Friday, 12 February 2016

The World this Weekend OR An Elegy for all Time


This poem was written in 2002 but could have been written at any time in any century; an earlier version also appeared in an anthology - Daily Reflections, Triumph House [Forward Press] 2003 - and Ygdrasil, an on-line poetry journal, April 2005.

Some readers have questioned my use of the word 'Faith' in the last stanza. Well, as I have often said before on my blogs, religion does not have a monopoly on Faith. I chose to put mine in nature evn as a child. 

Yes, Faith is important to many people and we should respect that/ Perhaps, even more importantly, though, we need to have faith in ourselves...or how else can we expect it of others?

Where history is a pen which we write the future, we need to make damn sure we get it right and write a poem to last not an epitaph for the wind to wear down until no one can read what it says, or wants to…

This poem is a villanelle.

THE WORLD THIS WEEKEND or AN ELEGY FOR ALL TIME

In pastures green or desert sand
they haunt and pursue us,
history's lessons unlearned

Fear, much like a dead man’s hand
appears sound, washed clean,
in pastures green or desert sand

Words, like swords at the land
ripping out its spleen,
history's lessons unlearned

Love, a well-worn but infinite strand
of hope on the world scene
in pastures green or desert sand

Time, to make a (last?) stand
against war and pain,
history's lessons unlearned?

Faith would keep us safe and sound
ever washing its wounds clean
in pastures green or desert sand,
history's lessons unlearned

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2016

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


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

L-O-V-E, Defining the Ageless Quality of Ageing OR On Focusing the Inner Eye


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 us...no, not different, just human.

L-O-V-E, DEFINING THE AGELESS QUALITY OF AGEING or ON FOCUSING THE INNER EYE

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; 2016

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




Worse for Wear OR Profiling Social Conscience


Few people set out to deliberately hurt others. It’s just a sad fact of human nature that some  are so blinkered to any if not all home truths that it’s just the way they are; we can take it or leave it.

With several people who have played a significant part in my life, it took 20+ years before I finally decided to call it a day. Since being diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2011, I have written off more fair weather friendships. 

There was a time I’d have been philosophical to the extent of being stoical and simply accepted the situation, telling myself I was being selfish and others had their own lives to lead and resuming the friendship once this or that crisis to which I had been subjected and they preferred to turn a blind eye had passed. Not any more though. Since I turned 60 (I am 70 now) I decided that enough is enough, and time is too precious to waste on such people. .

So why do I feel so guilty about it...?.

[Update 2/2016: I still feel much the same way if not more so. Having spent nearly 18 months learning to walk again after smashing up my foot in a bad fall during the summer of 2014, I now know for sure who my real friends are. I was housebound for five months during which few so-called friends could be bothered to even pick up a phone for a chat, which would have meant a lot. Oh, I haven't given up on all my fair weather friends but out association is much the worse for wear and I will see to it that I spend far less time with them than in future.]

This poem is a kenning.

WORSE FOR WEAR or PROFILING SOCIAL CONSCIENCE

I’ve run the gauntlet
of love, life, fun, and tears,
trying to make the best
of things rather than complain
about the worst years,
struggling to rise above
the pain human beings
inflict upon each other time
and time again

I turn to nature
for comfort and brief respite
from a daily torture
humanity asks me to endure
with all the dignity
and stoicism of someone
always expected to put
other people’s needs before
his or her own

I lie awake at night
wondering who or what
is wrong or right
amongst all that’s been said
and done in the course
of whatever merry chase
mischievous Apollo
and outcast Cassiopeia care
to lead us on

Worse for wear, custom tee shirt,
logo, loss and hurt


Copyright R. N. Taber 2011



Sunday, 7 February 2016

The World Today OR For Better or Worse...


It would probably seem to an alien observing earth from another planet that humankind’s greater tragedy is that, essentially, nothing much changes. Take the war in Syria, for example, a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions, yet…nothing new there.

Oh, to the casual human observer, it may well seem that everything changes if only for appearances sake and that old chestnut, 'progress'. 

Ah, but to the inner eye?  Yes, well, I suspect any recorded changes as far as human nature is concerned are likely to be along the lines of some earnest historian's research or devout cleric’s optimism and any subsequent interpretations (or misinterpretations, as the case may (well) be…

Thank goodness for the arts, where all change is no change, and full marks for an honest if personal perception of those parts of a whole we call humanity that may or may not be fit for purpose.  

I sometimes wonder if we are not born into a union of Heaven and Hell (as interpreted by whomsoever) for its better and its worse, its richer and its poorer, its sickness and its health, so help us all. 

We are, though, free to do our best by ourselves and each other, and even allowing for failures and mistakes along the way, do our planet proud.  Any prospect of Armageddon is down to us, living in the Here and Now, just as any hope of survival will be down to future generations. We have a huge responsibility to the latter to make the world a better, kinder, peaceful place. What chance, though, I wonder, given the sheer fickleness of human nature...?

THE WORLD TODAY or FOR BETTER OR WORSE

The world today is full of pain and fear,
guns on the street, in the playground, the park;
drugs, like body bags lying here and there,
knives sticking in the back at home, at work

Where the War on Terror taking its toll,
people half afraid of their own shadows;
fanatics failing to make us look small
if still no letting up on suicide bombers

News at breakfast turning the stomach;
need pills to keep going, more to aid sleep;
no one seems to care about very much
except making money, getting into debt

The world today is full of pain and fear,
but love, too, and it's glad I am I’m here


Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2016


[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from the original as it appears in A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised ed. In e-format in preparation.]



Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Gift Horse


A few days ago, I uploaded a new video shot by my friend Graham Collett to my You Tube channel, reading a poem over it that I wrote for the occasion. Some readers have contacted me in the past to say they cannot access You Tube for one reason or another so I am posting poem and video (see below) here today.

The 4th Plinth is the northwest plinth in Trafalgar Square in central London, UK set aside for a rolling program of contemporary art works. The current work depicts a skeletal horse in bronze. The artist, German-American Hans Haacke, says it is a tribute to economist Adam Smith and English painter George Stubbs. (The horse is based on an engraving by Stubbs taken from ‘The Anatomy of the Horse’ published in 1766.) Tied to the horse’s front leg is an electronic ribbon displaying live the ticker of the London Stock Exchange thereby completing the link between power, money and history.
There are many metaphors for wealth and power of which The Trojan (Gift) Horse of myth and legend is but one…

THE GIFT HORSE

Measure of means, icon for history
gifted with beauty and power;
a horse, once tamed, a worthy ally

An ages-old metaphor for industry,
no less so for sport, and leisure;
measure of means, icon for history

Well trained, no more trustworthy
a vehicle of human endeavour;
a horse, once tamed, a worthy ally

Sometime victim of the inhumanity
human beings show one another;
measure of means, icon for history

Life force against worldly adversity,
(live metaphor for Earth Mother)
a horse; once tamed, a worthy ally

Imaging death as a skeletal memory,
elegy to nature and human nature;
a horse, once tamed, a worthy ally,
measure of means, icon for history

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016




Monday, 1 February 2016

J-O-Y, Where Anger Meets Its Match


Many of us have experienced hard times since the credit crunch began to bite and may well continue to do so for some time yet.

Recalling happier times can make us feel worse…until we pause to remember that what goes around comes around.

Happy memories are reminders of what we can look forward to again. Things won’t be the same, of course. Nothing stays the same for long, but develops and matures just as we do…for all life’s ups and downs along the way.

Now, the heart may well be familiar with an autumn that turned into winter far too soon for its liking, burying memories of its finest summers under layers of sadness and longing. Ah, yes, but we can always look forward to another spring, nature bursting with the joys of life and music, inspiring us to go with its flow, recover poor, damaged hope along the way, and set about the task of making it whole again. Besides, memory knows better than to (ever) (quite) let go of better days even during the worst of times,

I guess we just have to allow for hard times by ensuring we pave old Memory Lane with more than enough good times to compensate…

[Did I say it was easy?]

This poem is a villanelle.

J-O-Y, WHERE ANGER MEETS ITS MATCH

Where angry winds blow
scary smoke rings,
joy’s spirit, too, may go

Harvest home, we know
but sadness brings
where angry winds blow

Where naked fear on show
(peasantry among kings?)
joy’s spirit, too,  may go

Nature, daring us to follow
(dove or hawk’s wings?)
where angry winds blow

Where too few flowers grow
as dark winter clings,
joy’s spirit, too, may go

Bonding with a late swallow,
of spring a robin sings…
Where angry winds blow,
joy’s spirit too, may go


Copyright R. N. Taber 2009; 2016

Friday, 29 January 2016

A Seasonal Irony OR De-Constructing Dogma


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.

A SEASONAL IRONY or DE-CONSTRUCTING DOGMA

Religious festivals are times
people come together,
are good to one another, braving
stormy weather

Religious festivals make merry
come rain, snow, winter mist,
find sunny smiles not on any list
left by Jack Frost

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

No, you can’t always believe
everything they tell you,
the Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jew,
Jain or Hindu…

Religion (not God) is the listener 
ever turning a deaf ear
come Ramadan, Diwali, Passover…
(and Christmas once a year.)

In truth, we should learn to respect
faiths across the world,
ironically divided by a single word,
a comfort zone called ‘God’

Who and what should we believe
when so many use religion
for their own ends, as ammunition,
back-up for some  'Heaven'?

All religions encourage suspicion
fuelled by a singular dogma
ever making peace an excuse for war,
a parody of its spiritual nature


Copyright R. N. Taber 2009;2016