Monday, 2 March 2015

Agenda for Life OR Something to be said for Karma

It is only human nature to worry about life's unknown factors, especially when they directly concern us and we have little or no control over either their presence or potential development.  A few years ago, I started worrying about a lesion on my leg as to whether it might be skin cancer or a sign of diabetes or whatever…until I fancied I could hear my mother whispering one of her favourite sayings in my ear, ‘If you worry, you’ll die and if you don’t worry, you’ll still die one day so…why worry?’

My GP referred me to a dermatologist and a shot of liquid nitrogen did the trick. No cancer there.

I wrote this little poem at the time and returned to it when I first discovered I have prostate cancer in February 2011. It’s not a particularly good poem (what is a ‘good’ poem, anyway?) but has proven very therapeutic. I can still hear my mother’s voice in my ear expressing approval. (She died of cancer in 1976)


Worry, worry, worry,
will get us nowhere at all;
worry, worry, worry,
and we’re heading for a fall;
positive thinking
is the only way to go
before worry, worry, worry,
hits an all-time low

Worry, worry, worry,
gets our knickers in a twist;
worry, worry, worry,
(far too many woes to list);
a positive thinker
is the only kind to be
since worry, worry, worry,
won’t ever set us free

Worry, worry, worry,
and life is sure to pass us by,
all the best things in life
between earth, sea and sky;
positive thinking
(easy enough to say)
unites mind, body and spirit,
brings each into play

Worry, worry, worry,
and we’ll surely die one day
(when, who’s to say?)
so come, let’s make hay…
A positive thinker
is the only kind to be
since worry, worry, worry
won’t ever set us free

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011; 2015

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Kite OR If Only...

Memories are precious and love never dies. But let’s face it. It is poor compensation for not having our loved ones with us and watching them get on with their lives.

Today’s poem is for families and friends left behind when a loved one dies. It is especially for parents who have lost sons and daughters. No parent should have to bury their child. It is a tragedy whatever the circumstances, of course, but what can be worse than to be left with the image of a loved one meeting a violent end or never even knowing what really happened or having a body to bury…?

Knife and gun crime, especially hate crime, and particularly among young people must stop. Parents, teachers, social and Youth workers should take every opportunity to lead intelligent, sensitive debate so these killers realize they are not just killing a person but a whole family that will never be whole again.

Among communities worldwide, there are those who will always be haunted by senseless killings, including some who didn’t even know the victims.

There is nothing ‘cool’ about street crime. Young people who think it takes carrying a weapon to achieve street cred or even as a means of self-defence should bear in mind that someone could get so easily killed or suffer serious injury…and it could well be them.

Nor is time spent in prison anything to boast about. I once spoke with a young man who had spent time in prison but chose to turn his life around. I asked how it was in prison. He said unhesitatingly, ‘There wasn’t a day I didn’t wish I was dead.’ Thankfully, he is alive and getting on with his life in a very positive way. 

Tragically, victims killed in the course of violent crime on our streets…have no choices left. 


No grave to tend, but a street corner
to leave flowers
where last they gathered
to reflect on your life, and send us
on our way

Faery dust, scattered in green fields
where once we children
loved to play; fond thoughts…
like the tail of a kite dancing in a breeze,
one long-ago day

Come twilight, more haunting shadows
marking time where Darkness
will have its way; no signs of life
in fields cruelly cut back, children gone,
lovers gone away

No grave to tend, but a street corner
to leave flowers
where last they gathered
to reflect on their lives, and send us
on our way

Kite, last glimpsed in a smoky breeze
trailing would-be memories...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2015      

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised (2012) from an earlier version that  appears in 1st eds. of  First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books 2002; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Hurt Garden

Most if not all of us have a hurt garden where we prefer not to go in waking moments. Sleep, though, invariably has other ideas…

Dreams may well leave us confused, but mind, body and spirit have a way of making make more sense of us there than any waking moments.


Blades of grass
tossing to and fro in the wind
like restless sleepers
trying to make sense of a kind
where logic and reason
have no place, square up to facts
of human nature
from which its indigenous hosts
would run away
but nature will ever have its say
in dreams, struggling to make sense
of us

Stems of flowers
swaying to and fro in a breeze
like drunken crowds
on losing their heads to whims
where logic and reason
have no place lest they make more 
of human nature
than excuses its indigenous hosts
from home truths
put aside, inclined to have a say
in dreams, struggling to make sense
of us

Dead leaves
drifting here, there, everywhere
like lost children
looking for a place called ‘home’
where logic and reason
concede its predilection for love
of human nature,
lend its indigenous hosts access
to life forces
in denial, ever finding their way 
to us left struggling to make sense
of dreams

signalling a love of life and nature
to practised ears
in the market (for a guide of sorts)
where logic and reason
have a place, but are never enough
for human nature
whose indigenous hosts ask more
of its humanity
than dream litter left in its garden
on the assumption they will clear up
the mess

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

New Kids on the Block

A slightly different version of today’s poem was published in various anthologies and poetry magazines (1997-2001) before appearing in my first major collection.

I have made numerous revisions to various poems over the years, some minor others major. While most revisions appear on the blogs, I hope (eventually) to publish revised editions of each collection in e-format.

Now, at first glance, nothing seems to have changed much in 20+ years, especially in the sense that a significant proportion of children and young people seem to be having as raw a deal as ever. (Oh, but haven't I said that before once, twice, maybe even a thousand times?) 

Could it be perhaps that if we all try harder to keep our own little piece of the world clean, safe, and a good place to be, all the other pieces may yet come together in a more bearable whole…for everyone? 


Gone shopping,
kids left running wild,
trolley rage mums
all smiles (dad’s at the pub);
dog mess everywhere,
kids busy shooting pool
at late-night venues
when not hanging out
on street corners

On the pavement,
collide with some kid
On a bike (my fault
of course, forgot to look);
Knives out
in the playground,
acid in the park,
kids chasing death
for a lark

Cops in their stride
(‘Come on, let’s get even.’);
kids on a joyride
to the heaven, street siren
screaming, ‘Amen’;
Mum’s off her trolley,
Dad’s on the booze,
Angel on the sideboard,
yesterday’s News…

Copyright R. N. Taber 1997; 2015

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revised ed., in e-format in preparation.]

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Circumnavigating Homer OR Engaging with James Joyce

At University, in the early 1970’s, I studied James Joyce’s Ulysses. The novel left a deep, lasting impression on me, something of which this poem attempts to convey. Make of it (and 'Ulysses') what you will...


Charybdis, blood-sucking history;
myth, reaching out to nourish our fictions
at the breast. Eyes of the navigator...

burning, like twin saints

Whose lips next to pluck a kiss from me?
I will suck the life from them, spew out the taste
of them - and Pallas won’t care,
my brave Ulysses, (save Mr Joyce put in a plea
for the sheer passion of absurdity)

I'll not be cheated of immortality
or heroes to wrestle the world’s straitjacket
while tin gods debate what’s right

and what's aesthetic…

Copyright R. N. Taber 1972; 2010

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Seminal OR First Things First

There is no shame in coming last in whatever so long as we give it our best shot. In my experience, we are often inclined to let the past hold us back to such an extent that we deny our future much of its potential. Childhood hang-ups, failed relationships, being made to feel we are a disappointment to someone whose opinion matters to us…; such issues are never easy to shrug off even as we grow older and (supposedly) wiser.

Life isn’t - or shouldn’t be - a competition. It’s not all about winners and losers. For a start, we’re not all playing the same game even, let alone running the same race. Everyone is different and wants different things from life and that’s how it should be. Even so, we must not - nor should not - live in the past, however tempting sometimes that may be. Besides, we all deserve a decent future even if it doesn't always work out quite as we would have wished.

Body, mind and spirit deserve that we put them first even if it means trailing last in more judgemental eyes (that rarely if ever see a wood for its trees anyway...)

This poem is a villanelle.


Judge not the present by its past,
let time fly by
crying, ‘Foul!’ (trailing last)

Beware memory’s fair blast
make us cry;
judge not the present by its past,

Let not life travel light and fast,
pass us by
crying, ‘Foul!’ (trailing last)

Hope, its colours at half mast
each day we die;
judge not the present by its past

Come dawn, let’s feed not fast,
or look it in the eye
crying, ‘Foul!’ (trailing last)

To life, let love a lifeline cast
(if not always at first try);
judge not the present by its past
crying, ‘Foul!’ (trailing last)

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008; 2015

Monday, 9 February 2015

An Accidental Life OR Epiphany on the Streets

We all complain about the quality of our lives from time to time, some more often than others. It can take a tragedy to put things into perspective.

Life is for living. Everyone has his or her own perspective on life. We all want different things and that’s how it should be. [Thank goodness we are not a race of clones…yet] Nor should we let some well-meaning person try and live his or her life through us.

Our ambitions, aspirations, dreams…are not theirs, nor ever can be, but ours and ours alone. Yes, it is good to share them, but it’s down to us to make of them what we can. So let’s get on with it, and give it our best shot, make the best rather than the worst of whatever life throws at us...while we still can.

Good luck.


I saw someone dying in the street,
a man crying his heart out;
no last, moving words of love
and comfort. Body, barely stirring
under a blanket…

Blue eyes on a cloud white as snow,
wondering why the crowd won’t
let go, wishing it would, yet afraid
it might, and what would happen then
to the poor cloud?

Is there really a place called Heaven
that will take us in, make pain
go away, teach us to fly angel wings
where love and peace breathe new life
into dead things?

What is Death that we should fear it,
seek sanctuary, and who’s to say
God knows best, isn’t an invention,
alternative vision to the worst of nature
that is and is not human?

Parents say this and teachers say that,
while hymns and prayers are sweet
on the ear but fail to ever make clear
just how affairs of the spirit truly relate
to the Here and Now
Cloud and Death in human form
moving on in an ambulance,
sirens shrieking, crowd dispersing,
no one chancing any knowing glances
penetrating their defences

The crying man was but (like me)
a passing stranger caught out
briefly sharing mortality, mentality
of rats in a sewer, survival ever turning
on eluding The Catcher

The sun came out, shone in our faces;
from a nearby market, a smell
of fresh flowers returning me friends,
family, all that really matters, too often
taken for granted

Now, I think no less of weepy heavens
for angry clouds, am humbled by
and grateful for life forces revisiting
a chance fatality to add a lasting epiphany
to Time’s temporary reality

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2015

[Note: This poem has been revised (2015) from an earlier version that appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]