Wednesday, 16 August 2017

It is what it Is...or is it?

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

Only recently, a reader emailed me to ask if I consider myself an agnostic because I am gay and, if not, why not…?

Over the years (I'm in my 70's now) I have lost count of the times I have been told by members of various religious groups that I will go to hell for being gay. (So God is a homophobe?) Evangelical Christians and the majority of Muslims are by far the worst, but I exclude none. (While Judaism is inclined towards a liberal attitude towards LGBT issues, most Orthodox Jews stop well short of sanctioning LGBT relationships.) For this reason, I am publishing this post/poem on both blogs since feedback suggests that not all readers visit my Google + site where I link to new and historical posts & poems on both blogs. Regular readers will know that I have every respect for all religious faiths, but as a human being (who happens to be gay) I have the right of reply.

At school, 50+ years ago, we were once asked to write an essay about ‘Secrets’. This was preceded by a class discussion on the subject during which we were all agreed that secrets are hard to keep, especially from family and friends. Someone made an unkind remark about gays not being ‘out’ to which the teacher responded with a wry shrug that “Time outs us all in the end. The trick is to get in first, before gossip and ignorance can do their worst.’ This comment livened up the debate no end, but I missed most of what was being said for dwelling on the concept of Time ‘outing us all in the end.’ It is so true. Gay or straight, it is a rare person that has no secrets; invariably these come out, if not during their lifetime then in the course of events following their death.

I only came out to a few people until a bad nervous breakdown in my 30’s finally rid me of all self-consciousness about my sexuality. Even then, though, I trod carefully through what I had known for years as a minefield of public opinion. The breakdown had lasted several years before I found the confidence to face the world again. During this time, I explored human nature through avid reading and writing poetry, both of which had already stood me in good stead at university.

Being gay is, of course, only one aspect of human nature, one part of a complex whole. It has always been the whole that interests me although, obviously, I have a special interest in the gay aspect. Some gay people seem to find it strange that I write general as well as gay-interest poetry. But…why not? Being gay is a very significant part of who I am, yes, but I can hardly ignore the rest of me, those other parts that make me who and what I am. Well, can I...?

In my 70’s now, I often look back and wish I had done things differently (as in ‘better’) but I guess we are all victims of our circumstances up to a point, and my circumstances have often conspired against me. Yet, I am no victim in the sense that I made my own choices, albeit not always the right ones.

Many who subscribe to a religion have told me I will forfeit Heaven and go to Hell although I suspect we make our own heaven and hell as our lives take shape by our own hand. So is death the end of all things, I wonder? I have no idea, but as a nature lover, take comfort from the way nature nurtures itself, and spring follows winter. Love, too, never dies even as lovers and loved ones pass away. I suppose I put what Faith I have in nature and love rather than in any religion since, from both, I have always taken a strong sense of spirituality. As to whether or not that sense of spirituality is seen as a sufficiently positive force in my poetry  to pass into living memory by way of my readers after my death, only time will tell.

IT IS WHAT IT IS…OR IS IT?

Time running out,
mind-body-spirit left floundering
among regrets
for missed opportunities, rushes
to misjudgement,
and plain, everyday mistakes
with consequences...
for there can be no payback
equal to the task
of making reparation for any flaws
in humankind

No sense of a God
likely to extend any forgiveness
to the likes of me,
unable to relate to any Heaven
(potential safe haven)
throughout a lifetime of struggling
to make sense of dogma
interpreted by Religion’s finest
as leave to preach
a Politics of the Heart making sense
of humankind

How then to approach
the End of Things in the absence
of any New Beginning
other than as some deactivated spirit
gone to ashes, dust,
someone else’s (imperfect) memory,
there to endure
a kindly ‘eternity’ that sits more easily
on the tongue than ‘death’
while advocating spiritual qualities
in humankind?

I have asked this of poems
that have dogged my every footstep
from child to senior,
no one answer offered (or confirmed)
but a sense of moving
through time (other than growing old)
acting out tales passed on
by ghosts about leaving footprints;
no one left behind
but (together) creating a continuum
called humankind

To each, our own way,
engaging with the greater mysteries
of life and death,
finding such comfort as we can,
pinning our finer hopes
on what’s better, kindlier, said
and done, wiser choices
than less so, promise nurtured
or left unfulfilled
for an indefinable social conscience
to define us as it will

Whatever, it is what it is, and Time
will out us all one way or another…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Friday, 4 August 2017

Blood on the Bread


This villanelle was written on June 29th 2008. On the previous day, another young person had been fatally stabbed on London’s streets. Tragically, the poem is even more relevant now than it was then. 

Official figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS)  in April 2017 showed a very significant increase in violent crime across the UK, much of it gang-related. Knife crime alone had increased by 14 per cent year on year by 2016 to levels not seen since 2011; a leap from 28,427 knife offences to 32,448.

The greater tragedy is that gang-related violent crime remains prevalent on the streets of many countries worldwide; such a waste of human lives where, more often than not, contemporary society fails to provide constructive alternatives offering potential solutions. 

Whatever, these people commit violent acts by choice and the buck stops with them. If they have a conscience at all, they need to come to terms it, start steering a kinder course through life before they, too, become just another fatality statistic... and what kind of footprint is that to leave behind?

BLOOD ON THE BREAD

Don’t carry a gun or knife,
a young friend said;
show more respect for life

I want a career and a wife
(and a four-poster bed)
don’t carry a gun or knife

Let years of pain and strife
stand peace on its head?
Show more respect for life

Though gang rats run rife,
and blood on the bread,
don’t carry a gun or knife

Let me look, dress how I like
if it makes me feel good;
show more respect for life

Streets of fear, tears of grief,
saw him shot him dead;
Don’t carry a gun or knife;
show more respect for life

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008; 2017

[Note: This poem first appeared in Poetic Expressions, Poetry Now, 2009 and subsequently in my own collection, On the Battlefields of Love, Assembly Books, 2008; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Friday, 16 June 2017

Battle Royal, no End-Game or All Our Tomorrows

Are the freedoms we enjoy being gradually eroded by invisible (and visible) Mandarins or Kingpins of Power?

Wealth is power, yes, but so is  influence and many who put themselves forward as our so-called ‘betters’ have plenty of that across the entire  socio-cultural-religious and political arenas  in which we live.

Free speech, yes, so long as it is not considered politically incorrect and that seems to be decided these days by which side of a particular divide one happens to be.

I am no racist. Neither, though, will I hesitate to speak out against bad attitude or behaviour no matter what colour, creed, sex or sexuality a person may be. Yet, the chances are – as has happened more than once – that I will be called a racist, feminist, bigot (for not subscribing to a religion) etc. etc. I am none of these things, and it goes against the grain not to speak out against someone whose behaviour I find offensive simply whatever their colour, creed, sex sexuality or political persuasion and, yes, even age. (My own generation can be a real pain in the proverbial at times.). Even so, I have to confess to having kept my feelings to myself more often than not in recent years simply to avoid the inevitable hassle. Is that common sense, I wonder, or simply cowardice?

Feedback over years of writing poetry and publishing much of it on the Internet suggests that many people from diverse backgrounds feel much the same way, that there are times when we are made to feel like puppets, poised to speak our minds until a jerk on invisible strings by some kingpin puppeteer advises if not demands our silence or, at best, extreme (diplomatic) caution…or there will be a price to pay.

I will be 72 this year, and I am becoming less and less enamoured with the world as it is now with each passing day. At the same time, I retain a basic faith in human nature, convinced that if we all try and do our best in our own little corner of the world, the ripples will spread to the extent that  it may yet become a better, kinder place no matter what goes on in its  socio-cultural-religious and political arenas.

There are more good people in the world than bad, people for whom peace and love are more, far more, than just rhetoric; it has always been that way, and always will be. Sadly, it has always been the more malevolent Kingpins of Power that, in getting away far too often with pulling our strings, continue to make their presence felt and voices heard.

BATTLE ROYAL, NO END-GAME or ALL OUR TOMORROWS

Yesterday, a dark mood
descending into a recent grave
created by fall-out
from crises (local and worldwide);
even near comprehension,
of mind- body-spirit all but broken
by political forces alien
to free thinkers everywhere left
ploughing moral high ground,
slaves to this or that philosophy,
whatever cap fits…

Slaves, yes, bound to rebel
against those siding with kingpins
of wealth and power jockeying
(discreetly) for a prime position
in the greater  influence stakes,
claiming to have the best interests
of common humanity at heart
(local and worldwide) while nursing
such personal ambitions as likely
to go down as well with the media
as raising taxes

Today, no lighter mood,
rising among the ghosts of leaders
past and present to remind
those of us (local and worldwide)
why we helped put them there
(if only by default, considering
the alternatives on offer)
no matter gossip buzzing like flies
in corridors of power
about which  kingpins  plotting
whose downfall…

Kingpins of power, yes!
Always ready to load our excuses
on their backs under a cloak
of invisibility to avoid pricking
consciences of crusaders
(local and worldwide) for a way
of life less complicated
by a sense of kingpins composing
the poetry and prose
of destiny on our behalf, and we
having little say

Tomorrow, we will nurture
a more positive mood, rise above
rise above dark thoughts
about any Kingpins of Power
undermining us
at every step we take as we journey
through life…
reassert a native self-confidence,
an enduring spirituality
taken from natures, religion, either
of both (free to choose)

Free to choose, yes,
whether to have faith in ourselves,
(conceding any flaws)
and keep to a learning curve of love,
personal aspiration,
private ambition, social responsibility,
discerning wood and trees,
drawing in the best of whatsoever
and whomsoever
we may find, as we seek completeness,
journeying hopefully

Hopefully, yes, humankind
and nature working together to play
any Kingpins of Power
at their own game, introducing  mind,.
body, and spirit,
working in harmony, all the better
to see light triumph
over darkness, good over evils no one
can deny exist,
a legacy of enduring peace and love,
no end-game in sight

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Monday, 12 June 2017

The Zen of Renewal


A single friend recently commented that his everlasting regret in life is never to have been in love, loved in return, and having children. This, from someone whose family adore him and who will be remembered by many for a kind heart and generosity of spirit.

Few if any of us can say, hand on heart, that we have no regrets. Life, though, deals each and every one of us a different hand, not least because we are all different. Such is the nature of things. Whatever any mistakes or wrong choices we may have made in life, love comes in all shapes and sizes, and we should regret none of it, even where it may not have (quite) come up to our hopes and expectations. Love is a life-force from which we should all take heart. We may be single, or fortunate enough to have found a partner (within or outside marriage)…whatever, I defy anyone to say they have never loved at all…whether it be of the human or natural world…past or present, nevertheless continuing to make itself felt always, and hopefully making us better, kinder people for its place in our lives.

As for whatever we may leave behind us  when time demands we take our leave of this life, we could all do a lot worse than have secured a good place in someone else’s memory, the effects of which may well be passed on for generations...


THE ZEN OF RENEWAL

Watching a sunrise,
all live senses re-awakening
to the spirt of nature,
metaphor for balmy breezes
encouraging evergreens
to sing a song for all seasons,
birds winging Nature’s
semaphore of hope, no matter
blue skies turning grey

Watching high noon
play out its daily theatricals,
all we passionate
children of the Earth eagerly
aspiring to make
the most of opportunities lost,
missed (or never were)
before Time has its wicked way
with us, and it’s too late

Watching a sunset,
curtain all but drawn on affairs
of mind, body, spirit…
working in a harmony (of sorts)
to contrive meaning,
purpose, (closure?) whatever
it takes for laurels
upon which we may rest easier
if not (quite) in peace

Watching a darkness
gather our world to its bosom
where we may well
writhe like new-borns lacking
in communication skills
to express our needs, desires,
all found wanting…
yet a sixth sense of its potential
but waiting in wings

Watching at a window
on the world from the balcony
of a tower block,
returning inside if only to forget
those cares of the day
(ever ready to keep us company)
by taking from love
(in real time, memory or fiction)
a renewed life force…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Thursday, 1 June 2017

S-E-L-F, Tales out of School


The first day of June may well be closing in on summer, but there are people around the world who feel left to live out winters of discontent…while others find various ways to compensate and follow the bluebird of happiness where even angels would fear to tread. I know because, over the years, I have had the privilege of meeting some of them; ordinary people living ordinary lives with an extraordinary mixture of a resilience and stoicism bordering upon heroism and an enviable capacity for finding contentment that should not be mistaken for being resigned.

Many if not most of us live secret lives, mind blowing tales out of custom designed storybooks that feed our egos (in the nicest possible way, of course) compensating for discrepancies in how we might like our lives to be and how we (and others) are likely to find them.

Such is the potential for winters of our discontent…until or unless we find a way to lend the stories more truth than fiction (in the nicest possible way, of course) and do more than simply reconcile ourselves (and others) to the status quo.

S-E-L-F, TALES OUT OF SCHOOL

If I were a robin,
I would fly far south at the close
of autumn…
to better times, kinder climes,
no lust for stoicism

If I were a fox,
I would outrun hunt and hounds,
deny them
a red brush token trophy,
any glory, all mine

If I were an owl,
I would hoot merry hell at a world
daring sleep
parade its vanities under cover
of safe houses

Yet, call me human,
no season to fly or run in the heat
of wannabe heroics,
finding excuses for a sad lusting
after posterity

If I were a robin,
I would take heart from all nature’s
lust for life,
hope to learn, pass on the better
part of its poetry

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017





Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Restoration (Human) Spirit Guide

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

Now, there is a saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, I disagree.

It isn’t only retired people who can feel lonely, of course; it can (and often does) happen to anyone who, for whatever reason, feels out of the social loop and has no idea what to do about it. Doing nothing, though, is not an option unless we are resigned to letting life pass us by. For retired people, daytime TV isn’t a satisfactory option either.

Focusing on the job in hand, many of us underestimate the importance of the everyday contact with other people that any work ethos offers. Suddenly, we arrive at the retirement we have looked forward to all our working lives; for single people, especially, that everyday contact may well no longer be there. Gone are the people that have been so much a part of our lives for so long; gone, too, a major focal point…the job itself.

I got chatting to a widower recently who hated retirement until he joined a local community group campaigning for better facilities for young people in his area. A former business executive  he  was able to bring his organization skills (among others) to the campaign and made lots of new friends, young and old. I asked him why he got involved in the first place. “I suddenly realised I was on my own, going nowhere fast and I’d be stuck with Jeremy Kyle if I wasn’t careful,” he told me with a grin. “I was out of the loop good and proper, and nothing was going to change unless I made it happen. I heard about the campaign, and have never looked back. If not the campaign, I’d have found something, you can be sure of that. I mean, you can’t survive on your own, can you…?”

How do I cope with retirement? Well, I took early retirement at 50 so I could spend more time writing. An isolationist occupation, you might think, but feedback suggests my blog readers enjoy many of my poems, and I have always found writing very therapeutic. Even so, I made a point of getting out and meeting people for many years if less so now as I have prostate cancer and a mobility problem following a nasty fall in 2014. Yet, I made some good friends and remain in touch with some, especially my best friend Graham, these plus my blog readers help me feel in a loop I’d rather be in than out so no worries there.

Many older people are unable to get out and about; for them – especially single people and those whose families are not on hand – loneliness can be a terrible thing. I recently heard of someone who takes retirement (and loneliness) in his stride by visiting lonely people and spending time with them. “It’s two-way traffic,” he told me when we met recently, “We support each other.”

Supporting each other… What better way to stay in the loop, eh?

I recall once complaining about being bored to my English teacher Mr ‘Jock’ Rankin who had asked how I was settling in at my new home across the river. ‘Life won’t come to you, Taber,” he said, “You have to go out and meet it head-on or you’ll not only be bored, you’ll be lonely too” Wise words in my ear, some 60+ years on…

RESTORATION (HUMAN) SPIRIT GUIDE

Loneliness crept up on me,
had its feet  well under my table
before I knew it

No one calling on the phone,
no one ever knocking at my door
to ask how I am

No more cheery cards, letters,
remains of  kinder times dropping
on the doormat

No one stopping
for a chat while window shopping
to pass the time

In free fall, made a blind landing,
complete strangers rushing to help
piece me together

Faith in humanity now restored,
I joined a local community project,
a life-changer

Looking back, I see myself
taken for a fool by giving self-pity
a free rein

Grown old, I was resigned
to but sadly scratching the surface
of a once-life

Ah, but life goes on, its shell
if cracked, heavy, serving us much
the same purpose

Though a body grow weak,
mind dim, the human spirit but asks
we heed its cue

Never discriminating, a spirit
imposing on a divided world, a sense
of better late than never

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Getting the Better of Giants

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

Not infrequently, people confide how they feel helpless against a tide of socio-cultural-religious forces manipulated by various leaders for their own sakes and/or kind to the detriment of 'outsiders'. ‘Why are we all so divided?’ someone only recently wailed in my ear, ‘Why must it take a tragedy like the recent terrorist atrocity in Manchester to bring people together …until innate differences start to drive them apart again?

On the grounds that repeating the obvious is sometimes necessary if only to prevent its being lost in a sea of trite, I often make the point in my blogs that our differences do not make us different, simply human; we can and should learn from them, not gang up against them. Far too many if not most socio-cultural-religious leaders are invariably quick to agree in principle, but less willing to practise what they preach.

So what can we do?

It is (surely?) down to each and every one of us to live our lives as best we can and try not to be judgemental, the very trap our leaders and so-called ‘betters’ would have us fall into by appearing to refute it, thereby planting the very seeds of division in our minds that suit their individual purposes while cleverly avoiding either blame or responsibility.

A socio-cultural-religious metaphor may well be a chess master’s political strategy where the likes of you and I are taken to be vulnerable pawns; it is, however, a game that two can play... Being our own person (no pressure or aspiration to be someone else) and living our lives as we see it playing out to the best of our ability, immune to unfair or unwanted comparisons...that is what is known as being on the winning side.

GETTING THE BETTER OF GIANTS

What is it really all about,
I’d ask myself as a child, this growing up
among restless giants…?

Why do giants wear a mask
for every occasion, always seem so wary
of letting any slip…?

(Why must I tread so warily
for fear of offending by just being honest,
speaking my mind…?)

Diplomacy is all very well,
but no substitute (surely?) for keeping faith
with basic principles…

Oh, and what of love’s light,
come to guide us through a darkening world,
but frequently cutting out?

Yes, we need rules to live by
or sheer chaos likely to get the better of us all,
but who rules what, for whom?

It’s a discerning inner eye
that perceives the flaws in any moral authority
over anxious to flex its muscles

So where does that leave us,
who can but trust basic instincts albeit thwarted
at every turn of phrase and policy?

It leaves us strong, stoic, free
to speak up, make ourselves seen, felt and heard,
risk being ignored, mocked, bullied…

Or what has it all been for,
I’d ask myself each new day as time rushes on by,
and I grow old…?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017