Saturday, 25 June 2016

Three Cheers for Democracy OR Breakaway Britian

I am (very) surprised, but also (very) pleased by Thursday’s referendum result. I had expected the political Establishment to win. As it is, I believe it was an overwhelming vote for a democracy that has been slowly but surely undermined by a European Union that has become unfit for purpose.

Once we have a new Prime Minister in place and the Labour leadership question, too, has been sorted, our politicians need to put party divisions to one side and work together for cross party consensus on local reforms initiated by our leaving the European Union.

While I understand the concerns of many young people who feel an older generation has voted for a future they do not want, I remain convinced that future generations will thank us for this decision in the longer term. Even so, negotiating Brexit with the EU will require tact and diplomacy; any show of aggressive defiance will help no one.

Britain is more than capable of holding its own while sharing in a common good in the modern world. As for Europe, we should never forget that we Brits, too, are Europeans and - whatever political games our leaders so love to play - our continental neighbours are also our friends.

This poem is a villanelle.

(June 23 2016)

Whatever will be, will be,
(divorcing the Union);
three cheers for democracy

Though the forecast stormy
for breakaway Britain,
whatever will be, will be…

Playing on fears comes easily
to the everyday politician;
three cheers for democracy

Braving unchartered territory,
(conscience of a nation)
whatever will be, will be…

A disaffected voting majority
rising to the occasion;
three cheers for democracy

Its potential weighing heavily   
on a younger generation;
whatever will be, will be…
Three cheers for democracy
Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Back to the Future OR Making a Case for Looking Forward

Even at 70, I am usually a very positive thinking person. However, after being made a captive audience at a neighbour’s recent rant about the problems commonly associated with old age, and how there is nothing to look forward to but death, I found myself struggling to rise above a growing sense of impending doom.

Dare I suggest that many if not most of us here in the UK are similarly weary in the wake of all the for and against arguments so passionately expressed by politicians doing their best to influence our vote in tomorrow’s EU referendum?

While browsing through some old papers, I discovered this little poem that I had all but forgotten, and it went a long way towards restoring not only flagging spirits but also a sense of proportion.


Ancient trees sprouting new leaves,
old habitats harbouring new life;
ancient fields reviewing GM corn
where grasshoppers still singing

Old folks (like me) expecting to fly
with swallows come autumn;
old tales kept alive by winter fires,
tongues of flame poking at history

Memory, persuading young and old
to rework the poetry of its seasons
Copyright R N. Taber 2008

Saturday, 18 June 2016

One in a Million OR Remembering a Woman of Substance

On Thursday, June 16th 2016, Jo Cox MP, 41, wife and mother of two young children, was murdered in broad daylight by one of her own constituents in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

Now, I never met Jo Cox, knew her only by reputation and from hearing her speak in Parliament on TV. However, the outpouring of genuine grief and shock - even across customary political and socio-cultural-religious divides - further highlights the fact that she was, indeed, an exceptional young woman of substance.

Every death is a tragedy,  but the murder of a wife and mother in her prime as well as (already) a force to be reckoned with on a generally egocentric-driven political scene, that defies description. As for the killer’s motives, even his mental state at the time, these are barely relevant since nothing can change what has happened; all a poet can do is try to capture a little at least of the spirit of something in someone far better, and always well worth remembering.

This poem is a villanelle. (Why a villanelle…? By the very nature of its form, a villanelle requires a direct no-waffle, approach; by all accounts, Jo Cox was that kind of woman.)

(A tribute to Jo Cox)

One loving wife and mother,
rare breed of politician,
touching hearts, world over

Bringing opposites together,
her work, a passion;
one loving wife and mother

Anxious to make life better,
a caring people person,
touching hearts, world over]

Crossing this and that barrier
set by culture or religion,
one loving wife and mother

No comfy chair commentator,
but getting things done,
touching hearts, the world over

Icon for life, senseless murder,
role model for a generation;
one loving wife and mother
touching hearts, world over

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016
(London, June 17, 2016)

Friday, 17 June 2016

Life, an Autobiography of Love OR Love, Will and Testament

Regular readers will know that my partner was killed in a road accident many years ago. He was not my only love, but the only person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life, no reservations whatsoever. 

I will be 68 years old this year. For me, it has never been so much the case that that time heals as that any brush with mortality makes life all the more precious while the pain of loss serves to remind us that we are, indeed, very much aliveIt is a philosophy that has also served me well since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February, 2011.


I have kissed death on the cheek as it slept,
let a flow of memories course my veins
while hope past a grieving heart gently crept,
ghost rider tugging gently at the reins

I have kissed death on the lips as it rested
where nature’s meaningful tides turn no more
nor its finer spirit’s growth arrested
but songs of love and peace, no talk of war

I took death by the hand as it would leave;
its firm, kind, touch wiping away a tear,
prising my fingers gently from its sleeve
in the shade of some makeshift watchtower

Fear not as Death calls or where it takes us, 
but in its wake, be sure to plant flowers

Copyright R. N. Taber, 2007; 2016 

[Note: This poem has been revised since it appeared as 'Love, Testament to Life' in Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 13 June 2016

Half Asleep, Open Prison OR Wide Awake, Dash for Freedom

Once, I read something along the lines that the ‘dreams’ we most vividly recall are but leftover, half-formed thoughts inclined to either embrace us or knock us for six as we necessarily negotiate an emotional landscape that finds us close to waking up but unable (quite) to let go of whatever it is about sleep that insists we stay.

I get it. More than once, contemplating the day ahead over breakfast has felt like planning an escape route.


Sometimes, the human body
will not (quite) emerge from shadows
(courtesy of sleep) conveniently
induced by selective half-memories
of fonder (kinder) times
when body and spirit took a stoic stand
against the more aggressive
(egocentric) interpretations of what it is
to be a practising human being

Sometimes, the human mind
cannot (quite) escape its darker side
(courtesy of conscience)
invaded by selective half-memories
conveniently (almost) buried
under layers of regret, pain, wishful
thinking for turning back
the ever-spilling clock measuring out
human life in grains of sand

Sometime, the human spirit
refuses (quite) to justify being slow
to do the right thing
by all that’s integral to the integrity
of even the children
of a lesser god than it chooses to put
above reproach, especially
when available to call upon to excuse
the plainly inexcusable

Eventually (with luck) we wake
to choral music promising us heaven
of a kind not (quite)
as interpreted by various Holy Books
if only to keep us quiet
in the face of pain and regret stoically
managed but self-inflicted
all the same, especially upon others
who meant us no harm

Day dawns, and life goes on
so we need to pull ourselves together,
(with heaven’s blessing)
and put any irksome misgivings down
to common misdemeanours
attributed to quirks of sleep expressing
(only human) anxieties
of a far less forgiving ego than likely
to meet the eye over breakfast

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Bad, Come Good OR Never let a Sceptic have the Last Word

I have met many people who feel their past is somehow preventing them for having a future, be it a criminal record, a history of mental illness, or quite simply an honest mistake that had unforeseen consequences of the worst kind. Having suffered a BAD nervous breakdown in my early 30’s - among other examples of social mud inclined to stick, not least being gay - I know only too well where they are coming from.

However, I don’t entirely believe in good luck, bad luck or… whatever. We make our own luck, bad luck or…whatever.

When things go wrong, whether or not through any fault of our own, we invariably need help to get back on our feet, take a positive perspective, make amends for our mistakes as far as amends may be possible, get real rather than feeling sorry for ourselves and abdicating responsibility for our future to a world that appears to ‘have it in’ for us. 

True, help is not always on hand or if it is it's not always obvious; more often than not, we have to seek it out and want to seek it out. No, not an easy task, but always well worth the effort.

This poem is a villanelle.


Who say it’s how it is, and should be,
past ever catching out what future brings,
forget it’s present, too, shapes destiny

Inclined to judge us (far) too quickly,
loath to concede a conscience’s redeeming,
who say it’s how it is, and should be

Once the past a prison, breaking free
but a dream for those (on rude awakening)
forget it’s present, too, shapes destiny

Bad making good is beyond the ability
of even the creative mind’s positive thinking
who say it’s how it is, and should be

Learning from mistakes, not always easy,
harder if we heed behind our backs gossiping,
forget it’s present, too, shapes destiny

Call human nature fickle, but essentially
it needs, feeds on love as fair as it is forgiving;
who say it is how it is, and should be,
forget it’s present, too, shapes destiny 

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Nature Is as Nature Does OR Human Nature, Copycat

I once went to a local variety show which, for me, was spoiled by its two compères trying to score points off one another throughout. The audience clearly thought this was an act, and lapped it up. As it happened, I knew better. It was an excellent show, marred only (for me) by these two. (Sometimes, I guess, ignorance really is the better part of bliss.)

Years on, I recall this occasion wherever I see nature and human nature at odds with one another and lookers-on mostly accepting if not applauding it as part of the show. After all, how much better for everyone to sit back and take life as it comes; finding fault can be such a tiresome distraction.

There are times, though, when we need to speak up about how and why we feel let down by events if only for those in charge to tell us (more often than not) to mind our own business and let them get on with theirs. But isn't it our business, too, when we have paid out good money, and why shouldn't we have the last word if only (hopefully) to prevent the need for repetition?

Whatever, of course, the show must go on...


Among winter snows,
a cruel north wind blowing,
nature mostly dozing,
perchance to dream, set to wake
once the poetry of spring
reads as if reaffirming its role
as Master of Ceremonies

Where forests once sang
odes to life, love, the spiritual
nature of new beginnings
and hope (yet) for humankind
up for sleepwalking
through all it misty yesterdays,
a live show goes on air

Run tiger. Run, rhino…
and other species under threat
from greedy fingers
in Big Business pies cooking
to a turn in mansions
the less discerning nouveau rich
mistake for social icons

Enter, summer storms able
to provide acres of parched earth
with sustenance enough
to provide for its keepers if only
in the shorter term
while unable to prevent wildfires
raging at the uninsured

Midsummer hols destined
to linger, fall prey to autumnal
appetites for make-believe,
lost opportunities and half-regrets
left transforming tomorrow
and tomorrow…into long winters
of pretend contentment

Among winter snows,
a cruel north wind blowing,
human nature dozing,
perchance to dream, set to wake
once the poetry of spring
starts to read as if usurping its role
as Master of Ceremonies

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016