Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Profile of a Hotshot

For a minority of young people, being in a gang is exciting, even glamorous; a life of crime, even violence, brings them local street cred. For some, too, it provides a sense of belonging that, for various reasons, may be lacking at home; invariably, they discover soon enough how seriously flawed this simplistic perspective can be, paying for their mistakes with prison or worse...

There is no excuse for gang crime. A prevailing irony and tragedy lies in the fact that, given an opportunity, most gang members have a positive contribution to make in the very society that condemns them.

There are two sides to every divide and both need to find a way to be reconciled. Society needs to ask itself where it is failing some young people to drive them into a gang culture; what does a gang offer them that it cannot, and why can’t it?

For their part, gang members need to ask themselves what they really want from life and make a bigger effort to find it; they certainly won’t find it by using weapons, shooting drugs or compensating for their own fears by terrorising others. The chances are the false security of being part of a gang, and the price they must pay for exercising their contempt for society's better values, will come back to haunt them in its prisons, those universities of crime that major in the art of self-delusion.

We called ourselves the Hotshots,
my gang and me

Upholding the right to use a gun,
in our constitution

We’d pick fights on street corners
and raid stores

If some little old lady or a war vet
in the way…too bad

We were the Hotshots, graduated
from school to streets

No one could touch us because we
had youth on our side

Looks, girls, designer gear and guns
made us invincible

We even hit prime time News once
(fame at last)

Then a hotshot turned good citizen
and grassed us up

Disbanded now, gone to this prison
or that graveyard

Me, once Mr Fox, now chickenfeed
among old lags

We were the Hotshots, thought guns
were cool

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

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Lost For Words

[Update (Oct 2016): Regular readers will know that writing (fiction as well as poetry, but especially the latter,  began as more of a creative therapy than an art form for me. Having been subject to bouts of depression since childhood, writing (and reading) have provided an escape from the harsher aspects of reality while, at the same time, helping to keep its demons at bay. These days, it also distracts me from mobility problems due to a bad fall in 2014 and living with prostate cancer (since 2011) not to mention the usual problems that growing old is inclined to spring on us at short notice. 

Yes, life could be better and I did not anticipate growing old without a partner (I am 70+ now)  but I have some good friends, my writing, my blogs, you,  my readers, and plenty to keep me looking on the bright side of life...]

Now, readers who have been following my fiction blog keep asking if Dog Roses and/or Like There’s No Tomorrow are available in print form or as e-books; the answer is, no.  I am hoping to upload both as e-books eventually. (Not a gay novel, but about a woman who hasn’t given up finding out what happened to  her daughter who disappeared some 20+ years ago)

U.K. readers also want to know  why they cannot order Catching Up With Murder, my black comedy-crime novel (with more than a hint of gay interest, but not a gay novel as such) from (most) bookstores; this is because the publishers (Raider International) do not work with the UK Book Suppliers from whom book stores obtain copies.]

For anyone interested,  info about my fiction is available at:the general URL: for my fiction blog is:

If you enjoy writing in any genre and despair of having writer’s block, you are not alone. I, for one, know the feeling only too well!


Watching clouds,
not a face to be seen,
nor rain sounds
like a tambourine
or falling leaves,
more than hinting at grief
for fair Persephone
gone to ground,
though the wind above
lends an ear too,
no stranger to the cries
for a lost love
to old gods above,
but no one left to hear
except the remains
of a humanity caught
with its pants down

The reality, nothing
any different, everything
much the same

Swan on the lake,
pile of whitest down
(no regal robes
or kingdom’s crown);
lark, a mere bird,
drops in long grass
(no ripples across
a green sea or tinkling
of breaking glass);
cars on the highway,
once Caterpillar
at a fair…undercover,
simile and metaphor,
not a good word even
for a heaven where
gain v loss break even

Well of imagination
misted over like breath
on a mirror

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008; 2010; 2016

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appeared on the blog, but was inadvertently deleted; also in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation. ]

Monday, 27 February 2012

Ode To A Mermaid

As regular readers know, I ‘do whimsical’ sometimes. I began writing this poem on the cliffs at Scarborough in 2007, and then forgot about it, only to rediscover it in an old notebook a year or so later.

Did I hear a mermaid singing? Oh, probably not, but...


I once hit a beach at the cliff edge of night,
not a single star left shining,
my soul, a Black Hole, no glimmer of light,
(even the moon was in hiding)

I cried out in terror. (Did no one hear me?)
The whole world lay sleeping;
heavy eyes stinging with spray from the sea,
I heard a mermaid singing

Despairingly, I scoured that awful darkness
till I made out a shadowy figure
dancing on the water like a pagan goddess
grieving our past, present, future…

Listening to the song she sung, of a history
in which I, too, played a part,
it struck a low, half-forgotten chord in me
not yet (quite) played out

Louder, a hymn to the world’s damaged souls
rang in my ears, on my tongue,
calling on its strengths, inspiring new goals,
(of these, too, the mermaid sung)

She left suddenly, as if frightened by the dawn,
its first weepy light already clearing,
in whose sight I’ll walk tall, never (quite) alone
for the song of a mermaid singing

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009

Photo: The Little Mermaid on a rock overlooking Copenhagen harbour as inspired by the famous fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Gatekeeper's Song

While we are all sitting on fences, tearing them down or maybe even trying to mend some, I wonder what The Gatekeeper thinks about it all...?


They turned their backs on me
or was it I who turned away?

Memory likes to play tricks on us
and we believe what we prefer
rather than what really takes place
in dusty corners of the heart
we but rarely seek out, for fearing
we’ll not care for what we find
in holiday snapshots and behind
words in letters read in anger,
birthday cards left unsent, never
recognizing the danger of years
passing so quickly till we’ve only
such poor excuses and regret
as conscience cares to permit shine
in darkest corners of the mind
where, yes, we’d return a while,
have love take us the last mile
that stubborn feet still refuse to go
though heart and soul never left
and would set us free. No, not from
ties that bind but, rather, set out
again in tablets of stone, less likely
to break than any we may give
shapes to in a clay that may please
a maker’s eye for a moment in time
but hardens (not as we imagined)
to a perspective on dark corners
where sometimes pain seeks solace
but (too rarely) dares show its face

What use unused icons of the heart
gathering dust like old photos?
Better to give home truths an airing
even after years of hiding away
than feed them like flies to spiders
and let live but to die another day

No matter who we blame or whether
we (or they) be straight or gay,
let’s open the gate before it’s too late?

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

Friday, 24 February 2012

Dancer At The Edge Of Time

Readers often ask me why I revise poems at all, especially when they have appeared in their original form in various poetry magazines and/or anthologies. I suspect it is because I did not quite manage to say what wanted to say the first time around. Years on, from a distance, I can home in on the poem and knock it into the shape. I may or may not have intended.

Our thoughts, attitudes and emotions are a kaleidoscope of mind-games whose patterns change even while retaining the same custom made model of perception we like to call insight, first cousin to imagination.

Sometimes readers prefer the original version; sometimes, I do as well. Sometimes, too, I look back at a poem and the kaleidoscope turns of its own accord; my focus on certain patterns of perception shifts, insisting the poem shift appropriately. Any resulting revision may be slight or major, but always significant; it does not cancel out the original version of a poem if only because it is an extension of it. Critics will take issue with me, of course, but it is as it is...

The old adage is so true; actions really do speak louder than words and few louder or more effectively than the art of dance.

To what extent, I often wonder, are we our own choreographers...?

This poem is a kenning.


On a custom-built stage,
reaching out to the mind seeking
to reason excuses for its petty
potholes that pass for smouldering
coals of body language
(potential for pretty words)
consigning empty rhetoric
to the earth above graves that rage
at our being misunderstood

Now gentle, meek and mild,
now run wild, this dance of a lifetime
they pay a high price to see
who turn up for a private viewing
expecting to see subtler steps
for Right, Left, and what’s wrong,
be spotted learning something
of what passes for ‘live art’ driving
a hard bargain with us all

Gracefully, gesturing a plea
to be discerned if rarely acknowledged
by an inner eye usually inclined
to be lazy, but given a shake now and then,
by home truths we’d rather ignore;
Dancer takes a bow. Performance over,
task all but ended, art’s love affair
with life staking its existence (and ours)
on daunting, haunting applause

Practising slow, slow, quick, quick, slow
till dead on our feet, me and my shadow
Copyright R. N. Taber 2006; 2012

[Note:  an earlier version of this poem appeared in Celebrations; 15 years Of The People’s Poetry, Anchor Books (Forward Press) 2006 and subsequently in Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007]

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Challenge OR Beyond Cloud Nine

We may build bridges, burn bridges, even jump off them, but there is one bridge we all spend a lifetime crossing...just to get to the other side.


There is a bridge between clouds
where we pause
who ponder on the purpose
on living just to die,
where the spirit unfulfilled,
the heart strayed
across certain boundaries society
has imposed (conventions)
so much the better to disguise
its worst intentions

There is a bridge between clouds
where we pause
who ask why the world below
has let us down…or did we
let ourselves and each other down
in the end
for never ceasing to demand more
than our fair share
of whatever peace and love
to be found there?

There is a bridge between clouds
where we’ll wait
our turn to cross…or be left
wishing deeds undone,
words unsaid, lies left creeping
under the tongue,
never to see the cold light of a day
when we must answer
to all its invidious shadows
may have heard us say

We can but cross, we children of Earth,
rise to the challenge of life over death

Copyright R. N. Taber 1984; 2010

Note: Having read the poem on my You Tube channel I am editing this post retrospectively to include the video (below) as some readers say they cannot access You Tube directly for one reason or another:

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Among Slaves

Here in the West, we often take our freedom for granted; (relative) freedom of speech, (relative) freedom of movement, the (relative) freedom to protest and more all come under the general heading, Democracy.

We have only to look at recent events in the Far East and North Africa to understand that we should never take any freedoms for granted.

The poem is a kenning. It last appeared on the blog in 2009, and if anyone is interested in hearing me read it, just click on the link below which will take you to my (very) informal poetry reading on the 4th plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square, July 14th 2009. I included Among Slaves (without alternative title) among other poems as my contribution to sculptor Antony Gormley’s One and Other ‘living sculpture’ project. However, I should warn you that it lasts an hour. [The entire web stream showing all 2,400 people doing their ‘own thing’ for an hour (each) on the plinth is now archived in the British Library; to access all 100 days 24/7  simply remove Roger_T from the end of the link.]: [NB. For now, at least, this link needs the latest Adobe Flash Player  and works best in Firefox; the archives website cannot run Flash but changes scheduled for later this year may well mean the link will open without it. Ignore any error message and give it a minute or so to start up. The video lasts an hour. ] RT Feb 2018


I am that breath of wind in the hair
inviting the human spirit to confess
its foibles, rise above its troubles,
show the world what it’s made of
though its back forced against a wall,
those vultures, prejudice and fear,
homing in to pick clean the bones of
fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers
lured by false witness here

I am that first kiss of rain on the face,
drawing on the human spirit to open
its heart as a flower its petals to the sky,
lend its beauty to the eye so we do not
pass by but pause to reflect on the how
and why of its being, and ours, reasons
to deny the vultures a victory, let nature
tell a story bitter-sweet of humanity’s
attempts to compete

I am that first angry tug at the sleeve
urging the human spirit to turn away
from its prejudices and fears, confront
our lesser selves head-on and expose
them for what they are, though it test us
the more by far...take people as we find,
respecting their privacy, acknowledging
their integrity, learning from a natural
ingenuity to survive

Among slaves of time, I am eyes and ears
who call me Freedom and wipe my tears

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

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Conversation Piece

The original version of today’s poem was written in 1976 and has appeared in several poetry magazines and anthologies. I have since made some revisions, but retained lower case throughout because I still feel it helps to drive the point home. It may not be one of my best poems, but remains a firm favourite of mine, not least because it turns on a theme to which I will return time and again in my later poems; a breakdown of communication between two people on a meaningful, personal level in modern society.

Ironic, isn’t it? Here we are in an age of increasingly sophisticated technology, yet fewer and fewer people ever sit down and talk to each other, and I don’t mean making small talk or talking at people (because we so love the sound of our own voices?) or IMing on social networks and Internet chat rooms or texting on our mobile phones....  I mean face to face sitting down and talking things through, and listening to each other.

Oh, but I have met so many people - members of my own family included - who will only talk about something if they know they are gong to like what they hear; so much as any hint of opposition to their point of view, and they don’t want to know. As for confronting home truths, that is rarely if ever on the agenda; nor can they be persuaded by any suggestion of a mutual exchange.

So is it any wonder that so many relationships fall apart, family members become estranged, best friends become sworn enemies and work colleagues cannot stand to be in the same room as each other....? 

It takes two to talk and two to listen or the chances are there will be more wrong assumptions, misunderstandings, misinterpreted actions or words and the like distorting our personal space than man-made waste polluting the atmosphere.

When did YOU last have a worthwhile two-way conversation or frank exchange of views with someone close rather than let them eat away at your patience till it snaps...or worse?


not a bad day,
so I’ve heard say
over the jam

could have been worse;
I saw a hearse this morning
outside number five

good to be alive!
even in a cactus twilight got
under the skin

there’s a scratching
at the door, better let the cat in
I suppose

but before I do, tell me,
who knows what makes us tick
or so much as suspects?

here we sit, you and I,
like figures glued to that hearse,
scratching with each eye

for something to say
after clocking up hours apart
so let’s make a start

what’s that?
okay, I’ll go let in
the cat

Copyright R. N. Taber 1976; 2012 

[Note: An earlier version of this poem has appeared on the blog and in 1st eds. of  Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; 2nd ed. in preparation.]

Monday, 20 February 2012

Care In the Community

Here in the UK, it is no exaggeration to suggest the social care system is in crisis. At the same time, the coalition government is pressing ahead with its Health and Social Care Bill that threatens the very fabric of a National Health Service that is the envy of the world.  [Many Americans, especially Republicans, may despise its principle of Health Care for All, but many more come here every year for some of the best medical treatment in the world because they can’t afford the same in their own country.]

Despite the obvious fact that people are living longer with illness and disability, our care system here is  chronically underfunded according to informed reports. Social Care budgets in England, for example, fell by an estimated £1 billion according to the Association of Directors of Adult Services.

It looks like it’s up to all of us to keep an eye on the vulnerable in our neighbourhood. The awful tragedy is, and always has been, that in large towns and cities, that is less likely to be the reality than wishful thinking.

Not everyone can rely on family support. (I certainly can’t.) I am only 66 and have a relatively small but close network of friends to keep an eye on me. Many people who live alone don’t have that, and living alone can get very scary for anyone as they grow older and increasingly vulnerable.

This poem was written ten years ago.  As I look around me, I don’t get the feeling much has changed.


Knocked at an old house
in the Square

Is anybody there?

At a grubby letterbox,
bent to peer

Is anybody there?

Caught a whiff...
of mouldy air

Is anybody there?

A squeaking, (maybe sobs
or mice on the stair)

Is anybody there?

No one replying, prying
curtains everywhere

Is anybody there?

Moving on, plenty more
with time to spare

Is anybody there?

Asking questions no one
wants to hear

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

Saturday, 18 February 2012

R-O-O-T-S, Species of Moss Uncovered

Oh, to be on the family history trail...!

This poem is a villanelle.


A challenging history,
moss on graveyard stone defies
what we call, identity

Traits of a personality
but a strategy ancestors devise,
a challenging history

Shades of mystery
conspiring to spring surprise;
what we call, identity

Cliff-hanging story
of hope and glory, love and lies
a challenging history

An affinity with mortality
drawn from family archives;
what we call, identity

A feeling for eternity,
whatever its ends may comprise;
a challenging history,
what we call, identity...

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

Friday, 17 February 2012

John Bull's Midnight Garden

Today’s first poem last appeared on the blog in 2008. Now, I have written several anti-drugs poems and reader ‘Marcel P’ has asked me to repeat this one ‘as a warning to a close friend.’ I only hope he makes sure his friend reads it.  I have added the second poem for good measure.

Drug abuse destroys lives so why are there relatively few rehab centres available, even in big cities like London? Why isn’t there more high profile anti-drugs promotion?

Drug addicts need help, not condemnation. Apart from young people who are targeted by unscrupulous drug pushers, there are others (all ages) who turn to drugs because they cannot cope with the pressures of everyday life. It isn’t long before they find themselves trapped in a vicious spiral of desperation and despair.  

Even so-called ‘soft’ drugs such as cannabis are not without their dangers. Smoking weed can help a person relax, but if he or she is smoking because they cannot cope with certain pressures, the chances are it won’t be long before they will try something stronger, always convinced they are not vulnerable to addiction...

Everyone’s body chemistry is different; take ‘designer’ drugs like ecstasy; for example one person’s high, another’s death. Yes, the latter is rare, but is it worth taking the chance? Besides, many of these drugs have not been around long enough for full research to be done into their long-term effects on mind and body. 

What’s that you say> It’s my life and I’ll live it how I want?  Fair enough, except drug abuse doesn’t only ruin an addict’s life but the lives of his or her family and friends too.

So be careful out there, yeah? If you can’t cope, for whatever reason, ask for help, don’t take the drugs route.

There is no shame in asking for help, only common sense.


Blades of grass dipped in moonlight,
Old Man winking mischievously
at shadows chasing their own tails
across number ten’s garden;
Lights in a window peeking between
chinks in closed curtains, envious
of a night left in peace to play without
fear of interruption

Beyond the wall, a screech of tyres
leaves someone’s child dead,
wearing pretty ribbons of moonlight
dipped in a druggie’s blood;
Old Man pointing the finger of blame
at shadows chasing their own tails
from the garden of number ten,
preferring to be left in peace without
fear of interruption

Behind the Rehab Centre, closed down
because of local residents objecting,
a desperate company sniffing, injecting,
clutching at straws in a sea of moonlight
flooding the garden of number ten;
Old Man takes to hiding behind clouds
rather than watch shadows made to chase
their own tails where no peace without
fear of interruption

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



Anguish, mirrored
in eddies of shrapnel light;
Pain, caught fast
in a grip of mute supplication;
Loneliness, laid bare
in a mad rape

Round, round, this raving soul
chases its own dear folly

Life, long since perjured
for roller coaster thrills;
Love, all scratched
and bleeding after spills,
on a cross

Lord, have mercy
on us

No screaming brakes
at Salvation’s door
left ajar;
Nor one kind echo
in the blind

[From: Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001]

Monday, 13 February 2012

Love Is...

Today's poem last appeared on the blog in the autumn of 2010. It is repeated here today for no other reason that I am in the mood for love...

Not romantically linked to anyone? Feeling low because it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow?

Never mind, love comes in all shapes and forms. Most of us have family and/or friends and /or pets. If you have none of these, all the more reason for those of us who live alone, and often feel alone, to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and…


Love is, oh, so beautiful,
no matter who, where, how or why,
nor always reciprocal but lets us laugh,
lets us cry, like champagne bringing
a tear to an eye long since made dry
by seasons much like a child’s first toys,
treasures once, now barely worth a sigh.
Oh, we get by, our reasons for living
worthy enough and true, yet going through
the motions of existence without existing;
getting up, going to bed, getting up again
without kissing sunshine, embracing rain,
warming ourselves at the hot coals
of humanity when struck by the cold
of everyday insanity. We are who we are,
no matter how or why, nor always free
(or able) to sing, laugh, cry, with those
around us - to whom we mean everything.
So let us hear skylarks sing, if not always
the same song, see love work a miracle,
no matter whether reciprocal in every
shape or form. Love alone keeps us safe,
keeps us warm. Let the world do its worst;
love will shelter us, nor will its spirit fail
to lead the way though it shine differently,
at the end of this or that tunnel,
a light, oh, so beautiful

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

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Soulmates OR Whatever Happened to Freedom of Choice?

[Update Nov 29 2017]: Most readers will be aware that three judges subsequently ruled against Noel, who argued that the law on assisted dying should be changed to allow him a “peaceful and dignified” death. He had wanted a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which relates to respect for private and family life. ]

[Update July 17 2017]: Noel Conway, 67, a terminally ill former lecturer, will come before the high court today to challenge the UK’s ban on assisted dying. Noel, from Shrewsbury, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014. His condition is incurable and he is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months.]

[Update Jan 06 2017): Yet another case hits the national news of a man, Noel Conway, who has Motor Neurone Disease who is seeking the legal right to end his life with professional help. I appreciate that opinion is very divided on what is, after all, a very emotive matter. I can only agree, though, that it is QUALITY of life that matters, not necessarily life itself in certain circumstances. Everyone's capacity for bearing pain and a diminishing quality of life is different. But surely, we all, as individual human beings have the right to decide when enough is enough? Yes, of course, any law permitting assisted dying would need to impose reasonable limitations. Even so, my own feeling is that it is my life and no one has the right to force me into a state of existence that appals me. We have no choice about coming into the world. Do we not deserve to be shown some compassion and the right to choose on the question of leaving it, controversial as it may well always b...?]

[Update (Oct 20 2016) I write a lot about positive thinking (and practise what I preach) and several readers have asked how I reconcile this poem to that mindset. For me, a release from pain when there is little of no chance of one's quality of life improving (before it worsens) is positive thinking. It is not only tough on the person who is in pain, but also on their friends and family. For me, also, I could not bear the prospect of any dementia getting progressively worse and would want to take action while I could still make the decision. It is a purely personal choice and one which I would expect those who know me to respect. Those of you who agree with me probably feel as I do that quality of life is more important to us than simply carrying on for life's sake in circumstances we would find appalling. As far as I am concerned, the law is an ass in this respect and no judge has the right to tell me I must live the kind of life I would not wish on my worst enemy.] 

'The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…'

William Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice)


Readers often get in touch about the complex, sensitive and highly emotive subject of assisted suicide since I first posted this poem on the blogs and included it in my last poetry collection. I have to say, 99% of these have expressed much the same sentiments as my own. Having said that, everyone will, of course, have their own views, and almost certainly feel as strongly as I do wherever they stand on this contentious issue.

Now, according to reports, it appears that plans for a mobile euthanasia team to assist people to die at home have been given the go-ahead in Holland. A mobile team of doctors would be the first in the world to carry out assisted suicides in borderline cases where family doctors refuse to administer patients with lethal drugs on ethical grounds. Even so, these doctors will have to comply with the same ‘due care criteria’ as ‘regular’ doctors.

Many people have pressed for changes in the law regarding euthanasia here in the UK. Only last week the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that changes to the law to allow assisted suicide in the UK would spell “disaster” and a shift in societal attitudes towards the sanctity of life, it was reported by the Press Association.

How dare these people presume to deny us the basic Human Right to decide to end our lives when we no longer feel able to go on living? Whose life is it, anyway?

We have no say in being born, we deserve a say in dying. It is pathetic that we have a Court of Human Rights that denies us one of the most fundamental Human Rights of all; the right to have a say in whether we live or die, and in appropriate circumstances be listened to and have our personal feelings on the matter respected.

No one would deny there have to be safeguards in place; anyone contemplating suicide is very vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous people. I also agree that anyone contemplating such a step should discuss it with a professional counsellor as well as their immediate family.

 I tried to commit suicide some 30+ years ago during a severe nervous breakdown. I narrowly survived, and each day since has been a welcome bonus. I could probably have been talked out of it had there been anyone at the time in whom I could confide. Depression alone is no grounds for euthanasia although it may well seem so to a depressed person at the time.

Where I strongly support assisted suicide is for people in pain, for whom there is little if any relief, and those diagnosed with a terminal illness that have no wish to see it through to the bitter end. It is their choice; while they have every right to express an opinion, no law, religion  or pro-life activist should be allowed to dictate to us about ending our lives where we can make a cast iron personal case for doing so; i.e. in the light of how we see it, not them, and on our terms not theirs. I, for one would have no hesitation should, for example, my prostate cancer spread and I was told nothing could be done about it. Close friends are aware of this, and share my views on the matter. Yet, were such circumstances to arise, they would face potential imprisonment for helping me end my own life at my own carefully considered wish.  I would not wish that on them any more than they would wish a lonely death on me.

Dementia is a tricky one. As regular readers will know, I, personally, share the views publicly expressed by the author Sir Terry Pratchett who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. I, too, would not want to sink into the kind of twilight existence that comes later. But everyone has their own view on the subject. Whatever, that view should be respected, not dismissed on either a point of law or a religious belief that the person concerned may not even share. Loved ones will, understandably, want to keep us with them for as long as possible, but love is also about knowing when to let go...


I feel my body growing weaker,
active mind starting to lose its way,
will as stubborn as ever
as I get through each new day
as best I can, tearful
now and then rather than fearful
of coming to the end
of all ends, wishing it could be
on my own terms

My body, once my best friend,
now my jailer, denying me access
to even the simplest things
I need to do, places I’d like to go,
people I want to see
who understand (only too well)
how much harder it is for me
to endure all this, knowing things
can only get worse

How can I be as strong for others
as I want to be when each day sees
the strength draining out of me,
save a sense of spirituality that keeps
me afloat in a cruel sea
where few dare throw even a straw
for fear the law will not recognise
that how a person lives merits a say
in how he or she dies?

I, Dignity, soulmate to Human Rights,
dares keep the dying, too, in my sights

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2017

[Note: This poem has been slightly but significantly revised since its first appeared in On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010]

Thursday, 9 February 2012

To The Lighthouse 

It isn't only sailors that need to watch out for a guardian light.

We all need to keep an eye on light at the end of whatever tunnel we may sometimes find ourselves in; it may dim sometimes, but will never go out...unless we let it.

The poem is a villanelle, its title inspired by a novel of the same name by Virginia Woolf. Even so, where her brilliant, deceptively simple tale might well be seen as a literary variation on the old adage, it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive, my poem could only ever aspire to be, at best, a distant echo.


It’s a light that I will always see
wherever I go…
in spite of shadows crowding me

Day or night, it will constant be,
come rain or snow...
it’s a light that I will always see

I take heart that others can see,
be in the know…
in spite of shadows crowding me

On land or sea, a born sexuality
like a lighthouse glow...
it’s a light that I will always see

It lends me a sense of spirituality
as through this life I go…
in spite of shadows crowding me

Come a time we are but history,
let others follow...
it’s a light that I will always see,
in spite of shadows crowding me

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

Thursday, 2 February 2012

An Affinity with Nature, Landscapes of Mind-Body-Spirit

Among all our cues we take from nature, survival has to be one of the most if not the most important.

Surely, the very least we can (all) do is to watch out for nature too?


Watch as spring lays a path into summer,
and chicks in leafy branches learn to fly
in a world out of step with Earth Mother,
carbon footprint across land, sea and sky

Watch buds open and burst into flower
closing at dusk, woken again at dawn
by the kisses and tears of Earth Mother
for each child lost, found, dying, reborn

Watch as the world slowly opens its heart
summer rest on its laurels fair and frayed,
anxious for Earth Mother to play her part,
helping restore foundations poorly laid…

Watch autumn weep and winter keep vigil
at a window on the landscape of survival

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2018

[Note: This poem first appears under the title ' Landscape of Survival' in On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010]

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Voice

Poets are often accused of romanticising death although their critics often mistake a take on death for one on pain; there is noting in the least romantic about pain and suffering. Me, I don’t romanticise death, but neither will I ignore it. Death is much a part of life as life itself; it should not be a taboo subject or confused with pain.

Surely, the more we get used to the idea of mortality, the better prepared (if only relatively speaking) we are to deal with it?

Death, like life, is a mystery about which those of us who do not subscribe to any religious Faith can only speculate.

Judging by feedback, there are an awful lot of people like me out there who feel much the same way.

This poem last appeared on my general blog in 2008 and reappears today for no other reason than I feel it deserves an airing. After all, is it not one of one of life’s greater ironies that it should be death that has never discriminated between any of us, no matter our colour, creed, sex or sexuality...?


I heard a voice singing,
wondered whose it might be?
(I could not see)

I heard a voice laughing,
wondered whose it might be?
(I could not see)

I heard a voice crying,
wondered whose it might be?
(I could not see)

I heard a voice praying,
wondered what (if anything)
to do with me?

I heard the voice dying,
wondered where it might go?
One day I’ll know...

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