Sunday, 22 May 2016

Shadow Play OR Profiling the Metaphysics of Conscience

A friend recently commented there can be no disputing we live in a dangerous world that is the stuff of nightmares.

The threat of terrorism leaps to mind, but there are everyday threats closer to home as well; racism, homophobia, street crime, gang warfare, cyber bullying, certain religious and cultural issues such as FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and the more barbaric aspects of Sharia law etc. etc.

Is it any wonder then that dreams and nightmares sometimes merge into a hideous quasi-reality? As for a face looking passively in at it all, that could belong to just about anyone, even one of our own personae that the conscious self we know and love either fails or refuses to acknowledge…in case it feels obliged to act rather be a critical bystander unwilling to get involved in someone else’s affairs.

Enter the metaphysical poet John Donne ‘No man is an island entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ (MEDITATION XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions)


Faces looking in
at a window
on my dreams
are always mouthing words
I can never make out

These faces looking in
at a window
on my dreams
always have smile for me
no matter what

One face looking in
at a window
on my dreams,
it wears a wry expression
(knows me too well?)

I struggle to imagine
what they see
as my dream-self
explores all time and space
of a subconscious
indulging in freedom
from restraints
along the lines
of religious dogma playing
war games
with mind, body, and spirit
or the temporal
manipulations of various
acting out an ages-old parody
of human justice

Faces looking in
at a window
on my dreams
seem to approve what they see  
for having a say

This face looking out
of a window
on my dreams
mouths back that I am as I am
(no strings)

Waking up to life,
I glimpse
a shadow play
on my ceiling of dark forces
gunning for me

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Cat on the Roof OR Heavens Above

As a child (I am 70 now) I was stroking a cat one day, happened to look up and could make out a cloud in the shape of a cat. I asked my mother what a cat was doing in the sky. She told me that cloud is a gauze curtain that takes many shapes through which God can see what we humans are up to on Earth. Rain, she added for good measure, is His tears because he rarely likes what He sees, especially when little boys misbehave.

I was very close to my mother. She was a very Christian woman, but her words put me off religion forever if only because I did not like the idea of any God spying on me; nor did I much care for the implied threat that I should behave myself …or else. Even so, her words haunted me for many years as I grappled with various concepts of religion and God, eventually discarding both in favour of nature. Nature would offer the young (gay) man I became, a sense of spirituality that came free, no strings (or dogma) attached yet contained within the organized chaos of a time frame-cum-continuum to which the Muse in me could easily relate.

It took me many more years to even begin to articulate on that offer, but was happy to settle for the warm glow it awoke in me and the subsequent poetry it has never ceased to stoke.


Cloud cover
come another dawn
(like cat fur)

All a-shimmer
in a lonely, weepy sun;
cloud cover

heavens for everyone
(like cat fur)

‘Live’ mirror
(humanity looking in);
cloud cover

demanding our attention
(like cat fur)

God’s favour
caught out on the turn?
cloud cover
like cat fur

Copyright R. N. Taber 1999; 2016

[Note: revised (2016) from an earlier version that appears in The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised e-format in preparation.] 

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Ode to a Sunny Day OR Get Real

This poem was written in 1979. A neighbour was complaining to me about retirement, saying how he missed ‘the buzz of real life’ because all there was for the likes of retired people was a second hand existence by courtesy of television and cinema. I suggested keeping up with friends, getting out and about and doing things, going places…pleasures for which we often have little or no time when working full-time and/or bringing up a family…? (Mind you, we need to make time.) He simply shrugged and went indoors to watch an afternoon soap opera.

No, I’m not knocking TV, but now I am retired myself, I discover I have little time to watch it…for keeping up with friends, getting out and about and doing things, going places…simple pleasures for which it was often hard making time for when working.

Following a bad fall in summer 2014, I was housebound for months and have spent a good year or so learning to walk again. I live alone so TV was a great comfort and companionship (of sorts) in between writing up the blogs, three sessions of (ten) physiotherapy exercises a day and chatting to friends who were kind enough to drop by and help out on a regular basis all the while I could barely walk. I missed getting out and about and do so now as much as I can; even though walking is still quite painful, I have a sturdy oak walking stick, and it is always worth making the effort.

So when I talk to young people rushing home to spend hours on social media, I can’t help feeling they are missing out…

No, I am not knocking on-line social networking either, but there can be no substitute for real-life, face to face  companionships and banter among friends, not to mention getting out and about in the sunshine…can there? Now I am older (70) and less mobile, it is harder to get out and about and meet people, but (still) always worth making the effort.

All things in moderation, I say. 


Little birds singing on the garden wall

I’ll not write you up
you’re too sentimental
for the Age, they say

As one to another you brightly call

I’ll shut the window
there’s a good film on
TV today

Silvery sunlight casting cameos everywhere

making all our
screen lined faces

Let's close the curtains, better already

now we can really
see what's going on
and enjoy

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2016

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised since it first appeared under the title 'To A Sunny Day' in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Extracts from a Carer's Diary OR Swimming Against the Tide

I have known some very caring people during my 70 years and could not help but notice how so few people appreciated them. Oh, they would sing their praises (when not complaining behind their backs) but it was all me, me, me and take, take, take; precious little concern shown towards the caring person - whatever his or her sexuality or cultural background - outside that selfish context.

Many if not most of us are self-centred up to point, but we pass that point when we selfishly expect others to help us along our way without giving much thought as to whether they, too, may well need help sometimes, a kind word or a shoulder to cry on instead of our treating them like a punch bag for our own feelings; it is arguably one of the most important lessons in life we get to learn.

Of course, the majority of selfish people do not even realize they are being selfish; they just assume everyone has someone looking out for them which, sadly, is often not the case. So the caring people carry on caring and giving of themselves to those who carry on taking and thinking of themselves.

Yes, we all do it sometimes, reach a point where we need to remind ourselves(or have someone remind us) to stop, listen, recognize where (and who) we think we are; start talking to our friends instead of at them; start looking out for those who look out for us instead of paying lip service to the business of caring about other people. Like many sayings, it is so very true that ‘a little thought goes a (very) long way’.  


How many times reaching for the stars,
wishing the pull of gravity away?
How many years wiping someone tears,
few folks if any asking if I’m okay…?

How many times sat watching on TV
proof of Man’s inhumanity to Man,
a tear in the eye, sipping at a cup of tea,
sighing as we reach for the telephone?

How many times giving asked-for advice
only to have it tossed back in my face?
How many years of proxy lows and highs
stuffed willy-nilly in someone’s suitcase?

Come a day, free to set life’s burden down,
pray someone, for me, let a candle burn

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2016

[Note: This poem has been revised from an earlier version that appears under the title ‘A Carer’s Song’ in A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber. Assembly Books, 2001; revised ed. In e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Bright Star, Live Theatre of the Human Ego

Rarely are our thought processed more intense and tested than we ponder questions about life and death, especially the latter if only because it represents The Great Unknown and us human beings prefer to know (for sure) what we are up against. Over our lives, we have at least the semblance of some control, but over the time and nature of our death we have little or none. More disturbing still, what happens once we are cut free of a life that so loves to play us like puppets on a string and go into free fall? Something or nothing…?

Those who subscribe to a religion think they have the answer while those of us who don’t, take hope from nature’s cycle of renewal.

Whatever, thinking about such things, homing on any conclusions (however arbitrary) we may reach and acting on them, is probably as good a preparation for life and death as we can aspire. 

There is much to be said for the old adage, look before you leap, but it has to be said that the looking eye does not always see; it is the inner eye, as prompted by searching thought, that is more likely to home in on not only what is it looking at but also for.   

Cross-legged, arms folded, a Buddha
on the banks of a dark river under
a single bright star, watching the dead
reach a far shore or drift like flotsam,
tossed to and fro on impassive waves

Addressing the apparent insubstantiality
of shadows, inner sight focusing
on the human spirit playing host to body
no more or less than the flow of blood
feeding its veins as Myth’s muddy waters
close in, re-assessing attitudes scrawled
in everyday graffiti or glued to pasteboard
points of view; scientific, religious…
(does it really matter?) ever attempting
to win us over by fair means or foul
since that first day at school, now exposed
for the saddest, cruellest trick of all

Articulating on ‘soul’ by steeling spirit,
preparing mind and body to take a chance
a coming of age, despite all envious gods,
and their petty tyrannies, upstaged only
by human selfishness, stuff of immaturity

Focusing on and interpreting the purpose
of one starry eye watching out for us
who are frantically rummaging mortality,
for a kinder fate (surely?) than to be left
drifting in full view of old gods gathered
to gloat, our humanity come less than right
for running the gamut of human history
posed by selective readings between lines
of cautionary tales told by one, Jonah,
from the belly of a whale last seen spouting
gobbledegook to hunters up for the chase
no more or less than for its own sake

Redefining chaos on a shadowy river, feeding
on the light of one wryly twinkling eye

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2016

[Note: This poem has been revised from an earlier version that appears under the title ‘Death Star’ in On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber 2010; revised edition in e-format in preparation.]

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Imaging despair OR Where Light Dawns (even) on Dark Forces

As it deepens, despair takes us into the very heart of human darkness. There may well be a pin-prick of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, but sometimes it is but a blur. Yet, if we can manage to focus even for just an instant, the blur becomes a lantern that will guide us back into the daylight and sunshine of what we laughingly call ‘normal’ life.

I made this journey in my early 30’s (I am 70 now) and it is the closest I have ever come to experiencing an epiphany.  Where I had never found any comfort or inspiration in religion, a drowning mind and body  sensed and reached for a spirituality in the nature of all things reassuring me that Earth Mother had not given up on me and I must not give up on myself.


Eyes glowing in a premature darkness
like cat’s eyes on a loping highway in a storm,
padding its way with stealth and guile,
brushing giant leaf and fern in Brobdingnag
concrete jungle spread all around;
wings of steel pitted against natural instinct;
dirt tracks strewn with primeval litter,
secret paths to Earth Mother’s hand written
poetry and prose

Hear the lion roar, rearing and pawing
at the sky, unbowed by heaven’s wary eye;
flashes like daggers at Caesar’s back,
taking the Beast through its paces till it drops;
apes swinging here and there,
mock a weary lion but taking care to steer
well clear, avoiding confrontation
else a feast of claws devour even salvation,
torn pages of Darwin

Ah, but let the Beast rest while it may;
hunters and hunted will find each other out
soon enough, about to discover
what (if any) creature can match us
eye for eye, tooth for tooth,
and for whom the wind composes a eulogy
where darkest poetry and prose read,
old gods (and new) mocking our inability
to understand a word

Nowhere to run, barely a pin-prick of light,
beyond comprehension, within human sight

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2016

[Note: Revised (2016) from an earlier version that appears under the title ‘Heart of Darkness’ in 1st eds of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 9 May 2016

Extracts from the Diary of a Foot Soldier Called Freedom

Across the modern world, freedoms are being whittled away by the very socio-cultural-religious and political forces that purport to support and endorse them; freedom of speech (cannot even agree to differ without causing offence in some quarters); freedom to assume whatever sexual identity we feel appropriate (as if gay or transgender folks have a choice…); freedom to protest, put our names to a legitimate petition or such documentation as may be considered ‘indiscreet’ by Intelligence sources (ask Julian Assange   …) etc. etc. etc.

In places like Saudi Arabia, young people risk crucifixion, for protesting against a vile regime which many western politicians and other leading figures like to cosy up to if only for its wealth and oil.

Whoever and wherever we are, we should never take what freedom we have for granted, but neither should we assume it is the last word in what freedom means; those freedoms we don’t have or any that are at risk will always be worth fighting for as and when required.

Have two terrible world wars taught so much of humankind so little about freedom?


Heart heavy, foot-weary,
for trudging life’s highways, byways
and country lanes

Maybe arrive by nightfall
or needs must press on till daybreak,
destination unknown

Under orders from a skylark
last seen soaring into a weepy dawn
(looking for Heaven?)

Apollo whispers me in time
to lighten the heartbeat, put a spring
in the loneliest step

Centuries-old aspirations
discarded on the slopes of Parnassus
recovered, read aloud

Where life no less precious
on highways, byways or country lanes,
find bitter-sweet poems

Foot soldier, resting at last
among earth worms burrowing histories
of love, peace, and war

Only Apollo visits the grave,
in remembrance of Freedom’s poems
and those who listened

Yet, the foot soldier lives on 
in (open) minds and hearts of free spirits 
across the world

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016