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

Monday, 22 January 2018

Round Trip, Journey of a Lifetime

This poem was written while I was recovering from a bad nervous breakdown in the early 1980’s. I found it buried under various documents for which I no longer have any use, and thought some readers might be interested.  Writing - especially poetry - helped me through that breakdown to a new job nearly 4 years later, one that would take me to retirement in 2008.


Oh, to ride a cloud
out of Nowhere, carrying me

all varieties of plant and animal
in harmony

no acid rain or polluted oceans,
only beauty

no hint of war or double dealings,
only peace

no hate crime grabbing headlines,
only love

no socio-cultural-religious dogma,
only humanity

It’s cloud nine
to Somewhere, only ever dumps us
back Here

Here, there…
a round trip ticket to ride where hope
springs eternal

Copyright R. N. Taber 1983; 2018

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

A Positive Take on Adversity

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.


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.


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

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.


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,


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