Wednesday, 8 December 2010


This poem was written in 1974 yet I suspect even a Stone Age man or woman would have been able to relate to it.


In a damp gloom I wander
sometimes - stumble,
bang my head on sudden stone,
hear a thrash of bats’ wings;
though thoughts take flight
to a world that gloats
above, like bats they soon
yearn, yearn a returning;
groping for the truth of things,
discover only history,
a gathering of bats - in
some remote cave

Face to the sun, back
to the wind;
caressing long grass,
wild, free!

Suddenly, bats’ wings

[From: Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001.]

Friday, 3 December 2010

A Christmas Truce

Religious festivals should bring people together. Yet, so often they follow the age-old tradition of religions world-wide and, in the end, but cause division among family, friends, neighbours....

Christmas is no exception for many of us.

Even where people are brought together for a day or two, it is often no more than calling a truce. Before we know it, we are divided; fighting, insulting, demanding more than we deserve, failing to enter into each other’s points of view...or simply ignoring each other again.


Sought, a safe haven on Christmas Day
from family stuff, presents round a tree,
giving the rein to how things should be,
denying what stares in each tinsel face;
A stranger in red mentioned such a place
where I might escape, find sanctuary,
even peace - away from all pretence
at burying home truths under layers of truce,
letting sweet carols on the ear replace
a harsher cacophony of lies, more lies,
accusation (and retribution?) for crimes
against the ego (never mind humanity)
in the daily round of sheer hypocrisy
and petty discrimination against whatever
points of view that can’t, won’t, shouldn’t
always go with the flow in case we tread
on Someone’s feelings, trigger into motion
a tedious, even violent chain reaction,
that might go on for years, spill more tears
than for Judas or lied about Christmas

So, where to go? I asked a jolly man in red
who started laughing, said to use some
commonsense and moved on, leaving me
for dead among piles of pretty wrapping,
more calls for a truce, plates of mince pies
and sausage rolls blind to a soul’s fears,
deaf to its prayers

[From: A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005]

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Snowman

Christmas is coming! Do we cheer, sigh or groan? Take your pick.

Now, when we celebrate a religious festival, obviously we are celebrating that religion whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Hinduism...whatever. At the same time let us remember those who are no longer with us, especially those who taught us how to keep its spirit alive with and open mind and heart so that all we celebrate has meaning way beyond its holy books and various rituals.

Regular readers know I am not a religious person but religion does not have a monopoly on spirituality. I, personally, found that in nature after religion let me down. Even so, I bear no grudges and respect other people’s religious beliefs – just as nature does - even though these are often tainted by intolerance and prejudice, including homophobia. Could that be, I ask myself, where human nature far too often goes badly wrong?

The UK is experiencing its worst early snowfalls for eighteen years. The snowmen at least have never had it so good.


Snowman in the sun, icy patches
on the ground;
eyes of conkers soaked in vinegar,
reminder of autumn roll-over;
grandpa’s army coat lent a vintage look;
carrot nose, smiling mouth
(like a rhubarb stick);
we called him Jack, grandma’s cane
helping him stand or, rather,
keep him steady in reindeer tracks,
ready to lend a hand

Through the night we waited to see
if Jack would take his cue
from the likes of you and me, fairy lights
on the tree...but we dozed off;
we opened our eyes,
Ma flinging the curtains wide,
(no sign of Jack outside);
among gifts around the tree,
for any who care to look and see,
a card attached to a plain white box
reads simply

In Memory 

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Monday, 29 November 2010

Epitaph For A Rose

Someone recently commented that, at 65 (in December) I look in pretty good shape if a bit frayed at the edges. My excuse for the latter is that I’m getting old(er).

I look around and ask myself, does the modern world have that same excuse?


Amongst litter in the gutter, rose petals
frayed at the edges;
in acid raindrops making holes in the sky,
dreams absconding wherever…
anonymous footprints, marking out tracks
well travelled;
clothes, bright and dull, offering sanctuary
to troubled souls;
backs of balding heads telling fairy stories
of halcyon days
(were they to turn, what meeting of minds
before eyes averted?)

Reflections in shop windows passing us by
like kerb crawlers;
a toy gun sounds off a warning shot about
turning into dead ends

A deaf person signing to us has more to say
than we who can’t hear;
a blind person’s white stick, intently probing
our anxieties;
banks of cloud rolling away to let the sun in
on a street’s secrets;
Apollo’s kiss on parted lips, a taste of history
repeating itself;
a rumble of passing thunder in the distance
suggests a battle over;
rose petals, but litter in the gutter of a world
fraying at the edges

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009

[Note; First published in Poetry Monthly International, January 2009 and subsequently in On The Battlefields Of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010.]

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Last Post

[Update March 12 2018]:Today’s poems (on both blogs) a were written especially for Remembrance Sunday. I am repeating them here not only because 2018 marks 100 years since the end of World War 2 but also because we should always remember.

'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.' -  a stanza from 'For the Fallen' by Robert Laurence Binyon 
(1869-1943) as published in The Times newspaper on 21st September 1914.

Yes, let us remember always...not only our war dead and their families but also those wounded in wars past and present and their continuing battle with pain just for getting on with their everyday lives in ways so many of us take for granted. We owe them...and how!

Ah, but when will humankind ever learn? Oh, when will we ever learn...?


They shot me down on foreign soil
and the first sound I heard was a child’s cry
at the moment of birth
and I wished the child and parents well,
that they would see a kinder end
than me, wracked with pain, no less so
for knowing I would never see
either homeland or loved ones again
yet had done my best (can anyone
do more?) and had no regrets but one
about fighting a war like this

A continuing absence of peace

They lay a black cloth over my face
so I should not see comrades close to tears
for the worst of fears
we put behind us who fight such wars
as we don’t always understand
but do our duty though it be in a land
as far away from the pub
on the corner of our street as heaven
from hell where they all but meet
here in Afghanistan

A continuing absence of peace

They put me in a box and closed the lid
so I would not feel the tears of passing clouds
on the journey home
or hear the strains of the Last Post
acknowledge me gone
nor see the flags lowered as silent crowds
line the streets of a small town
taking me to their hearts as if I were one
of their own, as they have done
for others like me, making our journey
less lonely for this

A lasting empathy with peace

The first sound I heard as they lowered me
into the earth was a child’s cry at the moment
of birth and I wished the child
and parents well in a kinder world than this
that saw me fight to save it
from a hell of its own making, no less so
for centuries of tradition
and a culture of oppression seeking
to break free while keeping faith
with its finer principles and (far) kinder
ways than this

A continuing absence of peace

“A good person, worthy sacrifice, fine soldier...”
Too late, I cannot hear.

Copyright R. N. Taber 1999, 2010

This second poem is a villanelle, written July 2009 to mark the death of Harry Patch, the last British veteran of the First World War.


On old Memory Lane, all is quiet
for those who fought a war to end war
so we may make our peace with it

Among cries of the fallen, a shout,
(At ’em lads, at ’em, that’s the score!);
on old Memory Lane all is quiet

They bore old age, faces firmly set
to do them proud who had gone before
so we may make our peace with it

We will always be in their debt,
dead and wounded on a foreign shore;
on old Memory Lane all is quiet

We must never even try to forget
those whose freedom’s colours wore
so we may make our peace with it

War, war and still more of it yet;
on the landscape of love, a weeping sore;
on old Memory Lane, all is quiet
so we may make our peace with it

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

[Note: 'Last Post' first appeared on the Internet in Ygdrasil, an online poetry journal 1999; both poems are included in my collection On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010.]

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Every Poem Tells A Story

I have always loved reading, writing and telling stories. I dare say you will have noticed how this carries over into many of my poems.


Every poem tells a story…
about love, hate, shame, glory,
whatever inspires, lights
the fires of creativity, blind coals
in secret cavities of the soul
that now and then burst
into flames, lighting up the mind,
exposing the heart’s needs,
its strengths and weaknesses
born of love, lust, hate, pain,
grieving for the world that it should
repeat its worst again and again,
leaving poor humanity to follow on
as best it can, put right
its wrongs, conveniently rewrite
the saddest songs of war,
disasters, wounds that will never
truly heal - with lines even
a paralysed heart can feel, though
it take a while to penetrate
its body armour, participate in the
latest United Nations resolution,
promises of aid on the way, more than
mere dreams fading as each day
turns into night, night into day, no one
(still) anything wiser to say
than - Let’s pray. And where is God
in this world-spreading chaos,
saving a child dying of AIDS…?

Whose the power, where the glory
in poems that tell such stories?

[From: A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005]

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Dancer Upstairs

Love poems are for everyone. Does the sexuality of the poet really matter? A reader spotted this poem on my gay-interest blog in September and has asked me to repeat it here for her boyfriend's birthday today. [I have since revised the closing couplet.]


I lay in bed
listening to the music upstairs,
no wish to sleep,
my thoughts dancing in tune
with pretty dance steps;
now gliding across my world
like an ice queen;
now gate-crashing my privacy
like a rock star

I lay in bed
in a frenzy, like the music upstairs,
growing more frantic
every second images of you
take the floor;
now introducing me to your world's
now swinging us into an ecstasy
of rock 'n' roll

I lay in bed,
relating to gentler sounds above,
as if the music, like me,
had finally grown weary of passion
and seeks peace;
now lifting me on wings of grace
like a dove to nest;
now asking me with sweet echoes
that I cave in to love

Hearts enthralled by a midnight rain,
we kissed again...

Copyright R, N. Taber 2010

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Halloween Landscape (Three Poems)

It doesn't have to be Halloween for the body, mind, and spirit to stray into a Halloween landscape. Indeed, there are times when can feel like we are an everyday part of it, and it of us...


Bruised faces hanging
low over grass that’s glowing
like Halloween candles

Lightning severing
familiar heads come twilight’s
makeshift guillotine

Sounds like violins
mourning the dead of Auschwitz
where songbirds sleep

A long, hard weeping
at leafy doors deaf to the frantic
beating of twin fists

The blustering fury
of dark angels choosing free fall
over any Gay Rights 

This world, a ghastly place
for Salem’s best, whom history
lets do their worst

Storm passes, returning
our ghosts to that open prison
we call ‘conscience’

[From: Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007]


One Halloween, I sought the dead
among trees all but stripped bare,
only to discover the living instead

Heart heavy, legs stumps of lead,
I took my cue from bleak despair;
one Halloween, I sought the dead

By a wicked moon, too easily led,
I heard lost loves call me there,
only to discover the living instead

You had faith in us, and I but fed
on that like a king to banquet fare;
one Halloween, I sought the dead

I welcomed owl’s wings overhead
like a shroud, answer to a prayer,
only to discover the living instead

Like a rabbit, I got scared and fled,
fair game for dawn’s next dare;
one Halloween, I sought the dead,
only to discover the living instead 

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009

[Note: This poem appears under the title 'Fair Game' in print editions of On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]


At Celtic revels,
witches and warlocks abroad
casting spells

A voice tells
me to unsheathe my sword
at Celtic revels

Earth Mother fails
men in designer robes heard
casting spells

The world calls
upon me to fall on its sword
at Celtic revels

Earth Mother fills
my heart with one loving word,
casting spells

So, not I who falls
on the Robed One’s ready sword
at Celtic revels
casting spells...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007 [not in my collections]

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Blue Remembered Hills

To the reader who asked how I managed to get an entry on wikipedia as he is a writer and wants one too, I honestly have no idea. A friend emailed me a few years ago to say that she had discovered it while browsing. I occasionally update it myself to include later publications as the original entry only included those up to The Third Eye (2004).


I dare say few among us have no regrets where love, even life, has not turned out quite how we’d hoped…

How many of us, too, have poised on the brink of a second chance and let something or someone get in the way of making the right decision…?

More than once in my life I have let nature decide for me although it has sometimes taken years before I understood just how precariously I was placed at the time or how Earth Mother saved me from the ultimate abyss, even if it meant I had to descend a good way down before discovering light enough in me to fight the darkness threatening to overwhelm me.

'Into my heart an air that kills
   From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
   What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
   I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
   And cannot come again.'  - A. E. Housman (from A Shropshire Lad)


I saw blue hills clash with clouds,
a gentle rain sweeping down
on where I stood, a misty haze
like memories rushing in
where angels dread in this head,
this heart, this soul, drenching
the spirit with regrets thought long
since withstood, now exposing
those half-lies we told, rushing in
on us threefold, tearing the veil
of deceit we wove with contempt,
no home truth exempt, shown up
for what we are, less than we were,
even in the womb, our fate left
to chance though joined even then
by mists sweeping out of Eden

O, for a gentle rain now where blue
remembered hills clasingh with
clouds to bring thunder, lightning,
frightening us with angry faces
descending with spears to make good
(fat chance) the lives we took
when first we chose to lead them
a rare dance across hill, vale,
town and country, hiding out in a city
rather than submit, admit they
were right, we were wrong, love’s
sweet confusion but illusion,
forced in the end to part with words
that sweep down upon me now
where I wait for a clashing of clouds
and rising tide of memory to abate

Earth Mother, poised to set me free...
(or maybe already too late for that?)

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Whose Footprints...?

This poem was read on BBC Radio 4’s Something Understood programme in November 2005. It first appeared on the blog in 2008 and has been requested today by ‘Declan’ for his wife Caitlin as it is her birthday.

Happy Birthday Caitlin!

Apparently, the family live in Somerset so might also enjoy my Somerset poems for Watchet, Dunster and Porlock, three historic villages on the coast that I have included in my latest collection On The Battlefields Of Love (2010); you can also find them by clicking on the BBC Somerset link:


Footprints in the grass
might belong to anyone
enjoying a stroll
in quiet woods whether
mulling over problems,
making decisions
or wishing away pain
in the rain

Footprints in the grass
pass a huge oak and pause,
listen out...
for Nature’s cheerful voice.
Only, no birds singing
or a grasshopper even,
just more rain clawing
at the skin

Footprints in the grass,
like old friends fallen out,
desperate to put
things right...
suddenly, veering off
the beaten track,
a spring in each step, no
turning back

Baggy clouds starting
to break up; sun shining
through; birds singing
and, yes, grasshoppers too;
a gentler rain, flowers
opening their hearts
like hopeful footprints
in the grass

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2010

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from the original as it appeared in 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; 2nd d. in preparation.]

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Secret Garden

This poem has not appeared on the blog although I posted it on my gay-interest blog back in January 2009.

Gay or straight, we are all entitled to some privacy and deserve respect, not condemnation, for personal decisions we make for reasons that are perhaps best known only to ourselves. A straight couple who read the poem in my collection have asked for this poem to be posted on the blog. They, too, have problem with prejudice. Both are Muslims but one is a Sunni and the other a Shia, branches of Islam historically opposed to each other. As a result, they are in hiding from family and friends.

Few important decisions that we are called upon to make in this life are easily made. Yes, we might think someone has made a wrong decision but it is their decision to make and their life that will be affected by it…not ours. Some people, instead of judging others, would do well to wonder how others judge them.

We all, each and every one of us, need support and encouragement to feel GOOD about ourselves. Only in this way can we do our bit, privately and publicly, for the general GOOD of our particular society and help make the world a better, kinder place; one in which people count for who they are, regardless of colour, creed, sex, sexuality, age or position in life with regard to wealth, poverty, career, vocation or whatever…

For humankind to deserve surviving its custom made slings and arrows, it needs to demonstrate its humanity. As I have said before and will almost say again…take humanity out of any socio-cultural-religious equation and all that’s left is Ground Zero.


Mouth on mine
devouring a lonely heart,
imploring me to start
living again and forget
we were but strangers
in the rain, shy glances
at shop windows
regretting missed chances,
non-starter romances

Hands on my body,
driving lonely avenues,
past secret gardens
blooming with flowers,
fruits of light showers,
lonely hours keeping busy
rather than let feelings
of intimacy get the better
of me; a native sexuality
more a part of me than
hand thrust in glove,
whose familiarity brings
warmth, sensuality
words can never explain
any more than strangers
like us, seeking to come
in from the rain

Penetrating the silence
of my soul, a driving force
I never thought to know
again, bringing truth and life
to my secret garden,
songbirds leading the world
in heavenly celebration
of such perfect harmony,
as you and me

No sex more splendid
than love’s first seed

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2010

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002.]

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Message OR Aspiring to Peace on Earth

[Update. June 5th 2017];I n the light of the latest attacks in  the UK, the Prime Minister has said that we should be less tolerant of Islamic extremism. I would add that we also need to stop walking on eggshells in the name of so-called political correctness for fear of causing offence to an ever growing Muslim population. Political correctness is - quite rightly - meant to prevent abuse of people for their socio-cultural-religious ethos, NOT ti excuse intolerable behavior in anyone.]

[Update, June 19 2017: In the wake of the attack on Muslims leaving a mosque in the Finsbury Park area of London in the early hours of this morning, it is more important than ever to cherish the freedoms we value, especially everyone's Human Right to follow the religion of their choice...or no religion at all, as I do. Terrorist and Far Right acts and propagansa would divide and destroy communities worldwide; the majority of peace loving humankind must show we are bigger and better than that.] RT

Today's poem also appears on my gay-interest blog since it is, of course, not only gay people but all decent human beings who are threatened by a depraved view of Islam as practiced by terrorists in its name. I

As regular readers know, I subscribe to no religion. Nor would I call myself an atheist as I like to think I have a strong sense of spirituality... that I take from nature, nowhere else. However, I have open-minded, open-hearted friends of all faiths, including a Muslim friend. It is my experience that the majority of ordinary men and women, whatever their belief or non-belief, are ready and willing to take others as they find them and don't  as for everyone else let religion - or any other differences - get in the way of establishing lasting friendships…however much some of their leaders, deliberately or otherwise, might encourage them to do so.

Tragically, it is the fundamentalists (in any religion) who shout the loudest and not only make themselves heard but are exploited by a world media who would have us believe they are 'typical' Muslims, Christians, Hindus...whatever.

It has been my experience that the majority of people from ethnic minority backgrounds are culturally homophobic although many self-styled ‘devout’ Christians no less so. However, I am glad to say there are many exceptions and, hopefully, these will eventually prevail over the bigoted majority.

Even so, these are as worrying times for gay people as anyone else. For example, a local newspaper in Tower Hamlets, a borough in the London’s East End that has a significant Muslim population, recently reported what reads as a very disturbing case. A teenager, apparently described by teachers at his school as “devout, humble Muslim” was recently acquitted on the charge of murdering a school student support office last November amid allegations that the victim was a “predatory paedophile”. The 17-year-old defendant admitted wielding the kitchen knife that fatally injured the man but said he had feared being raped or killed by him; he also admitted taking a knife with him in case the man tried to force him “into sexual acts”. Subsequently, he was unanimously cleared of both murder and manslaughter by the jury:

My problem with this case is that, as the article reads, whether or not the victim was an alleged paedophile or gay man, if the student thought he might be sexually assaulted, why visit the man anyway and take a knife with him?

Does this not give the green light to the view that 'It's okay to kill a gay' as I heard two schoolboys discussing on a bus only the other day? Worse, could it not also be interpreted as fueling the misconception, commonly expressed by the less enlightened among the heterosexual majority, that gay is synonymous with paedophile?

Whether shaped by the Far Right or fundamentalist extremism, a deplorable narrow-mindedness would appear to be on the rise in the US and Europe, along with others factions easily influenced by some of their worst sentiments. Yes, they may well win battles in the years ahead…BUT...they cannot and will not win the war against those who uphold the principles of a common humanity. Humanity is bigger and better than anything they may choose to throw at us.


The message of Islam is peace
though some people have other ideas;
beware, who dares undermine this

It’s of love the Koran teaches
though some people play on its tears;
the message of Islam is peace

To the world, its prophet reaches
though some people play on its fears;
beware, who dares undermine this

The truth about Islam is kindness
a prophet’s wisdom across centuries;
the message of Islam is peace

May religion, its martyrs embrace,
reject paltry egos poisoning its prayers;
beware, who dares undermine this

We are a common humanity, no less
for its religions and secular philosophies;
The message of Islam is peace;
beware, who dares undermine this

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Crocodiles In The Water

I wrote this poem some years ago after a conversation with a young student whose family in his home country have to walk miles every day to fetch clean water. He was genuinely shocked that we, here in the West, take the simple, everyday act of turning on a tap so much or granted.

After the poem appeared in various print and online publications, readers wrote in whose various countries of origin were mostly in Africa (but also, latterly, Iraq) to say much the same thing.

We are living in the 21st century, for goodness sake! The West should be ashamed that we do not do more to provide basic amenities for poorer people world-wide.

We must do more:

Thhis poem is a villanelle.


A common slaughter,
Third World dying
for want of clean water

Children’s laughter
turns to crying,
a common slaughter

Each young-old grafter
grown sick of trying
for want of clean water

At some capital altar,
disciples denying
a common slaughter

A 21st century arena
found sadly lacking…
for want of clean water

Through gold teeth, eager
summit tipplers belying
a common slaughter
for want of clean water

[From: The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004]

Monday, 6 September 2010

No Storybook Hero

[Update Dec 1, 2017]: A reader (from Cornwall) has emailed to ask what inspired my fantasy novels, Mamelon 1 and  2 . Well, the plain and simple answer is that there in me - as quite probably in most if not all of us? - a Peter Pan character likely to spend the best part of a lifetime trying to get out and hoping (usually in vain) that no one will notice. Anyone interested will find my Mamelon novels on my fiction blog where a brief synopsis precedes each: ]


As requested by ‘Jane’ in Cornwall, I am repeating a poem and some comments I posted on my gay-interest blog back in June and which prompted protest from several readers in Cornwall. No offence was intended. I simply wrote how it is, for me personally at any rate. Much as I love visiting what has to be one of the most beautiful parts of the UK, I have never found it very gay-friendly.

As I mentioned on a previous post, when Cornwall held its first ever Gay Pride march in Truro, August 2009, I emailed the organisers to wish them well, only to receive a nasty reply telling me to stay away as they wanted no truck with gay activists. I hadn’t intended to participate or so much as implied that I might…and replied that I am no activist, just a poet.

I had friends in Cornwall but - surprise, surprise - they have moved away.  Now, if some among the gay community there are as intolerant and insensitive as the heterosexual majority…what chance for a gay poet to make new friends there? Only recently, a reader emailed to say they had offered a Cornwall library one of my poetry titles after receiving one as a present but had already bought one. The library declined to accept and it appears that a member of staff made a point of referring to the fact that my collections include gay material. As a librarian working in public libraries for many years, I was quite upset. I contacted Cornwall Libraries and offered to donate my two later titles. They were not interested. I guess this just goes to show how the UK has a long way to go before it is united against homophobia. I won’t be put off visiting beautiful Cornwall, but I won’t be popping into any of its libraries either…or engaging with the locals in any gay-interest debate.

No gay activist, me, honestly. I’m just an Ordinary Joe who also happens to be a poet who, in turn, also happens to be gay.

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from the original as it appears in 1st eds. of Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; rev. ed. in preparation in e-format.]


When I listen to the waves,
they always tell the same stories
I used to hear from leafy choirs
long, long ago…how one day
I’d be riding a white horse – to
fame and glory….
Only, life never took me that way,
but in other directions
despite objections from alter ego,
friends and family;
I wasn’t meant be a hero of the kind
that rides out storms, surfs
giant waves, climbs snowy peaks,
charges to the rescue,
bugles blaring, just in time to save
the goodies from the baddies
the way they manage it in movies
and books…
Instead, life found another role for me,
an Ordinary Joe in the street,
trying to make the best of things,
struggling to make ends meet;
nothing to lose, everything to prove
because I’m gay and not cut out
for heroics

Do your worst, knock me down.
I will bounce right back
like a clown or child’s wobbly toy
(better applause than tears)
get on with my life as best I can,
take it on the chin
like a ‘real’ man, play my part,
from the heart, for who I am,
no hero leapt out of long-ago stories,
but an Ordinary Joe fighting
old prejudices, siding with the trees
against a world feeding myths
to its children who, in turn, (we hope)
know better than to listen

[From: Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, 2007]

This second poem, written in Cornwall some years ago will appear in my next collection, Tracking the Torchbearer in 2012 by way of celebrating the Olympic Games coming to the UK and Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee:


Guardians of our history,
looking out for us
among rocks by the sea

Shadows once the enemy,
now protectors,
guardians of our history

As natural as we to nudity,
rising, falling waves…
among rocks by the sea

Lovers, like fishes set free
from glass cages,
guardians of our history

Witness Apollo frantically
planting kisses…
among rocks by the sea

Careworn, fickle humanity
proofing its pages,
guardians of our history
among rocks by the sea

[Mullion, Cornwall May 1998]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Shell Seekers

I have changed the appearance of this poem from the original version that appears in my collection which I first posted here on the blog in 2007. It is no reflection on the original poem (that has also appeared in other poetry publications) but I felt it was crying out for a makeover of sorts. Some readers, I know, prefer the original version which was always well received when I read it at several poetry readings around the UK. Listeners, of course, unlike readers, are oblivious to how a poem is laid out so hopefully people will like the later version as much as if not more than its predecessor. You are welcome to judge (and let me know) which version you prefer.

Any changes to original poems will appear in revised eds. that I plan to bring out in a few years, but in e-format.

You can see/hear me reading the (revised) poem in an early video on my You Tube channel:

If the link does not work, either go to mu You Tube channel and search under title:


for those of you who tell me you often cannot access You Tube for one reason or another, I have also posted the video here. (See below.)

Meanwhile, especially for Tony, Adam, Kylie and Roxanne from ‘Somewhere in the middle of nowhere’:

Original version (1991):


No harder thing I do than loving you
at a distance as of sea and sand
at the going out of each tide,
at each coming up of the sun,
all the colours of morning strung
like prayer beads across the sky,
a benediction! You and I
as footprints on the shore;
Together. Parting. Wiped out.
Another tide, another morning,
another day - someone's searching
who'll know that we were here;
Beyond time and space,
false perimeters of place,
our love well-preserved
nor finer served than
by a shell's poetry, as
restless as the sea,
deceptive as each dawn

Like prayer beads, to
each our own

Revised version (2018):


No harder thing I do
than loving you at a distance
as of sea and sand
at the going out of each tide,
each coming up of the sun;
all the colours of morning strung
like prayer beads
across the sky, a benediction!
You and I, footprints
on the shore; together, parting,
wiped out

Another tide,
another morning, another day
and others searching
who will know for sure
we were here

Beyond time and space,
and false perimeters of place,
our love no better served
than preserved in a shell's poetry,
as restless as the open sea,
all the more splendid for that
than any sunset or dawn,
for the dreaming or waking up
with a growing affinity
for all the seasons of life, love
and nature

Like prayer beads,
to each our own interpretation
and/or inspiration;
so, too, the ages-old poetry
of seashells

Copyright R. N. Taber 1999; 2018

[Note: The earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2000.]

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Floods Of Fear

In my collections, I try to reflect, albeit selectively (depending on inspiration) something of the times in which the poems were collated; this includes natural disasters, tragically a recurring phenomena. As the arguments for and against climate change continues to rage, people are suffering around the world and need our help.

Yes, there are probably terrorist cells in Pakistan but the same can be said for the USA, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. The ordinary people of Pakistan are victims of terror too. Whatever, humanitarian AID and rescue channels should be opened and stay open as soon as humanly possible. There is no room for red tape while people’s lives and livelihoods remain at such appalling risk.

Here floods, there drought. Nor are hostilities confined to Afghanistan and the Middle East. What kind of a world are we creating for future generations, eh?

This poem is a villanelle and, yes, I have taken a few liberties with ‘hidden’ rhyme (where words have similar sounds but do not exactly rhyme).


Floods of fear confronting Pakistan,
indiscriminate, rich and poor;
terrorism no less a threat than rain

Now and then, the worst monsoon
breaks down the strongest door;
floods of fear confronting Pakistan

Pain and grief as the world looks on
(some say could, should do more);
terrorism no less a threat than rain

Those left homeless, no peace plan
for reconstructing their future;
floods of fear confronting Pakistan

Across the border with Afghanistan
some two-way trafficking for sure;
floods of fear confronting Pakistan

Aid on its way, cannot arrive too soon
nature wreaking sickness and more;
floods of fear confronting Pakistan;
terrorism, no less a threat than rain

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

[Note: I will include this poem in my next collection - Tracking The Torchbearer - scheduled for publication in 2010.]

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Casualties of Contemporaneity, last Seen Watching the Clock in A & E

[Update (Sept 3, 2016): I fully support the Junior Doctors past and proposed strike action even though it will probably mean appointments I have already been waiting for a long time will be put back yet again; among thousands of other people’s. It is all very well for Prime Minister, Theresa May  and Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt to say we have more doctors than ever and the NHS is better funded than ever, but they are among the privileged classes who don’t have to wait months for an appointment or sit around in A & E for hours.  Government ministers keep reminding us that the UK has an ageing population, but they clearly don’t have a clue as to how much stress that places on the NHS. As for the BMA (British Medical Association) apparently telling the Junior Doctors they should not strike, clearly it is in its best interest not to antagonise a Government more concerned with supporting the Establishment than the welfare of the ordinary man, woman and child in the street, for all our new Ms May's fine words to the contrary. Well, no surprises there. Politicians are hot on rhetoric, but when it comes to relating to the world as it is for ordinary people, the vast majority are cold fish.] - RNT

Now, all credit and thanks to hospital staff in the UK, they do a great job in what are often very stressful circumstances. (Too many patients and not enough staff to name but two.) Even so, I suspect there are few among us who haven’t had to endure a frustrating wait in A &E at some time or another in our lives.

Whatever, we would all do well to remember that our NHS is the envy of the world while those who abuse it should remember that it is not a free-for-all service, but paid for by those of us who pay into it all our working lives.


No losing heart over fortune or fame
only that someone call my name;
Might as well be the Invisible Man
for all anyone’s paying attention;
Hours pass, hands on a clock keen
to mock our growing impatience;
(Time, alas, holds little brief
for outpatients);
From someone in the next chair,
an outpouring of despair;
on the other side, news of someone
who has just died;
A red-faced man creating a fuss
gets seen before the rest of us;
Mutterings of acrimony overtaken
by a drunk causing havoc;
Staff acting beyond call of duty
to end our panic;
A young woman in the front row,
waters breaking...
wheel-chaired away, partner flapping
and fretting;
can’t help wondering, girl or boy?
Welcome distraction
from reasons we’re here, still waiting;
in pain, tearful...
fearful of things getting worse
in spite of reassurance...
from that nice blond nurse, ready smile
and eyes a lively green
fooling no one. Some leaving without
being seen, dare I risk it?
Could use a biscuit, a cup of tea too
and need the loo;
Ears prick up for a name, another,
pray be mine soon…

Just want to go home but hurt all over,
must stay, wait my turn

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2016

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears under the title 'Casualty' in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised edition in e-format in preparation.]

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Cracking The Code

What is life all about? Why are we here at all? Well, who really cares about why?

Me, I feel we should make the most of life as it comes, take the bad with the good and try to come through it all a better person.

If I had to point to just one reason for living, it would have to be love. I guess that's why I have written so many poems about love, loving and being loved.


Come a time we die, who’ll know
or care (for long) that once we walked
this earth, whose mother gave birth
to this or that child-person as likely as not
spending a lifetime seeking answers
to questions where there are none, love
taunted by tales of make-believe,
peace where there’s but pain for knowing
how things might have been
but for those wasted chances, missed
opportunities, wrong calls
as a loaded dice falls on ego’s gaming board,
lost chords of pretty songs intended
to make rights out of petty wrongs (and worse)
but merely adding fuel to flames
erasing names from movie tapes of memory
wherein we can love, live forever?

Let it be said, once we're dead and gone,
here's living proof of people walking the Earth,
giving water-birth to brave worlds of words,
never quite grasped for principle or purpose
ghosts lending creativity to the mind
and tongue (hopefully, someone ‘staking
the trouble to write it down for others
to make sense, crack the code, even learn
from our mistakes, replace a lost chord
or two, redefine the fragility of happiness
as variations on a theme of loneliness

Be humanity selfish, selfless, false or true,
flowers of the forest made to cry…
blessed am I whose life brought me to you
and you to me though, yes, we die

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2010

[Note: This poem has been  slightly but significantly revised from the original as it appears in 1st eds. of A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; 2nd ed. in preparation.]

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Skylark

Someone contacted me about a recent post on depression to point out that ‘Stephen Fry’s television documentary about his depression aired the subject far better than any poem can.’ I agree and all credit to Mr Fry. At the same time, while success brings its own tensions, it is also an incredible motivating factor.

Overcoming depression is never easy. It will not be rushed. But knowing that you have an army of fans out there who are rooting for you and anxious to enjoy another performance must be very motivating. Few of us are that successful in life. It shouldn’t matter but it does… to most of us if we are really honest with ourselves. Moreover, self-criticism and a (mis)perception of failure can quickly bring us down. It can take a long time before we even recognise, let alone start assessing our blessings and a degree of self-confidence is restored.

OK, so maybe a poem doesn’t have the impact of a TV documentary, but is that any reason for not writing it? I write about love, nature, sexuality, age, Alzheimer’s, drug abuse and more. No subject is taboo for any poet who has a passionate desire, even need, to share his/her first or second hand experiences of life with others in a positive way. [Whether or not that makes for a good poet is for his or her readers to decide.]


I went online at home in 1997 and my email address has always been easy to find. During those early years, I was thrilled to receive emails from readers who had enjoyed poems of mine they had read in various poetry magazines and/or anthologies. Ironically the editor chose this one for a Triumph House anthology, Christian Moments (2002); Triumph House is an imprint of Forward Press.

I say ‘ironically’ because, as regular readers well know, I am not a Christian and subscribe to no religion although I have a strong sense of spirituality that I take from nature.

Whatever, it is a love poem. Anyone can relate to it regardless of colour, creed, sex or sexuality. Isn’t that the point?


When you died, a cloud
passed over the sun;
I thought I would never
smile again - but took
a long walk in pouring rain,
trying to picture your face,
listening for the timbre
of your sweet voice,
but saw only a blur of lives
rushing, (undeserving)
heard only an awful sobbing
as you took your last
curtain call. No one clapping,
laughing, even smiling

Suddenly, the sun shone
on my tearful heart...
I heard a lark sing loud
and clear, winging our song,
bringing us together


Copyright R. N. Taber, 2002; 2017

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from the original as it appears under the title 'Our Song' in Christian Moments, Triumph House [Forward Press] 2002 and subsequently in First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 19 July 2010

Hostage To My Self OR Desperately Seeking Freedom

There is a strong case for associating depression with the weather, especially here in the UK, not renowned for its sunshine. The sad truth is that any of us can fall victim to depression any time, anywhere. It is usually the result of various tensions that life has a nasty habit of laying like animal traps for us to fall into. We feel isolated, threatened, scared and - perhaps worst of all - helpless.

Breaking free is never easy and will take time. Whenever it (frequently) happens to me I struggle to take my cue from that old truism, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. The first giant step, of course is recovering that will; the next, finding the way, then we need to stick at it, no matter what.

It’s never easy. There are no quick fixes. Anti-depressants, counselling/ therapy...these can help along with (even more important) the support and understanding (and patience) of family and friends. Sadly, too few people have much understanding of depression unless they have been depressed themselves or are close to someone else who is prone to depression. Far too many run a mile from mental health matters.

Society could and should do more to promote Mental Health Awareness. Yes, where there’s a will, there really IS a way….but it’s down to us.

Someone recently asked why I often write about depression in my poems as it is such a depressing subject! Well, apart from trying to raise Mental Health Awareness, writing positively about depression helps me beat the frequent bouts from which I continue to suffer.

Many years ago, I began the long, slow, painful climb out of a nervous breakdown.  I swore I would never hit rock bottom again. If  just one poem can help prevent just one person descending to that same pit's stone slab bottom, it will have been worth the writing.


I lie in a pit staring up at the sky,
wondering if cloud faces passing by
can see my lips move (no sound)
might even let someone know where
to find me, so cold, frightened,
unable to move, every limb refusing
to answer frantic screams for help
from a mind whose live connections
all but severed by its distress

Clinging on to a failing willpower,
I feel my frail grasp slipping in this,
what must surely be my coffin?
Yet, it’s not my past I see unfolding
before my eyes, only blank sheets
of paper…slowly coming to life, words
I can’t quite make out but vaguely
recognize shapes comprising a prose
and poetry ascribed to nature

All my eyes cannot see, my heart
begins to acknowledge as the words
(now bombarding all my senses)
demand entry at the doors of a mind
shut by fear and excuses, forcing
it ajar, piling in like old friends arriving
at a reunion, faces in the clouds
taking on human form, Earth Mother
resolved to be kind but firm

Hostage, empowered to go free again
from a dark prison called depression

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008

Saturday, 17 July 2010

At the End of the Day..

This poem first appeared on the blog in September 2007 and has been requested again today by ‘Maureen’ for ‘my dear husband Jim who has kept me happy and snug in bed every night for the past 25 years.’

Happy silver wedding anniversary! I’m sure we all wish Maureen and Jim many more years together.


At the end of the day,
darkness wraps us in black satin
and (if we’re lucky) takes us
to bed and tucks us in

At the end of the day,
darkness cloaks us in black satin
and (if we’re lucky) keeps
the cold at bay

At the end of the day,
darkness hoods us in black satin
and (if we’re lucky) a sandman
helps us see

At the end of the day,
darkness hides us in black satin
and (if we’re lucky) dawn
means us no harm

At the end of the day,
we can but trust in black satin
to keep our darker selves
under wraps

At the end of the day,
darkness buries us in black satin
and (if we’re lucky) leaves us
to rest in peace

[From: Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007]

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Teacher

A reader has asked why on earth I follow Edwin Black’s blog. Apparently, he doesn’t find it in the least amusing and considers it, at times, to be ‘quite offensive’. Well, Edwin doesn’t offend me. He makes me laugh…sometimes uncomfortably, it’s true. But isn’t it that element of discomfort often associated with humour that gives rise to various concerns that, in turn, offer food for serious thought?

Everyone’s sense of humour is different of course. Even so, surely it’s better to let it run a whole gamut of expression than settle for its getting stuck in any particular groove?

Incidentally, Edwin performed on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square last year a couple of months after my own appearance as part of Antony Gormley's  One & Other 'living sculpture'  project::

Me, I guess I have a predilection for anything (and anyone) that makes me laugh.

This poem is a kenning.


I light up dark corners of the heart,
bring smiles to lips turned down in a scowl,
temper sorrow with happier times,
turn back even pain’s relentless attack
into a victory for the human spirit’s
capacity for rising above the worst of things,
and reaching for its kinder side,
on show but, oh, too rarely, in a world
preferring secrets and lies

I give Youth a chance to score points
over peers preoccupied with one-upmanship
in some bleak, sordid arena
of gang warfare, where the weak are seen
as targets for bullies, even killers,
armed with knives and guns on the grounds
that actions speak louder than words
and it’s only fools learn the body language
of peace and love

I bring to Old Age welcome respite
from an inclination to turn back the pages
of memory, wishing we had done
things differently, trod more carefully
among muddy leaves of desire,
considered the needs of others more
in our anxiety to leave footprints
of memorable endeavour once left to wing
time’s corridor forever

Oh, I can be cruel (can’t we all?) Yet, no finer
teacher of life’s ways than I, called Laughter

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Friday, 9 July 2010

Candles In The Dark OR T-I-M-E, Watchtowers of Human History

I am frequently asked why I often write about death. Well, I try to do so positively since so many people are afraid of dying and I try to offer some reassurance, especially to those readers who, like me, find neither peace nor reassurance in religion. Thankfully, there are religious-minded people who remain open-minded and open-hearted, putting care and respect for others (regardless of their differences) before the dogma, ritual and politics of religion.

It has long been my personal view that world religions have forgotten their origins; their founders would have expected them not only to move with the times but also to always put compassion before politics. Take the compassion out of religion and what do you have left? The kind of arrogance and inhumanity expressed by far too many religious leaders who say one thing and do another. The worst of it is they say what they say and do what they do in the name of religion. Thank goodness many ordinary people see through the smokescreen and lend a sense of humanity to humankind as their religion’s origins intended.

As regular readers will know only too well, I take both inspiration and spirituality from nature. Besides, I am writing about the times in which I live and death is as much a part of that as life itself. Do I idealise death? I don’t think so. We should also remember that pain is something else altogether. It is heartbreaking to watch someone die in pain. Yet, we can but try and look beyond pain to an everlasting peace.

Did I say it was easy?

This poem is a villanelle.


Wherever dark death takes me,
pray, few regrets or tears;
let it be an everlasting poetry

Oh, how I'll miss sky and sea,
the south wind’s whispers,
wherever dark death takes me

May love stand by (steadfastly)
our finest memories;
let it be an everlasting poetry

How I'll miss each bird and tree,
all joy nature inspires,
wherever dark death takes me!

May our dreams slip but gently
into a bed of flowers;
let it be an everlasting poetry

Our way, in peace, lit eternally
by candles in watchtowers;
wherever dark death takes me,
let it be an everlasting poetry

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2010

[Note: This poem has been revised since it first appeared in 1st eds. of A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Where No Bells Toll OR Nature, Custodian of the Human Heart

Every day is an anniversary for those who have lost loved ones in times of war or peace. Especially today, though, we remember those who died and were injured in the terrorist attacks on July 7th London in 2005.

Let us also remember (again, not just today or 9/11) those who are fighting and/ or campaigning to help make our world a safer, kinder place.

Ironically, many of our political and religious leaders (not to mention the arms dealers)  continue to make world peace a vain hope, the discrepancy between what they say and what they do growing wider each day, creating a bottomless pit for we ordinary men, women and children in the streets of just about any place in the world to drop into even as we go about our everyday lives. Ah, but we need to do just that, whatever else is going on in the world, or terrorism and its threat - in all its various shapes and clever socio-cultural-political-religious disguises - will surely win.


There is a wood
where we played as children
and bluebells grow

When you came home
after seeing the rape of Zimbabwe
we picked bluebells

When you came home
from the killing fields of Iraq
we picked bluebells

When you came home
from the poppy fields of Afghanistan
we picked bluebells

When you came home
telling of monks beaten in Tibet
we picked bluebells

When you came home
from the line of fire on the Gaza Strip
it was in a coffin

There is a wood
where time always keeps us safe
and bluebells grow

Copyright R N Taber 2010

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from the version that appears in On the Battlefields of  Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010]

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Beating Up The Planet

I suspect historians may well look back at the early 21st century and portray us as a bunch of sadomasochists!

Who could blame them, eh?

At least we have now our first Green Party MP here in the UK so maybe there's hope for us all yet and people will stop thinking that voting Green is a wasted vote. Let's face it. The G8/20 leaders aren't going to do much for us...for all their huffing and puffing.


Running a gamut of earthquakes,
beating the flames

Sheltering in Iraq from bullets
beating down

Watching children of a lesser god
beating up butterflies

Letting our leaders get away with
beating drums

Standing for democracy’s bouncers
beating up flowers

Paying a price for politic players
beating the odds

Treating poverty’s weeping wounds,
(beating its hunger?)

Singing praises to a Greater Power,
(beating terror?)

Preparing to swim with polar bears,
beating ourselves up

[From: Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007]

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Postcards From the Edge OR Mind-Body-Spirit, Rescue Alert

This poem provoked a flood of emails after it first appeared on the blog and in my collection during 2007. Most readers expressed pleasure if not relief that I was airing a condition with which many of us are forced to deal, frequently on a regular basis.

Many of my poems touch on the trauma of depression albeit ending on a positive note. Why is that? Well, for a start, too many people continue to underestimate depression, believing it synonymous with being very fed-up. It is an attitude that needs to change. Depression is tough enough without family, friends and work colleagues implying that all we have to do is pull our damn socks up!

There was a time when attitudes towards my sexuality provoked bouts of severe depression, especially as I have been prone to depression since early childhood (not recognized in children then the way it is these days.) There are, of course, multiple causes of depression. We are all vulnerable to it, especially in the kind of world in which we live today although I dare say every century has had its various stresses and strains under which some people have buckled for one reason or another (there is rarely a single cause).

My dear late mother used to say that when things are looking bad, the trick is to focus on all the good things in life and people. A simple idea, yes, even a trite thing to say. Ah, but does it work? Oh, yes!!! Maybe not right away but, like most things in life, we have to work at it.

Be understanding and patient with depressed people. yeah? Don't rush to write us off (as many people do) as whingeing wasters. Spread the word that there is no stigma in being depressed and hopefully people might rush to understand instead of rushing off in the opposite direction to the man, woman or child who needs their support and understanding.


Driven to the naked edge of a snake pit, peering in,
all but poised to leap, defy demons on the brain
constantly jeering because I’m gay, weary of family
and friends urging no surrender to a growing desire
for my own gender, thus acknowledging this, a sexual
identity integral to every other part of me, although
those parts the same, no less true for being honest,
drawn to home truths haunting me since that dawn
I confronted myself for who I am, even as I continued
to perpetuate a sham of being straight (taught a sin,
at the very least a crime - to be gay)

With each new day, subtle shifts of opinion, even in
a fickle media, then legislation intended to give gay
men and women a kinder freedom

I stood alone, scared, desperate to end these lies,
half lies, a creeping among shadows like a thief
seeking a love I dare not own, so strong history’s
ties intent on binding me martyr-like to convention’s
Cross of Convenience

Now, breaking free?

Oh, to let history see I am my own person, refuse t
to be made subservient to stereotype! Even so,
never my intention to offend those who have meant well
(if brought me here, in tears, wondering whether
to let the neighbourhood bigots carry on breaking backs
with rods for straws or set about making repairs)

Down to us. So, no more snake pits and self-pity
but a life in the light of gay love, proudly

[From: Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books 2007]

Friday, 2 July 2010

Autobiography Of A Light Bulb

People often tell me they have a feeling for poetry and would love to write a poem but never seem to find inspiration. Well, look around you. As I have often said, you can write a poem on just about anything,  I have written poems about tables, chairs, even puddles...

A reader has challenged me on this. Only a few days ago, he contacted me to suggest I could not write a poem about a light bulb.

Never let it be said I’d duck such a challenge.


I have coloured the cheeks of a child
at a birthday party

I have seen quarrels turn into beatings
and draw blood

I have watched over students yawning
for trying to concentrate

I have watched over meetings ringing
with raised voices

I have followed the progress of lovers
with delight

I am privy to secrets a journalist would
die for

I have been amused by such melodrama
as politicians love to stage

I have been moved by a significant few
brokering for peace

I become incensed by folks playing safe
for a quiet life

I despair of clerics reworking scriptures
to exonerate themselves

I empathise with poets transcending light
to justify darkness

Yet, party as I am to the whole sorry mess,
at least I can switch off

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Monday, 14 June 2010

England, My England, Three Cheers for St George

A reader has emailed to say he was surprised to discover I had another blog that I write especially with other gay men and women in mind. He was even more surprised to discover that he 'quite enjoyed reading it. and will do so again.' For anyone else who may be interested, follow the link:

I am proud of being an Englishman and sick of being told I shouldn’t be by the so-called ‘politically correct’ brigade. During the World Cup some households have been flying the flag of St George...but some people have complained, suggesting that it will offend people from ethnic if they don't have teams participating as well as England. Given that St George is also known and respected by Muslims only serves to underline the ignorance of some people.

The poem does not appear in any of my collections so far. It has already provoked some protest emails, one from a Muslim man who implied I am racist and complained that English nationalism makes people like him feel excluded. Well, I don’t think that is anyone’s intention and it’s certainly not mine. As for my being racist, regular readers will know better. I have Muslim friends and others whose culture of origin is homophobic but who have no problem with either my sense of national pride (they cherish their own national/cultural identity) or sexuality.

Regarding social exclusion, I guess gay people have known our share. Yes, things are better now than they used to be...for some of us. Even so, I, for my part, resent the kind of socio-cultural-religious homophobia I frequently encounter from people who choose to live in the UK because it offers them a better deal than their own country yet persist in complaining about our ‘liberal’ way of life; these may well be in a minority, but it is a significant and (very) vocal minority. Sorry, but if they don’t like how we do things in the UK (or the West generally) no one will stop them returning to their own country.


England, my England, where are you now?
Once, I ran in green fields, played conkers
in the school playground with friendly peers
who hadn’t even learned to spell, let alone
discover the meaning of prejudice, bigotry,
racism and homophobia

England, my England, where are you now?
Once I’d shop for sweets in a corner shop
that’s an ugly, costly apartment block now
among other carbuncles that have sneaked
into High Streets and side roads like thieves
in a corporate darkness

England, my England, where are you now?
Once you offered safety in numbers that now
would gobble me up like a swarm of locusts,
forcing an entry to trains, planes and buses,
making it their business to expose my bones
to political scrutiny

England, my England, where are you now
that let ambition get the better of humanity
and now must pay the price for aspiring
to a supremacy sure to be brought down
for its sheer audacity, while (still) declaring
an empathy with globalisation?

England, my England, where are you now
that sucks up to hawks where once it flew
with eagles, leaves crumbs out for doves
where it feasts on cake and caviar, deceiving
itself and all of us who eagerly devour
the latest opinion polls?

England, my England, where are you now?
Falling apart, a unity bought with the blood,
sweat and tears of centuries, even politics
caving in to those who shout the loudest where
this or that smooth tongued religion assumes
the moral high ground

England, my England, my love, pride and joy;
let the locusts feed on me, my spirit dare take
its cue from a bold re-working of our history
into a 21st century that may yet see its crumbs
shared out evenly, a divided humanity declared
its own worst enemy

Where now, once my England, in a world
that’s lost its way?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Poet's Song OR On Flushing Out the Devil in the Detail

Update (May 2016): Find below, the link to an interview I gave Benjamin Richter, an international student of Multimedia Journalism at the University of Kent in Canterbury; it was an interesting if a little daunting experience and he has agreed that I can share it with you as a number of readers have expressed an interest in how and why I approach poetry the way I do. Meeting Benjamin was a particularly enjoyable experience as I, too, was a student there some 40+ years ago. The Department of Journalism is based at its Medway campus and Benjamin is currently living in my home town of Gillingham where I was born and lived until I was 14 years-old:  
[NB You may need to copy this link into your browser for it to work.]

The poem below is especially for ‘Steve N’ who first read it in an anthology, The Poetry Now Book of Kennings, Poetry Now, 2001. (Poetry Now is an imprint of Forward Press.) The alternative title was added later.

Glad you enjoyed it, Steve. I also appreciated Steve saying that ‘as someone with many gay friends’ he particularly appreciates my including poems on a gay theme in general collections, alongside poems on various other themes, rather than ‘marginalising’ them in separate gay collections. Other straight readers have also been kind enough to say they enjoy many of my poems, ‘even the gay stuff’. One man wrote in recently to say how the inclusion of a gay section in a collection borrowed randomly by his wife from their local library came as ‘something of a surprise, to put it mildly’ but they enjoyed reading the poems. It appears that he and his wife subsequently had a ‘lively’ discussion about gay issues…which has to be one of the best compliments I have ever received.

Feedback is always welcome, especially along these lines. I suspect a fair percentage of gay readers would agree with another who emailed me to say that ‘gay material deserves its own collection to reflect gay culture.’ Fair enough but, to my mind, ‘gay culture’ implies a degree of separatism. I’m an integrationist.

Whatever, I see myself as no more or less than someone who happens to be gay and subscribes to no particular culture, religion, philosophy or politics. Mind you, I don’t sit on fences either. Well, not to the extent that I am glued to them; I have always been prepared to jump down on one side or the other as and when it seems appropriate. I will always express a point of view while, at the same time, listening for and trying out new voices.


I am a Painter of Dreams,
my brush, a pen – words
all the paint available, tackling
the unassailable to bring within reach
of unquiet heart, restless soul,
images of life and love,
vision of a goal beyond perimeters
of time, space - humanity’s crude
conception of grace

I am a Painter of Dreams,
bringing you mine, intruding
on yours, winging heaven’s
elusive towers that flicker in a mist
of aspiration, inviting inspiration,
daring us to home in, defy
the rude mentality of a classroom
morality - humanity’s crude
conception of spirituality

Look, see hear, taste, touch, smell.
I am a Painter of Dreams, who
means well but often offends
who dare suggest I speak for all
that seek gold where the rainbow ends
for, like Pandora’s Box, our secrets
once let fly - each to their own;
Painter, dreamer, shades of light
or ships in a cruel night

Senses, falling apart at the seams
for a Painter of Dreams

[From: First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002] 

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Leasehold OR Reunion with Ghosts

This poem appeared on the blog in 2007 following my return to Gillingham (Kent) - where I was born lived until I was 14 years-old - for the first time in over 30 years.

I returned again yesterday. It was strange, visiting favourite childhood haunts, like stepping into a time warp. It was curiously moving and even more curiously exciting as I moved among the ghosts of my distant past. That first time, I’d met up with the mothers of two childhood friends, ladies in their 80’s and 90’s respectively now. I also visited Martin, school captain from my days at Gillingham Technical School in Green Street. I visited Martin again yesterday and have dedicated this poem to him in the collection. The old school building is still there, looks much the same as it did all those years ago and is now a College of Adult Education.

I am not a person who finds it easy to let go of the past and mine is full of (very) mixed blessings. Going back has made it so much easier to let go of the bad memories and continue to enjoy the good ones.


Once, I returned to the place I was born;
its ghosts gathered to meet me
as I alighted (anxiously) from the train,
unsure how they might treat me

A kinder welcome than I had expected
restored a flagging self-esteem;
I could only wonder if they suspected
it was my intention to release them

As I wandered streets I’d loved so well,
ghosts leading me by the hand,
I relived every shape, sound and smell
of a child’s once magical land

For the old school, new tenants found,
cajoling me to name names
as we entered its sometime playground
to walk, talk, play games

To the house where life first took me
into its care for good or bad,
I fell a willing victim to memory,
innocence briefly recovered

From my ghostly companions, applause
welcoming me as one of their own,
till above the clamour I heard a voice
reminding me why I had come

In spite of my ghosts gravely chiding me
(for fear of reality’s blast?)
I put aside daydreams for a living history
that must (surely?) put them to rest

It took the mothers of childhood friends
to put our history in its place,
turn the pages of a story that never ends
but moves on, ever gathering pace

Reminiscing with my old school captain,
I heard twilight’s sweeter lay
as its ghosts began to grasp a situation
that would (at last) let them slip away

The fast train home told yet another story,
about feelings of love and peace
rediscovered and leasing a new maturity
from a child’s vision of happiness

[From: On The Battlefields Of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010.]

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Paradise On Hold OR Where Nature lends the Here and Now a Sense of Spirituality

Like many of my poems, Paradise On Hold has also appeared in an anthology; in this case, This Is Our Moment, Poetry Now (Forward Press), 2000. It was also included in the May 2006 issue of Ygdrasil: Journal of the Poetic Arts that featured a selection of my poems. I am posting it today especially for ‘Susan from Birmingham’ and ‘Greg from San Francisco’ who emailed me to say I am getting ‘too political’ and would I please post another of my nature poems. I was delighted to receive several complimentary emails after it first appeared here on the blog back in June 2008. [Oh, but it seems like only yesterday! Where does the time go eh?]

Meanwhile, I continue to experience in my relationship with nature, an ever growing sense of peace and love I never found in religion, supporting my personal view that religion has no monopoly on spirituality.

Yes, nature can be harsh but so, too, can religion, not least in its various dogma which must bear no small share of responsibility for a divided world.


Let spring drift into summer,
summer greens turn
red and gold;
let poets make of seasons
all they find, it's
Nature rules...
(Even poets grow cold
when winter calls
on lonely hills);
soon, daffodils, in their turn;
ours, too, if the way
of things be true...
Who knows? For each flower
that grows, its season
comes and goes;
for each seed in the wind,
a sometime threat
to our kind...
Let the world wreak its worst,
the good earth will
do its best;
let nature share or even take
away, its time unspoiled
by hours

In life, in death, let there
be flowers

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000

[Note: This poem first appeared under the title Paradise on Hold in the aforementioned publications and in Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2000]