Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Charging Up for Change OR Swinging Sixties, History v Myth

Oh, but I remember the frumpy fifties so well…as if they were but a few years ago instead of half a century…! The leap in to the 1960 gave us all a welcome shock. Looking back, though, how much do we recall as it really was and how much has been airbrushed along the way by a cult mythology...?

Oh, but where DOES the time go, eh?


Oh, those formal, frumpy fifties!
BBC TV announcers
in evening dress even in the afternoon…
Glued to the radio (hangover
from a bleak wartime) while the likes
of Bronco, Cheyenne, Wells Fargo
and Wagon Train harvest rich myths  
of the old American West
for future generations to look back
with pride, the shame
of Wounded Knee left to Hollywood
with poor excuses

Off ‘n’ away with post-war blues,
we’re looking good…

Enter, skiffle and Lonnie Donegan
before rock and roll began
to take root and Juke Box Jury
woke us all up from days
of ballroom dancing to bold frontiers
of disco (forget the Lone Ranger
and Tonto); Mods and rockers fighting
each other for tabloid headlines,
girls adapting their hemlines to more
than simply fashion…
boys discovering drainpipe trousers
and winkle-picker shoes

Off ‘n’ away with post-war blues,
let the good times roll…

Along came Z-cars, eagerly elbowing out
dear old Dixon of Dock Green
(shortly doomed to bite the dust along
with Bronco and the rest);
the sixties taking over, Beatlemania
on a par with world religions,
politics fair game for anyone free
(supposedly) to indulge controversial
opinions of their own
so long as nothing likely to offend
Cold War ethics among gentlemen spies
and old boy networks

From frumpy fifties to swinging heaven
or wistful imagination…?

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.]

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Making Sure of Love OR Love: In It To Win It

I am not getting on too well with either my fractured ankle or the hormone therapy for my prostate cancer, but writing love poems always cheers me up. Although I have not had a partner for years, the memory of our love always lifts my spirits whenever they hover at the edge of some abyss and contemplate going into freefall...


I built a sandcastle for you,
but you kicked it down with infant feet,
and made me cry buckets

I wrote a love poem for you,
but you threw a typical teenage tantrum,
and tore it into tiny pieces

I composed a pop song for you,
and everyone loved it except the person
for whom it was intended

I painted a portrait of you,
but you didn’t care for the way I see you,
and cold-shouldered me

I made a solemn promise to you
that I’d love you forever, no matter what,
and we kissed...

We made love together, bonding
with eternity, transcending a born intimacy
and centuries-old creativity

Together, we built a castle
to withstand all temporal waves, reaffirm
the spirituality of creativity

[From: Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012]

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A Collective Responsibility OR In the Company of Ghosts

Any tears in the ozone layer will not mend themselves unless we all become more pollution conscious... worldwide.

Those leading politicians, with fingers in various Big Business pies, may well choose to play down the long-term effects of polluting the planet, but need to cut the rhetoric and act NOW or risk plunging future generations into an Armageddon scenario…


In the rain, an acid rain, you’re there
sharing the burden of my despair

Let the world roll out another century,
consigning us to memory,
clouds forbid the sun and heavens weep;
in my dark, your light I’ll keep,
till this mere flesh no more can stand
and Death lends us a hand
as through a graveyard in a gentle rain
we ghosts will walk and talk again

In the rain, an acid rain, you’re there,
sharing the burden of my despair

Though our world blast into infinity,
consigning us to the galaxy,
yet seedlings shall survive, endure
in Mother Nature's loving care
till songbirds, in time, return
to the killing fields of Everyman,
redeem a so-sorry history of acid rain
till humankind ghost us yet again

In the rain, an acid rain, we’re here
sharing the burden of their despair

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2014

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

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.]