Sunday, 30 September 2012

The G-Word, Where Opposing Ideologies Converge

Today’s post is repeated on both blogs. The poem last appeared on my general blog in 2008 and on my gay-interest blog in 2010; it is repeated here especially for ‘Aldo and Cleto’ who put this to me, ‘We love each other and we love God, but our families forbade our love and told us God would punish us so we had to sneak away like thieves in the night. That was ten years ago and we are very happy. What kind of God punishes love…?

Good question.

Now, I am not a religious person. Even if I were, I would deplore the divisiveness within world societies caused by this religion or that. If we believe in a God that created the world, doesn’t that include everyone?

Should we not be helping each other out as members of a common humanity rather than fighting each other both physically and/ or metaphorically speaking?

As I have before (and will again) it is high time in this 21st century that world religions got real and began encouraging people to respect each other’s differences instead of fighting over and/or trying to impose their points of view on others.

I have no problem wither with multiculturalism or immigration. I do, however, have a huge problem with people from various socio-cultural-religious backgrounds judging me for not subscribing to their points of view and making no attempt to see mine, let alone have any respect for it.

We gay people, especially, often find ourselves subtly (or less subtly) victimised by certain elements within multiculturalism. For example, I have Muslim friends but my experience of most Muslims is that they are die-hard homophobes. The same can be said of many Catholics of course and Jews and Hindus…etc. etc. etc. It must be so hard for gay men and women within these groups!

Incidentally, I received a flood of protests when I first published this poem on the blog in October 2008. Only one in four people agreed that I was making a valid point. Only recently, one person even took the trouble to write in via snail mail to complain about my including 'such a blasphemous poem' in my collection.  Suffice to say, he did not give a full address so I cannot reply. Hopefully, he is a blog reader and will see that I remain as inflexible in keeping an open mind as he appears to be inflexible with regard to keeping a closed one. Oh, well, let's hope he enjoyed the collection, may even mull over a poem or two and learn something.

This poem is a villanelle.


Whatever ‘God’ means to you or me,
within or without religion’s walls,
no time or space there for bigotry

Whatever it may be we call eternity,
it can but answer freedom’s calls
whatever ‘God’ means to you or me

Be sure our stand for sexual identity
find allies in any heaven’s halls;
no time or space there for bigotry

In this world, look where humanity
stumbles and falls…
whatever ‘God‘ means to you or me

It’s love lets the human spirit go free
where religion’s engine stalls;
no time or space there for bigotry

Afraid of death we should never be,
against love’s light, it but palls;
whatever ‘God’ means to you or me,
no time or space there for bigotry

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

Friday, 28 September 2012

Running the Gamut OR Any Human Heart

We do not ask to be born. We are born, literally, at our parent’s pleasure.  I don’t subscribe to the view that we owe our parents anything.  Where there is love between parent and child, it will reap its own rewards.  Where there is no love between parent and child, the child has absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.

Regular readers will know that I support euthanasia in certain circumstances; not, though, when a person is depressed and unable to think clearly. I tried to commit suicide many years ago in the course of a severe nervous breakdown. I am so glad I failed.

Yes, there are times we may regret being born, especially when an ever growing disparity between the world into which we would like to live and the one we are stuck with sends us hurtling into a downward spiral of despair; thankfully, the human spirit is better than that although it, too, will have its bad days nor (for good or ill) is it immune to temptation.

If the workings of the human mind and spirit are complex, they are all the more so for the sheer audacity of the human heart…

This poem is a kenning.


Running the gamut of life
and love has only brought me pain
like some fine autumn leaf
turning gold (once green) battered
by October winds and rain,
souvenir of a spring badly let down
by an unkind summer yet again,
no silvery light able to make good
Apollo’s absences

Striving for meaning in life
and love has only left me as confused
as nature by global warming
causing bird and beast to change
habit and habitat
(little if anything the better for that)
while humanity chews fat
over a thinning polar ice, dying trees
and sickly skies

Seeking to move on in life
and love has only made me realize
I kicked off as a child
from lies in a poem read aloud in class
about a God in His Heaven
so all’s right with a world struggling
to feed its children,
as if any religion could ever make good
poverty or starvation

I am that heart whose first beat at birth
sounds out a kinder Earth

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Metamorphosis, from Cradle to Grave

As we metamorphose from infant to adult, from birth through life to death, who’s to say what will happen to us along the way?  We can but hope to meet life’s challenges head-on and come through them a better person.

Ah, but do we ever, at heart, leave childhood behind completely? I suspect the good, the bad and the ugly affect our behaviour in later years. Some of us will have enjoyed an idyllic childhood, but life is no idyll and that can be a tough lesson to learn. Others will have been less fortunate during their formative years; we can but do our best to shrug off unwanted baggage, and turn it into something positive; for as start, looking for the good in people instead of rushing to judge the bad and the ugly. (Who knows what baggage they may be struggling to but unable to shrug off?)  

For me, this nursery rhyme invokes ghosts of childhood and beyond that represent the various stages of ‘me’; a ‘me’ visible only to the inner eye, and one I wish, I wish would go away…

‘Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...’

Perhaps you know the feeling?

This poem is a villanelle.


Days of nursery rhyme
maturing, breaking free;
haunting mists of time

Let’s walk, talk, climb
singing) up an apple tree;
days of nursery rhyme

This gene, that enzyme
maturing, breaking free;
haunting mists of time

First summits to climb,
marathons run to victory;
days of nursery rhyme

Graduating to prime,
wandering thoughtfully;
haunting mists of time

Charged with a crime
for each lost opportunity;
days of nursery rhyme,
haunting mists of time

Copyright R. N.Taber 2007; 2012

[NB This poem has been slightly revised (2012) from the original as it appears in 1st eds. of Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

[Please Note: My collections are only on sale in the UK but anyone can order (signed) copies from me at a generous blogger discount. For details, contact with ‘Blog reader’ or Poetry collection’ in the subject field.]

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Live Art

Feedback suggests that readers of both poetry blogs have also enjoyed some of my gay-interest and other novels serialised on my fiction blog:
Many thanks for your e-mails and comments. (I never post comments, but always read them.) 

Blasphemy and Sacrilege were originally meant to be part of a trilogy, ending with Redemption. However, illness and various other events have overtaken me and the latter remains unfinished. Hopefully, I will complete it one day. 


I was only about 12 years-old when my art teacher at school told the whole class, with various gestures to emphasis the point, that we should never, but never take art at face value. ‘Get inside the piece and take a good look around,’ he said, and went on (word for word as far as I can remember) ‘Give the inner eye a chance to explore before the head reaches any conclusions. And never quite trust those conclusions. Oh, bear them in mind by all means, but always remember that even the artist is not always sure where his or her creative experience is leading, what feelings it may invoke, quite what set the creative juices flowing in the first place and to what end, exactly. So how can we be sure? We can’t, which is why any work of art is worth returning to time and time again if only to find out what we may have missed.’

None of us had a clue what he meant at the time, of course, but as time passed, I consider those words more a real part of my education than anything learned for the sake of passing exams. Otherwise, I could never have written today’s poem…for James, artists everywhere (whatever the genre in which they work) and those of us to whom they give much pleasure and render us a shade less vulnerable for making us think for ourselves. 

The deeper relationship between any art form  and its audience is an intensely personal one, taking us on journeys of heart and mind towards an appreciation to which the chances are no   ‘outsider’ critic would give much if any credence; while any critical take is always worth considering, we should trust our instincts and never fear placing ourselves at odds with it.  (Having to play the critic myself and produce essays at university years ago almost killed off every natural instinct for the creative experience I ever had.)

Nor should we ever, of course, forget nature's achievements - wild and nurtured alike - to which the same principles apply with regard to our establishing a relationship. Artists will always borrow from nature and do their best to convey a multi-take on various aspects they seek to bring to our attention; consequently, our mind's eye is likely to take us us on an unexpected journey of discovery, not least about ourselves. 

Readers may be interested to know that I read this poem along with another (A Hymn to Nature) over the video below; if the link does not work, you can also access it on my You Tube channel at:


Life, a dream free to come and go
like a swallow on spring and autumn days;
harbinger of hope, bidding peace follow 
and nest among human hearts whose buds
of springtime are all but ready to burst
into leaf, begging nurture of human nature
no less anxious to fulfil its potential  
than Earth Mother hers, though its seasons
ever in dispute

Life, a dream embraced and let go
like a fairy tale cloud on light and darker days;
harbinger of love, bidding peace follow
and stay forever, feeding on the spirituality
of art’s deeper poetry all but ready
to come into its own, begging of the world
that it open its heart to Earth Mother 
and enter into an expression of spirituality  
by its own volition

Live art: a dream’s comings and goings
like a feisty moon at midnight on frosted glass,
harbinger of illusion, calling on sleepers
to make the most of an, oh, so brief sanctuary
before Apollo puts us on the spot
and demands we make a decision along lines
of whether or not we at least try
to fulfil our potential or take on the mantle
of anti-hero

Nature, forever rising above its fears;
humanity, never far from tears

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Love, a Guiding Light OR Think Love...

Today’s post last appeared on the blog in June 2010 and is repeated today especially for star-crossed lovers everywhere whatever their ethnicity, sexuality, religion or non-religion.

Among all the torchbearers that lead us through life, we can do worse than follow love for all it may well take us off the beaten track from time to time.

Yes, love can be a minefield, as star-crossed lovers worldwide will testify. Yet, being together and loving each other is worth all the pain we may inadvertently cause others and they, in return, deliberately if well-meaningly inflict on us.

As for those among us (including loved ones) that would bring disapproval or worse to bear on the world’s lovers, for whatever socio-cultural-religious reasons, they should mind their own business.  For we all deserve the freedom to choose. True, sometimes we make wrong choices. But others should respect that. No one has the right to choose for us. Nor is religion, sexuality or even family any excuse for resorting to force and/or rejection, however strongly we may feel it is in someone’s best interest not to take a certain path. Yes, we can point out the pitfalls, but it is their choice and theirs alone. We have no right to threaten them with consequences we may well suspect, but have no way of knowing; unless, that is, we set out to engineer them.

As I see it, the litmus test for love is sometimes having to let our loved ones and friends go their own way while letting them know we are always ready, willing and able to let our love for them offer support (not condemnation or a smug ‘I told you so’) should things fall apart and love’s light flicker and dim…

In my troubled youth, I once confided in an elderly neighbour that I had trouble sleeping. The trick, he told me, is to think about all the people, places, pets you have loved and that will relax you and you'll not only fall asleep but all the more soundly for it. "Think love, lad," he said with wry grin, "and you can't go far wrong night or day..."

This poem is a villanelle.


Love, a guiding light
through a mist of days,
come darkest night

Though I take fright
of life’s shadowy maze,
love, a guiding light

Once blind, I have sight,
alert to false trails always,
come darkest night

Where doves take flight,
and douse a sunset’s blaze,
love, a guiding light

Like wrong and right,
upon conscience it preys
come darkest night

Reason not the right;
where a heart will, it stays;
love, a guiding light
come darkest night

[Note: First published as 'Love, a Guiding Light' in Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Forever To Remain OR 9/11 Remembered

Today’s poem is one of several I have written on the subject of the 9/11 tragedies in the United States. A slightly different version was first published in an anthology, 9/11: The Memory Lives On, Poetry Now (Forward Press) 2004, and subsequently in my collection.

Having personally known someone who was killed in the 9/11 attacks, I felt the need to post this poem in memory of all those who died; survivors and everyone else having to live with the consequences of  that terrible day. I cannot get to Ground Zero, but felt privileged to be asked some time ago to read a poem over my friend Graham’s video of the memorial for British victims in London’s Grosvenor Square:

No matter how much of a grip terrorism may seek to have on the world and its peoples, it will never defeat the innate goodness of the human condition. It would help, though (surely?) if we were at least united in mutual respect of various socio-cultural-religious differences instead of fighting over them and thereby making us all the more vulnerable to the terrorist threat.

As previous feedback suggests some readers cannot access You Tube for one reason or another, I have posted the You Tube video again below. 

This poem is a villanelle:


Among the world’s passions piling high,
Love and Hate near breaking even,
twin towers forever reaching for the sky

Fear and Hope - in a cruel storm’s eye,
ascent into pain, ladder to heaven
among the world’s passions piling high

Though dogs of war may not pass us by,
pray Peace and Mercy be shown,
twin towers forever reaching for the sky

Political ambition, religion’s blind eye,
spiralling us into confusion…
among the world’s passions piling high

Let us plant flowers where loved-ones lie,
seeds of Joy for Remembrance sown,
twin towers forever reaching for the sky

Though terror its ugly tentacles try
again, again, to drag us down…
among the world’s passions piling high,
twin towers forever reaching for the sky

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2012

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from the version that appears in 1st eds. of A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 3 September 2012

Perfect Storm

I must say a huge thank you to those readers who have been in touch to ask how I am since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of 2011. Your support and encouragement is much appreciated. Incidentally, where people initially get in touch via the  'Comments' link, I will always reply to those who give an e-mail address and do my best to pass on my predilection for positive thinking in the hope that it will work as well for them as it does for me.[I do not post comments, though, as it not only takes up space but also encourages trolls intent on spoiling a blog for others. Needless to say, I never respond to trolls and simply ignore them. [I will respond to even the harshest criticism, though, so long as the critic makes his or her reasons clear.]

A reader who has only just been diagnosed with prostate cancer has been in touch and is obviously very distressed and asks my advice. Apparently, it is not aggressive so he has several options, but admits to being terrified by the very presence of any cancer in his body. I can understand that only too well, but never presume to give advice; regular readers will have noticed, though, that I frequently express an opinion on this or that subject.  It is a personal decision that this reader, along with anyone else similarly affected, must come to in their own way.

Now, today’s poem appeared on the blogs in January 2011 shortly after a scan had revealed a tumour in my prostate but before a biopsy confirmed it was cancerous. As I have said many times, poetry is my lifeline; it helps me confront my worst fears and rise above them, the better to tackle them rather than cave in to a knee-jerk reaction…and pretend ‘God’s in his Heaven and all’s well with the world.’ (Robert Browning)

My cancer is not aggressive, but at a ‘low to medium’ level according to the medics. So far, I have avoided radiotherapy because I have a weak bladder and the side-effects for both bladder and bowels can be grim. I don’t want to take the risk unless I have to. In the meantime, I have chosen to have hormone therapy which, so far, has kept my PSA count low and the cancer at bay. The hormone therapy sometimes produces nasty mood swings, and I find I need to urinate a lot so that can be (very) inconvenient, especially when out and about or travelling.  Otherwise I am fairly fit and feel fine; no heart, liver or kidney problems, rheumatism or arthritis, and no diabetes... yet. (Fingers crossed...)

Given that I am in my late 60s, I count myself very lucky. As for what may be lying in wait for me around the next corner, I’ll deal with that if and when the need arises. Yes, sometimes I get scared, but fear is just one of many things we have to at least try and overcome rather than let it have its wicked way with us, and see us lose out on all the good things life has to offer.

My mother used to say, if you worry you'll die and if you don't worry you're still going to die one day so...why worry? She died of brain cancer in 1976 and remains an inspiration to me. She rose above her fears just as he helped me (time and again) to rise above mine. Hopefully, reading the poem will encourage readers to rise above their fears too.


Black cloud
chasing me
over blue grass and green sea;
Twilight’s waves
teasing me,
dumping seaweed at my feet;
Shadowy surfer
homing in on me
over weepy grass and angry sea;
I try to turn,
black cloud pinioning me
to blue grass,
a green sea clothing me
in seaweed,
shadowy Surfer
skimming every nuance of mind
and body

Black cloud
a vast, appalling darkness;
Twilight’s waves
thundering me
for tearing at seaweed;
shadowy Surfer
poised to catch me up
and drag me down
where weepy grass and angry sea
issue a challenge
to throw off the black cloud
pinioning me,
let every nuance of mind and body
scale its threat,
dismiss the Surfer’s shadow
and go free

Black cloud
moves on,
its vast, appalling darkness
swallowed up
by a gentler twilight
if no apology
for its thunder or waspish seaweed
making me out
to be worth no more, no less
than a shadowy Surfer
would have me
laid out on a sandy bed,
every nuance of mind and body
killed off
by a surge of self-pity
because I dare not tread a board
or even swim

Shadowy surfer
exposed for a Peeping Tom moon
challenging me
to go on home and try again
rather than let them win
who chased me like a black cloud
over blue grass
and green sea, pinioning every nuance
of mind and body
to a sandy bed with seaweed
nature never meant
to be used to dress a body
for some dark deed,
thwarted, for now at least,
by another victory
for Light over Dark at the edge
of time

[From: Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012]

[Update (10/ 2013): I entered the Shine night-time half-marathon walk (13.1 miles) on Sat. September 28th to raise as much as possible for prostate cancer research. [I considered entering the full marathon (26+ miles) but decided that would be too much for me, especially as I am in my late 60's now.] My best friend, Graham, walked with me. (See photo below.) Between us, we raided over £700. We hope to enter again in 2014 and raise even more.

I am the one in the silly yellow hat!

[Update (4/2015): I would have been  taking part in the Shine (half marathon) Walk for Cancer again last September, along with my friend Graham, to raise money for prostate cancer research, Sadly, I was unable to participate following a bad fall in which I sustained a bad fracture of the heel and must not put any weight on my left foot. My friend, Richard, participated as a proxy for me and completed the half marathon with Graham in 4.2 hours. All my sponsors were aware of the circumstances and sponsored me anyway, possibly because I would easily have hopped a half marathon around my flat with a Zimmer frame before I walking without aids again. I am walking fairly well now, but need a walking stick and will probably always have a limp. So no half marathon for me this year.  Even so,  I hope to participate again should my ankle/foot ever be up for it.]

[Update (20/12/2015): I will be 70 tomorrow. Today, I start a new course of hormone therapy, but no complaints.  Patients can go six months on and six months off, but it is over 2 years since I had my last hormone injection so I must be doing something right. In the beginning, I found it quite hard to live with the fact that the cancer is there, but now I rarely even think about it just take each new day as it comes and enjoy it as if it were my last.[