Flight

crumbling wall2a

Words
press to be recognised,
to be lined up, tied up, tidily scribed;
ravenous rhyme kidnaps time
compelling me to skip to a distant dungeon
whose begrudging light
fumbles through a fault in a crumbling wall.
I close my eyes,
shrouding the dim glint
that fights the colours of the verse,
clipping the wings of the rhyme.
Words flutter in my imbibing mind,
shuffling and shifting until the picture fits;
until phrases are fixed into divine designs
and I write, I write.

Sometimes
I squeeze through the gap
and fly back
to my life.

 

©Jane Paterson Basil

I apologise for my continuing absence; when I write, I lose all sense of time, all memory of appointments to keep – and lately there’s been a lot going on in my life. I’m finding it necessary to stay away from the blogs, since reading them causes oe same problem and also weakens my resolve to avoid writing. The words still crowd my brain; clustering themselves into metaphors and floating into rhyme, but I try to ignore them. For the moment, I need to stay focused on my various plans and activities.

As the late, great Tony Benn said when he lost his seat in parliament at the time of Thatcher’s destructive rule: I’ll be back…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Untangling Stickleback Stanzas

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Its noble claim:
this book contains
the best
contemporary English poems.
It had to be worth a look.

Clipped,
lyrical, precisely cryptic, cryptically vague,
scissor-clever; most impressive, and yet
beneath the gleam of spit
I sensed laboured hints of shifty contrivance;
a vexing, pretentious lilt,
like a mirror betraying a conjuring trick

or paint
patiently brushed over each

perceived weakness. until
what was 
conceived;
that which was described in the
first instance;
a unique vision, trapped in innocence as if
by a planned camera click, becomes
lost,
the picture perverted,
titian hair, simpering skin, gone,
bloom faded,
eyes which blurted blowsy secret
inadvertently conveyed,
are buried, flesh, spirit and intent veiled
beneath a fabrication
of neatly picked, broken bones…

or maybe she was born that way;
pickled by the juice of the womb.

and though it’s exultant,
something is strangled, something strained,
something writhes behind the swaggering frame;
Swallowing sod, the beast sighs, and none can say
which tale is more wild, which picture more tame.

Yet
their confidence-stripping,
pricked puffball trip
infected me,
ripping away my certainty.
Like a pip that aches to grow roots, I
ached to write red-razor lines,
so I imitated a contemporary English gait,
throwing metronomes at roller coasters,
watching them fly and sink,
cutting holes in each swing, creating
meaningful, senseless phrases and filling my pages with gaping spaces and juxtaposing tones and textures and experimenting and seeking and finding and keenly recycling incomprehensible disused words and musing and using and boldly misusing and cruising and crisscrossing mimsy and monster material concepts and minimising and absurdly seeking to decode the trends and wooing the trends and fighting the trends and clashing and buckling and trashing the trends and trying and to stew fresh new trends and describing in cunningly twisted code designed to leave the reader scratching his head failing to understand the message
that
the quickness of the hand deceives the eye.

I curled slick verse around my tongue
till it curdled, making me sick.

Lost in the picking
ticking
stickleback trap
of a mythical English mist
I lay down to rest
and as I slept my stanzas untangled.
I resolved to be free of my poked faux-poetry;
the land that raised me will not define me;
tonight I lay my freckled head
on the temperate, hybrid zone
between abstract abyss
and level reality.

To paraphrase:

I stretch my legs on an English lawn
as I sip my sweet  English tea,
but no English dawn will find me reborn
as an English contemporary;
this English rose grows alien thorns
so I’ll stick with writing like me

tiddly-pom.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Reborn

sky-sun

Calamitous clouds break
beneath weight of water.
Pewter hues of grief
enshroud meek June skies.
Swathes of rain
imbue unready heads.
Precipitation raps vain threats
of devastation on the roof,
yet clears my vision, rinsing smudged specks
from windows that protect.

Soon, the sun will shine,
brightening the light
which plays in this heart of mine;
reflecting my reborn rays.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Gale That Bent The Tree

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From your back seat view
it might seem polite
polite to explain my reasons, or at least
say goodbye before leaving.
I see you’ve never been buffeted
by a hurricane that would have you believe
that you
are the gale that bends the tree, while he
is the frailest leaf.
It was never true.

His initial gust was subtle,
his excuse, plausible. His apology,
though perfunctory, was prompt,
manipulating my trust.
Later, when the downpour came
I thought communication
was the solution.
It incited his ire all the more, so I tried
to tread lightly in his tangled wood,
but even the bracken
seemed braced for attack.

My feather defences
were no match
for his clamorous brigade of tactics.
He demanded a white flag, then trampled it.
Love and romance were out of action
once the black knight
had captured the white queen. Turtle-doves
flew for cover, their coo-coos
fading in my grim chamber, beaks
melting in the heat of his rage.

His moods
ricocheted like a moth
locked in a bright closet; at dawn,
he was an orphan who had lost his way.
At breakfast he accused me of taking his keys
or his toothbrush
or one of his boots
and sometimes as many as three of his shoes.
All day I watched his humours fall and rise.
Nights when I begged for restful sleep,
he’d gleefully force-feed me rancid passion
thickly laced with bile and ice.

With tantrums, tricks and lies,
he blindly trained me
to recognise designer madness.
It’s time to leave.
Closing the door, I silently
ease
the catch into place.
I don’t say goodbye.

No brief farewell, no jester’s kiss
no faltering wave of the hand,
no sideways nod, nor backward glance
for the man who can turn a heart into glass,
then grind it back to sand.
.
A kind wind plays on my stretching wings.
lending me strength, sweeping me into flight.
I rise, swooping high, singing my rights,
keeping my mission of freedom in sight
so when the hunter
takes up his gun,
he won’t be able
to shoot
me
down.

Domestic abuse takes many forms, but it generally follows a distinct pattern. The abuser will begin with a barely discernible drip. If left unchecked, the level of abuse will increase. It will become a stream and then a river. The innocent partner/child/parent/sibling will be swept along in an increasing torrent of accusations, threats, excuses, apologies, insults, twisted truths, outright lies, all kinds of weird head-fuckery and sometimes physical violence. Abusers will use any tool they can find in order to undermine, and they can be extremely imaginative and clever.

Many abusers are likeable and charming, appearing to be above reproach – which is how they get away with it for long enough to hone their skills – so when the victim complains, he or she is assumed to be making it up. Even professionals who have been trained to spot the signs might be blind to the perpetrator’s behaviour. This makes a horrible situation even worse for the abuser’s prey, who is diminished beyond all recognition, beyond all capacity break away without a great deal of support.

Fortunately, there are organisations that recognise abuse; who train and employ intelligent, compassionate support workers.  In my home town, we are lucky enough to have one such organisation; NDADA (North Devon Against Domestic Abuse).

Thank you, NDADA, thank you for your warmth and understanding, for advising me, for making me feel nurtured and for putting the strength back to my arms. You helped me to change my life around. Special thanks go to Wendy who started me on the journey and has encouraged me every step of the way.

©Jane Paterson Basil

there but for fortune…

…makes me cry every time

©Jane Paterson Basil

To Mary: This Too Shall Pass

When I consider the reams
of frazzled verse, written in the days
when my sinews
ached with anger, dread and grief

breaking down dams to drown my sorrow in words
igniting fires to singe the stealthy remains
picking through ashes even as the flames bit
yet still, he blindly drove his bloodied steel
between my ribs, piercing
the heart of me

I feel

remote

from those emotions

as if it was a marathon masquerade of misery that I
mistook for reality, holing myself up
in the host’s attic, beneath
an old crate of broken memorabilia, where no friends
could find me to explain
that the gates of hell
were paper mache stage props
and the pit was the cracked lens
of a reclaimed camera obscura

When I single out a poem, I revoke details;
the nature of conflicts and pain inflicted,
but from a

distance.

I could be watching a documentary
or reading a book featuring the anguish of families
skewered by addiction
Empathy for the innocents
seeps into me

Yet when I read a verse from this
strangled
chapter of my life,
my heart contracts and my toes
instinctively curl away from a mud slide
which has ceased to be.
At such times, I summon your voice –
your voice, with its warm Northern edge –
sharing your mantra,
gifting me the truth that calmed you
whenever the mud of the morass
threatened to engulf your chest;
“This too shall pass.”

“This too shall pass.”

Lately, new growth
breaks through my decay,
willing the frayed remnants of pain
to dissipate.
I take a breath of clean air
and luxuriate
in the mellow texture of grass
tickling my feet.

Dedicated to my friend Mary Beer. Mary, you are an amazing woman, an Amazon whose strength inspired me, whose words gave me courage and whose very existence made me feel less alone. When I was at my lowest ebb, it was the echo of your voice which ran through my mind: this too shall pass – and (of course) you were right, it always did.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Rejuvenation

Sometimes
an image skims my brain,
a moment viewed from a distance
or an action that moves in slow motion,
but the faces are blurred, the glare is dimmed;
the intensity erased from each emotion.
Memory cannot reclaim the pain
of one
single
breaking point
that I may compare and fully appreciate
this ease
after those lethal years.

I reach for phrases to describe those times:
my heart hammered in my chest, I write.
I was desperate, losing weight, shedding hair, sinking into destitution, angered by demands, aggression, thefts, manipulation, endless lies and tricks, threats of violence and suicide, frightened of men willing to take revenge on an innocent parent, intimidated by gun-toting dealers who invaded my home, disgusted by layers of filth. I made plans, raised my hopes, tried in naive ways to save my two wasted offspring, only to sink when my efforts failed. I feared the warning toll of the bell; the two solemn uniforms that inform of death. The joys of life slid by me. I felt shame; I was lesser being, someone untouchable, sub-human. I wished I was invisible.
I wanted to die, I write,
I wanted
to die.

I can recall
thoughts, fears, cause and effect,
but not the strychnine flavour. On reflection
it feels like fiction, like a well-written book
I read and gave away
a while ago.

Birds sing beyond my window.
Lofty leaves exercise in the breeze.
Even my neighbours seem peaceful today.
I ruminate on change, enumerate improvements
and think of the strength of family,
of rejuvenation and unity.
Sunshine sinks into my skin
as the tail-end of healing takes place.
I take a hefty slice of cake
and savour it,
leaving not one crumb on my plate.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Why I’m Not Writing Much

 

It would be
a lie if I claimed
that my words have fled;
each step I take and with every action
the words expand, tripping through a mind
which blindly taps out rhythm and rhyme, picking
through alliteration, simile, metaphor and more,
yet before a composition is complete –
before I pick up my pen to commit
the words to print,
they are
erased
and boldly replaced
by new schemes in my rushing brain.

—-

©Jane Paterson Basil