Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Reaching For Raison D’être


Christmas is only weeks away. Whenever its followers celebrate this religion or that, we have a sense of one Faith providing answers to our raison d’être over another. This finds some people angry, others fearful, and others even further than ever along private paths littered with doubts and misgivings. The results, for even the most impassioned Believer can be a terrible sense of loneliness that even prayer cannot always assuage.

Many if not most people like me, who no longer subscribe to any religion but put their faith in nature, are only touched by religious differences in so far as we would like to see more people of all persuasions - religious, political, sexual, whatever - better able to enter into other points of view than divided by them, more integrated if not unified. Even so, we are no more immune to feelings of doubt, fear and loneliness than anyone else. And (as in my case) being gay has nothing to do with it although it is very hurtful that the more zealous members of some religions seem bent on whipping up an all but hysterical hostility against gay people.

Whatever our colour, creed, sex or sexuality we can but find our own way through the maze of human emotions that, if we are honest, are more likely than not to undermine any spiritual convictions if only now and then.

A teacher once told the class that whatever else we did not learn in life, we should learn to care. I took little notice at the time, but his words have returned to haunt me time and time again, especially when I feel at my lowest ebb.  It is a lesson that contemporary societies around the world would do well to learn, and learn before it is too late.


Bells ringing, but not for me
so why should I care?
Snowmen smiling, but not at me
so why should I care?
Kids playing, but not with me
so why should I care?

People laughing, but not at me
so why should I care?
Robins singing, but not for me
so why should I care?
Some folks praying, but not for me
so why should I care?

Future generations relying on me
because I care;
nature’s vulnerability nagging at me
because I care;
religious differences preying on me
because I care

A feeling for peace and love in me
because I care;
an eye on the politics of change in me
because I care;
poetry of the human spirit, my reward
because I care

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Short Essay On Children's Play


I am no die-hard capitalist by any stretch of the imagination, but the idea that a capitalist is related to the Bogey Man under a child’s bed is absurd. Raising that child and trying to give him or her best chances in life is a costly business. Capitalism plays no small part in making those chances available.

A former colleague commented only recently on a mutual friend who is doing well in the world of big business that it was an obvious career choice for him because, ‘Like all fat cats, he thinks with his wallet and has no imagination.’

Well, there are exceptions to every sweeping statement, and in this case I happen to know better...


I chanced to glance from a window
at children playing in the street below;
their colourful antics took me back
to halcyon times of myth and magic;
I couldn’t resist opening the window,
setting sail on waves of wicked laughter
to a bay where cliffs of ivy trellis
rose above a stormy sea of long grass

The garden shed, a mighty galleon,
we handkerchief pirates bearing down,
makeshift swords ready and able,
all hands to the oars of a cast-off table;
we’d meant to take no prisoners,
but time and tide got the better of us;
heaven closed in, fired a broadside
and our mothers called us back inside

From the window, I saw someone
rush at the children, moving them on;
‘Away! Let’s have some peace!’
(Leviathan jaws homing in on innocence.)
I slammed the window shut, angry
at being dragged thus from my reverie
if mindful that imagination’s pull
has no place around a boardroom table

I had a fight on my hands that day,
to see my motion passed come what may,
sailed too close to the wind in the eyes
of those least inclined to be adventurous,
but, oh, I got the better of them all
(in spite of a broadside too close to call)
steered my prize safely to harbour,
wiping my brow with a pirate’s bandana

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Anger Management


Some readers might enjoy my latest YouTube video during which I read today's poem as a voice-over:

http://www.youtube.com/rogerNtaber (Ship In A Bottle)

I am a fire sign, born on the winter solstice. I have a temper when roused...

MOTHER: You must learn to control that temper of yours, son.

BOY: How?

MOTHER: Use your imagination.

So I did...and still do.


I've seen a Ship in a Bottle
tossed into the sea
among waves like a range
of snowy mountains;
it was I who sent the ship
to ride out a storm
among clouds like billows
of smoke

I leapt into the frantic sea,
swam for my life,
caught up with the bottle,
boarded the ship;
no raging sea or angry sky
could touch us,
my ship and I, in our bubble
made of glass

Deaf to the wind, blinded
by the dark,
conscious only of rancid air
suffocating me...
in desperation, I lashed out
at the bubble,
smashed the glass, let the sea
have its way

Suddenly, I'm floating upon
leaves of grass
smelling of spring rain across
a range of green hills;
storm passes, sea calms down,
deposits me...
at a so-familiar shoreline
peopled with pebbles

What choice but to negotiate
broken glass,
make peace with the pebbles,
aspire to sanctuary?
Now, should dark fury grip me,
I go to a table, let

a Ship in a Bottle ride its back,
break me in

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

[Note: This poem will appear in my next major collection - Tracking the Torchbearer - due for UK publication in the spring; all readers (including overseas) will be able to buy signed copies from me via PayPal at the usual blog discount.]

Friday, 18 November 2011

Customer Care


A reader has contacted me to say she had been wrongly accused of shoplifting and her complaint to the store’s Head Office not only received no hint of apology but also read as if she was in the wrong. She continues to feel distressed and quite helpless to do anything about it.

I know how she feels. However, she must put it behind her or the bastards have won that nasty little game they love to play with us called Customer Care. Oh, I dare say other people will say C C is a wonderful initiative, but that is small comfort to those of us who feel cheated.

After today’s poem appeared in my collection and later on the blog (in 2007), several readers wrote to say they had experienced similar trauma at the hands of so-called Customer Care operatives. I read recently that more and more people are entering this field. Well, it sounds like a cushy number to me.

My experience of staff at Somerfields' (now The Co-op) and Wetherspoons' so-called Customer Care at their respective Head Offices is that they are less interested in investigating complaints than justifying the actions of their staff that prompted it. Even the John Lewis store’s Customer Care department in Oxford Street let me down badly over a guarantee issue and simply prevaricated when I complained.

I rarely complain. All three complaints were entirely justified; the first two caused me considerable distress aggravated by the fact that neither were given proper credence or treated with the respect a paying customer deserves. Somerfields did at least offer an unconvincing apology and went so far as to offera paltry sum by way of compensation, which I refused on principle. While I did not use a Somerfelds store again until they were taken over by The Co-op, I have to be desperate for an item to use the local store in question where I was once a daily customer. The John Lewis issue just made me angry, but I will never shop there again.

I have to say I’ve always been delighted by the quality of service provided at various Wetherpoons pubs around the UK. Yet, I would never set foot in the one that provoked my complaint eighteen months or so ago (even if I hadn’t been barred for any good reason) and also advise everyone I know to avoid it when they are in the area. Even so, it is small comfort, and I still get angry when I think of certain smug nerds paid a salary to deflect any complaints and put those of us down who have the audacity to complain.

Customer Care...? Oh, and just what is that?


What I’d forgotten I couldn’t quite place
a second time I walked into the shop;
Suddenly, I could feel Suspicion’s gaze
tearing into my flesh, nor would it stop

I half-turned, saw a pair of glaring eyes
watching my every innocent move,
their owner summoning help to comprise
an ugly trio, my guilt poised to prove

Scared, I left, no word or challenge spoken
until He who still kept me in his sights
ran after me, escorted me back, said to open
my bag, prove I had paid, waive my rights

Honesty upheld, now suspicion free…
Small change, the rape of my integrity

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

Update, May 2013:

Recent experiences of so-called Customer Care continue to convince me it is a waste of time complaining to these departments. I rarely complain, but when I do it is serious and deserves to be taken seriously. Staff rarely offer an explanation, but usually insist the reason for my complaint is a one-off and they have a great track record; nor do those that bother to respond always offer an apology! I have wasted time (and money re phone calls) complaining to John Lewis, Wetherspoons and UPS couriers since the incident in the above poem took place, and no satisfactory response (or convincing apology) from any of them.  I usually write rather than email, but rarely receive a written response. (I emailed a pub about appalling service only a week or so ago, but received no reply.)

The main purpose of complaining is to spare some other poor customer the same experience, but I doubt if that is the case since few if any firms want to concede the customer may have a point! While I have never subscribed to the view that the customer is always right, I think the customer was treated (far) more fairly when he or she could complain directly to the manager responsible instead of being shunted off to Customer Services!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Space Odyssey


This post is duplicated on both blogs today. An earlier version of the poem was written in 2002; it appeared in a Poetry Now [Forward Press] anthology, These Days, in 2004 and in my collection later the same year. I have since revised and reworked the original poem and changed the title.

Regular readers will know that as I prepare posts for the blog, I often find myself making minor or (as in this case) major revisions to poems where earlier versions have already been published. This is not so much a criticism of the first version as, looked at again from a distance of some years, I sometimes feel the original can be improved upon. Some people get in touch to say they prefer the original/s while others may prefer my revision/s but like both; others still, ask why I tinker with poems at all and/or why I settled for the original when it was ‘quite obviously’ the genesis for a different poem altogether. Ah, but it would not have been in the least bit obvious to me at the time I wrote it. I must have been satisfied enough to see it published. Only much later, do I sometimes find myself unhappy with what, yes, I may now see as the genesis of another poem.

As I have said many times, love takes many shapes and forms; of all these, the love of one person for another, sexual and/or platonic makes the greater contribution in mapping out the most wonderful journeys we take across time and space albeit always vulnerable to human error. As for sexuality, it but is one of love’s coordinates along with mutual understanding; it also needs to be up to the task of repudiating if not discarding any socio-cultural-religious elements that would not only point us in another direction but also see us heartsick voyagers in a nightmare.

Needless to say map reading of this particular nature is (or should be) instinctive. At the same time, we need to appreciate that one person’s natural instincts may well be another’s nemesis; if the old adage - where there’s a will, there’s a way - may not always prove to be the case, there is still a lot to be said for at least trying to push existing parameters to accommodate both.


In the saddest twilight
known to man or woman,
find no gladder omen
than in the sigh of a wistful virgin,
left to watch birds fly
(far too high to identify)
sailing the fairest horizon,
teasing the inner eye

Oh, the beauty, mystery,
privileges and passion of voyagers
in personal space

Glimpses of heaven,
but no word of invitation
or greater loneliness
(nor sweeter) known to humankind;
a hidden planet
where no others may go
and only those we choose
chance getting close

Identifying isolation
among starry splinters of its galaxy,
light years away

So near, yet so far,
grim mortality yet to loose
its stranglehold on us,
allowing us to breathe that more easily
among lush vegetation
of the surreal kind
than where a half dead
imagination applies

Ultimate contradiction,
conjoined isolates hell bent on pushing
parameters of space

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2011

[Note The genesis of this poem (originally under the title, Time To Ourselves) can be found in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; 2nd ed. in preparation.]

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Live Metaphor, Dead Ends


Walls are often used as a metaphor for division, separation and disharmony. Tragically, this sorry world of ours is far too fond of taking its metaphors literally.

In August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff joined hundreds at a memorial marking the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall. Today marks the 22nd anniversary of its fall on November 9th 1989. Again, our thoughts are with German people everywhere.

A 28-mile (45 km) barrier dividing Germany's capital was built during August 1961 and patrolled by armed guards to prevent East Berliners fleeing to the West. But as Communism in the Soviet Republic and Eastern Europe began to crumble, pressure mounted on the East German authorities to open the Berlin border. It was not until November 9th 1989, that the Wall that had divided a city for over 30 years was finally demolished. Cause for celebration, yes, but we should also remember all those who lost their lives trying to reach West Berlin from the other side of the infamous wall.

The world hoped never to see the like of the Berlin Wall again, but the Israeli Government had other ideas.

It may be arguable whether the construction of the wall built by Israel in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, is contrary to international law, but it is certainly no less inhumane (or provocative) than the Berlin Wall all those years ago. Yes, the reasons (or excuses) for its construction are different but the people on either side are no less human than those Berliners; they, too, deserve better. Is it not high time Israel put its paranoia on one side and entered into peace talks with the Palestinians with a genuine aim that they should succeed instead of making token gestures meant to keep the rest of the world off its back?

[Incidentally, I showed this blog entry to an Israeli student who happens to agree that the wall should come down sooner rather than later if any peace talks with the Palestinians stand a realistic chance of sucess.]

Time and again, on the domestic front and by following various socio-cultural-religious agenda world-wide, human nature is inclined to act on its penchant for building walls of a metaphorical kind, and no less divisive for that; a preoccupation with this particular living metaphor as a weapon for wrecking if not destroying human lives has to be one of its greater tragedies.

The world deplored the Berlin Wall and cheered when it finally came down, vowing to learn lessons that had penetrated even its thick skin.

‘Never again!’ the world’s media continues to cry. Oh? Tell that to the Palestinians. Tell it also to those friends and lovers whose respective socio-cultural-religious family backgrounds will not tolerate them being together even in a 21st century multicultural society...

Yes, the Berlin Wall was weeping wound not only across a wonderful city, dividing its wonderful people, but also a wonderful world, dividing us all. If its fall was meant to be a symbol of unity, isn’t it high time the world took a leaf from those long-suffering Berliner’s book and set about uniting in respect for its differences of opinion and lifestyle instead of fighting over them?

This poem is a villanelle.


At a wall dripping blood and tears,
humanity, for its sins, dares not forget;
live metaphor for the world’s fears

Where democracy disappears,
political ambition refuting Terror’s debt
at a wall dripping blood and tears

Where humanity to victory steers,
political agendas conspiring to thwart;
live metaphor for the world’s fears

Divisions perpetuated for years,
brave new worlds apart since last we met
at a wall dripping blood and tears

Where Time’s kinder mist clears,
see guards with orders to shoot on sight;
live metaphor for the world’s fears

Where Freedom’s fair head rears,
its worst enemy some socio-cultural tenet
at a wall dripping blood and tears;
live metaphor for the world’s fears

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Where A Monster Feeds


The banks may be mostly to blame for the credit crunch that first opened its jaws in 2008, but the real monster in the eyes of many Europeans (including myself) is the European Parliament.

The eyes of the world may well be on Greece and Italy at this moment in time, but they do not stand alone where the Economics of Power and Politics of Blame are (frequently) seen to rear their ugly heads....

Dare I suggest there is a need to tame the monster to save the Euro? In other words, there needs to be a cull of its more corrupt and/or inept elements...

This poem is a villanelle.


Eurozone, in Debt’s dark lair,
struggling to reassure the world;
Europeans, fighting despair

Crisis an ascending stair,
stability, a high risk password;
Eurozone, in Debt’s dark lair

Political in-fighting clear,
Brussels, a theatre of the absurd;
Europeans, fighting despair

Its ineptitude stripped bare,
too few voices of reason heard;
Eurozone, in Debt’s dark lair

Flushed out of devious cover,
MEPs, for jobs running scared;
Europeans, fighting despair

Even the Economics of Power
found wanting on Paradise Road;
Eurozone, in Debt’s dark lair.
Europeans, fighting despair

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011