Saturday, 10 March 2018

Autumn is a Man in Red

This is not a new poem albeit a revised version of the original as it first appeared in my collection, Accomplices to Illusion, 2007.

Even as we look forward to spring here in the UK, autumn approaches in other parts of the world. A reader, Paul G, from Australia has emailed to ask for a copy of a poem he first read on the blog but cannot find it now. Well, Paul, neither can I so am repeating it here before I ‘lose’ it again. I am not good with computers and have to confess that, in my 70’s now, I often make mistakes; this includes inadvertently deleting items, probably because I pressed a wrong key! Oh, well, that’s the least of my problems as I continue to cope with prostate cancer and various aches and pains that beset me daily. Yet, I keep looking on the bright side of life....if only because the alternative is unthinkable. I encourage friends - and readers - to do the same, whatever life throws at us. Oh, and be sure to keep a sense of humour, too, or risk every day being really unbearable.

Incidentally, Paul, I don't have many readers in Australia so if you enjoy my blogs, feel free to pass on the links to anyone else who may be interested in my posts/poems. You mentioned in your email that 'as a gay-friendly straight guy' you have gay friends and also enjoy my gay-interest blog so thanks for that, much appreciated. I also add (and remove) links daily to a selection of new and historical posts/poems from both blogs on my Google Plus site:


In a garden spread with dead leaves
and heads of flowers,
I heard a tale passed on by a dying rose,
soon to breathe its last,
of a Man in Red passing through
the world, fooling us 
into believing beauty is but the sum
of passing moments
rearing like splendid dragon scales
among leaves of a much loved volume 
of fairy tales

Neither young nor old, the Man in Red
wears buttons of gold
on a coat the colour of blushing cheeks
at our making a faux pas,
made to look as small as a dragon under 
our bed at night long ago 
when dawn a prologue to adventure
though, by sunset, traces
of blood enough to make us, oh, so glad 
that computer games are but fairy tales
gone mad 

The rose assures us the Man in Red
has some kindly ways
in spite of inciting cloud and wind
like a hungry beast,
all the better to feed off a forest
even as its winged stoics
linger and continue composing songs
meant to feed us dreams
for a friendly Sandman to paint
over the world’s bleakest scenarios 
in brave colours

‘He comes!’ cried the rose, petals strewn,
‘but look for me again, I'm not yet done.'

 Copyright R. N. Taber 2007

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007.]

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Reflections in a Human Eye

As winter begins to give way to spring, even the most uninspiring landscape assumes a sense of potential more pleasing to the eye. Much the same can be said for those aspects of life coloured by a sense of negativity for whatever reason.

I began to suspect even as a child that humankind has much to learn from nature about its potential for good as well as bad and - by way of lateral thinking, although I did realise it at the time - the art of being positive, no matter what life throws at us.

‘Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.’ - Albert Einstein

“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.” - Victor Hugo [Les Miserables]


Glad blue skies, vivid backcloth
to sad, naked branches
barely hinting at far kinder times
yet to come once winter
has worked its worst on humanity
for wanting to prove itself
better, stronger than Earth Mother
while working its worst
on all things bright and beautiful,
freely given

Sad clouds leading us a merry dance
for wondering if any tears
that may (or may not) fall are meant
to harm (even kill) or nurture,
inspire, re-invent an ethos of peace,
love, kindness and respect
for nature, human nature, all-inclusive.
no cherry picking for egos
to feed on the brighter, more beautiful,
least demanding

Grey skies, making no sure promises
(or threats) to naked humanity
anxious to avoid the worst of nature
yet to come once winters
of the heart have worked their worst
on human mind-body-spirit
obsessed with survival for its own sake
rather than enjoying each day
in all things brighter and more beautiful
for freely given

Pink-yellow skies, reflecting uncertainty
on earth as it is in heavens
that would guard us from all evil save any
we knowingly or unknowingly
proceed to propagate for some greater good
as dictated by dogma
mindless of consequences to any true feeling
for freedom of movement,
negotiating all things bright and beautiful
on its own terms

Wide, open skies, ever inviting all nature
and human nature to a life
freely given albeit for the asking or taking
as they see fit who seek
to ask or take but on their own terms,
only to realise soon enough
there is no bargaining with Earth Mother
for nature is to a mind of its own
as human nature is to ‘karma’ by way
of making excuses

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Skeleton in the Cupboard

I was researching my family history some years ago and went for a drink afterwards with someone likewise engaged. He asked me why I was doing it and I confessed it was a form of therapy to help me recover from a bad nervous breakdown; it was still (relatively) early days.  When I asked him the same question, he laughed and commented to the effect that he was hoping to find a few skeletons in the family cupboard. “Mind you,” he added almost as an afterthought, “I’m not sure I like the idea of someone raking over my bones,” and tossed me a knowing wink, whereupon I felt faintly uneasy and changed the subject. We passed a cheery enough hour together, and parted promising to meet up again…which we never did.

Given how we all perceive each other differently, that the media are inclined to put across a view of us altogether differently again should the opportunity arise and various ad hoc reports are likely to be biased if not suspect, depending on time and context…ca we really expect to reach a balanced view of any life history?

Hopefully, the average family history mole will arrive at a balanced perspective, but I can’t help wondering how he or she would feel about someone burrowing into their personal history…?


I cannot see, hear or speak,
but I know things, feel things, keep them
close to my chest, archive them
so any who care to rummage the files once
the archivist has moved on
may yet discover what it was that I hid
behind closed doors who thought
the better part of valour to keep them shut
on pain of hurt wherever

I can neither defend my actions
nor ever explain, but I feel them, keep them
close to my chest, archive them
to a living and posthumous consciousness
in which we all have a share,
whether or not we choose to pass on
anything of what has been gained,
learned or lost from experiencing the nature
of experience as it is

I will never see, hear or speak
to any who know things, feel things about me
for researching my history
out of a sense of responsibility, curiosity
or simply an affinity with people
suspected of slamming doors on closet lives,
choosing to forget their footprints,
handprints, DNA, even nervy (scary?) scrawl
remains open access

I am a silent witness to all life throws,
for better or worse, in sickness, health, death
and wherever else angels (it’s said)
may well fear to tread if dearly wanting
to prise open closed doors,
research archives history would prefer left
to gather dust for fear they expose
hidden truths, they from whom so much hid
for love of them

I am called many things by many people
struggling to differentiate between good and evil,
erring on the side of the former
wherever possible if only by comparison
with its global counterpart’s capacity
for one-upmanship in every area of human life,
leaving much the same paper
and online trails for any dedicated follower
of home truths to follow

Follow my trail, share whatever you discover,
only to find yourself but laying another…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018

Monday, 29 January 2018

Needs Must? AND Never Judge a Future by its Past (Two villanelles)

Power comes in all shapes and sizes; the power of a single world (like ‘yes’ or ‘no’) should never be underestimated.

The measure of a man is what he does with power. - Plato

Before we acquire great power, we must acquire wisdom to use it well. - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Where power, its needs must feed.
to its better ends may we serve,
needs must nurture nature’s seed

Let not desire instruct us impede
native intuition’s learning curve
where power, its needs must feed

Where ambition, it turns on greed,
plucking at passion’s every nerve,
needs must nurture humanity’s seed

Let not fear of failure be the creed
dictating we press on or swerve
where power, its needs must feed

If a measure of wealth to fit the deed
(corruption keeping its nerve…?)
needs must nurture humanity’s seed

If fortune’s stars, any eagle eyes read,
(as it well may be we but deserve)
where power, its needs must feed…
needs must nurture humanity’s seed

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008

Now, we often complain that time waits for no one, but better (surely?) than it should stand still, especially when life dumps us between a rock and a hard place? 

Time is no cure-all for the worst wounds life inflicts, but it can make them if not less hurtful then at least more bearable. Time, after all, effects change and change is what life (and humanity) is all about; whether that change is for better or worse, is not down to Time but to each and every one of us…in our own lives just as in the wider world. 


Never judge a future by its past,
let time fly by,
yelling ‘Foul!’ for trailing last

Who swaps a slow lane for fast
risks passing life by;
never judge a future by its past

Beware if memory’s fair blast
makes us cry,
yelling ‘Foul!’ for trailing last

Better feed on present than fast,
forever asking, ‘Why?’
Never judge a future by its past

Flying ‘live’ colours at half mast
for each day we die,
yelling ‘Foul!’ for trailing last?

Seize any feel-good lifelines cast
(if not always at first try);
judge not the future by its past,
yelling ‘Foul!’ for trailing last

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008

Monday, 22 January 2018

Finding Neverland

This poem was written while I was recovering from a bad nervous breakdown in the early 1980’s. I found it buried under various documents for which I no longer have any use, and thought some readers might be interested.  Writing - especially poetry - helped me through that breakdown to a new job nearly 4 years later, one that would take me to retirement in 2008.


Oh, to ride a cloud
out of Nowhere, carrying me

all varieties of plant and animal
in harmony

no acid rain or polluted oceans,
only beauty

no hint of war or double dealings,
only peace

no hate crime grabbing headlines,
only love

no socio-cultural-religious dogma,
only humanity

It’s cloud nine
to Somewhere, only ever dumps us
back Here

Here, there…
round trip to Neverland where hope
springs eternal

Copyright R. N. Taber 1983; 2018

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

A Positive Take on Adversity or L-I-F-E. No Waiting Game

I have read poems at voluntary self-help groups from time to time. Many of the people who attend are on welfare and/or have mental health problems and/ or alcohol or drug related problems. These are fine people, trying to help themselves and each other with precious little help or encouragement from outside the group. It is inspiring to see them pulling together in adversity and learning to take responsibility for themselves and each other; a lesson the less enlightened among us would do well to learn instead of preferring to pass judgement on others.

Help, encouragement, reassurance...these ARE all out there, but rarely will they simply knock on our door; we need to knock on theirs and find the words to ASK. I well recall how my mother once told me that life is no waiting game, how we have to get out there and live it, and that means meeting each other at least halfway.


Coming together, supporting each other,
toes in the Sea of Life, getting a feel for the swim
rather than drown

Making an effort to come down to a shore
where seaweed and shells on shifting sands spread
rather than stay in bed

A part of a life tide’s natural ebb and flow
yet frightened of its fickle nature, all highs and lows
but a Hall of Mirrors

Alone, it is hard to bear the happy sounds
of children laughing, applause for ice cream chimes,
hints at kinder times

In good company, easier by far to break free
of shadows stalking us, driving us to seek sanctuary
in cages of our history

Together, let’s imagine wings, flex and fly,
take heart from songbirds rejoicing seashore and sky,
no matter where or why

As rough or fair as any sea passage may be,
let us look to fellow voyagers, let a creative empathy
reconstruct our history

Coming together, supporting each other,
getting a feel for wings rising above, learning how
to trust in Nature’s love

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007

[Note: An earlier version of this poem first appeared  under the title 'A Feeling for Seagulls' in Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books 2007; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Free Spirit, Slave Mentality

Time changes many if not most things about us, for better or worse, yet there are aspects of human nature that remain steadfast; whether or not we choose to listen to and act on then, though, is another matter altogether...

This poem is a kenning.


Few care to visit me,
home in disarray, those willing
to help clear up the mess
giving up in despair as squatters
come along, adding to the pile
of dirty laundry and blotted copybooks,
cocking an ear for bailiffs
banging on the door demanding dues
(to even a score?)

I can be friend or enemy,
often inflicting pain even when 
a person's best interests 
at heart. Ah, but whose? Few indeed
can look me in the eye
and swear altruism, no ulterior motive
for conspiring with me
to keep certain things under wraps
(ignore my cynicism)

Colour me right or wrong,
add subtle shades of light and dark  
in-between if that appeals 
to the artist in us all since I am,
(it’s only fair to say?)
the by-product of a creative spirit,
privy to the heart's decadence,
in denial for being called a coward
(ever playing safe, hedging bets)

Call me Conscience, born a free spirit
if slave to human nature for all that

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010