Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The World This Weekend

http://www.authorsden.com/rogerntaber

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 after it first appeared on the blog in 2007. Well, religion does not have a monopoly on Faith. Me, I chose to put mine in nature long, long ago.Perhaps even more importantly, we need to have faith in ourselves...or how else can we expect it of others?

This poem is a villanelle.

THE WORLD THIS WEEKEND

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; 2013

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

In The Swim


Just as a swimmer may be struck by cramp so life may well deal us an unexpected, even near fatal blow. Yet, the human body and psyche are blessed with amazing powers of recuperation so long as we are willing to call on them, empowering us to come reach the shore safely, our fear of drowning all but gone if never quite…


IN THE SWIM

I grow old and, yes, the bottoms
of my trousers are rolled,
treading water in a vast sea, afraid
to swim. Let a heat mist
swallow me up, roaring shores
disappear (no respite there
for troubled minds, only crowds
oblivious to my missing you);
Apollo’s kisses on me like arrows
inflicting the bloody poetry
of pain, though waves wash it clean
so no one sees, no one reads
but upon whom it outs and feeds

I grow old and, yes, the bottoms
of my trousers are rolled
as I soak up the last of summer days
inclined to follow autumn’s ways
even as Apollo’s heat on me assumes
the contours of your body
against my bare skin and we are joined
as once we were, promising
to stay together forever, not knowing
life had other plans for us,
consumed by a summer’s history,
left to but blindly drift
the teasing shores of eternity

A sudden thrust of time and tide
demands an instant decision
(swim or drown?) Panic seizes me
in passion’s grip, my body
thrashing wildly like a lover in the heat
of an incredible lovemaking,
caught out confessing and climaxing
a bloody poetry of pain
no waves need wash clean, spoils
of ecstasy for all to see,
lovers finding rhythm enough to swim
the waters of eternity,
no matter who or our sexuality

Swimming strongly now, making for shore,
drawn by sounds of love and laughter

[From: On The Battlefields Of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010]

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Message

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

As regular readers know, I subscribe to no religion. Nor would I call myself an atheist as I like to think I have a strong sense of spirituality... that I take from nature, nowhere else. However, I have open-minded, open-hearted friends of all faiths, including a close Muslim friend. It is my experience that the majority of ordinary men and women, whatever their belief or non-belief, are ready and willing to take others as they find them and do not let religion get in the way of establishing lasting friendships…however much their leaders, deliberately or otherwise, might encourage them to do so.

Tragically, it is the fundamentalists (in any religion) who shout the loudest and not only make themselves heard but are exploited by a world media who would have us believe they are 'typical' Muslims, Christians, Hindus...whatever.

It has been my experience that the majority of people from ethnic minority backgrounds are culturally homophobic although many self-styled ‘devout’ Christians no less so. However, I am glad to say there are many exceptions and, hopefully, these will eventually prevail over the bigoted majority.

Even so, these are worrying times for gay people. For example, a local newspaper in Tower Hamlets, a borough in the London’s East End that has a significant Muslim population, recently reported what reads as a very disturbing case. A teenager, apparently described by teachers at his school as “devout, humble Muslim” was recently acquitted on the charge of murdering a school student support office last November amid allegations that the victim was a “predatory paedophile”. The 17-year-old defendant admitted wielding the kitchen knife that fatally injured the man but said he had feared being raped or killed by him; he also admitted taking a knife with him in case the man tried to force him “into sexual acts”. Subsequently, he was unanimously cleared of both murder and manslaughter by the jury:

http://www.asianimage.co.uk/news/united_kingdom/8353101.A_Level_pupil_is_cleared_of_murdering_student_officer/

My problem with this case is that, as the article reads, whether or not the victim was an alleged paedophile or gay man, if the student thought he might be sexually assaulted, why visit the man anyway and take a knife with him?

Does this not give the green light to the view that 'It's okay to kill a gay' as I heard two schoolboys discussing on a bus only the other day? Worse, could it not also be interpreted as fuelling the misconception, commonly expressed by the less enlightened among the heterosexual majority, that gay = paedophile?

Whatever, the deplorably narrow-minded Far Right and may well be on the rise in the US and Europe, along with others easily influenced by some of their worst sentiments and, yes, they may well win a few battles in the years ahead…BUT...it/they cannot and will not win the war against those who uphold the principles of a common humanity. Humanity is bigger and better than that…yeah?

[Note: This post is duplicated on my other blog today.]

This poem is a villanelle. [It is the third poem I read on the video below.]

THE MESSAGE

The message of Islam is peace
though some people have other ideas;
beware, who dares undermine this

It’s of love the Koran teaches
though some people play on its tears;
the message of Islam is peace

To the world, its prophet reaches
though some people play on its fears;
beware, who dares undermine this

The truth about Islam is kindness
a prophet’s wisdom across centuries;
the message of Islam is peace

May religion, its martyrs embrace,
reject paltry egos poisoning its prayers;
beware, who dares undermine this

We are a common humanity, no less
for its religions and secular philosophies;
The message of Islam is peace;
beware, who dares undermine this

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Crocodiles In The Water

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

I wrote this poem some years ago after a conversation with a young student whose family in his home country have to walk miles every day to fetch clean water. He was genuinely shocked that we, here in the West, take the simple, everyday act of turning on a tap so much or granted.

After the poem appeared in various print and online publications, readers wrote in whose various countries of origin were mostly in Africa (but also, latterly, Iraq) to say much the same thing.

We are living in the 21st century, for goodness sake! The West should be ashamed that we do not do more to provide basic amenities for poorer people world-wide.

We must do more: http://www.megree.com/e/3

Thhis poem is a villanelle.

CROCODILES IN THE WATER

A common slaughter,
Third World dying
for want of clean water

Children’s laughter
turns to crying,
a common slaughter

Each young-old grafter
grown sick of trying
for want of clean water

At some capital altar,
disciples denying
a common slaughter

A 21st century arena
found sadly lacking…
for want of clean water

Through gold teeth, eager
summit tipplers belying
a common slaughter
for want of clean water

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

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Blue Eyes


Regular readers will know that, although I never post comments, I always read them and will reply if I have an email address. I could not find a contact link to the reader who kindly sent a website/blog link along with comments after reading yesterday’s post. The comment was to the effect that I am not the only gay person to feel excluded by what appears to be some kind of elite gay enclave in Cornwall. I love Cornwall, in spite of the fact it is so gay-unfriendly, and will be following the blog with which that reader is associated:

http://www.pinkpasty.blogspot.com/ - It all sounds very strange and a very unpleasant situation in which some gay people seem to find themselves in that part of the UK. I’m not sure what to make of it all.

As a professional librarian all my working life, I have to say I am very disappointed that the library service in Cornwall seems to be going along with the homophobic majority. Maybe someone should try reserving my books and see what reason the library service gives for not obtaining any? Mind you, they can always acquire reserved items via the Inter-Library Loans service so wouldn’t have to buy them. Heaven forbid that Cornwall libraries should add poetry collections that include gay material to their stock!

Meanwhile…

‘Sian C’ has requested this poem. She describes herself as ‘a dedicated follower of poetry’ and adds, ‘Oh, and I am not a lesbian. Someone’s sexuality is surely of no more relevance than a poem’s if he or she is a nice person and the poem a nice poem?’

Ah, a woman after my own heart! Sian has asked me to repeat this poem that appeared on my gay-interest  blog in 2008 for ‘all my friends.’ I confess I found myself (very) slightly revising it.

Gay, straight, male or female, who hasn’t sat in a bar, bus or train and fantasised about some gorgeous creature who is plainly aware of your adoration, even meets your wistful glances if only fleetingly…and that’s all?

BLUE EYES

He sat at a table by the window
staring into space, eyes like dewdrops
on a bluebell among shadows
haunting the bold, handsome face
like city kids playing among
spring flowers making a brave show
in window boxes

I lost myself in those eyes,
exploring territory unknown without fear,
guided by the sad sunshine
of a smile along trails I 'd never dare,
nature running wild, its call
echoing the quickening heartbeat
of a wilful child

We found each other and he took
my hand, gently pulled me to the ground;
our first kiss was like coming home
after long years away and we made love
then and there. Oh, the beauty,
the ecstasy, the bitter-sweet cruelty
of despair!

Suddenly, he got up and went out in the rain;
I finished my drink and went home alone

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000; 2000

[Note: Am earlier version of this poems has appeared in several poetry publications, including 1st eds. of Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; 2nd ed. in preparation. NB. For signed 1st eds. of my collections, contact: rogertab@aol.com ]

Monday, 6 September 2010

No Storybook Hero

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

As requested by ‘Jane’ in Cornwall, I am duplicating a poem and some comments I posted on my gay-interest blog back in June and which prompted protest from several readers in Cornwall. No offence was intended. I simply wrote how it is, for me personally at any rate. Much as I love visiting what has to be one of the most beautiful parts of the UK, I certainly don’t find it in the least bit gay-friendly.

As I mentioned on a previous post, when Cornwall held its first ever Gay Pride march in Truro, August 2009, I emailed the organizers to wish them well, only to receive a nasty reply telling me to stay away as they wanted no truck with gay activists. I hadn’t intended to participate or so much as implied that I might…and replied that I am no activist, just a poet.

I have friends in Cornwall but if some among the gay community there are almost as homophobic as the heterosexual majority…what chance for a gay poet to make new friends there? Only recently, a reader emailed to say they had offered a Cornwall library one of my poetry titles after receiving one as a present but had already bought one. The library declined to accept and it appears that a member of staff made a point of referring to the fact that my collections include gay material. As a librarian working in public libraries for many years, I was quite upset. I contacted Cornwall Libraries and offered to donate my two later titles. They were not interested. This came as no surprise and just goes to show that the UK has a long way to go before it is united against homophobia. I won’t be put off visiting beautiful Cornwall but I won’t be popping into any of its libraries either…or engaging with the locals in any gay-interest debate.

No activist, me, honestly. I’m just an Ordinary Joe who also happens to be a poet who, in turn, also happens to be gay.

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from the original as it appears in 1st eds. of Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; 2nd ed. in preparation; I don’t envisage any 2nd eds. being available for some years yet. Meanwhile, all 1st ed. titles are available at a blog discount for all readers + free p&p/shipping (in Europe only). Contact: rogertab@aol.com with ‘Blog reader’ in the subject field]

NO STORYBOOK HERO

When I listen to the waves,
they always tell the same stories
I used to hear from leafy choirs
long, long ago…how one day
I’d be riding a white horse – to
fame and glory….
Only, life never took me that way,
but in other directions
despite objections from alter ego,
friends and family;
I wasn’t meant be a hero of the kind
that rides out storms, surfs
giant waves, climbs snowy peaks,
charges to the rescue,
bugles blaring, just in time to save
the goodies from the baddies
the way they manage it in movies
and books…
Instead, life found another role for me,
an Ordinary Joe in the street,
trying to make the best of things,
struggling to make ends meet;
nothing to lose, everything to prove
because I’m gay and not cut out
for heroics

Do your worst, knock me down.
I will bounce right back
like a clown or child’s wobbly toy
(better applause than tears)
get on with my life as best I can,
take it on the chin
like a ‘real’ man, play my part,
from the heart, for who I am,
no hero leapt out of long-ago stories,
but an Ordinary Joe fighting
old prejudices, siding with the trees
against a world feeding myths
to its children who, in turn, (we hope)
know better than to listen

[From: Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, 2007]

This second poem, written in Cornwall some years ago will appear in my next collection, Tracking the Torchbearer in 2012 by way of celebrating the Olympic Games coming to the UK and Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee:

IN PRAISE OF SEA THRIFT

Guardians of our history,
looking out for us
among rocks by the sea

Shadows once the enemy,
now protectors,
guardians of our history

As natural as we to nudity,
rising, falling waves…
among rocks by the sea

Lovers, like fishes set free
from glass cages,
guardians of our history

Witness Apollo frantically
planting kisses…
among rocks by the sea

Careworn, fickle humanity
proofing its pages,
guardians of our history
among rocks by the sea

[Mullion, Cornwall May 1998]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000