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

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Postscript To An Obituary

Update (June 13 2016): The shocking events at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the early hours of Sunday morning, when 50 people were killed and many others injured by a gunman suspected of being synpathethic to Islamic State, has sent shock waves around the world, not least among its gay communities. Yet, we should not rush to judgement regarding Islam, a religion of peace and love in spite of many latter day rogue elements. It is true that most Muslims I have met and worked with have expressed anti-gay sentiments. At the same time, though, the vast majority respect my right to be as I am just as I respect their right to believe as they do. (Gay Muslims are given a much harder time by other Muslims just as gay people who subscribe to other religions are far too often given a hard time by fellow Believers... as if any God of Love would condone homophobia.


This poem appears on both this and my gay-interest blog. 

Now, nothing can match the force of nature. A person's natural instincts are stronger than all five senses combined.  Gay or straight, natural instinct confirms our sexuality. What we choose to do about it is up to us. Since time began (long before Star Wars) there have been those who choose the dark side of the force. It takes carious shapes and sizes. One of these wastes precious little time making itself known as victims and perpetrators alike. 

This poem is a villanelle.


It didn't matter we were gay
or young and starting out,
we loved each other anyway

We'd share kisses every day
Apollo woke us with a shout;
it didn't matter we were gay

Gossips said we'd rue the day
(no idea what g-a-y is about);
we loved each other anyway

At college, at home or at play,
our love left us in no doubt;
it didn't matter we were gay

Happy to follow nature's way;
though homophobes about,
we loved each other anyway

Every bully must have its day
(left you dying in the street);
it didn't matter we were gay,
we loved each other anyway

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010