Saturday, 27 May 2017

Getting the Better of Giants

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

Not infrequently, people confide how they feel helpless against a tide of socio-cultural-religious forces manipulated by various leaders for their own sakes and/or kind to the detriment of 'outsiders'. ‘Why are we all so divided?’ someone only recently wailed in my ear, ‘Why must it take a tragedy like the recent terrorist atrocity in Manchester to bring people together …until innate differences start to drive them apart again?

On the grounds that repeating the obvious is sometimes necessary if only to prevent its being lost in a sea of trite, I often make the point in my blogs that our differences do not make us different, simply human; we can and should learn from them, not gang up against them. Far too many if not most socio-cultural-religious leaders are invariably quick to agree in principle, but less willing to practise what they preach.

So what can we do?

It is (surely?) down to each and every one of us to live our lives as best we can and try not to be judgemental, the very trap our leaders and so-called ‘betters’ would have us fall into by appearing to refute it, thereby planting the very seeds of division in our minds that suit their individual purposes while cleverly avoiding either blame or responsibility.

A socio-cultural-religious metaphor may well be a chess master’s political strategy where the likes of you and I are taken to be vulnerable pawns; it is, however, a game that two can play... Being our own person (no pressure or aspiration to be someone else) and living our lives as we see it playing out to the best of our ability, immune to unfair or unwanted comparisons...that is what is known as being on the winning side.

GETTING THE BETTER OF GIANTS

What is it really all about,
I’d ask myself as a child, this growing up
among restless giants…?

Why do giants wear a mask
for every occasion, always seem so wary
of letting any slip…?

(Why must I tread so warily
for fear of offending by just being honest,
speaking my mind…?)

Diplomacy is all very well,
but no substitute (surely?) for keeping faith
with basic principles…

Oh, and what of love’s light,
come to guide us through a darkening world,
but frequently cutting out?

Yes, we need rules to live by
or sheer chaos likely to get the better of us all,
but who rules what, for whom?

It’s a discerning inner eye
that perceives the flaws in any moral authority
over anxious to flex its muscles

So where does that leave us,
who can but trust basic instincts albeit thwarted
at every turn of phrase and policy?

It leaves us strong, stoic, free
to speak up, make ourselves seen, felt and heard,
risk being ignored, mocked, bullied…

Or what has it all been for,
I’d ask myself each new day as time rushes on by,
and I grow old…?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Esprit de Vie OR Spirit of Life (In any Language)


I started school in 1950 and never did well academically. Yet, as if not more importantly, I learned a lot from a hard hit generation of post-war teachers. Upon his retirement, I asked one (as children do) if being old was scary ‘what with death and all that’. He shrugged and gave it little thought before replying, ‘You reap what you sow in life, Taber. Sow well, and the chances are you’ll find Death isn’t such a grim reaper after all.’

That was more than half a century ago. Out of the blue, I found myself  thinking about him and those words of wisdom; both inspired this poem, written to help lift myself out of an inexcusably negative awareness of growing old and the cancer nagging at my prostate.

ESPRIT DE VIE or SPIRIT OF LIFE (IN ANY LANGUAGE)

Sometimes, hearts lie heavy
on a spirit (still) young and fancy free,
in a world, oh, far less kind
than in its past it ever looked to be
in selective archives

No mornings up with the lark,
flying high in skies all shades of blue,
negotiating storm clouds
like a seasoned performer in the art
of positive thinking

Some may suppose little left
but sweet dreams to alleviate the taste
of time passing ever faster,
heart, mind, and body left to babysit
a restless spirit

Ah, but nature has other ideas,
nurturing life forces to the very end
of any span only visible
to the applauding eye, ever mindful
of its seasons

Earth Mother’s watch, keeper
 of all living things, human or other,
never discriminating
along lines of good, bad, and ugly, no
judgement passed

If a sad mind likely to lead us on
into a world of tears for losing its shine,
it’s a sadder spirit still
sees us taken in by the sweet-smelling
poetry of self-pity

Where a body less able to follow
first instincts, to do, go, leave footprints
deserving of praise,
heed a native spirit on making the most
of each new day

So I grow old, so what? C’est la vie;
the mind- heart- body self can but dream
of rewriting its history…
while its spirit makes of us what we will,
no endgame

Though death would shut us out
of the world (however we may  perceive it),
find rest and peace in any
who continue to take from us their cue
for esprit de vie

Copyright R. N. Taber (2017)

Sunday, 14 May 2017

History,Through a Looking Glass OR Full Circle

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

As a young man, I once had the privilege of meeting a famous actor in a cafe one rainy evening in Soho. He caught me staring at him and grunted that he was in no mood to give autographs. I confessed I did not collect them anyway, but was thrilled to see him in real life. He thawed, and we chatted. I commented how wonderful it must be to live a life for which he would not only be remembered for all time but which had also been recorded on the big screen. “Oh, wow, what a legacy!” I enthused. He shrugged and muttered that the big screen was all about his acting, not his life, and how the only life and legacy really worth having is recorded for all time anyway…among the fonder memories of those who matter most to us.

At the time, I thought it was a trite thing to say. Now I know better.  I even found myself saying much the same thing to an elderly friend who was recently lamenting the fact that he had done nothing with his life to deserve leave any mention in the history books. I reminded him that the he has wonderful children who, in turn, have given him grandchildren. What better legacy or record of anyone’s life and history…?

Me…? No partner, no children or family to speak of…but hopefully my friends will think well of me when I’m gone and my poetry will at least have found a place in the hearts and minds of some readers. Do I think of my poetry as a legacy? I would not presume to predict. I have enjoyed every moment of writing ever poem, though, so hopefully some of that pleasure will have rubbed off on readers sufficiently for them to pass on the pleasure if not the poem.

Ripples…

HISTORY, THROUGH A LOOKING GLASS or FULL CIRCLE

Once, I looked in a glass,
glimpsed saw a child waving
at me, a cheeky smile,.
face smudged with playtime,
eyes shining

Later, I looked in the glass,
glimpsed a cheeky grin, youth
full of hope and promise,
face unlined, past and present
shining through

Once, I looked in a glass,
glimpsed a watery smile, years
having taken toll enough
to obliterate even the shadow
of a half-smile

Later, I peered in the glass,
misty with a quickening breath,
face barely visible
but for a weepy smile regretting
no record of it

Now, I put an ear to the glass,
listening for words I cannot see
of life, love, nature,
an oral poetry returning me
a cheeky smile

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017



Saturday, 13 May 2017

Extracts from a Poet's Diary or An Alternative Freedom

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

This is not a new post but one I deleted from this blog after receiving several troll-type emails. I usually ignore these, but friends advised me to post it on my gay-interest blog instead while continuing to link to it from to it from my Google + site as previously. Then I though, why should I? So I am re-posting post and poem here. At the same time, friends are probably right in suggesting it will be of more interest to gay readers so I've posted it there as well.

We talk about 'blind' instinct, but there is a native instinct that know us better than we know ourselves, and it is anything but blind; it has a clearer sense of what to do in situations where any brooding, thinking self hasn't a clue.

In February 1969, I sailed for Australia (as a would-be migrant) on the SS Southern Cross from Liverpool. While it was a huge mistake in many ways, it was also one of my better decisions.

In short, I was running away from the UK - and a family that had no idea of how much of a psychological mess I was in or of share their of blame for it - rather than going to Australia. Gay relationships ‘between consenting adults’ had been decriminalised in 1967  but it would be many years before society as a whole began to accept us, if grudgingly. I had left school five years earlier but saw myself as having no career prospects and was still a long way from becoming truly reconciled with my sexual identity. Apart from a growing sense of isolation, I felt hurt and angry. Significant though sexual identity may be, it is but a part of a greater whole. (Why should the greater part of me be made to feel it needs to apologise for what, after all, is no one else's damn business?)

While I will always have a great affection for Australia and the people I met there, I arrived with neither enough money nor qualifications to fulfil my dream, even in the longer term. During the six-weeks crossing, however, I’d had plenty of time to think and reflect on my motives. I found myself homing in on home truths that appalled me. Was I really such a coward?

So, yes, on the face of it, Australia was a disaster but I returned to the UK not (quite) with tail between legs but as different person, more self-confident than I had ever felt before and determined to shape my life in a positive way. In spite of a severe nervous breakdown in my 30’s, I like to think that, in general, I have succeeded.  (I have battled with depression all my life but any gay angst has only ever been part of the emotional equation albeit a vital one.)

It is up to all of us - gay or straight - to make the best of things, not the worst, and be positive about ourselves, each other and life in general even when the immediate future may be looking on the bleak side. That’s when the human condition comes into its own, now a pussycat, now a roaring lion. Mind you, everyone has lapses of self-confidence in self and in humanity from time to time, including me.

If the journey to Australia nearly 50 years ago was a nightmare, my stay there was an epiphany. My return to the UK marked the kind of new beginning the poet in me had been yearning for without any real sense of either the what or the how, only the why. Moreover, I no longer felt that gay-interest poetry is something for which I should feel any need to apologise; a poem is a poem is a poem just as a person is a person is a person...regardless of sexuality. Ironic that I had to go to Australia to find myself, true, but well worth it.

EXTRACTS FROM A POET’S DIARY or AN ALTERNATIVE FREEDOM

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left wondering
why it should attack now,
this animal lust
for freedom, open spaces
far, far, away from city faces
and grubby streets

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left wondering why
it should strike now,
this hunger for adventure,
need to prove something
although what or to whom
remains to be seen

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left feeling excited
if scared of a caving in
rather than a pressing ahead
with some heady fiction
well aware its return thread
so easily broken

Looking to play the hero
or merely wishing
to please myself for once
instead of always
putting head before heart,
doing the ‘right thing’
(but right for whom after
all's said and done?)

Rage, burning, a life-long
learning in flames;
passion, a feisty yearning
to escape this caged-up
non-life, a Here-and-Now
parody of a lion’s den
where the mouth gone dry,
sweat soaking the brow

Who is it, this other 'Me'
writing up emotions
half killing me to admit
in these early hours
where conscience seeks
respite in its humanity
as if its poetry were indeed
a match for its sword?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2017

[Note: The last stanza has since been added to the original version of this poem that first appeared under the title, ‘A Poet’s Diary’ in  The Third Eye by R. N. Taber Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

T-I-M-E, Hands on a Millennium Clock OR L-I-F-E, Echoes of Sound and Fury


‘Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing...’ – Shakespeare (Macbeth)

Provoked by a classmate, I fought with him in the school playground some 60+ years ago. We were both given detention, and I missed a favourite TV programme as well as having to explain to my mother why I was late home. I protested that it wasn’t my fault, to which she replied, ‘It’s never Anyone’s fault, dear, which is why No one gets anywhere fast because Everyone is too busy blaming Someone Else to actually get to the bottom of things.’ This meant nothing to me at the time, of course, but continues to resonate with me, making sense of a kind it has taken me the better part of a lifetime to grow into…

T-I-M-E, HANDS ON A MILLENNIUM CLOCK or L-I-F-E, ECHOES OF SOUND AND FURY 

Childhood, waved me on
to better days
when grownups take notice
of what I think,
even have the presumption
to offer an opinion

Teenage years greeted me
with false promises,
aspirations soon warned off
by my betters
as overarching my potential,
mere pipe dreams

A working life beckoned
away from schooldays
filled with angst about exams,
impressing peers,
yearning a greater freedom
of personal space

Retirement welcomed me
with a cheery wave,
promising leisure moments filled
with fun and laughter
free from work stress, more time
for family and friends

Old age has the last laugh
on me, them, us,
and a worldwide Family of Man,
exposing home truths
more sinned against than sinning
for sowing confusion?

Such are tales told by an idiot,
signifying nothing…
unless we discern and accept
some responsibility
for our world as it is, and do our bit
to change it for the better

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Back to School OR Rediscovering Letters on Building Bricks, Learning Tools for Grown-Ups

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

While I will always refute the notion that schooldays see us through the best years of our lives, I will always be grateful for a less than happy learning experience that has brought me to where I am now; one which, for better or worse, has more yet in store for me. For just how much longer, only time will tell; no life experience teaches us all the answers although there never was any harm in speculating and trusting that a few, at least, will filter through.

I was like a fish out of water at school for all kinds of reasons, not least because no one picked up on my partial deafness so I missed much of what was being said. Moreover, I am not a very practical person and hopeless at subjects like woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing, which, it being a Technical School, were primary subjects. I learned a lot, though, if only by way of survival skills that would see me through the rest of my life.

Although a ‘low to medium’ achiever’ at school, I had some great teachers and learned a lot; e.g. how to compensate for my deafness by developing a wacky sense of humour that would get me out of all kinds of scrapes; feeding my imagination on classic children’s poetry and literature that would soon find me devouring adult works that, in turn, would serve me well as a mature student at university;  enjoying my ups by coming through my downs with a real sense of having learned something although (of course) I hadn’t thought of it as a learning process at the time; discovering at first hand that self-pity is a waste of any potential for mind, body and spirit left waiting in the wings, demonstrating (only too well) the futility of going nowhere fast.

Oh, and last but not least, those less-than-happy-but-worth-every-minute schooldays taught me to live with myself, warts ‘n’ all. (Rarely a flattering image, but, what the heck…? Sure, escapism by whatever means is all very well, so long as we can get real - with ourselves if not always with each other - whenever needs must.)

Yes, 71 now and still discovering what letters make what words on what building bricks used to make a world...

BACK TO SCHOOL or REDISCOVERING LETTERS ON BUILDING BRICKS, LEARNING TOOLS FOR GROWN-UPS

Old building,
groaning for developers
knocking it down

Empty rooms,
full of jeering ghosts
putting me down

Nightmares,
haunting my every step,
bringing me down

Old school tie,
noose around my neck,
dropping me down

Formative years,
lessons but half learned
letting me down

T-I-M-E, choices
breaking us in, schoolkids
on a joyride

L-I-F-E, a half-ruin
waiting upon developers
to reconstruct us

N-A-T-U-R-E,
kinder ghosts, ready to lend
a helping hand

L-O-V-E,
better teachers, overriding
lesser mortals

P-E-A-C-E
but graffiti on a blackboard
till we can spell

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017






Monday, 10 April 2017

First Among Equals or Nature, Powerhouse of the Spirit


We may like to think we live in an open society, yet behind closed doors thrive secrets of all kinds, not least the human kind.

Open or less open, the world’s societies, communities, and families have kept various secrets since the beginning of time where most if not all of us would happily settle for just one...

FIRST AMONG EQUALS or NATURE, POWERHOUSE OF THE SPIRIT

I have heard a spring rain
challenge trees to open up to us
and share their secrets

I have heard leafy sunshine
serenade flowers with summers
overflowing with secrets

I have seen autumn’s glow
fair reassure the world’s lovers
of keeping their secrets

I have seen wintry clouds
express every intention to betray
all the world’s secrets

Between womb and tomb,
peace of mind, first among equals
in this world of secrets

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017