Thursday, 17 May 2018

Tracking the Torchbearer

This is not a new poem but one that several readers have asked me to repeat on the blog.

In 2012, the year the Olympic Games came to London and Her Majesty The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee,, I produced a new collection, Tracking the Torchbearer; overall, it tries to capture something of the spirit of The Games rather than focusing on sporting events. (I had not long been diagnosed with prostate cancer so it was a welcome distraction!)

The book comprises 100+ poems in seven themed sections - including a gay section - for easy reading. Among poems on love, nature and contemporary society I have included others on such themes as the so-called Arab Spring, a tribute to trapped miners in Chile and their dramatic rescue, earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand and the earthquake/Tsunami off the coast of Japan as well as a record of happier occasions like a royal wedding and Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Regular readers will know that I publish my poetry collections under my own imprint, not least because most if not all poetry publishers seem to disapprove of poems on a gay theme appearing alongside poems on other themes and/or believe it to be a non-commercial proposition. I am delighted to have proved them wrong. Not only do my books sell well (for poetry) but gay and straight readers alike frequently get in touch to say they enjoy them; new readers among the latter usually express surprise at  enjoying ‘even’ my gay-interest poems, and some even start dipping into both blogs.

Oh, yes, I get some complaints and hate mail for supposedly ‘promoting’ a gay lifestyle, but not a lot, and it doesn’t bother me in the least.

I have to confess I am not much of a sports person, but what I love about sport is that it is open to everyone to actively participate or simply watch and enjoy. Colour, creed, sex and sexuality all but cease to be the kind of artificial dividing lines some bigoted people insist upon drawing; all that matters is the person and his or her personal achievement in taking part, just as it should be in all aspects of life. People matter, end of... (One reason I will never understand so-called 'good' people who are intolerant of anyone who does not subscribe to their way of thinking, especially with regard to religion and sexuality; take the humanity out of religion and what is left is nut an empty shell for appearances' sake.)

Visiting 135 cities in 20 countries, covering 137000 kms in 130 days, I like to imagine the Olympic torch as bringing people together in a world where are neither gay-friendly nor gay-unfriendly people, homosexuals or homophobes…just people; a Family of Man that, like all families, will have its ups and downs, its share of falling out and making up, but always there for each other when it really counts. (Oh, but I wish…!)

Here's a BIG HUG from your truly because, as I write the blogs, I have a wonderful sense of your being there; it's a wonderful feeling and helps me a LOT in dealing with my prostate cancer. (So far, so good with the hormone therapy!)

It was the founder of the Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who said "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.'

The poem is a villanelle.


Cheers, not just for those who win,
but everyone playing their part
in the race to show we’re human

Old gods who saw the Games begin
see new gods playing their part;
Cheers, not just for those who win,

Torch lit, world crowds making a din,
all set to make a start...
in the race to show we’re human

Politicians worldwide putting a spin
on an overloaded apple cart;
Cheers, not just for those who win

As old gods would get under the skin,
so new orders falling apart
in the race to show we’re human

Apollo, struggles even to raise a grin,
Earth Mother fast losing heart;
Cheers, not just for those who win
in the race to show we’re human

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011; 2018

[Note; An earlier version of this poem appears in Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012]

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Pulling Strings

When our circumstances take a nosedive, there are invariably many factors to take into account. Oh, but how most if not all of are quick to play the blame game!  How many of us, though, consider pointing the finger at ourselves sometimes…especially when, at heart, we know we should…?

Ah, but when those same circumstances improve, especially by leaps and bounds, who among us is not quick to take most if not all the credit…?

As I was writing this poem, I could not help but recall a BAD nervous breakdown I suffered way back in the 1970’s. It was four years before I could work again. During that time, I had the support of three wonderful people – Joyce B, Dick L and Malcolm P who encouraged me to (eventually) start writing again. As creative therapy, it was a huge boost to my mental health and general well-being. I owe those three people so much, not least for helping me to help myself. (One died before I was able to find a job and start living again while I am ashamed to say I was so desperate to put those awful years behind me that I lost touch with the others after I moved away.) 

As for any concept of Fate of God taking a hand in things then or now, I remain sceptical. Neither, for me at least, have a place in a positive thinking mindset; it is too simplistic to blame or credit either for whatever. Sadly, few, if any of  us can avoid playing the blame game altogether even though (as I know only too well) it can scar a person for life.


I wander in the mists of time
where no one, but everyone goes,
pondering the meaning of life 
that no one but everyone knows
has us like puppets on a string

Alone, but never quite alone
where no one but everyone goes
giving the lie to a flawless  life
such as no one but everyone knows
has us like puppets on a string

I wander in the mists of time
rearranging lyrics to a poet’s song
if only to remind me I’m human
for getting it right, getting it wrong,
(no mere puppet on a string)

No sign of the mist ever lifting
yet a spirit within refuses to despair
going it alone, yet never alone
for the pulse of history beating there
(no mere puppets on a string)

I walk among heroes, head high,
sparing tears for those missing out
on the human spirit’s capacity
to love, learn, put prejudices to rout
(living puppets on strings)

I wander in the mists of time
where no one but everyone goes,
homing in on meanings of life,
too soon, too late, on cue, depending
whose hand pulls the strings

Could it be mine?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Agenda for a cull

 “Each spring, the Canadian government authorizes fishermen to club or shoot to death hundreds of thousands of baby seals for their fur,” writes the Humane Society of the United States. This is a reference to the fact that the vast majority of harp seals killed are between one and 3.5 months old. However, some context might be in order. Those rotisserie chickens at the grocery store were likely alive for only 40 days. The average pack of bacon comes from a pig that was only on earth for four months. - National Post, April 2018

I’m so glad I have been a vegetarian for some years now.

This poem is a villanelle.


Seal pups dying,
a culling to complete;
ice caps crying

Bargains wing
around the tourist beat;
seal pups dying

Come spring,
craving summer’s heat;
ice caps crying

The done thing
to hit alt-control-delete;
seal pups dying

Words but piling
coals on the global heat;
ice caps crying

G8 (still) trying
to make ends meet?
seal pups dying,
ice caps crying

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007. 2018

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

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Cyclopes Revisited, Modern Takes on an Ancient Mythology

Since the early days of the so-called Arab Spring, civil war has caused untold suffering to the Syrian population. Anti-government protests had been ongoing in the Syrian city of Hama since March 2011, when large protests broke out in the city, similar to others elsewhere. In July, the Government sent the Syrian Army into Hama to control protests on the eve of Ramadan, often referred to as the ‘Ramadan Massacre.’

Ever since, both security forces and “rebels” have carried out numerous large-scale operations, resulting in mass executions, killings, arrests, kidnappings and torture across Syria. Many families and elderly people are suffering above all from the shortage of electricity, water and lack of food/ medical supplies; frequently they no longer have a home. There are blackouts several times during the day, and gasoline is rationed. No one knows when the next bomb will fall.

There has to be a diplomatic solution although the neutral observer may well feel prompted to ask  whether – in the murky world of politics - that old saying, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ is not more aptly applied to expediency than to will…on anyone’s part? If inhumanity is a vicious circle, it is one that's drawn by human beings.

This poem is a villanelle.


Watch inhumanity boxing clever
as the toll of dead and injured grows;
world’s cyclopean eye on Syria

As face-saving excuses endeavour
to explain away as its politics allows,
watch inhumanity boxing clever

Freedom, a dirty word, all the surer
for (ever) wiping its poor bloody nose;
world’s cyclopean eye on Syria

A century’s children living in terror,
all innocence cheated of its tomorrows,
watch inhumanity boxing clever

No stranger to either war or massacre,
(cue for United Nations to strike a pose)
world’s cyclopean eye on Syria

May humanity yet endure, be the leader
sheer common sense alone sure to choose;
watch inhumanity boxing clever,
world’s cyclopean eye on Syria…

London: April 2018

Copyright R N. Taber 2018 

[Note: A cyclops is described ancient Greek and Roman mythology as from a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the centre of the forehead; the word "cyclops" literally means "round-eyed" or "circle-eyed".  – Wikipedia]

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