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]

Saturday, 25 September 2010

All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go

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

Haven’t we all been there…all dressed up and nowhere to go?

ALL DRESSED UP AND NOWHERE TO GO

Tables in a room at Happy Hour;
forced laughter booming like canon
across no man’s land!
Lots of food and drink so let’s not think
about tomorrow, or mind
tears in the wind. Give us a tune.
on the keys….

Sing along to the accordion man
(who’ll cheer us up if anyone can)
while old gods tease us
about the rights and wrongs of strings
we pull at each other across the floor.
Hear a banging at the door? Let ‘em in,
the more the merrier!

No one so much as scrapes a chair
(nobody hears) like toys seen better days,
discarded by peers
grown out of their inhibitions
and found better ways
to spend an evening than a gathering
of fictions

Copyright R. N. Taber 1997; 2010

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from the original as it appears in 1st eds. of Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books 2001; 2nd ed. in preparation.]

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

Friday, 17 September 2010

Alternatives

http://www.authorsden.com/rogerntaber

I am duplicating this post on my other blog today by way of replying to those readers who have contacted me about yesterday’s post. Opinion was divided for and against and only marginally the former. One person wrote, ‘…you should be ashamed of yourself for attacking the Holy Father, you along with gay and transgender s**t heads everywhere. As for saying you are not disrespectful of religion, it is not the impression anyone would have from reading your blogs. How dare you share your sick mind and spirit with others…?’

Well, the reader is entitled to his or her opinion of course…and so am I. I’ve always thought it is a great pity that more people aren’t prepared to agree to differ rather than insult or fight each other.

Meanwhile…

Today’s poem has appeared on both blogs, the last time in July 2009. Most people who wrote in were sympathetic to my point of view whether or not they agreed with it. One person, though, said ‘It is typical of a gay man to turn his back on God. Go on, admit it. You would be too ashamed to face Him…that’s why you can’t handle religion, because you know God disapproves of your lifestyle.’

Oh, dear, Roger’s in hot water again…

For a start, I certainly don’t believe it is ‘typical’ of a gay man or woman to turn their backs on God; many gay people have succeeded in reconciling their sexuality with their religion in spite of innumerable obstacles placed in their paths by the less enlightened among heterosexual family members and friends, not to mention religious leaders who use religion not only as an excuse but also as a weapon to defend their bigotry.

Me, while I take issue with many aspects of religion, I respect all those who are prepared to enter into its basic humanitarian rather than just theological principles; that is to say, keep an open mindedness and open heartedness without which dogma and ritual are little more than play acting.

Everyone is entitled to believe in what or whom they will or nothing and no one at all. But lose our capacity for humanity and its respect for those with whom we can but agree to differ and we may well find ourselves but play acting in the longest running soap opera of all…

There are always alternatives, even if only a rock and hard place. Moreover, maturity entitles us to make our own choices, not have them made for us by those who like to think they always know what’s best for us and for whom the sum total of those same alternatives is invariably the ultimate nemesis.

[This post is duplicated on both blogs today. Something lighter tomorrow, I promise as well as a different post on each blog for those readers who enjoy dipping into both from time to time. ]

ALTERNATIVES

I looked for God in heaven
but did not find Him there,
looked again, in sun and rain
for Earth Mother

Some say it’s, oh, so pagan,
as bad as being gay;
I just see myself as someone
looking nature’s way

God is many things to many,
interpreting His conditions
for the good of all humanity
according to its religions

The sun rises, sets, rises again
and no one takes issue
nor that moon and stars shine
or songbirds sleep as we do

Let nature sue for harmony,
hear our confessions,
and we feed less on acrimony
spread by world religions

To wake, sleep and wake again
may or may not imply rebirth
and, yes, each to his or her own
but we share a common earth

Who looks for God in heaven
and does not find Him there
has but to look in sun and rain
for Earth Mother

See, too, nature assert its power
where humankind gone too far

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008


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]

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Autumn Sonata

http://www.authorsden.com/rogerntaber

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. This poem hasn’t appeared on the blog since 2007 and is repeated today especially for Grace, Shirley, Ely, and Marc who have kindly written in to say they love my villanelles…which more than compensates for the reader who contacted me to say she hates them because they are ‘so bland’ and ‘not real poetry at all.’ Oh, well, can't please everyone...

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.

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 to cross uncharted territories of the mind, hopefully with his or her readers for company at various stages of the journey.


AUTUMN SONATA

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, 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

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Brown Shoes

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

I am often asked for a CD of my poetry reading on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square during the summer of 2009 as my contribution to sculptor Antony Gormley's One and Other 'living sculpture' project:. No CD is available but you can catch it by clicking on:

http://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20100223121732/oneandother.co.uk/participants/Roger_T

The whole thing lasts an hour. (To browse other participants just remove Roger_T)

Meanwhile...

Today's poem first appeared on the blog in 2008 and is repeated today at the request of ‘Jules’ who emailed me with some kind words to say about the blog. Thanks, Jules, encouragement is always gratefully received.

Loved ones may leave us yet we have but to look and we will always find something there to trigger memories of happier times to help ease our loss, especially when we are feeling it most…

BROWN SHOES

Brown leather shoes at the bottom
of my stairs and somebody''s knocking
at the door, but nobody answers
do the door opens of its own accord,
lets a body enter, return
where you belonged before angels came,
took you away that awful Thursday
(should have been a mine-and-yours day)
anniversary of our first meeting
in the park; we were walking, got talking,
came to an understanding of sorts
that led first to one kiss then another
yet it might well been a dream
for all that’s left of us now, a pair of shoes
at the bottom of my stairs, pleading
to be strolled  if only just one more time

Ah, but there’s no returning,
for all this heart’s yearning and our front
door’s opening of its own accord
to let you back in, where you belong;
even so, life goes on, like love…
and though I am nobody now you’re gone,
to somebody else I well may turn
one of these days, though they will never
want for a spit ‘n’ polish, brown shoes
left at the bottom of my stairs

[From: A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005.]