Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Squirrel


I don’t have a garden now, but look out on one and love to watch the antics of squirrels and other wildlife. I often wonder what they make of us...???


The sun, it shone like a torch among shadows
as we walked misty paths, a friend and I,
observed by a grey squirrel scratching its nose
with its paws, curious perhaps about humans
(why male and female on hind legs, baring claws?)

We parried words in that fast dimming twilight,
guided by the anger in each other’s eyes,
observed by the grey squirrel scratching its nose
with its paws, curious perhaps about humans
(why, even come eventide, making so much noise?)

Sun and shadows, they surrendered to a frosty night,
and stars looked down on us with much the same
curiosity as the squirrel, finished scratching its nose
with its paws, given up caring about humans
(now warring, now hugging or taking other liberties)

Now, whenever I see a squirrel scratching its nose,
I wonder…whatever happened to us?

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

Friday, 19 August 2011

Lonely Road


A few readers have asked why my visitor count appears to have gone down for my gay-interest blog and up for the general blog. The reason is I have removed the previous counter and inserted the widget for blog page viewing statistics; these only date from May 2010 and will give me a clearer idea of how well I am doing (or not, as the case may be) on a regular basis.


I saw my consultant the other day about my prostate cancer. She was very understanding and we have agreed a compromise. I will continue with hormone therapy for another nine months, and then stop for a while. If my PSA level does not shoot up, I will continue the hormone therapy, but if it does I will need to have radiotherapy. Even so, should the latter scenario arise, we can take into account my weak bladder next time so maybe it won’t be so stressful! Fingers crossed that the hormone therapy will keep the cancer at bay.

I am delighted that some readers who enjoy my YouTube channel have emailed o say how much they enjoyed my latest attempts at voice-over poems. My close friend Graham and I plan to use the same technique from time to time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT-qqOje4vY

[NB If the link doesn’t work, go to my YouTube channel, click on ‘see all’ and look for ‘Engaging with History’ (You may have to register with YouTube): http://www.youtube.com/rogerNtaber


The road through life can be a lonely one. Yet, if so, it’s only what we choose to make of it.

We all have choices. Yes, we may hit bad time through no fault of our own. Even so, whether or not and how far we recover from these is down to us. We can play the blame game as much as we like but, yes, we all have choices.


Cats’ eyes…
penetrating the darkness;
penetrating the soul;
penetrating layers of time;
penetrating all identity;
penetrating all pretence;
penetrating our dreams;
penetrating home truths;
Home truths…

Cat’s eyes

[From: A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, 2005]

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Help, Anyone There?


Unemployment, no less than depression, takes a heavy toll on all of us; neither does it discriminate, but can strike anyone at any time, no matter our age, colour, creed, sex or sexuality.

Unemployment can make even the most resilient person feel depressed. Depression, in turn, invariably makes us feel alone and misunderstood. No one seems to appreciate the gamut of anger, frustration, guilt, and despair that we run what can seem like every minute of every day. People tell us to cheer up, change the record or whatever. We try, but we can’t. They tell us that tomorrow will be a better day, but it isn’t. Nothing seems to change except for the worse. Morte and more, we feel alone in the middle of nowhere.

I have been unemployed in my time, but am now retired so can am no longer living under that particular Sword of Damocles.

For anyone who (like me) suffered from depression, being unemployed makes the fight against it so much worse.  That is why I write; not to prove anything, to myself or to anyone else; the very act of invoking imagination to put pen to paper helps keep me on an even keel. (Well, most of the time.)

If anyone is interested in my fiction, they can see what I have come up with on my fiction blog:


Any form of creativity beats anti-depressants any day; art, music, sport...each to his or her own. Anything has to beat being glued to the TV for more hours a day than can be healthy even if the temptation to do just that can be overwhelming at times.


An earlier version of this poem has already appeared on the blogs and is repeated today especially for ‘Axel’, ‘Jonas’, ‘Marc’, ‘Alice’ and ‘Hanna’ who have been in touch fairly recently to express their dismay at being unable to find a job appropriate to their needs and qualifications in their respective countries.

As far as any qualifications are concerned, I would suggest putting them on a back burner and taking whatever you can if only to bring some money in and gain valuable work experience; it doesn’t matter if the work is unrelated to what you want to do eventually as it will demonstrate to employers that you not only take the work ethic seriously but are adaptable, have initiative, and can keep working hours.

Now, we live in times of fiscal uncertainty world-wide. Government cut-backs invariably mean many people are losing their jobs. I consider myself fortunate to be retired, but there was a time I was unemployed in my mid-30s and wondered if I would ever find a way back into mainstream life.

Today’s poem was written in 1997 and first appeared in Visions of the Mind, Spotlight Poets (Forward Press) 1998 under the title Depressed of Erewhon and subsequently in my first major collection; it relates to a period in the early 1980s when I had a serious nervous breakdown and was unemployed for nearly three years. It was a bad time. Yet, I got through it. It was tough. and took a lot of will-power, but somehow I managed it with the support of some good friends. there is no shame in asking for help, but when you are depressed and have low self-esteem, it cn take a while (and good friends) to make you realise that.

The reason I wrote the poem was because I had been talking to someone who had been unemployed for a long time, and could see no light at the end of the tunnel. Our conversation took me back to a BAD place. [I am delighted to say that he, too, came though it and has not only been employed for a good ten years now but also saved his marriage of 35+ years.] The poem, though, is about depression, not unemployment. Being in the rat race can make any of us depressed while being out of it can be so much worse.

Given the pressures of modern life on all of us, is it any wonder that the pharmaceuticals that produce anti-depressants are among the biggest winners? Antidepressants, though, are no quick fix.

Rising above depression is an uphill battle, but we can win it if we can only keep a hold on the will to try and the confidence, however fragile, that we will get through it and things really will get better. It is so important to talk to people, let them know the depth of our feelings so they can try and understand and, more importantly, support and encourage us. No one is a mind reader. If we keep a ‘brave face’ on things and bottle it all up, how are they supposed to know how much support we really need? Are they supposed to just put up with our mood swings and not protest? Depression can so easily bring those around us down too, not just ourselves. They need to know we need them in our lives every bit as much as we need to know they need us in theirs.

There’s nothing brave about pretending everything is okay when it’s falling apart; it’s just plain stupid. So rally the troops, yeah? And make damn sure you win the war.

Did I say it was easy?


Needing to talk to someone
(unplugged the phone)

Needing someone to share
(won’t answer the door)

Can get through the days,
but no way out of this maze
of turnings, yearnings,
candle burnings to a devil
that drags me out of bed
and plays Pied Piper in my head
until I join the rat-race

Needing time and space
(none at the office)

Needing a hand, an ear…
(so look, but where?)

Can’t go on like this,
a credit to zombies;
getting by on auto-pilot
even when my partner
turns the light out;
dreams, nightmares, day and night
all rolling into one

Needing badly) to get real
(so take another pill?)

Come on,  try, try, try…
(just wanna die)
Please, Help me, somebody

Copyright R. N. Taber 1998; 2016

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appeared under the title Depressed of Erewhon  in Love and Human Remains, Assembly Books, 2000 by R. N. (Erewhon, of course, is an anagram of nowhere.) rev. title 2/2018]

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Engaging With History


Regular readers will know that I am passionate about nature so the title of today’s poem will come as no surprise.

Some of you may be interested to know that I uploaded my reading of the poem to YouTube yesterday and you might care to tune in. Graham (my close friend and cameraman) and I had wanted to try an experiment; well, experimental for us as we are still on a learning curve with recording for YouTube. I read the poem as a voice-over to views he shot of Avebury Henge in Wiltshire while visiting his mum and stepdad recently:


If the link doesn’t work, go to my YouTube channel, click on ‘see all’ and look for ‘Engaging With History’:



I have stood at the Gates of History,
communing with nature as millions before me
will have done, wondering perhaps
as I do now, why time plays such tricks on us,
bringing us into the world,
investing us with the innocence of lambs
without a care, no shadowy fear
of what may lie ahead, only the joy of life
filling the senses to overspill,
letting us leave their mark if only to say
we were here

I have stood at the Gates of Time,
communing with Apollo as millions before me,
century upon century,
creating out of hopes and fears, monuments
like ancient stones
so those who come after will recognize
and understand how the burden
of humanity grows with time, never lightens,
but we must seize precious moments
pass on something of their enduring spirit
for all to share

I have stood in the House of Earth Mother
at the invitation of ghosts, to enjoy the live poetry
of a beautiful summer’s day,
breathe the fresh, fragrant air of country ways,
follow them to bygone days,
discover that for all Time’s heavy tread
has left muddy footprints,
the same clouds come together, a few frowns
among the smiles as they watch
the same petty antics of a singular humanity
in touch with its own mortality

I have stood dwarfed by Giants of Time
quick to reassure me that I should have no fear
of what I see and hear,
but let my senses go free and follow them
where they will...
nor expect to find the passages of history
dark and cold, but bright, warm,
and full of laughter, as careless a rapture
as of lambs in these fields,
left to a peace (of sorts) by modernity’s
shallow wisdom

So it was I came to run the gamut
of time and history, life and love, laughter
and, yes, even death...
rediscovered the joy of eternal innocence
that never dies, but only matures
like fine wine if we but let our senses
go free of the body’s cage,
dare embrace the mind’s every moving page,
soak up the sweeter smells of day
and night on country lane or city street
where centuries meet

I left in peace, still tracking Time’s footprints
in the grass

London: re Avebury Henge, Wiltshire, August 2011]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Answering Leviticus


Yesterday was D-Day (Decision Day) for me. My bowels would not co-operate in preparation for a CT scan late morning and subsequent radiotherapy; my bladder isn’t exactly behaving itself either. [I am supposed to clear the bowels and hold my water after drinking three cups of water for a good half an hour prior to a scan; it is the same for radiotherapy.]

I have therefore decided to withdraw from the radiotherapy programme scheduled to start mid-August and take my chances with hormone therapy. [If you keyword 'prostate cancer' in the blog's search field you will find (positive thinking) poems I have written on the subject.

[Update (April 2016): Today’s poem first appeared on the blogs in April 2010. The villanelle was originally repeated especially for ‘Harry’, Kurt’,’ Jean-Paul’ and ‘Anne-Marie’ who had been in touch (separately) to express their anguish at being from Christian families who ‘cannot cope’ with their being gay and/or HIV+. All say their religion is important to them and ask what has their sexuality and/or being HIV+ to do with Faith? Kurt has recently been in touch to say that he is very happy living with his partner, and their respective families have come round to the idea that they are gay. Others readers around the world have experienced similar family estrangement. We can but hope that love and common sense will prevail. Love should be unconditional and the idea that anyone chooses to be gay is pure fantasy' it has to be in the genes or how else so many of us worldwide from all manner of social, cultural and religious backgrounds?]

Now, regular readers will know that I am not a religious person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect various religious beliefs. Moreover, having been raised in a Christian home, and regularly attended Sunday school as a child, I know my Bible. It is personal experience of the sheer hypocrisy of some religious-minded people (of all faiths) that led me to reject religion and put my trust in nature long before I acknowledged even to myself that I am gay. Yet, each to his or her own, and I would defend anyone’s right to subscribe to any religion against any narrow-minded, ignorant bigot who says gay people forfeit that right because of their sexuality.

I have read this poem on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2008 as my contribution to sculptor Antony Gormley's One and Other 'live' sculpture project that ran 24/7 over 2,400 days in the summer of 2009. (Some readers may be interested, but be warned the whole clip lasts an hour.):

https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20100223131109/http://www.oneandother.co.uk/participants/Roger_T    [Ignore message 301 and allow up to 60 secs for it to start.]

Feedback suggests some people have difficulty accessing You Tube so I have also posted that video here: it lasts about two minutes:


Never let anyone tell you religion and being gay or transsexual are mutually exclusive.

The poem is a villanelle.

Leviticus 18:22
'You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.'


Old Testament embodies dread
of a God slow to love, quick to rage;
listen instead to what Jesus said

Life, hanging by a fragile thread
like a half-finished poem on a page;
Old Testament embodies dread

Let blood be on the sinner’s head,
freeing the lion of love from its cage?
Listen instead to what Jesus said

Religious bigots would see us dead
(directing Leviticus to centre-stage);
Old Testament embodies dread

Deplore how same sex lovers tread
on humankind’s God-approved rage?
Listen instead to what Jesus said

Let no child hide under the bed,
nature allow all its poems a full page;
Old Testament embodies dread;
listen instead to what Jesus said

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008

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