Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Moulding the Clay


We hear a lot about ‘fake news’ these days invariably from alarmists, sensationalists, gossipmongers and the like (not excluding politicians); none of us are immune to its harmful effects.

There is nothing new about ‘fake news.' Time and again, in all areas of life, that classic among Aesop’s fables about the little boy who cried wolf has made itself felt and continues to do so; one day, it may well have consequences for the planet beyond imagination, and…what then?

This poem is a villanelle.


Earth running hot and cold
where only ghosts get to tread,
human history all but told

Its so-called 'Betters' sold
on politically-biased street cred;
Earth running hot and cold

War, a wolf to the sheepfold,
poised to rear its shadowy head;
human history all but told

Kindly souls as slaves sold
to keep warm Big Brother’s bed;
Earth running hot and cold

Prejudice, a lasting mould
cast in the shape of a wolf’s head;
human history all but told

See climate change unfold,
hope but tit-bits of fake news fed;
Earth running hot and cold,
human history all but told

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2018

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

Friday, 3 August 2018

M-I-N-D, Pendulum Swings


A reader has emailed to say how much he enjoys my poems and is surprised I only have 112 followers. Well, thank you. Any positive feedback is always welcome, although any critical feedback always provides interesting food for thought. (I often get emails from readers who are very disparaging of how and what I write for various reasons; again, these provide welcome food for thought… and have even been known to inspire the occasional poem.

Now, as regular readers are well aware, I subscribe to no religion. Every now and someone gets in touch to ask how can I live without religion yet claim to have a strong sense of spirituality. Well, for a start, I don't see religion as having a monopoly on spirituality; the human spirit is independent of religion. Moreover, I see the world's religions as responsible for much if not most of its penchant for divisiveness, separatism and bigotry.

For me, ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ are but effective metaphors for the better and worse aspects of life we get to experience.  At best, this may well be joy verging on the sublime; at worst, misery enough to bury a person alive.  

A depressive for years, and having felt buried alive more times than I care to recall, I am grateful to both nature and human nature for regularly invoking joys worthy of another metaphor, namely ‘resurrection’. (I speak here as a poet and wordsmith and intend no offence to any who may use the same terms in a religious context.)

Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear’. - Lord Byron (1788-1824)
(Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto iv, Stanza 109)


Life is what we make it
(a heaven, too, and even hell)
by choice or circumstance
as we ride out its pendulum swings
for better, for worse

Heaven is letting a sense
of spirituality keep a tight hold
on the heart, independent
of socio-cultural-religious comment
to whatever effect

Hell is dreading each dawn,
putting a brave face on enemy lines
(distress or worse)
in suffering its brutality at first hand
or a close second

Heaven will have its moments
in any lifetime, better shared than
left to multiples
of one, but better that than its beauty
should pass us by

Hell, too, a door left wide open
or ajar, ready to receive rich and poor,
all as vulnerable
to excesses of nature or human nature
as any one of us

Let the pendulum swing as it may,
come a tide in the hearts of humankind
certain to include love
in its flotsam and jetsam, offering us all
a singular spirituality
Copyright R. N. Taber 2018

Sunday, 22 July 2018

The Trap


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, 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 and in the wider world. 

Never prejudge, never presume...about other people or what may lie ahead for ourselves. Not always easy, it's true, as it would appear to be human nature to do just that, but well worth trying to avoid such a trap as can affect lives for better or worse.


Never prejudge a future for its past
as time flies by,
scream 'Foul!’ for trailing last

Whoever swaps slow lane for fast
risks passing life by;
never prejudge a future for its past

Beware should old Memory’s blast
make us cry,
scream ‘Foul!’ for trailing last

Better feed on the present than fast,
forever asking, ‘Why?’
Never prejudge a future for its past

Let's not fly our colours at half mast
(or each day, we die)
scream ‘Foul!’ for trailing last

Grasping any feel-good lifelines cast
if not always at first try,
never prejudge a future for its past,
scream ‘Foul!’ for trailing last

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008

Friday, 13 July 2018

The In-Patient


Mental health is something that is finally coming out of the closet here in the UK but here, and the world over, still has a long way to go before everyone feels at ease with the subject. From time to time, I get emails from men, women and young people struggling to recover from what is referred to as a nervous breakdown but doesn’t even come close to describing the sheer intensity of a rollercoaster of emotions as likely as not ending in a nasty crash.

Sadly, more often than not when we try to explain bad, even criminal behaviour, it is seen as making excuses rather than a genuine attempt to understand; not only for the benefit of others but also, possibly primarily, ourselves.

I will be 73 later this year. Regular readers will know that I had a bad nervous breakdown some 40 years ago; although it continues to haunt me I feel I’ve come to terms with its multiple causes which, in turn, has helped me achieve a sense of atonement for its effects on others

‘Work out your own Salvation. Do not depend on others’. – Buddha

While I agree with the Buddha that we need to work out our own salvation, accepting help should not be seen as a form of dependency, rather as a learning tool necessary to see us back on terra firms after going into freefall. It was nearly 4 years before I was able to start looking for and eventually got a job in which I would stay for the next 25 years. I could not have achieved this without the help and support of certain people to whom I am more grateful than words can begin to express.

My Good Samaritans did not include any family members, I suspect because they saw my need to discuss my behaviour at the time as an attempt to excuse it, and they had neither patience, empathy nor inclination to listen. Fair enough, but fortunately, not everyone turned a deaf ear, and in trying to explain, I, too, began, slowly but surely, to understand. Once there, I had foundations upon which to rebuild my life, and proceeded to work through what I saw as a form of salvation; in my case, through writing, for others as much as for myself, trying to share something of the lessons I had learned. (Coming to terms with being gay was a part of a learning curve I still see myself on some 40 years later.)

A thousand rights cannot compensate for a single wrong, but a sense of atonement, even if no one else sees it as such, does wonders in restoring a shattered self-confidence and faith in oneself. How far I have been successful has to be for others to assess, but I am more at ease with myself now than I ever thought to be again, hopefully deservingly so.

Yes, this poem is another kenning.


I crawl passages
of mind-body-spirit,
less frightened
of the dark than daylight
where pain
lies in wait, ready to strip
and humiliate me
in its contempt for the vagaries
of human nature

I pause now and then
to read writing on walls
over centuries
where such as I despatched,
(well out of sight)
by any too close for comfort
to such cause-effect
likely any point fingers of blame
at human nature

They urge me on,
the disembodied victims
of a vulnerability
considered (even by those
in the know)
best left to its own devices
as if life were a game
of Consequences, and the devil
take the hindmost

I am that somebody nobody knows
for being in a place nobody goes

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018

Thursday, 12 July 2018

An Invisible Mending


A reader contacted me earlier today via ‘Comments’ but I have only initials and no email address so am posting this poem by way of reply. He or she sounds very despondent, not least due to the daily ups and downs, slings and arrows of growing old. I will be 73, need a walking stick following a bad fall in 2014, have prostate cancer which has been treated with hormone therapy since 2011 so constantly needing the loo plus arthritis in my bad leg, and, more recently, in my neck.

Yes, I know, there are many people a lot worse off than me, but I can empathise with this reader. Growing old is definitely no picnic, but it’s only fair to point out that the same can be said of life in general. Some people in some parts of the world have a relatively easy life compared with those in other parts while some individuals appear to sail through life where others constantly find themselves swimming against an unremitting tide.

“How do you cope?” I once asked a young disabled friend some years ago. “Mind over matter,” my friend replied, “Think good, feel good,” he added with wry grin, and this from someone in pain 24/7.

By the way, as regular readers will know, I always read but do not post comments because they take up space and trolls so love to spoil everyone else’s enjoyment. Feedback is always welcome, though, and feel free to be as critical as you like if something I say or a poem I write gets the hackles soaring. I never mean to offend anyone, but even a poet can only hope to please some readers some of the time…


Can’t get out and about
too easily now, a walking stick
needing to take the strain
when the rest of me lets me down,
and that’s as good as it gets

Can’t hear or see as well
as I could not so very long ago
but hearing aids and specs
get me by (now, wherever did I put
the darn things...?

New technology remains
a mystery not designed for old folks
who struggle to master
even the basics, a failing memory
chasing P-I-N or password

Growing old, no easy task,
gets harder by the day, yet a feeling
for life, love. and nature
inspires, and more than gets me by, 
cur for mind-body-spirit 

I draw upon all the love
that has seen me through the years
(in all its shapes and forms)
until it all but mends this poor frame,
and that's as good as it gets

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Autobiography of an Archive


We are all past-present-future in the flesh. We inherit certain genes and much of our approach to life is taken from historical figures who have made a deep impression on just as we, in how we live our lives, make an impression on others for better or worse; family, friends, casual acquaintances, even complete strangers. It only takes one moment in time when something we say or do strikes a chord in someone’s life that will play out forever.

We won’t all make the national archives, of course, but there is another, more extensive to the point of being inexhaustible archive that is the human mind.

This poem is a kenning.


I walk with ghosts, night and day,
and they are as real to me as my own reflection
greeted in mirrors, shop windows,
still waters in favourite places keeping memories
and sometime companions alive,
sustaining mind-body-spirit like voices in the ear
urging me to press on, regardless
of whatever obstacles fallen or placed in my way
whether by accident or design

I talk with ghosts, night and day,
and they listen without interruption, just a nod
or shake of the head occasionally,
sufficient to persuade or dissuade any thoughts
to action or inaction gathering pace
demanding I look again or press on, regardless
where inspiration has landed a hit,
missed its mark altogether, deserves discussion
or better left to gather dust

I bare all to ghosts, night and day,
far more even than to those who know me best
if only because I dare not share
any part of me that takes its cue from the dead
for fear of being misunderstood
or (worse) denied a voice, left with less of a life
to speak of than even a ghost,
reduced to a skeleton in someone’s cupboard,
exhibit for some eager archivist

An open secret, my ghosts, there for all to see,
 a past-present-future that’s the making of me

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018

Friday, 6 July 2018

Not for the Fainthearted


If we really want to achieve something in which we passionately believe, we need to be prepared to stick at it every step of the way though the going be rough or smooth. Maybe if the British Government believed more passionately in Brexit, they may well have achieved more sooner instead of alienating all sides and homing in on a compromise. Certainly, if the LGBT campaign for equality that began with Stonewall had weakened, even given up under pressure from the naysayers in society, we would not have come as far as we have, here in the West at least; less so in other parts of the world so while where there is cause for celebration, there remains no room for complacency, and never is. Every cause worth fighting for will always have its nemeses with which to contend and find ways of either defeating or winning over.

Certainly, in an LGBT context, it is good to see how the latter continues to prevail where once it would have been unthinkable; it has, to take just one minor but significant example, taken yours truly many years to find a publisher willing to publish a selection comprising general and gay-interest poems where once it was thought to be non-commercial because there could not (surely?) be any interest out there. [Once I have a publication date In a few months or so I will let everyone know. Hopefully, we can sustain the momentum and fling open doors previously slammed shut in our faces.]

This poem is a kenning (or a Who-Am-I? poem as kennings are sometimes called.)


A worthy ally, and necessary
to keep faith
with body-mind-spirit where
its causes just,
and likely outcome much the better
for everyone
engaged in the greater purpose
of making a positive contribution
to raison d’ĂȘtre

Whomsoever engages with me
needs must
feel committed to all ends
in view, no matter
any distractions conspiring to deflect
(even defeat)
such perseverance as treading
a tightrope of conflicting alliances,
no safety-net

Though fickle contemporaneity
try and test all
who take me to heart, insist
on compromises
that would all but see me in freefall,
but keep the faith,
and count every battle won
a triumph over the world’s Naysayers,
never complacent

I am Motivation, feeding momentum
to inspiration

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018