Thursday, 26 April 2018

Where History Hangs Its Head

[Update April 36th 2018: This is not a new poem but one that was inadvertently deleted and which I feel deserves to be read. Some people consider the classic villanelle form dated, even irrelevant to modern life. Well, we must agree to differ. 

In my experience, its use of repeated lines (as with any repetition) helps the reader to remember the poem; remembering, in turn, invites further thought. Encouraging any audience to think on about whatever he or she is saying has to be (surely?) what motivates any author of any art form.] RNT

[Update April 22, 2017: Tragically, history - like the worst of human nature - has a nasty habit of repeating itself:

So will the politicians of the world unite and DO something about these atrocities? 

Sign the petition? (I did.) You don't have to be gay (just human) to recognise and be sickened by any appalling inhumanity towards anyone.

Readers (gay people among others subjected to various prejudices) often email me. Many want to know  why I suggest being gay is still a problem in the twenty-first century. It isn' long as you live in a gay-friendly environment among gay-friendly family and friends and have a gay-friendly workplace. Not everyone does, of course...] RNT

Now, January 27th marks Holocaust Memorial Day when the world, as always on that day, rightly remembers the horrors of the Nazi death camps. In April (23rd/24th)Yom HaShoah commemorates the six million + Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Too often, though, I hear people gloss over the fact that millions of non-Jews suffered the same tragedy. 

“Although the term Holocaust victims generally refers to the victims of a systematic genocide of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany, the Nazis also murdered a large number of non-Jewish people who were considered subhuman (Untermenschen) or undesirable. Non-Jewish (gentile) victims of the Holocaust included Slavs (e.g. Russians, Poles, Ukrainians and Serbs), Romanis (gypsies), lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) individuals;] the mentally or physically disabled; Soviet POWs, Roman Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses,] Spanish Republicans, Freemasons, people of color (especially the Afro-German Mischlinge, called "Rhineland Bastards" by Hitler and the Nazi regime); the Deaf, leftists, Communists, trade unionists, social democrats, socialists, anarchists, and every other minority or dissident not considered Aryan (Herrenvolk, or part of the "master race") Taking into account all of the victims of persecution, the Nazis systematically killed an estimated six million Jews and an additional 11 million people during the war.” - Wikipedia.

Once, on Holocaust Memorial Day, at the public library where I was working, staff created a ‘Holocaust Tree’ and anyone could (as many did) tie a personal message or comment to its branches. Before I went to lunch, I noticed that someone had written, ‘Remembering all the gay people who perished in the death camps.’ By the time I returned from lunch, it had been removed. As a poet who also happens to be gay, I was having none of that, and replaced it with the same message. It was a busy day, though, and I did not see it removed a second time. Needless to say, I replaced it, and no one removed it again. 

We must not forget them, those victims, none of them, nor should we (ever) forget that history is a continuum; we must guard against its repeating itself, wherever, and in whatever shape or form, as best we can…speak up and act, not bury our heads in the Politics of Convenience and turn a blind eye, as so many did with The Holocaust.

Nazism was a terrible thing. It is one of the 21st century's greater tragedies that right wing extremism worldwide continues to grow while actively, often violently expressing its prejudices against others - anti-semitism, homophobia, racism... Even so, wherever the body may be silenced, be sure the free mind-spirit of love and peace will shout all the louder down the Corridors of the perennial hope that certain people may yet start listening.

This poem is a villanelle/


Among Jews, others for their ethnicity,
Holocaust victims of Nazi genocide
hounded, persecuted, for our sexuality

Carriers of a sickness infecting Society
(so said Nazis targeting us with pride)
among Jews, others for their ethnicity

A living blot on the landscape of history
(Earth Mother’s tears never dried)
hounded, persecuted for our sexuality

Not for any cultural or religious identity,
countless in the gas chambers died,
among Jews, others for their ethnicity

Their fate sealed by bigotry and lunacy
of an ethic disgracing all humanity,
hounded, persecuted for our sexuality

Gay, homosexual, queer prose and poetry
will target their history with pride;
among Jews, others for their ethnicity,
hounded, persecuted, for our sexuality

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Extracts from an Evangelist's Rant

This poem is not new to the blog but one I have been asked to repeat by several gay-friendly readers from various African (and other) countries. (I have changed the title, not the poem.)To those readers who email me from time to time asking why I feel the need to support gay people in what someone recently referred to as 'this Golden Age of Equality', it perhaps offers and answer. Sadly, even well-meaning legislation (and religion) can only go so far in tempering that too-common element of human nature  called bigotry. (I am gay, yes, but ask any woman or victim of racial abuse about this Golden age of Equality...!)

Those people who have been in touch in support of the vilification of gay people will just have to get used to the fact that we are all part of a common humanity…despite their inclination towards inhumanity, not least where their attitude towards LGBT men and women worldwide is concerned.

Now, it is bad enough here in the UK that homophobia and hate crime against gay people, especially gay men, is alive and kicking, especially since the rise in immigration among cultures which remain intrinsically homophobic. (In some parts of the world, of course, it aspires to diabolical proportions.)

Anyone who watched the Channel Four Dispatches programme ‘Africa: the last taboo’ in July 2010 will have a good idea what it is like to be gay in much of Africa.

Now, evangelical pastors preaching homophobia and worse across the world have much to answer for, but it is perhaps the greater part of Africa that they aspire to their most diabolical; their influence is such that a newspaper editor in Uganda once called for the deaths of known gay people, and they must accept no small responsibility for anti-gay legislation in many if not most African countries.

David Kato (photo from the Internet)
Eric Lembembe (photo from the Internet)

David Kato (Uganda) and Eric Lembembe (Cameroun) - both gay activists - were murdered in January 2011 and July 2013 respectively; the number of gay-related killings across Africa is likely to be much higher.


'Kill the homosexuals!’
an evangelical pastor cried,
and true to his words
many gay men and women
have since died

‘Homosexuals are sinners!’
the impassioned pastor yelled
at a congregation
that took up the cry, would
see us killed

‘Homosexuality is an evil,’
the demon pastor screamed,
‘and no known cure
so kill, kill, or see its sinning
go unredeemed!’

‘Man shall with woman lie!’
The pastor furiously exhorted
his flock to heed verses
from Leviticus, Christ’s coming
conveniently aborted

Someone in the congregation
dared point out that Christ said
we should love
and help our neighbours, not
wish them dead

‘Blasphemer!” the pastor cried,
near hysterically refusing to relent
his demonizing
of homosexuality undermining
the New Testament

Africa,  why are you (or is anyone)
even listening…?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

[From: Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012.]

Saturday, 14 April 2018

A Senior's Take on Spring

Finally, it looks as though spring is not only poised to arrive here in the UK but even stay long enough to run a steady course through to whatever meteorological delights summer may (or may not) have in store for us.

A teacher at my old secondary school some sixty years ago once put it to the class in passing that the seasons are a state of mind. He moved on without explaining what he meant, and I for one thought no more about it…until recently.

Spring is late, very late, here in the UK as I do battle after battle with the slings and arrows of outrageous old age. I have good days and bad days. Invariably, it is a case of win-some-lose-some, but on a good day recently I found myself looking out at grey skies and having to tolerate  dreary silence, not a hint of birdsong.  I felt depression creeping on and resolved to have none of it. Instead, I enjoyed a wallow in the bath, put on a favourite shirt and played some favourite music. Instantly, I felt a new person, invigorated, full of the joys of…yes, springtime. Outside it was cold and pouring with rain, but I didn’t care…so maybe my teacher all those years ago had a point after all?


As I look out of my window;
I often see him there, swinging
on a wooden gate

Patches of sunshine creating
rainbows in fair  hair straggling
a blue shirt collar

Faded blue jeans, testament
to carefree playtimes when life
was a bundle of laughs

Face wreathed in smiles, one
for every songbird on the fence
dividing alley and garden

You catch me watching, wave
an eager hand, beckon me come
and be a part of it all

Part of all what, I’d ask of life
as I do now, distanced light years
from any springtime

No answers then. Now, I know
better than to ask,  be a part of it
for better, for worse

Images pass in and out of view
kaleidoscoping seamless seasons
of a mind-body-spirit

Ah, but the child I was still waves
to me, last seen swinging on a gate
into an eternal spring

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018

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

Mixed Messages, 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