Friday, 30 January 2015

Painter of Dreams

Some years ago, someone put to me that the greater part of what we know as wakefulness is but a dream, and the greater part of what we call sleep, a living nightmare. An interesting hypothesis, I thought at the time, and wondered how we would be expected to tell to which mind, body and spirit truly belong?

I am still wondering…


I have painted pictures
that only I would ever see,
enjoying a kinder reality
than the world surrounding me,
and confounding me
creating the kind of persona
I was never meant to be

I have lived in pictures
where only I would ever go,
a surrealist panorama
of the world surrounding me,
and confounding me,
making me the kind of person
I was never meant to be

Yet, in every picture
I would never quite get to see
a vibrant wood
for a heavily painted tree
or sail an ocean
for demanding its white horses
answer only to me

Nor would I mistake
a dot against clouds for a lark
or hear its sweet song
for heavens filled with stars
that I could wish upon,
lay bare the lie, Dark is death
and Dawn an illusion

There were no people
in my pictures, smiling, waving,
kissing, making love…
but ghostly shapes gesturing
loss, regret and pain,
daring me to resume my place
in a sorry world again

I treasure the pictures
that only such as I will ever see,
dreaming a kinder reality
than the world surrounding us,
(still) confounding us,
making of us what we will,
we sleepwalkers

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015

Thursday, 15 January 2015

A Clown's Story OR Childhood: In Training for the Big Top

Hearing loss is an invisible disability. Many deaf and hard of hearing people do not see it as a disability at all, but I do so we must agree to differ.

While not profoundly deaf, I have had significant hearing loss since early childhood; no one at home or school ever picked up on this and I did not understand it myself until I was a young man. Somehow, I muddled through and learned to lip-read although this was not a conscious action. It did not strike anyone that I did not respond to voices unless the person speaking was facing me. My father, for one, took it for sheer rudeness on my part and that I was either not paying attention or being deliberately rude; this was one of many reasons we had an appalling relationship.   

There are various degrees and types of hearing loss, mine is a ‘perceptive’ deafness due to perforated eardrums.  Until I acquired hearing aids, I could not hear certain low or higher pitch sounds and would miss some spoken words altogether.  Much would depend, too, on the pitch of a person’s voice and surrounding the acoustics; the latter was particularly confusing for me as a child since I would hear someone (e.g. a teacher) perfectly well in one room but barely at all in another.  Making sense of group discussions was a nightmare and any useful contribution I made was more down to luck than judgment. 

I was 40 years-old before I acquired my first hearing aid; for years, none suitable for my kind of deafness had been available in the UK. For as long as I can remember, I would hide my confusion and for not hearing correctly, invariably responding inappropriately, behind even less appropriate behaviour. So I was delighted to read only recently that Assistant Dogs for the Deaf are now more readily available to children as well as adults here in the UK. For any profoundly deaf or very hard of hearing child, it must be a godsend. Me, I didn’t have a particularly unhappy childhood, but missed out on much of it.  I now wear a digital hearing aid in both ears that enrich my life considerably.

During many years of working in public libraries, I have spotted many a 'difficult' child that I'd recognize as having a hearing problem. I would tactfully mention it to a parent, and usually be told to mind my own damn business. More often than not, I would be dealing with people and their enquiries on a one-to-one basis which was fine as I could lip read to a significant extent even if the voice was strongly accented or not at a pitch I could easily grasp. Sometimes, though, I would need to ask someone to repeat what they had said, explaining that I am partially deaf and hadn't quite heard. In the early years, this was never a problem. In later years, however, the response was often very abrasive and I'd be told I should get another damn job or subjected to even worse expressions of verbal abuse. A sign of the times, I guess. Needless to say, I was glad to retire. 

Few children can articulate on getting to know the inner self, a complex, often scary process with which too few parents and other ‘responsible’ adults take the trouble to familiar themselves.  Of all clich├ęs, the one I have always loathed the most for being so untrue and unfair is ,Children should be seen and not heard.’ Children need to communicate on the role into which they feel themselves growing, often poles apart from the one certain ‘responsible’ adults have in mind for them…  


Once I played in an old tree,
wooden house and swing;
other kids loved to play with me
and hear the cuckoo sing

But I didn’t do well at school,
was hopeless at ball games;
some kids took me for a fool,
others called me names

So I learned to act the clown
rather than embarrass folks,
live with their putting me down,
being the butt of bad jokes

I escaped from it all in books,
a hero in my own fiction,
embracing whispers and looks
as a sign of appreciation

I was given to regular ‘tantrums’
no one ever asking why,
preferring to make assumptions
guaranteed to make me cry

Playing at living, dying inside,
making no sense of it all,
the child in the boy put aside
for the maturity of survival

Copyright R. N. Taber 2003; 2014
[Note: An earlier version of this poem appeared in an anthology, Take a Moment, Anchor Books (Forward Press) 2003 and subsequently in 1st eds. of  The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised edition in e-format in preparation.] 

Monday, 12 January 2015

L-I-F-E, Spelling Us Out

Most if not all of us wonder at various stages in our lives just what lies in store for us, and how much of that may be down our own actions whenever giving thanks for the good times or finding excuses for the bad.  

What is the ultimate truth about human life, anyway, but a complex organism of mind, body and spirit embracing all that’s down to us, whomsoever, and whatever it is we like to call ‘fate’ (or God?) to spell out as we go, make sense of as we can, and heed or ignore as we choose.


As a child,
I would play as a child,
cry as a child,
try to make sense
of a world I would never

As a youth,
I explored the passion
of youth,
chasing its gods
through a world I struggled
to defend

As a young man,
I would point a finger
at bigotry,
tracking its origins
through looking glass wars
all around

Older, little wiser,
I would run the gamut
of rogue truths
draining the body
for demanding centre stage
of the mind

Mature. Human eyes
reassessing any potential,
fast tracking us
to dog ears pricking up
at even the slightest breath
of ill wind

Dead to all intents
and purposes, found wanting
for failing to clear
the table of leftovers
for history to make sense    
of a kind

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Ally in the Line of Fire

Today's poem was written several years ago. Tragically, it will resonate today with believers in the Freedom of Speech worldwide.

What appears to have been yet another barbaric act of terrorism in Paris on staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing and injuring a number of people, including two police officers, is a terrifying reminder of the times in which we live. There is NO excuse for it whatever.

The killers were reportedly heard shouting what translates as ‘We have avenged the prophet’; a prophet who would have been appalled to have His name so abused.

Humour, especially satire, will always be controversial, but should never be allowed to fall victim to either political correctness or any socio-cultural-religious persuasion. It is one of the most effective Weapons of Peace by which various elements of society can be freely criticised. The keyword here, of course, is ‘freely’. All of us - especially writers and journalists - must feel free to criticise wherever and whenever they feel criticism is justified. Others, of course, must be similarly free to agree or disagree.

Any attack on Free Speech is an attack on us all. We can but trust the perpetrators of this latest horrific event will be tracked down and brought to justice.

I love Paris and the French people. My thoughts and sympathies - as I imagine those of all my readers - are especially with the families and friends of those killed and injured in Paris earlier today. May they draw on the power of love to help them through the coming hours, days, months and years with the kind of strength and courage that epitomises the very best of human nature.

This poem is a villanelle.


Where society a well-heeled liar
(politics but a blame game)
find a sharp-tongued ally in satire

They say, ‘no smoke without fire’
(EEU by any other name)
where society a well-heeled liar

Odds against survival rising higher
(global warming the same);
find a sharp-tongued ally in satire

World leaders neck deep in its mire
(enjoying the perks of fame)
where society a well-heeled liar

Religions taking the AIDS toll higher
(rhetoric loud, excuses lame);
find a sharp-tongued ally in satire

Drugs and arms dealers loath to retire
(Greed, the name of the game);
where Society hypocrite and liar,
find a sharp-tongued ally in satire

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009; 2015

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Night Watch OR Love: Starry Nights

Not only is love is much the same the world over, but it is nearly always the case that anyone who comes between two lovers has either a bigoted axe to grind against one or both of them or is simply a socio-cultural-religious anachronism in this crazy, mixed-up, 21st century of ours.

The poem was partly inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's amazing painting (oil on canvas) and partly by my always having been an incurable romantic.

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh (1889)


I have greeted chimes at midnight,
lain half dead at the toll for one
as my life-blood ebbs to a starlight
behind clouds, watch all but done

I have heard the clock ticking over
for the passing of happy hours
nor shall, when it stops, run for cover
but embrace a time forever ours

I have heard sweet songs at sunrise,
watched the last stars slip away,
seen my life’s light in your bright eyes
promise a beautiful spring day

As nature pauses at stark winter’s cold,
so lovers dream, beyond a growing old

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2014

[From: Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007]

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Line of Vision OR L-O-V-E, On the Ageless Quality of Ageing

Some lovers are lucky enough to grow old together while the rest of us must be content with focusing on happy memories.  

For the inner eye, though, the line of vision is always the same, on love as it was at the start and always will be...

Oh, and who cares if the writer of a love poem is gay or straight? For that matter, why should anyone mind about someone else’s sexuality anyway? As for those who so love to bring God into the debate, if God created humankind, He (or She) also created our differences and is hardly likely to reject anyone for those differences since it is, after all, our differences that make, not different, just human.


If strands of grey in the hair turning white
and less subtle laughter lines in the face,
you smile, and my world is filled with light,
as tired limbs summon dignity and grace

If the voice sounding weaker than before,
its familiar lilt still sweet on the ear,
so the heart can but listen out for more,
happiest for knowing we’re together…

Time ever parts the world’s lovers too soon,
yet nurture of nature will have its way,
and who seeks among craters of the moon
will find flowers we planted there today

In good times and bad, see love’s light endure,
nor shall even death’s tears its vision blur

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012; revised version in e-format in preparation.]

Friday, 26 December 2014

A Seasonal Irony

Now, every religion has its own Belief while some of us cannot believe in (any) religion.

Who’s to say who’s right or wrong?

Should we not give everyone the benefit of the doubt, each going his or her own way while taking care to share the better, kinder, principles of a common humanity?

Religion is meant to be about love and peace...and mutual respect for another person's spiritual identity, whether or not it relates to the same religion or any religion at all if only because religion, as I discovered for myself even as a child, has no monopoly on spirituality.


They say Christmas is a time
people come together
are good to one another, however
bad the weather

They say Christmas makes merry,
come rain, snow, winter mist,
finds sunny smiles not on any list
left by Jack Frost

But you can’t always believe
all they like to feed us
about comfort and joy at Christmas
(ask the homeless)

The Christians like to believe
it’s all about Baby Jesus,
son of the one God come to save us
from ourselves

But you can’t always believe
everything they tell you,
be they Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jew
or Hindu…

Religions, they have to believe
everything they revere
come Ramadan, Diwali, Passover…
and Christmas once a year

In truth, we should respect
Faiths across the world
ironically divided by a single word
that is ‘God’
Yet, who and what do we believe
when so many use religion
for their own ends, misinterpreting it
as a threat against others…?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009;2014