deep beneath me.

If I fall I’ll be dead

but the platform leads

to the top of a stone wall

where I will be safe

from destruction and death

I step from the platform

onto the surface of the wall so tall

and high above ground.

Surrounded by sun

in the wake of the storm

the place I have left growls

with ground-shaking sounds

as mortar is beaten

by deep-seated moisture,

subversively slipping its devilish drops

into my heart-space,

and breaking it down.

The building collapses,

and within it my history.

The bagatelle board,

the perfume, the rose,

are swallowed up

as the ground beneath opens,

covers, encloses them

leaving no trace of the past behind

Now looking around me all I can see

is a deep flooded landscape

with the tops of some trees

which remain bravely standing

with their trunks in deep water,

awaiting the moment

when their roots will lose hold.

And now I know

if you run from the danger,

you lose all of the good things

both hidden and clear.

They come as a package,

a mistery gift

in rainbow ribbon

soaked through with tears.


I awoke from this nightmare

and wished that the darkness

had eaten me whole

and left my shell,

to let others know

that I’d finished this lifespan,

my life on this earth

which seemed more like hell.

But I kept stepping forwards

for the sake of my family,

and my family sustained me

while my rose kept me well.

Enriched by kindness

I am finding my future,

and my steps are guided by love and goodwill.

I have many to thank

for the floods that have dried

and the trees standing

proud on every side.

The wall still stands

and I stand upon it,

the stones and the mortar

too strong to subside.

© Jane Paterson Basil