Tuesday, 16 January 2018

A Positive Take on Adversity

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

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.

 A POSITIVE TAKE ON ADVERSITY

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, Behind Bars


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.

FREE SPIRIT, BEHIND BARS

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)

I, Conscience, cage for a free spirit,
less free for that than it makes out...


Copyright R. N. Taber 2010



Monday, 1 January 2018

Human Spirit, Sword of Freedom

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

in 2016, National Theatre head Rufus Norris and artist Jeremy Deller were behind a project taking place across the UK with men dressed as World War One soldiers. Each carried a card with the name of the soldier they represented and his age - if known - when he died. This ‘living memorial’ involved about 1,500 voluntary participants appearing in public spaces across the UK; the project, entitled We're Here Because We're Here, was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK's arts programme for the World War One centenary.

Gay people go to war too, of course, always have and always will even if they have had to keep their sexuality under wraps. (Why under wraps? Nature does not discriminate so why should human nature; human nature is better than that...isn't it? Oh, world religions may discriminate but I sincerely doubt any God would, and I don't say that because I am gay but simply as a human being with a strong sense of spirituality that I chose to take from nature rather than any religion even as a child.)

Now, I do not believe in a life after death as such, but neither do I believe in some eternal nothingness. Nature tells me there is a never-ending sense of renewal. My own feelings assure me we live on in the lives - not just the memory - of others. So what of those who never knew us and what will happen to those memories when family and friends who shared them are all dead?  No one knows, of course, and although I do not subscribe to any religion, I envy those who do if only in the sense that it must be very comforting to feel assured that this life is not all there is for us.

Ah, but we are all influenced by other people; in turn, we, too, influence others by what we say and do. In this way we create a ‘presence’ that even death cannot wipe away as if we were but a smudge on the temporal landscape. In this way, at least, we continue our paths through ‘live’ time and space if only in spirit.

This poem is a kenning.

HUMAN SPIRIT, SWORD OF FREEDOM

Death caught my hand one day,
tugged me into to a cold, dark place
and a part of me wanted to stay;
the cold, it stripped my pain away;
the dark, it hid tears on my face
for a part of me so wanting to stay;
temptation, an end to endeavour,
but sure to make me suffer for a part
of me that’s come to nothing?

Broken spirit, telling me straight
while peering over Death’s shoulder
at that part of me wanting to die;
suddenly, a welcome light appears,
inciting a rush of heat to the body,
sufficient to allay even secret fears;
I succumb to a familiar embrace,
hear a loved voice reciting the poetry
of that part of me I cannot face

Enter, the life force of humanity,
its responsibility to liberty, equality
and fraternity, no excuses
(in any socio-cultural -religious name)
for undermining the principles
of democracy by silencing its voices
among which sexuality has no less
right to be heard and heeded as any other
in a world found wanting

Call me Freedom, a living, oral history
passed on by ghosts, century to century

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2016

[Note: This is not a new post, but one that was accidentally deleted; the poem has been considerably revised since it first appeared on the blog in 2010.]

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Zen of Renewal


So many people tell me every year that they dread January 1st, a whole new year stretching ahead that is unlikely to live up to either Happy Christmas or New Year celebrations. January sales on the High Street are more likely to be suspect than generous (shifting unwanted stock) and any excitement over ‘bargains’ short-lived. So, what next? What, indeed…? Dare I suggest it is down to us…not circumstances-beyond-our-control or fate by any other name …but us. Oh, we are not entirely in control of whatever life dishes us. That is SO true. We ARE, though, in control (if we choose to take it) of how – in the longer term at least – we choose to respond. We all have choices and some of these are not easily made, but choosing positives over negatives has to be a good thing…doesn’t it?

Oh, and many thanks to those readers who get in touch from time to time, always good to hear from you. Please remember, though, that if you use the Comments box, I cannot reply unless you include an email address. (Although I never post comments - favourable or critical - I always read them.)

Wishing to all a very POSITIVE NEW YEAR,
Roger

THE ZEN OF RENEWAL

Another year begs
to be enjoyed for its own sake,
not as reparation
for others that have let us down,
failed to live up
to expectations feeding dreams
that fail to mature…
because that’s just how it is,
the way we are?

Another year
pleads a chance to prove itself,
not as reparation
for glossing over past misfortunes
turning mountains
into molehills so the human ego
can rest easy…
because that’s just how it is,
the way we are?

Another year
when looking back at negatives
will get us nowhere
unless it’s back where we started
before we began
to get wise to false promises
and fake news…
because that’s just how it is,
the way we are?

Another year,
urging mind-body-spirit to listen
to its weaker self
focusing on losses, regrets, mistakes,
and making excuses
for not looking on the bright side
of life…
because that’s just how it is,
the way we are?

Another year,
making time to let a dawn chorus
reassure us all
that nature and human nature but wait
to be embraced
in a spirit of hope-peace-love
(raison d’ĂȘtre)
because that’s just how it is,
the way we are

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018






Friday, 29 December 2017

Earth Mother, the Poem


‘One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and nature shall not be broken.’ – Leo Tolstoy

That quote leapt to mind one evening only recently as I recalled observing a glorious sunset from my bedroom window that looked over the backyard and garden of my childhood family home.  I experienced such a link then, like an electric current so powerful it made my head swim and almost knocked me off my feet.

I was only 13 years-old at the time, and that feeling of intense, personal bonding with nature has never left me even in my darkest moments. Whenever people let me down (as people are inclined from time to time) I go for a walk in the country, let Earth Mother  dry any tears and lend me the strength to rise above any ill feeling.  

Nature, too, of course lets us down sometimes; Earth Mother can be a harsh mentor. Yet, mentors teach and the better pupil will learn. While we should not cherry pick what we choose to take on board or reject, I suspect most if not all of us do just that. Whatever, I look around and see the world Shakespeare once likened to a stage as parts of a whole, and I bond with that whole, and the whole is nature.

I also recall my English Teacher at secondary school, commenting that we are to nature as nature is to us, and the sooner humanity gets to grips with that, the greater its chances of survival.  Like everyone else in Class 5B, I nodded and said “Yes, sir!” although none of us had a clue what he meant at the time. When I summon that moment to my mind’s eye now, though, more than half a century later, I am not in class at all, but that same bedroom window experiencing an epiphany in a sunset…

EARTH MOTHER, THE POEM

Glad blue skies, a stagy 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, beautiful
and 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 any ego
demanding the bright and beautiful
serve its own interests

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 acknowledging it
all the brighter and more beautiful
for freely given

Amber-red skies, reflecting uncertainty
on earth as it is in heavens
anxious to see us avoid the very worst
we knowingly or unknowingly
propagate for the sake of a greater good
as reworked by dogma
bent on killing freedom of expression
by imaging only the brighter
and more beautiful in its own eyes,
on its own terms

Wide, open skies, ever inviting all nature
and human nature to a life
freely given, never for the asking or taking
besides Time’s remit
written in tablets of stone before its seasons
flowered, died and rose again
as humankind woke, slept and woke again;
testimony to old gods, new gods
and digitalised mock-ups... no match
for Earth Mother
  

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Touching Base with Christmas


Every year for some years now I have written a secular Christmas poem to share with certain people on my mind and, of course, my blog readers. 

Although I am not a Christmassy person (not religious and some bad memories) that doesn't mean I don't wish everyone else a happy time. 

Sadly, not everyone will enjoy a happy festive season for a variety of reasons; to those people, I can but wish peace, love and hope, trusting that all three may prove as inspiring company as they have to me through 72 years of life's ups and downs...despite their failing from time to time to live up to my greater expectations.

Happy Christmas everyone and thanks for your company.
Wishing you all peace and Love always,
Roger

TOUCHING BASE WITH CHRISTMAS

Christmas,
recalling our better memories,
(forgiving the worst?)

Christmas,
gifts large, small, or none at all
(as the case may be)
in a spirit of tradition invariably
failing to (quite) equate
with the lighter, kinder side
of expectation

Christmas,
paying lip service to appearances
(or be found wanting?)

Christmas,
needs must make the carol  service,
let the local church
lend a flavour of common humanity
to a sense of spirituality
all but blinded by the full-on glare
of festivity

Christmas,
wishing love and peace to everyone
(or just a select few?)

Christmas,
absentees making their presence felt
for better or worse,
the latter glossed over in a rosy glow
of Here-and-Now
leaving the lonely looking back
in tears

Christmas,
to a homeless person, the occasional
Good Samaritan

Christmas,
star-crossed lovers and family rejects
(gay folks among them)
making a case for building bridges
even if (finally) having
to concede that old habits
die hard

Christmas,
a chance to touch base with peace, love,
and each other
  
Copyright R. N. Taber 2017


Thursday, 7 December 2017

In-Betweeners

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

When not directly involved, it is often possible to see both sides of an argument or divisive situation. We then, of course, leave ourselves open to the accusation that we’re sitting on the proverbial fence. Well, as my mother used to say, there is nothing wrong with that so long as we are prepared to jump down and take sides should the need arise.

Seeing both sides can help us to move a peace process along; it can also create further divisions and lose us friends among those convinced they are in the right so everyone else must not only be in the wrong but an ‘enemy’ for thinking so. (I dare say I'm not the only person to have been squeezed out of certain areas of circulation in that way.)

Yes, life can be tough for the in-betweeners of this world.

IN-BETWEENERS

Day is day
as night is night;
in-between, a twilight
always playing tug-of-war
with us

Love is love
as hate is hate,
yet we can always find an affinity
with both

Dreamers dream
as nightmares haunt,
infiltrating a native stoicism
in us

Beggars beg
while rich men profit
insinuating a sense of fatalism
in us

Brave is brave
as scared is scared,
yet we can always find an affinity
with both

Day is day
as night is night;
in-between, a twilight
always playing tug-of-war
with us


Copyright R. N. Taber 2017