Sunday, 5 November 2017

In a Word


When people used to ask why I consider myself an agnostic rather than an atheist, I found it a difficult question to answer in a way they might (hopefully) understand. That I subscribe to no religion is easy to explain in so far as religion is so divisive and in this sense alone (as far as I am concerned) the essence of hypocrisy, advocating peace and love but only on its terms.

Regular readers will know I find a sense of spirituality in nature to which I can relate while religion (any religion) strikes me as offering nothing but principles inconsistent with the values they purport to expound and expect of the individual. At the same time, the concept of an all-inclusive force for good in the world is one of which I may be sceptical but cannot dismiss, having experienced it at first-hand from men and women in all walks of life whom I feel privileged to call a mentor. So how do I see God, a force for good by any other name while rejecting any attempt to personify it?

My answer has to be nature.

To those who argue that God created the natural world, I would suggest that it is humankind that created the word God, not least by way of explaining away the inexplicable given that even the best scientists don’t have all the answers. while religion may well offer a safety-net of sorts for whatever, if anything, happens when we die, it is enough for me that spring follows winter.

For all its destructive powers, nature is more inclined to side with principles of growth and renewal far more meaningful (for the likes of yours truly) than any persuasive rhetoric expounded by clerics worldwide.

IN A WORD

I know not who,
what or where, yet I feel
its presence here,
in the very heart of me,
no less a part of me
than sun and rain to Day
or moon and stars
to Night, nurturing a world
that knows precious little
for certain once its rhetoric
all said and done,
body, mind and spirit
left in the dark
were a force for good not here,
there, everywhere...
urging us on to better things
and better ways
than else we'd know without
any sense of its light

Word, its cry assailing
The ear where none so deaf
that will not hear)
urging us to shed any shackles
of personal history
or public concerns, shed chains
for a joining of hands
in Peace and Love defying
any dogma complicit
in undermining self-confidence,
by making veiled threats

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2017


[Note: This poem has been significantly revised (2017) from the original as it appears in 1st eds., 2001]

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

When Winter Comes


For many of us, November means we needs must brace ourselves for what could well be a hard winter ahead weather-wise. Others may well face a testing winter of the heart, wherever they may be, regardless of time and seasons. Some may well argue it’s a case of the survival of the fittest, meaning physically, and there is a lot of truth in that, but the physically weak can also be emotionally strong; strong enough to rise above depression, anxiety, everyday concerns …

We have but to give a natural lust for life its head and the chances are its predilection for positive thinking will, in time, rescue us from the pull of negative forces, bypass even the most heroic stoicism, and allow an innate optimism, Hope’s much loved bed-fellow, to once again play a leading role in our lives.

Wherever we may be in the world, whatever its weather patterns, day will always follow night just as winter will always follow spring on the calendar of nature and human nature alike; the latter, though, needs must find a way to turn on the power of mind-body-spirit to save its natural spiritedness from dying just long enough to rediscover that raison d’ĂȘtre which has to be as good a metaphor for spring as any other.

WHEN WINTER COMES

Oh, but when winter comes,
I look around and see trees stripped bare,
and petals in tatters where flowers
once lifted this heart now close to tears
for having watched the swallows fly south
that once greeted its spring

Oh, but when winter comes,
I look around at snowfall on the ground,
see children playing, laughing,
making merry with each other instead
of being glued to social media in a world
whose seasons rolled into one

Oh, but when winter comes
find the days grow shorter, nights longer,
all the more so for a prevailing
north wind wailing like some lost spirit
of summer trying to find its way back home,
familiar landmarks wiped out

Oh, but when winter comes,
I’ll see robins give the lie to defeatism 
in as sweet a song as ever there was
to fill a sad heart with hope for a future
beyond any wintry landscape’s implying
positive thinking is a cruel hoax

Oh, but when winter comes,
I’ll get together with friends, make light
of any feelings of empty days
or lonely nights for hearts beating in time
to what is, after all, but an overture to spring
composed-performed by nature

Oh, but when winter comes,
may divided societies around the world
yet join hands and dance
to the music of its time, fan any flickering
peace-liberty-fraternity into a flaming spring, 
the season of second chances...

Copyright R N Taber, 2017

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Ghosts, Touching Base


Much if not most of what we do and say - for better or worse, good or ill - has consequences for ourselves and/or others, either directly or indirectly, now or later.

Whether we accept or deny our part in any such consequences - for whatever reasons - we have to live with both reasons and consequences. This may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what we may have said or done or chosen not to say or do, as the case may be; since saying and/or doing nothing can have consequences of no less significance than being actively (or even passively) involved in a particular chain of events,.

Whatever, we are left with clear choices; accept responsibility, deny responsibility, lay it at someone else’s door altogether or delude ourselves that we are absolved of any blame (where any might be attached) if only because we could not possibly have foreseen how certain events, thus triggered, might unravel, especially  given the unpredictability of human nature.

Ah, yes, human nature… the most feeble yet probably the more convincing of all excuses for our own shortcomings, especially with regard to certain perceptive qualities we like to think of as an acquired wisdom and are therefore reluctant to admit we may have been misguided, not to mention downright wrong.

A colleague once commented on there being no point in dwelling on the graver mistakes we make as we go through life, how ‘The only thing to do is kill them stone dead and move on...’ - which has to be one of the best descriptions I’ve yet to hear of a posthumous consciousness inhabited by ghosts likely to haunt its owner evermore. Yes, we can (hopefully) learn from our mistakes and try to make some redress for them. At the same time, they are kin to those proverbial sleeping dogs, likely to wake and disturb even the most carefully constructed comfort zone at any time…

GHOSTS, TOUCHING BASE

Now and then,
ghosts search archives
of the human spirit
for mixed feelings to explore
and touch base
with a mind-body ethos
imaging a finger tip
pricked by thorns on a rose
drawing blood

Now and then
ghosts gather to consult
with each other
about the best ways to rectify
errors of judgement,
bring subsequent wrongs
to the attention  
of any directly (or indirectly)
feeding on them

Now and then,
ghosts will reason a need
to come clean
about such misdemeanours
as least intended
to result in hauntings
of the worst kind
for want of a broader (kinder)
take on life

Now and then,
ghosts will home in on us,
confront us
with such past-present-future
leftovers of time
as buried alive in the heart
by a seventh sense
naming names, hearing voices,
calling us out

As for what action
we may or may well not take
by way of an answer…
to each of us the same choices;
find a way to let ghosts
rest in peace at whatever cost
or disown Conscience,
block access to its archives once
and for all

Let the human ego
reinvent itself as and when it may,
it cannot unsay
what’s said or undo what’s done,
least of all rewrite
archives comprising life choices
and consequences
pertaining to the least favourable
self-portraiture

Self-discipline
demands things left unsaid, undone,
than let the worst in us
its gamut run until the best in us
left undervalued
for darker shadows cast further
and lasting longer
for archives remaining vulnerable
to sensationalism

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Wreck, Permanent Access


Today's poem was inspired by the wreck of a boat found on mud flats in Grays (Essex) and photographed for blog readers by my close friend Graham Collett who also shoots the videos for my You Tube channel. There is, of course, no mist in the photo -  nor was there at the time - so you can see just what it was that caught my imagination. Once caught, it is only a matter of time before it is expressed in one or another art form by the observer's ever present if often unpredictable Muse; in my case, a poem.

[Photo by Graham J. Collett)

THE WRECK, PERMANENT ACCESS

Looming in an autumnal mist
as if out of nowhere…
a wreck once on its way,
who knows where
or why, even cares any more,
so many years gone by, tales told,
reworked, and told again?

Mildly protesting waves cradling
the cadaver like a family
anxious to save one of its own
any greater grief
from a lively imagination weaving
a tapestry of let’s- pretend memories
among various art forms

Dead wood, live spirit, ever ripe
for pickings by the inner eye
on the alert for choice moments
from nature’s archives;
likewise, an ear no less sensitive
to echoes of a past crowding senses,
reclaiming its voices…

Mist thickening, wreck vanishing
from view as if dying another
of a thousand deaths lent its tragedy
at the moment of its drowning
by such guardian ghosts as allow
mind-body-spirit permanent access
to nature and human nature

Copyright R. N. Taber





Sunday, 15 October 2017

Death in Vegas OR Public Opinion, targeting Legends on Tablets of Stone


All our hearts must surely go out to the families and friends killed and injured in the recent Las Vegas massacre.

I have known Americans for and against existing gun laws in the U.S over many years; the latter, invariably sick of always being shouted down by those for whom any change in laws enshrined in the Constitution would be tantamount to an infringement of their human rights. Even some family members and friends of the many who have been killed or maimed in terrible shooting incidents like that in Las Vegas recently continue to demand what they seem to see as a natural right to protection by arming themselves. (How does stricter control of the sale of guns infringe anyone’s Human Rights?)

Many argue that existing gun laws in the U.S. should not be seen as having been inscribed on tablets of stone; not only more appropriate to its pioneer days than a modern America but also  responsible for continuing outbreaks of violence on its streets, including such carnage as witnessed in Las Vegas. Relatively rare such shocking events may be, at least on such a scale, but isn’t it high time for some serious, informed, common sense debate on the subject without the powerful gun lobby invariably getting the upper hand by such under hand tactics as accusing the opposition of disloyalty to - even betrayal of and disrespect for - their country’s finer democratic principles?

Readers may think that, as an Englishman, America’s gun laws are none of my business and they may well be right. Even so, people from all over the world visit the U.S. for pleasure and business. I enjoyed a 4-week stay there myself some years ago. Doesn’t everyone deserve to feel less at risk by antiquated gun laws that simply need tightening?  

Should any law be considered sacrosanct in its original form where a few common sense amendments might well save even just one human life? I suspect we all know what the dead would say if they had a voice so maybe it’s time they were given one…? Don't all those comprising democratic societies bear some responsibility for that?

'Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind...' John Donne

Ah, I can all but hear one American friend say, but Donne was an Englishman and the English have no idea about other cultures. That may well be true, but - not least because I am gay man, I am reminded of the African-American writer Ernest J. Gaines on record for asking, 'Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?'

Food for thought, at least, surely...?

DEATH IN VEGAS or PUBLIC OPINION, TARGETING LEGENDS ON TABLETS OF STONE

Country ways in the city,
music for building dreams by
for eye and ear

Grass growing greener
in a city pretending not a care
in the world

Celebration on location,
sunny faces wreathed in smiles,
poetry of joy

Suddenly, out of nowhere,
all is chaos, devastation, grudges
out of the past

Random shots at the sun
if only to show Man's darker side
(for what, sport?)

Ask the birds and the wildlife
whose freedom was meant to count
for something

Ask folks on Las Vegas Strip
one October evening about legends
on tablets of stone...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

London, UK, October 3rd 2017


Monday, 9 October 2017

A Leaf out of Time

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

Another old poem, this, recently unearthed under layers of dust in a cupboard; it reveals a love affair with rhyme that has lasted the best part of a lifetime although I seem to have rekindled  another on-off affair with blank verse recently.

At school, more years ago than I care to remember, we were sometimes given homework by our English teacher, ‘Jock’ Rankin the title of which would comprise just a few words. We were expected to o comment at any length (or brevity) on these words and what they meant to us; subsequently, the best comments would be shared with and debated in class another time.  One such title was Beginnings and Endings. After much head scratching, I asked my mother what on earth there was to say about beginning and endings other than they…well, begin and end?

My mother merely shrugged over the ironing, “It depends how you choose to see either, I suppose. I mean, some of us see endings as no more or less than beginnings that have run their course and are up for something new…”

Jock was impressed and asked me where I had found the quote. When I said, my mother, he asked me to thank her for making his day.

Oh, but I love autumn, so beautiful if tinged with sadness; memories of spring and summer held in safe-keeping by Earth Mother to be rummaged and enjoyed over and over through even the worst winters...

A LEAF OUT OF TIME

I floated on an autumn leaf,
in a world still half-asleep,
kept company with sparrows,
saw willow trees weep

I watched the hands of time
sign warnings to passers-by
concerning the fall of Icarus,
its so-easy How and Why

I saw a fox home in for a kill
heard its victim’s last cry,
protesting an ages-old truth,
a time to live, a time to die

I heard a camp queen singing
a love song, loud and clear,
lasting memories of a summer
though its winter draw near

Breeze dropping, the leaf too
that once had pride of place,
tossing me aside, end of a ride
through time and space

I fell into moss, no harm done;
indeed, a lesson learned,
how each new day, as being gay,
but turns in Nature’s hand

Copyright R. N. Taber 1982; 2017













Sunday, 1 October 2017

Lost in Thought, an Autumn Reverie


As a student of English and American literature at the University of Kent in Canterbury in the 1970’s, I enjoyed reading the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. I dipped into his Notebooks and could  easily relate to this entry then just as, in my 70’s now, I still can, notwithstanding a mobility problem:

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."

[Notebook, Oct. 10, 1842]

LOST IN THOUGHT, AN AUTUMN REVERIE

Autumn leaves on a lake
caught like flies in a spidery web
of glittering sunlight

Breaking free in a breeze,
skimming feisty ripples, courtesy
of a north-westerly wind

Some taking off, low fly past
over sad trees standing at attention
for once-time companions

Others, caught in a sudden lull,
returned to the lake or as prodigals
to the earth’s safe-keeping

Somewhere, woodlands sounding
its Last Post by way of acknowledging
all its seasoned veterans

Glittering sunlight on a lake,
dead leaves like flies in a spidery web,
observers lost in thought

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017