Sunday, 28 October 2012

Strangers On A Train

A number of readers have asked me to repeat the link to my (very) informal poetry reading on the 4th plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square back in July 2009; it was my contribution to Antony Gormley’s One & Other ‘living sculpture’ project that ran 24/7 for 100 days during which time 2,400 ordinary people were invited to do their ‘own thing’ for an hour. I included some poems on a gay theme among others. [The entire web-stream is now archived in the British Library.]


Today’s poem last appeared on the blog in 2009 it was first published in two poetry magazines - Psychopoetics (No. 42, 1998) and Reach (No. 27, 1999) - before I included it in my first major collection.

As more of my poems were accepted for publication during the 1990s, my confidence as a poet grew and I had the idea of publishing a collection. Regular readers will know that poetry publishers showed no interest (especially as I intended to include poems on a gay theme) so I went ahead and created my own imprint. Until recently, sales have paid for new publications and new if relatively small print runs of previous collections. Sales for Tracking the Torchbearer (2012) have been disappointing, though, if not too discouraging given the global economic downturn. (Any 2nd editions will be in e-format and include revisions of some poems.) I have yet to decide whether a final collection - Diary of a Time Traveller - that I am working on for publication in 2015 will be in print or e-format although I am feeling more and more inclined towards a very limited print run alongside an e-book.

Incidentally, readers are often curious as to why the covers for my first four volumes are not in colour. Partly, the reason is because it was much more expensive at the time and I had no way of knowing whether I would recover costs. However, the main reason is that they contain many early poems and I used to think of myself more in terms of black and white than colour in those days.


Have you ever looked at your face in a train window and seen a complete stranger? Sounds weird…or familiar?


Met someone on a train (was it yesterday?)
heading away from things held dear
but meant little any more once fate knocked
on my door smelling of adventure
(a heady perfume) and like a fool I let you in;
must have been a devil on my shoulder
getting bolder as I get older, feeling a need
to show the world I’m not afraid
or, to tell the truth (as told on the train)
lonely for my youth again, again...
so we danced all night and the devil sang
(To hell with what’s right and wrong!)
One life, let’s have fun, where’s the harm?
None, thought I. Yet, one by one,
the flowers in my garden began to die
till a day came when you looked,
turned away, shrugged a short ‘goodbye.’

Couldn’t face friends then so caught
the first train. A stranger looked me in the eye,
told me not to cry, how I’d learn to live
with pain and love again, I only had to try;
I was many years in the learning, alone
and left for dead… then I met you, saw how
that face in the train window hadn’t lied,
me, too scared to believe a word (and how!)

Till now

Copyright R. N. Taber 1998

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

[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.]

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