Tag Archives: tragedy

Crossing the Street


“I’m sorry, I don’t carry change.”

That’s what I always say, though sometimes
it’s a lie.

From Goa to Mumbai
it is considered unwise to give to children who beg on the streets;
better to donate to charities that protect them from their tormentors.
I live by that principle on my forays through this English town
where the victims are adult, their tormentors
are chemicals to be melted on a spoon and injected,
and their habit can kill.

These days I rarely engage with them;
they don’t require sandwiches, pasties or practical advice
and I can’t give them a bed for the night, so I can do nothing to assist,
yet those eyes kidnapped me as she begged beside Tesco Metro.

“I’m sorry – I don’t carry change,” I said.

It was the eyes that detained me;
eyes that sang in the storm of cause and effect,
in the chaos what was and what might have been;
eyes that could not be silenced, that trilled above the din,
calmly revealing what she would have liked to conceal,
colouring in the thrill of travel, the regret
of roughened hands which once caressed,
rising to a crescendo to describe the hurricane
that threw her up, and flung her
in the gutter,

and as her eyes glistened,
I listened to the howling wind
as it echoed her dirge of the death
of a wolf of the Steppes,

If we are not all equal, as some believe,
she was much more than many I meet. When we parted,
I flirted with my purse, knowing my money would bring her
a pin-prick of relief, but I crushed the brief temptation,
since it could purchase her doom.

Her eyes watched me while I wrote,
and while I ate and read and slept. When I woke
I thought of her.

Spying from my hallowed side of the street,
finding third parties to relate her trials and treats,
I kept my distance to evade the pain of intimacy,

Just once, I fell again
into those eyes that had swum the skies
before sinking into the blood-flecked mud.
I asked her a question and watched her eyes
while they lied to me.

Her tongue was too noble to verbalise an untruth,
yet her eyes suggested a lie;
thereby giving me fake justification
for my evasion.

Yet I had openly lied to her when I had said
“I’m sorry, I don’t carry change.”

I can’t say I knew her, or that she knew me,
but she affected me.
It seems she touched everyone she met.
I wanted her to find peace, but not like this.

I’m on nodding terms with the other side of the street,
so the news has already reached me:
last night, her spectacular eyes
closed for the final time.

Today, two bodies lie in the morgue,
the tiny one tightly curled in the womb of its mother,
and I try not to weep for the multiple tragedy
of mindless heroin’s dumb victory.

Rest In Peace, Diane

Word of the Day Challenge: Spying.

When I feel inspired, I write a poem before checking out the word of the day. I usually find that it fits. Today is no exception.


©Jane Paterson Basil

The day the music died

The tragedy occurred on 3rd Febuary, 1959, and was later described in song, by Don Maclean, as The Day the Music Died. Buddy Holly and the Crickets were on tour with rising stars J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Richie Valens. Buddy chartered a plane to take him from Clear Lake to Minnesota, with two of his band members, Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup. Because the Big Bopper had ‘flu, Waylon gave his seat up to him, and Allsup lost his seat to Richie Valens in a coin toss.

The three of them – Buddy, The Big Bopper and Richie – set off, piloted by Roger Peterson, at night. It was cold and wintry, and the pilot was not qualified to fly in such conditions. He lost control of the plane, and it crashed in a cornfield. There were no survivors.

I was a week away from my 4th birthday, so the horror passed me by.  When I was about fifteen, my brother introduced me to 50’s Rock ‘n’ Roll. I discovered the music of such greats as Bill Haley, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Gene Vincent. I loved Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. I think I cried when I learnt how they left us, so prematurely. My brother was not a Richie Valens fan, so I didn’t know much about him, but his death was also a terrible loss to the world.

I will never forget the legacy left by the great Buddy Holly. So many wonderful songs, sung in his inimitable style.”That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue” are those which are remembered the most. I prefer his follow up to “Peggy Sue”, “Peggy Sue Got Married.” It was hard to choose what to share with you, but I’ve fixed on the slow, romantic “True Love Ways.” The images are stills, but they’re very emotive.

The Bigger Bopper was something else! He was totally, 100% adorable. Here he is, singing “Chantilly Lace.”

Finally, Richie Valens, with his cute voice – this is my favourite of his records:

Don Maclean – who went on to have another great hit with his tribure to Vincent Van Gogh – stormed the hit parade with this unforgettable song. At the time the lyrics didn’t make sense to me. It was only much later that I learned what it was about. This is the original video. It has better sound quality than any other I could find.

Buddy Holly, you were at the height of your career, and set to carry on making us sway, dance, and sometimes shed a tear.  Big Bopper, I’ll never forget your unique humour and your strange sexiness. Richie Valens, your voice made girls swoon. Thank you all for the music – the legacy you left for millions to discover and enjoy, down through the years.

You are not forgotten.

©Jane Paterson Basil