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

In Black Satin OR Come the Chimes of MIdnight...


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