Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Harper's Song

As requested by a number of readers, the link below is to my informal poetry reading on the 4th plinth in London's Trafalgar Square; it was my contribution to sculptor Antony  Gormley's One and Other 'live' sculpture' project which involved 2,400 people doing their 'own' thing' for one hour 24/7 over 100 days during the summer of 2009:


My mother once told me that the best thing a parent can do for his or her children is to encourage them to think for themselves, believe in themselves and stand on their own two feet. Oh, but that is all so true!

Ah, but she never said it would be easy for either parent or child. She certainly had a hard time with me and I am just so grateful she persevered. Although she died in 1976 at the age of 59, I like to think she would be pleased if not proud I’ve come as far as I have. True, this may not seem very far to some people, but to paraphrase the legendary Neil Armstrong, one person’s small step is another person’s giant leap.


A child is born and its very first cry
plays on the heart like a harp to the soul;
instrument for a lifetime, you and I,
following every note’s rise and fall

A child is born and its eyes upon us
read the words in our hearts like a poem
about life’s great joys and its mysteries
if sometimes, the challenge, a battle hymn

A child is born and we’ll tell everyone
of this jewel come to light that is ours,
and may it shine like the morning sun
nurturing earth’s songbirds and flowers

Be there cheers or tears, let the harper play
and the child, like a flower, find its way

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

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Spring, Girl in a pretty New Dress

Okay, so spring isn’t quite here in the UK yet’s just around the corner so let’s get a little ahead of ourselves, yeah?


Among bluebells, she skipped
wearing a matching dress,
smelling of rain, singing a song
about love, joy and peace;
laughing, she took me by the hand,
led me a dance as lightly
as a cheery breeze, teasing leaves,
caressing a dove’s feathers,
running exciting fingers across time
and space as lovers might to each other,
keeping the dream...alive

I asked her name, and her voice
(like a tinkling of bluebells)
oh, so subtly, caressed my heart
like the dove’s wing
while parading a glowing pregnancy
at Earth's battered gate
though half expecting to be kept out
for reconstructing its wintry world
by keeping the Sandman to his word
in demonstrating a capacity for peace,
keeping hope…alive

A glittering shower of sunny rain
brought an offer of shelter
from a friendly tree, leaves of green
already playing host
to assorted couples, some foreign,
but when I turned, that girl
in her new blue dress was gone;
I searched awhile, soaked through
to the skin before sensing how it was
the very quality of my sadness lifting me,
making me feel...alive

Come sunshine, showers, joy, sadness,
spring wears a new dress just for us

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2018

[Note: An earlier version of this poem under the title 'Spring is a Girl in a Blue Print Dress' appears in Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007]

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

All The Signs Point To Heart Failure

The link below is to my informal poetry reading on the 4th plinth in London's Trafalgar Square in 2009 as my contribution to Sir Antony Gormley's One and Other 'live part' project that took place that summer:

Now, as regular readers know well enough, just because I don’t relate to religion doesn’t mean I don’t care about those who do.

When gay people ask me why they should have to choose between their religion and their sexuality, my answer is always the same. They shouldn’t.

Homosexuality is neither a sin nor a crime although it is seen as both in some countries and in the eyes of some people; it is high time they all came into the 21st century and accepted that, since there are gay people from all manner of socio-cultural-religious backgrounds, sexuality has to be in the genes.

There is nothing ‘unnatural’ about same sex relationships; we are simply acting as nature intended for us.

Me, I have more respect for the diehard homophobe who speaks his or her mind than those hypocrites who continue to dress up their homophobia in politics, religion or other popular rhetoric to put us off the scent; to them all I say, get a decent life and let us gay men and women get on with our lives too.


An evangelical Christian
told me I’d go to Hell or worse
for being gay
if the world didn’t strike first
(such is its thirst for blood)
and make me suffer for going
with my nature

A Muslim cleric
told me much the same thing
another day
upon accosting me leaving a bar
known for its gay clientele
so a worse environment by far
than any Hell

Other religious people
at school, at work, wherever,
have called me ‘sinner’
for going against a God I never
believed in, choosing
to put my trust in Earth Mother

One day I met a Christian
who told me it didn’t matter
a jot I was gay
(even if he’d rather I wasn’t)
for who was he to say
I’d go to Hell? He was certain
Jesus wouldn’t

An everyday Muslim
told me much the same thing
another day
as we chatted in a bar known
for its gay clientele
like two fallen angels doing
very well

It just goes to show,
being different isn’t different,
only human,
and humanity for some people
is the heart of religion,
to be cherished come what may,
straight or gay

Let religions break free
of their prejudices and bigotry
and maybe, one day,
they will see the world as it is,
a common humanity
created for the common good
to live in peace

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Monday, 14 March 2011

Tears Of The Sun

Many thanks to ‘Mariam’ who contacted me to say she enjoys my blogs and prints out all the poems. I would rather readers buy my books, but fair enough.

I assume Mariam is a teacher since she also mentioned that she has read some of my poems in class although I should perhaps remind everyone that the copyright to all the poems I publish on my blogs is exclusively mine; readers should ask permission before reading them in any public arena, including a classroom, or it is technically a breach of copyright. While I have never refused anyone and am, indeed, always delighted to be asked, it is helpful for me to learn of any feedback, good or bad, from someone’s reading of my poems.

Since 2007, a number of teachers have used my poems to help kick-start class discussion on various subjects; street crime, global warming etc. and even, very occasionally, gay issues. I love the idea of the blog/s acting as an educational resource but it would be very helpful as well as interesting to know just when and where and how well (or badly) they are received.


This poem is a villanelle and appeared on the blog in April 2008, It is repeated today especially for ‘Emilie’ & ‘Jeanne’ & ‘Colin' who have been in touch over a period of time with some kind words to say about my villanelles and a special request for this one.

The world weeps and is quick to offer help when earthquakes and Tsunamis decimate humankind, yet war and poverty and HIV-AIDS are at it all the time...


Falling, tears of the sun
on a life-nurturing earth;
a weeping never done

For each man, woman
world-weary since birth,
falling, tears of the sun

For refugees on the run
yearning home and hearth,
a weeping never done

Civil wars, AIDS, famine,
of lonely prayers a dearth;
falling, tears of the sun

Terror, the new religion
at this 21st century’s birth,
a weeping never done

For the people’s politician
a quickening of stale breath;
falling, tears of the sun,
a weeping never done

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2017

[Note: This poem has been slightly but significantly revised from its first publication in A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation]

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Street Life, Caught On CCTV

This poem was written in 2006. It first appeared in an American poetry magazine and subsequently in my collection. It has been requested today by ‘Marian and Peter’ with whose wry comment to the effect that ‘nothing changes much, does it?’ I can but agree. Even so, it is down to each and every one of us to effect some  change for the better and let the ripples spread...

Better to swim the GOOD dreams, folks (even against the tide) than drown in BAD nightmares.


Men and women, every shape, size, colour,
on the street…
crowding each other, elbowing a passage,
nobody apologising

Man in a suit, pocket picked by a kid about
Woman in a short skirt, fumbled by a guy
getting married soon

Children wanting this and that, parents look
scared to say, ‘No!’
Cop on the beat, deciding… no pay packet
worth this hassle?

Dark faces and lighter stuck in poems about
Light fingers and darker rewriting bylaws
for drug free zones

Dog dashes in front of a car, tyres screaming,
people crying blue murder…
Mutt’s okay, runs off, driver doesn’t even stop;
a few folks us make eye contact

People - all shapes, sizes, colours, lips moving;
streets, playing deaf...

[First published under the title 'Caught on CCTV' in Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007.]

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

W-A-R, Womb-Tomb of History OR Where 'X' Marks the Spot

For the benefit of any readers who may not realize (many young people have no idea) the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’ refers to a grave in which the unidentifiable remains of a soldier are interred. Such tombs can be found in many nations and are usually high-profile national monuments. Throughout history, many soldiers have died in wars without their remains being identified. Following the First World War, a movement arose to commemorate these soldiers with a single tomb, containing the body of one such unidentified soldier.

The idea was probably first conceived by the American poet Walt Whitman during his first hand experience in the American Civil War, where he reflects in his great prose work Specimen Days ('Fifty Hours Left Wounded on the Field') how "the Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth, unburied and unknown."

In 1916, various sources tell us, the Reverend David Railton, serving in the British Army as a chaplain, saw a grave marked by a rough cross, which bore the pencil-written legend 'An Unknown British Soldier'. He proposed that a similar grave should exist in Britain as a national monument. There was a public support for idea here and also in France.

The United Kingdom and France unveiled their monuments on Armistice Day, 1920; in Britain, the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Warrior’ was created at Westminster Abbey, while in France ‘La Tombe du Soldat Inconnu’ was placed in the Arc de Triomphe. The idea of a symbolic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier spread rapidly to other countries. In the United States, for example, ‘The Tomb of the Unknowns ‘(often referred to as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) is located in Arlington National Cemetery. We should also remember that not all Germans were Nazis; the Neue Wache (New Guardhouse) in Berlin has been a war memorial since 1931. In 1993, following the reunification of Germany, it was re-dedicated as the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny." K├Ąthe Kollwitz's sculpture, Mother with her Dead Son, is directly under the oculus and symbolizes the suffering of civilians during World War II.

It is one of the greater tragedies of the human race that we are (very) selective about which lessons of history we choose to learn, as war scenarios and in-fighting across the world plainly illustrate. Yet, just as there will always be those so greedy for wealth and power that they will not hesitate to abuse people’s Human Rights so, too, will there always be others willing to stand up to them and fight for the freedom to live as they wish rather than have a way of life imposed upon them.

Att the going down of the sun and in the morning, we would, indeed, each and every one of us, whatever our socio-cultural-religious persuasion, do well to remember those ordinary men and women who have fallen or suffered injury in wars across the world since humankind took its first steps and learned to shout, ‘You can’t have that, it’s mine...!’

[A friend, reading over my shoulder, has just commented that this post should be published on Armistice Day. Me, I see no reason to wait until November. Remembrance is not a one-off affair.]

This poem is a kenning.


They called me a hero
where I fell in the heat of battle
and lay on the ground
writhing in agony alleviated only
by familiar voices
calling me back home because
it’s my turn next to buy
a round at the old village pub
on the Green

The dust of centuries
choking my lungs, can scarcely
draw breath
and my poor body pulled
in all directions...
Yet, still I can hear the hop pickers
making merry in the fields
on their annual working holiday
from poverty

They call me a hero,
even those who never knew me
and will never find me
for they cannot follow (yet) among
sights, sounds and smells
keeping a promise they made me
the day I was born,
that they’d see to it I’d suffer
no lasting harm

I live, that peace we grow and die for,
at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

[Note: This poem first appeared under the title 'Where 'X' Marks the Spot' in The Hands of Time, Poetry Today [Forward Press] 2001 and subsequently in First Person Plural by R. N. Taber Assembly Books, 2002.]

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Saddest Swinger In Town

When we talk about poverty here in the West we invariably think of Third World countries. Yet, the West has its share of poverty too, even the great USA although it prefers to hide it behind a glossy corporate image. In the UK and across Europe there are beggars on the streets and families living below the bread line
Statistics tell us that poverty kills more than 50,000 people every day. Oh, but to hell with statistics, they are academic. (Who takes any notice of them anyway?)

Every statistic is a real person. Behind every statistic, is someone trying to get a life.

A year ago, I spotted an enigmatic young woman in a bright orange dress on the dance floor at a London bar. Months later, I read that she had been found dead in her home. She wasn’t the victim of a violent attack or a drugs overdose; she had been unemployed for several years and died of malnutrition. So why didn’t anyone realise? Why didn’t she ask for help? You tell me...

This poem is a kenning.


I am a friend to none,
but embrace all, yet it is not
out of vindictiveness
I swing for every man, woman,
and child on the streets
of a world fast losing the plot
when it comes down
to getting its priorities right
(looking after its own)

Some call me The Teaser,
calling on Life to flirt with Mercy,
dragging kindly souls
deserving far better than this
to an untimely death;
small comfort in Earth Mother’s
lasting kiss for those
left to grieve for the greater
of love’s tragedies

I spare none, but feast
on shadows, waters of the womb
and leftover dreams;
Yet, even I can be beaten,
forced to retreat,
were the world to take arms
against its penchant
for glossy storylines, take issue
with home truths

Poverty, the saddest swinger in town,
(can’t be helped, best left alone?)

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Friday, 4 March 2011

Confessions of a Con Artist

Here’s a cautionary tale today, inspired by my late mother’s capacity for dreaming that enhanced rather than detracted from an earthy wisdom.

Everyone loves to dream. Ah, but beware of substituting dreams for reality; that way, heartache looms unless you can stay awake.

Not everyone who shares your life will share your dreams; don’t shut them out.

Dream on...but in trying for more and better we should take care not to undervalue what we have.

This poem is a kenning.


At the breakfast table,
we’ll always chat over the cereal
and you’ll ask me
how you look today, what to say
when colleagues
at the office ask about us,
let anxious hands
spoil your hair and put it to me
that I don’t really care

What can I say? You know
as well as I do how office politics
turns on speculation,
feeding on a morbid imagination
that would sacrifice
a best friend to a conflagration
of malice dressed up
to the nines in whatever fashion
creates the best impression

At the supper table,
you always tell me about your day
and suggest we get away
from all this, suggest an early night
and kisses on your pillow
so I can start to show how I feel,
and let’s be carried away
on a rising tide of shelf clock ticks,
spoils of simulated sex

Call me, Dream Maker, if you will;
better still, make your own, get real

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009