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