Friday, 24 October 2014

Ask not, Live not, OR Potential for Inspiration

A colleague once remarked, not a little facetiously, that poets think they have the answer to everything.

Oh, but I wish!

At school, some 50+ years ago, my English teacher, Mr Rankin, (a Scotsman) once commented to the effect that life is all about discovery, and that is all about asking questions. 'Stop asking questions,' he told us, 'and you might as well be dead.'

Oh, but YES.

So what is life all about? Why are we here?  Different people, different answers, but it’s asking the question that counts, and makes us who we are.


What is life, but to have lived at all?
What is death, but all we‘ve not missed?
What is love, but to have loved at all?
What is beauty, but its flowers in a mist?
What is desire but to know desire at all?
(What is loss but by its light never kissed?)
What are dreams, but a life unfulfilled?
What are regrets, but art’s timelines?
What are hopes, but the inner eye’s take
on autumnal colours?

What is life, but to have lived it all?
What is death, but refuting all we missed?
What is love, but to have loved it all,
the beauty of its flowers in a spring mist?
What is desire, but to have desired it all,
loss but shadows where its light has passed
in a dream, the stuff a common humanity
lets pass for peace where its regrets run
with its hopes along timelines recording
art’s penchant for copycat?

Where moved to ask just one question
lies the potential for inspiration

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

As Time Goes By

Time passes; we change, grow older, yet a loved one’s image remains much the same, ageless and timeless in our eyes… 

This poem is a villanelle.


Brown hair, shades of grey,
whatever path I pursue;
time, ever slipping away…

Fun childhood days at play,
youth’s wild ways too;
brown hair, shades of grey

“Let’s laugh, not cry!” I say
(some wishes come true)
time, ever slipping away…

For every weepy Blues day,
golden moments too;
brown hair, shades of grey

Late, love, it came my way,
gave my heart to you;
time, ever slipping away…

Forever, love vowed to stay,
life’s tangled strands undo;
brown hair, shades of grey,
time, ever slipping away…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised edition in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Scream

We all have our share of disappointments and frustrations in life, sadness too, upon which demons pounce and often never (quite) disappear. [Demons from long-ago closet years when gay relationships were illegal haunt me still, but less so as time goes by.]

Looking back at my life and looking inwards at my inner self, I can track the scream just so far…then either it stops or I stop looking, I am never sure which. I know I will hear it again, but in the meantime, there is life to be lived and its pleasures to be enjoyed. As for the scream, it may well haunt me, but as I discovered long ago, it can’t hurt me…unless I let it.

Do you, too, hear a scream? It is silent, yet sometimes I think it is the loudest sound we will ever hear, shaking the whole body now and then as if it were no more than a leaf in a storm.  I guess the trick is not to ride out the storm and look forward to the sun coming out again…as more often than not, it will…if we look for it.

'The Scream' by Edvard Munch (1893); image from Wikipedia. One of several versions of the painting "The Scream" (title: Der Schrei der Natur, 'The Scream of Nature') at The National Gallery, Oslo, Norway..


Five years-old and looking for a scream
that I knew damn was there but never came
so I put it down to imagination,
too young to articulate on the surrealism
of self-destruction

Fifteen years of looking for a scream
an awakening sexuality poised to overwhelm
so I put it down to imagination,
old enough to argue with the prejudices
of convention

Twenty-one years of looking for the scream,
echoes of a poorly read poem like a bad dream,
so I put it down to imagination,
blamed home-school-work environment
and birth sign

Thirty-five years of looking for the scream,
mind in freefall, body drenched in its own sperm;
tried it out on imagination
but all I discovered there was a sense
of getting even

Fifty-five years of looking for the scream,
first heard in the womb, always hurting my ears,
put down to an imagination,
fed at the breast of one-upmanship
and religion

Sixty-five years, still looking for a scream
that’s doing my head in, barracking a spirituality
pinning hopes of salvation
in a common, credible, liberal humanity
left to the imagination

No killing it, but running the scream to earth
at the moment of death

[London, June 2010]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Too Late for Poetry OR Love: Old Habits Die Hard...

Sometimes we so wish we could put the clock back and let life and love return to the way they once were. Oh, but especially love!

It is never easy to let go of love. Even when mind and spirit are close to admitting defeat, the body nay well have other ideas…

Sometimes, it’s already too late…even for the poetry of love.

Ah, but there’s always tomorrow… isn’t there?


As I lay on a pillow thinking of us,
you opened the door and came in,
crossed to the bed, lay down beside me,
cradled my head, swore you loved me,
would see me through my agony
(knowing you’d cheated on me again)
begging to share a bed left as sad
and lonely as that shroud in which our love
left to lie, letting fly a desire to write
the final page of a gloriously dark history
that had seen us feeding off our need
for one another, making believe we were
in love and nothing else mattered
but a sure rising to a heaven of sorts
on wings of mad desire, its flames
devouring us, little left of us but ashes
once over and done, we fallen angels
(time and time again) having braved a fire
even a phoenix would never dare

Unless (a familiar whispering in the ears)
we quit this soap opera of ours, rediscover
the sheer poetry of hope, even peace…

A tempting offer, love almost persuaded
by our tears till suddenly it saw through
the disguise and told us straight (enough lies)
but restless desires had other ideas
and chose for us (as we knew they would)
the bitter-sweet prose of fallen heroes
nor was it some God punishing us for hadn’t we  
already seen to that ourselves?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised edition in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 13 October 2014

Monday, Monday...

Readers are always asking for the link to my informal poetry reading on the 4th plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2010 by way of being my contribution to Sir Antony Gormley’s One and Other ‘live sculpture’ project. Be warned, though; the whole thing lasts an hour:

Now, this tongue-in-cheek poem has been slightly revised since appearing in my collection and on the blog in 2007. I wrote it in 2003. Since then I have retired but…I still hate Mondays!


Monday morning,
one eye on a glorious dawning
through paper thin curtains
covering us much like a shroud;
hearts stopping, a relentless
ticking of bedside clocks arousing it
to a semblance of beating, 
like a bored child tapping fingers
on whatsoever happens along
to distract from the business in hand
of having tt knuckle down
to what’s expected, without so much
as any reward or time off
for good behavior from acting
the epitome of perfection,
if only to impress those who need
(or demand) to be impressed,
best impressions leaving the rest
struggling to keep up…

Oh, but that won’t do, have to show
who’s who, stand tall, be counted
as well worth our salt among so-called
‘betters’ - prove our daily stars
not so far out after all, even if night
skies are more likely to shoot us
in the back, leave us gibbering wrecks
after playing at sex, losing the game,
and waking up with a killer hangover,
contemplating going to work in terror,
more than likely to be gobbled up
by some mad 'n' mean gossip machine
playing you-can-tell-me-I-won’t-tell
that just may have something going for it,
beats an unholy devotion to overtime
no one gets paid or even a thank you so
by immaculate, swivel chairing gods
on six figure salaries and getting a kick
out of fiddling expenses…  

Oh, yes, and all for what? Get laid, 
(so drunk we forget anyway…)

Monday, Monday, GO AWAY

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised edition in e- format in preparation.]

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Friends Reunited

True friends care about each other and show it, through thick and thin. It is a rare thing, these days, friendship. Too often we think we have a good friend, and then he or she not only stays away when we need them most but also manages to put the blame on us for the fractured friendship.

Friendship works both ways. Too many people are so wrapped up in themselves they only see it as a one-way trip.

Sometimes a friend may be depressed or feeling so low they have no room in head or heart for anyone else while the condition lasts. As good friends, we need to be there for them no matter what…or how can we expect them to be there for us?

The selfish view some people take, that if a friend has not been in touch they won’t contact them either, is not what friendship is all about.

I count myself so lucky to have some good (real) friends.


I knocked at the door,
again, again, and yet again;
no one came

Eventually, I turned away,
drifted lonely as a cloud - and
then returned

I banged on the door
again, again, and yet again;
no one came

Angrily, I turned away,
ran until exhausted - and
then returned

I yelled at the door
again, again, and yet again;
no one came

Sadly, I sat down
on a step wondering - why
no one listening?

I called at the door
again, again, and yet again
till someone came

[From: A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005]

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A Poem in the Making OR Postscript to a Love Affair

A number of readers have asked if I plan to publish a separate collection of my love poems. Since no publishers have shown any interest, I guess the answer has to be ‘no’.


A friend once commented that all his greatest regrets had one thing in How many of us, I wonder, might well say the same?


When you are lying very close to me
and my fingers are playing with your hair,
I could stay like this through eternity,
so full, this poet’s heart, of love and care

The warmth of your body inspiring me
to write sonnets on the walls of my heart,
my spirit rising to such ecstasy…
it can never contemplate we should part

Alas, part we must, and this spirit weep,
though these eyes stay dry or you may discern
how I dream of us, awake and asleep,
for some lessons some lovers never learn

Yet, missing you keeps you a part of me,
and our lives, though separate, poetry

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2014

[An earlier version of this poem (slightly revised here) appears in 1st eds. of A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised edition in e-format in preparation.]