Monday, 15 September 2014

Manipulator OR Ego: The Dark Side

There is nothing wrong with ambition, but sometimes motivation is less clear sighted than we like to think., and we lose sight of our priorities if only temporarily; worse, we risk losing sight of who we are in our anxiety to prove we are more than a match for someone else…

Comparing ourselves with others is rarely a good idea as we will almost certainly go through life feeding an inferiority complex. Everyone is different, with different strengths and weaknesses. We need to lose any self-consciousness and develop the self-confidence to focus on ourselves and those people and issues that matter most to us. Otherwise, in attempting to prove we are as good as or better than someone else, we risk losing everything that really matters.


You hardly notice
I am here, and should you care
to look over your shoulder
the chances are you’ll not see me;
if the light is right I’ll fade
from sight, or (better still) no light
at all where I have taken
what I can of your mind and soul,
made them my own

You don’t fear me,
though you should, for am surely
your worst enemy;
you carry on with this and that,
making your way
in life, believing it’s your own
while all the time it’s mine;
my ambitions you aspire to fulfil,
rarely your own

Oh, but I am clever,
and would never lead you so astray
that you become lost
in a maze of conflicting emotions
and cannot find your way back
to where I intend you should be,
feeding you (now and then)
a hollow victory, its celebration
mine, all mine

You, my puppet, I, your puppeteer;
One upmanship, the Manipulator

 Copyright R. N. Taber 2011; 2014

Friday, 12 September 2014

Life at the Shallow End OR Keeping Up Appearances

Not so long ago, I spent an evening with a couple about my own age (68) who are so obsessed with looks that they have resorted to cosmetic surgery on more than one occasion. Ironically, the results are none too flattering. Besides, its's personality that counts more than looks, and don't let anyone tell you different. 

Respect comes into it to, doesn't it? Personally, I have more respect for the person who lets nature take its course and stays young in at heart than for the man or woman who prefers to kid themselves they have discovered the secret of eternal youth. The body may be a slave to time, but that doesn't have to be true of the spirit. The mind may well be vulnerable, but a strong dose of positive thinking and avoiding daytime TV has to be a good start. Couch potatoes do not age well in my experience.

Now, I ask you. Gay or straight, let;s stay young at heart by all means, but what’s wrong with growing old naturally?

Surely, it's enough that so many celebrities love to make fools of themselves by trying to turn back nature's clock without we ordinary men and women playing the same silly game?

On my opinion, cosmetic surgery is only ever justifiable in cases when people may have some kind of visible disfigurement that causes them distress. [It would probably cause them less distress if other people were less obsessed with outward appearances and more concerned with the person behind them.]

This poem is a kenning.


I’ll make a hunchback of you,
both feet arguing with the waistline,
whitened teeth making the tongue
abort every truer word you try to say,
as if you have no real affinity
with the fix you’re in, only vaguely
aware of some discomfort, unable
(or unwilling) to track down its source
so carrying on regardless

I’ll make a fine fool of you,
object of scorn (though tempered
with compassion among family
and friends who daren’t say a word
in case you mistake their concern
for interference, pity, jealousy;
always a slave to passion’s blind spot,
you embrace me in your heart

I’ll make a poor loser of you,
unless you choose to take me on;
recognize the enemy within
for what I am or else go as a lamb
to slaughter at the altar of vanity,
always seeking shelter from life’s
worst storms in love’s harbours,
but as a guest, no sense of belonging,
only a hungry yearning...

Better to take Time’s lead with pride
than behind its shallow promises hide

Copyright, R. N. Taber 2007; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears under the title Obsession in 1st (print) eds. of Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; Revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Autumn Sonata

For me, September is the start of autumn…whatever the weather people or the almanacs say.

Here’s my favourite autumn villanelle. It was first published in an anthology, Seasons of Change, Anchor Books [Forward Press] 2003 and subsequently in my collection.

Villanelles are not as easy to write as they look. Regular readers will know I have a passion for them and won’t be surprised to learn that I have written 200+. I try to vary style and content in my poetry and am always experimenting with voices. Even so, the villanelle remains a firm favourite of mine if only because its simplicity is far from simplistic and I get a sense of achievement from keeping to the discipline it imposes on a poet. Feedback suggests that some readers love them and others hate them, which is as it should be.

Left entirely to my own devices, I am inclined to waffle and have even been known to mix my metaphors. Oh, dear! Now, villanelles clear my head. They keep the inner eye focused on the straight and narrow if multidimensional paths along which a poet loves travel across uncharted territories of the mind, hopefully with his or her readers for company at various stages of the journey.


Silvery grey skies,
leaves drifting,
summer closing its eyes

Lighting home fires,
hopes flaring
silvery grey skies

Holiday goodbyes,
wishful thinking,
summer closing its eyes

Words to the wise,
softly treading
silvery grey skies

With long, wistful sighs
and daydreaming,
summer closing its eyes

Time quickly passing,
our hopes surprising
silvery grey skies,
summer closing its eyes

[From: The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004]

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Passage Home OR Nature at the Helm

We may travel far and wide in life or not all. It’s the going (or staying) wherever and doing whatever makes us and others happy that is journey enough for most people.

Yes, most if not all of us make mistakes and sometimes lose our way. But it’s my belief that those among us who make the journey for the right reasons can’t go too far wrong even though it may sometimes seem otherwise.

As for making the passage home, that’s wherever (and with whomsoever?) we feel the need to be; journey’s end.


I have heard waves whisper
of battles lost and won
on stormy seas, in far places,
among others demanding a turn
at the helm

I have watched clouds paint
pictures of losers, victors,
those staying on to dry a tear,
others preferring to turn a deaf ear
than take the helm

I have beached lonely shore
and coral reef, swam
with fishes, come to grief
in oceans surreal for abandoning
the helm

Time, our seasoned captain
has nailed my colours  
to its mast while stars, moon,
and rising sun insist on taking turns
at the helm

Passage home…

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; 2nd (revised) ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sea Change

Summer is fast ebbing away and a potpourri of autumn scents are in the air already, assailing the senses and changing the inner eye’s kaleidoscopic view of self, nature and the world…yet again.

Autumn is a beautiful season with its turning leaves of red and gold, yet sad also as we bid farewell to the swallows and prepare - along with much of nature - for the winter months ahead. At the same time, there is something beautiful, too, in sadness as if human spirit and spirit of nature are always conspiring to somehow soften the sharper edge of grief, loneliness, apprehension,…whatever, and never more so than in autumn.

This poem is a villanelle; it first appeared s in a Poetry Now [Forward Press] anthology A Summer’s Breeze (2003) and subsequently in my collection.


Sea of muddy leaves,
our summer gone
as autumn grieves

Heaps, like ragged graves
with flowers strewn,
sea of muddy leaves

A dying sparrow heaves
its last, alone
as autumn grieves

North wind brings waves,
our seasons blown;
sea of muddy leaves

No kinder soul than braves
an acid rain
as autumn grieves

Each heart, in time, gives
up its own…
sea of muddy leaves
as autumn grieves

Copyright R. N. Taber 2003

[From: The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004: new (e-edition) in preparation.]

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Freedom: Beacon of Hope in a Darkening World

Many years ago, a teacher once described freedom to the class as the best of human spirit personified. I agree, though I guess it all depends on an incorrupt spirit and a sense of freedom for everyone, not a select few. 

Whatever, we should never take personal freedom for granted, always resist any efforts by anyone to undermine it, moreover understand and accept that it can mean different things to different people while much the same force for good.


In some parts of the world,
all paths to Freedom are (still) blocked
by power-hungry rulers
living in the lap of luxury where others
go hungry, and can but dream
of running fresh, clean, water from a tap
close to hand

In some parts of the world,
all paths to Freedom are (still) haunted
by fighters who lost battles,
but inspired others to continue the war
against the sickest corruption
in the highest places, best feet forward
in global markets

In some parts of the world,
all paths to Freedom (still) ring out loud
and clear with howls
of protest punctuated with the shrapnel,
gunfire and pride
that, oh, so often accompanies integrity
even in the 21st century

In some part of the world,
all paths to Freedom are (still) haunted
by voices of the dead,
inspiring men, women, and children
who know far better
than their so-called betters how to carry
a flag with pride

In some parts of the world,
all paths to Freedom are (still) littered
with human bones,
and while some have name tags attached,
others are identified only
by category, and one of the categories
is G-A-Y

In some parts of the world,
heterosexuality is promoted true enough
to hot-blooded stereotype,
but while some fall for the honeyed hype
from slyly zealous tongues,
others continue to cultivate a culture
of Freedom for all

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Classroom Consensus OR Planet Earth, Deserving Better

Many thank to those of you who have emailed to wish me a speedy recovery following my recent accident. I am still housebound and cannot put any weight on my left foot so hopping around my flat on a zimmer frame! The nights are not good. But I am coping better during the day with help from friends when they are free. Hopefully I will be well on the way to a full recovery in a few weeks, and I keep telling myself that. I must be patient. Old(er) bones take longer to heal. It has made me realize how difficult life is for people living alone who are incapacitated in one way or another. We take so much for granted, even simple things like making a cup of tea.


Education starts and remains ongoing in the home. School and university are just part of a larger picture. Put a foot wrong, and that larger picture becomes a smudgy mess.

So where are we going wrong? Maybe parents and teachers and just about everyone else in the adult world needs to start listening more to what up and coming generations have to say about the kind of life and world they want to grow up in?

Oh, and what has sexuality to do with anything?

This poem is a villanelle.


So nature’s at war with us
again and again…
Time to make peace

We’re to blame (who else?)
for acid rain…
so nature’s at war with us

Save species, keep trees,
sow more grain…
Tome to make peace

We seize woods for houses
(world population)
so nature’s at war with us

Climate, ignoring countries
in pain…
Time to make peace

Politicians into green issues 
for self-gain
so nature's at war with us,
time to make peace

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008

[Note: For the benefit of new readers, feedback has resulted in my posting a selection of historical pots/poems om Google Plus to make browsing my blogs much easier; I add to and remove every five days or so: ]