Thursday, 31 January 2013

A Feeling for Life

Where there is life there will one day be death. Can we trust the poetry of love to inspire us with a spirituality transcending both?  I happen to think so. Whatever, we should never underestimate the sum total of our lives or see the creating of even a single love poem as time wasted.

As for love itself, it comes in various shapes and poetry.

Me, I enjoy reading and writing poems. Most of us, I suspect, simply get on with the business of living them.

As Death stretches out
a greedy hand to take you,
too well I understand
its craving for a life-saving

As Death holds up
a forbidding hand  to me,
too well it understands
my craving for a life-saving

Death’s hands spread
in despair at failing to keep
me from you; over life,
its victory assured, but never
over love

Where the world lies
in Death’s grasping palms,
find immortality
in every love poem that
ever lived

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2012

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]]

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Living End

It’s so corny, but so true. Love lasts forever. Yes, even when it doesn’t turn out quite as we may have hoped.

I was able to spend far too little time with the love of my life, and it was a long time ago. Yet,  that time together growing old alone would be a very lonely affair.

If time flies, the great thing about love is that it, too, has wings and can keep up where we mortals invariably fall behind.


World, collapsing all around;
skylark, winging without a sound;
sweeter memories like a kite
tugged free from weepy hands
at nature’s whim

Bright lights in the eye grown dim;
candles of a mind
to flicker like shadows on a blind;
mischievous sunshine joining ghosts
in hide-and-seek

Suddenly, sounds of children
playing in the park invade my dark,
and the laughter of lovers
gathering to watch, share dreams
of a future together

And where are you, but here?
And who am I but a fool in despair
to let you drift like a lost kite
tugged free from weepy hands
at nature’s whim?

Let a light in eyes dimming
flare again, a beacon  guiding us
across time and space,
all we were and are made keepers
of its flame

Heading home

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2013

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Stormy Weather

The main reason I am on the blog today is to recommend tyDi's great song/ video on You Tube  about some of the worst aspects of modern life that continue to plague many of us, especially young people, homophobic bullying among them. In case you haven’t found it yet, I urge you to go to:

I am 67 years old, and yet it wasn’t so different when I was young. What does that say about the world we live in, eh?  Even so, change is happening and people are becoming more aware of bullying and how it can drive people over the Edge of Reason into the Abyss. More importantly, come what may, love and the better, kinder, side of human nature continue to assert themselves over bigotry and ignorance.

Now, while I’m here…

I find writing increasingly stressful at the moment as my cataracts are getting worse. This poem is an early piece that appeared in several poetry magazines, 1996-1998, before I included it in my first major collection. Regular readers may be surprised to see that I made more (conventional) use of upper case letters at the start of lines in those days. I wrote it one stormy day while sheltering from the rain in a bus shelter.

I suspect the ‘rush of images had as much to do with seeing Derek Jarman’s amazing film The Garden (1990) a few days earlier as a sense of nature ‘rushing’ me into…what? Writing a poem, maybe…


Cloud faces grimace;
lifelines leafing
through pouring rain;
fantastic canvas
leaping at the eye;
rooftops dripping
(sweat of heavens);
rhythm of children
braving a temporary

A rush of images
as ever seen;
Van Gogh, Jarman
each to their own
spirited inspiration;
distant thunder
rumbling our fears
while (reprieved)
we try to pass it off
as living

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2017

[Note: This poem has been slightly but significantly revised from the original version as it appears in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2000]

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Enchanted Wood

[UPDATE -  14th December 2013 - Video (below) added as also available on my You Tube channel . at: For anyone interested in other videos and the poems I read,  you are welcome to visit]

This poem last appeared on the blog in July 2009. It is repeated today especially for ‘Candace and Pierre’ who celebrate their first wedding anniversary today, and a have baby due in the summer. Congratulations, and may all three of you enjoy many happy years together.

Candace especially liked this poem as her mother died some years ago yet ‘she is always with me, especially when Pierre and I take walks in the countryside. Perhaps it is because I grew up on a farm and she was a farmer’s wife?’ Whatever, it is a lovely sentiment and one I share in the sense I've always felt that Earth Mother takes care to see to it that those we have loved and died always stay close to us.

Whimsical, you say? Well, yes, maybe, but I do whimsy sometimes; always have and I dare say always will.

This poem is a villanelle.


Kind ghosts, smiling at me
wherever I go…
among leaves of memory

‘Keep it safe, the old tree’
they whisper low,
kind ghosts smiling at me

Close friends and family,
all springtime on show
among leaves of memory

On a nature trail to eternity
where love’s seeds grow,
kind ghosts smiling at me

If the self its own enemy,
let its colours show
among leaves of memory

Keeping such company,
the poet I would be;
kind ghosts smiling at me
among leaves of memory

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009

[Note: This poem will appear in Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber scheduled for (UK) publication in spring 2012.]

Triumph of the Spirit

An earlier version of today’s poem first appeared in an anthology, All through My Life, Poetry Today (Forward Press) 2000, and subsequently in my collection.

At the turn of the century, I was having a bad time. One major symptom of my depression was that I had become very self-conscious of my appearance, not least because society seemed obsessed with appearances.

By the time I had finished the poem, I felt considerably more positive about myself and life in general as well as far less about whether or not I looked the part for the kind of world in which I lived.

Time has moved on, carrying me along with it on a tide of growing if sometimes misplaced optimism. Sadly, though (as a general rule to which, thank goodness, there are many exceptions) many people worldwide continues to be obsessed with outward appearances whatever their socio-cultural-religious background.

Creative writing (indeed, any creative activity) is a wonderful therapy for the human spirit, especially when it all but spent, its batteries badly in need of recharging.


Had a visitor yesterday,
hair thin and grey, face lined
with age as if time
had turned a page too many,
drawn almost to a close
by nicotine fingers, cigarette
and wine stains on clothes;
a half-smile, cracked and dry
splitting papyrus skin,
mouldy lips sucking in dust
on a shelf near starved
of good company, deserving
far, far, better than this travesty
of humanity

Could it be that time
has committed this obscenity
or maggots in the soul?
Whatever, it won’t do at all,
I argued straight,
no punches pulled as outrage
lit a fire in me for this sad,
burnt-out page of human history;
if time and tide waste
no ceremony on us…so what?
Are we but slaves
to probability, bound to be all
we’re not, living among strangers
our tragedy?

No! Forget reflections in a mirror,
it’s the inner self will endure…

Copyright R, N. Taber 2001; 2013

[An earlier version of this poem appears in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Robin OR Sweet Sorrow

I love to watch and hear birds. For me, though, (yes, even after the skylark) the robin has to be the most inspirational.

Most if not all of us of us discover at some time or another that parting is, indeed, a sweet sorrow; the sweeter for happy memories that continue to sustain us.


In a field of snow I thought I saw
a red berry on the branch of a tree,
but as I came closer I discovered
it was but the breast of cock robin
calling to me

Robin, living in the hope of spring
where love grows in a field of dreams
though snow lay on the ground,
Earth Mother’s way of preserving
her better options

I stumbled, watched the robin fly
till I could barely see, nor was I looking
for hope to kindle my soul;
you took that with you when you left
along with spring

How my legs found the will to move
I can only guess was to honour the bird
as it returned, its bitter-sweet song,
among clouds torn to shreds by the wind,
the loneliest ever heard

Suddenly, you put your hand in mine,
leaning your fair head on my shoulder,
and somehow we staggered home;
together, as we’d sworn forever to stay
we grow closer if older

At the door of our house, we parted,
a glorious light in your eyes like a rainbow
among my tears you wiped dry
with a timeless hand that wears my ring,
a guiding light in the snow

I thought I heard you speak my name
then saw it was but the wings of a robin
vanishing into the worst winter can do,
inviting me to follow, as I did, less blindly 
than I waved you farewell

If a robin can see a harsh winter through,
be sure we lovers, though parted, can too?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2016

[Note: This poem is a (slightly) revised version of the one that appears in 1st eds. of On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; revised ed. in e-format in preparation]

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Trainspotting, Potential for Giving Imagination its Head

The original version of today’s poem was written in 1983 and first published in 2001; it has been recently revised. True to say, it was inspired by reflection upon too many bad choices I have made throughout my life. The trick, I (eventually) discovered, is not to let them obscure our better choices.

No one needs to get high on drugs to feel the adrenalin racing through the body like an express train.

All we need to do is pause now and then to reflect upon our innermost responses to what is invariably a roller-coaster ride through life. Now, sometimes these may well be found wanting, inhibited even by home, school, environment, culture, religion…etc. In which case we may well need to find a way of letting go, following up basic instincts independent of whatever programs may have been installed in head and heart by various software programs delivered by home, school, environment, culture, religion…etc.

Oh, yes, and then what?

Ah, but that’s all part of the rollercoaster, recognizing choices and trying at least to make the right ones; the right ones for us, that is, since we are all different, want different things from life, and need to make our own decisions on how best to develop our potential for the greater good as well as our own. Too often, well-meaning people may try to steer us in another direction/ So how to know if they are right and we are wrong? 

We have only to think about what we really want from life to feel the adrenalin coursing through our veins…and catch that express train wherever it takes us if we dare.

Our choice…


I hear the engine, engine
closing on me, felt its pulse racing
against mine and see it pass,
speeding furiously against the clock
(ticks in the brain);
gone now, yet trailing
a fudge of half-forgotten moments
that rage me still;
engine throbbing, oh, but so madly
against my will…

I see the wheels, wheels
rumbling me, can feel their firings
ghost me as they pass
(like raging clocks) ticking me,
winding me up;
gone now, a maze  
of half-forgiven moments shimmering
and crazing me still…
wheels, wheels, wheels, screaming
against my will

I ride the engine, the engine
pulsing me, share its race against time;
signals blurring, half doubts
stoking up faster, faster, faster…
scattering apes from the track,
tearing pretty rhetoric off a poet’s back;
whatever passes for the soul
all but out of control while feeling
for brakes though not even sure
where it’s at or going

Oh, the thrill of giving imagination
its head…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2013

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of Love and Human Remains by R. N.Taber, Assembly Books 2001; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Nightmare on Civvy Street

I was against the war in Iraq and have never been any too happy with the presence of our troops in Afghanistan. However, both are down to our politicians. Our servicemen and women are doing a fantastic job and deserve nothing less than our 100% support. (M.O.D. please note).

While I fully support anti-war demonstrations, I have nothing but respect and admiration for those front-line men and women who risk their lives daily in the name of peace. Many pay the ultimate price. Others do not receive the 100% support to which they are (surely?) entitled. The dead invariably make headline news, but what about the injured?

There are, of course, two sides to every war. Both genuinely believe they are in the right. We should not be too quick to condemn an enemy comprising many ordinary men and women who, too, risk their lives in a common cause...however much other may deplore that cause.

Whatever, politics fights a dirty war with precious little thought (if any) for those in the front line other than its own [The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a prime example.]


A soldier, an arm and leg in traction
(truck blown up by a mine)
reassuring us he feels fine, just fine…
while half-listening to pulp fiction;
no regrets, he says, well worth
any price he’d known he might pay
for the thrills and kills every soldier
sees but as Hobson’s choice

As the audio story starts to spread
dark mischief in his one good ear,
he leans forward as if trying to peer
into shadow lands of the dead;
war’s is mother’s milk, he explains,
to those with subtle convictions
like its paymasters and those politicians
floating victory on the wind;
the audio voice ducking and diving
the whistle of a sniper’s bullet,
the blind young soldier ducks a hit;
beads of sweat, a legend for living

Honourable discharge, fighting off tears
for all the world's nightmares

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

[Note: This poem first appeared under the title 'Sweating it Out' in On the Battlefields of Love by R N Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]]

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Beggar OR A Thousand Cuts a Day and Counting

It is snowing here in London. In winter especially, but all year round, let us remember the homeless and do what we can for them.

In the current economic climate, more and more people are faced with the prospect of having their home repossessed so…there but for the grace of (God?) go you or I.

Incidentally, this poem was writer in 1990. As I look around at the homeless on the streets of London, it does not seem to me that anywhere near as much has changed as was promised by the politicians in those far-off days...

There are of course 'career' beggars on the streets, but a discerning eye can usually tell who is genuine and who isn't. We all make mistakes, though. Here in London, I well recall a day I gave to a street beggar only to spot him get into an impressive-looking car (parked several streets away) a few hours later and drive off! Another 'beggar' I met in a pub once confided that begging financed his drinking and drug addictions. The motto being, when in doubt...don't. There are other ways to support homeless and other deserving charities online.


‘Hungry – Homeless - No dole’
says a card beside a begging bowl
outside a busy supermarket;
red-rimmed eyes trying to read
the pavement for signs
of homeless-friendly footsteps
worth a pleading glance
for even half a chance of a cuppa
in some cosy café

A few coins here, a few coins there,
the odd note, a few euros,
or cents, whatever; just enough
to keep a scarecrow in bird seed,

Oh, but what the heck…?

Chatty conversation, hacking
at the neck

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000; 2018

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears under the title 'Ritual Slaughter' in my first collection, Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001]

Friday, 11 January 2013

No Beastie Under The Bed

Many thanks to those of you who get in touch from time to time and ask about my prostate cancer. I saw my consultant recently and I my PSA has gone up from 0.9 to 2.7. However, I feel fine and haven’t had a burst of hormones since October 2010 (Each injection lasts three months and I had three that year.) It appears that if my PSA remains less than 4.0 for another six months or more I may well be able to continue with the hormone therapy and avoid radiotherapy. Fingers crossed...


Now, like many very young children, I used to force myself to look under the bed and in any cupboards to reassure myself there was no Beastie there waiting to pounce on me once I fell asleep.

Well, you will be pleased to know I no longer do that particular security check before settling down to sleep.  Even so, you will realise there is a Beastie of sorts that causes me some concern now and then. Yes,  hormone therapy is managing my prostate cancer so far, but I am very much aware that the cancer is there inside me. Most of the time, I forget about it. Now and then, though, especially at night, I find its presence more than a shade unnerving. So I do what I used to do as a child, and work a magic spell. I think of nice things, nice people, nice places, until my head is full of all things NICE that's sure to keep the nasty Beastie away. It a trick that never fails, and if I don’t get a good night’s sleep sometimes it’s invariably down to certain calls of nature better answered than ignored...


There’s was a Beastie
under my bed, eyes glowing red
like a devil
in the fires of Hell,
willing me
to descend, put an end
to all living artifice,
make the ultimate sacrifice,
set the body free
(in other words, surrender
to the Beastie ?)

There was a Beastie
under my bed, looking for a way
to get into my head
and indulge its penchant
for mind games,
challenge me to defy
a necessary evil
or demand I answer why
I’ll not cave in
to the inevitable, dare me
do battle

There was a Beastie
under my bed; like a cancer
it has spread
news of its purpose
to my brain,
but there it was put to rout
(if not without a fight)
for Brain knows every trick
every Book (and more)
exposing Beasties sixk intentions
to a higher power

There was a Beastie
under my bed, face a puffy red
as it returns
to where there still burns
a welcome
for its kind if likely
to meet its match
in the human spirit, burning
more brightly than some
devilish hearth in the bowels
of metaphor

No Beastie under my bed,
for its recognising a greater foe;
though it feed on my body,
no true or lasting gratification
to be had where flesh
but a coat of many colours
lent by Earth Mother
to distinguish friend from foe
until our return
to Her womb, the likes of Beastie
denied entry

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Leftovers OR History: a Piecemeal Biography of the Human Condition

Most critics agree that the poetry of Robert Browning is influenced by the devout Christian views of his mother and wife. I often wonder, though, if he ever regretted penning the lines, 'God’s in His Heaven/All’s right with the world.' Alone, they suggest a naïve approach to life and God, but in the context of Pippa Passes (in which play-poem they appear) a wry irony is also present.

Now and then devout Christian and other religious fundamentalist readers get in touch to berate me for attacking their religion. I never attack any religion. What I attack is a tunnel-minded if not naïve view of life and God, invariably based on either misinterpreting passages in various Holy Books or taking them out of context (which amounts to the same thing) and using them to justify shutting out just about everything and everyone else.

Religion is meant to be about love and peace. In reality, there is too much divisiveness and oneupmanship between the world religions and within themselves for world peace to stand a chance. Let’s face it. The absence of a world war doesn’t mean we are at peace. Take Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East…and local conflicts worldwide. And that’s just the fighting. Whatever happened to peace of mind?

As I have said many times, thanks goodness for those people for whom their humanity is every bit as important as their religion. Sadly, it has been my experience that such people are a rare if not dying breed, which is why I rejected religion and turned to nature even as a child. As I grew older, I saw no reason to change my mind. Nature feeds my mind and imagination; it also gives me a sense of spirituality and peace I would never have found in religion. Nor does it have anything to do with my sexuality, but simply the kind of person I am.  Besides, I hate tunnels. A teacher at my old school once described history as a tunnel through which we travel towards the light we call learning. Maybe, although I suspect there are more takes on what ‘learning’ comprises than fish in the sea. Apply the same metaphor to religion and the light would be what some call Faith, God, Heaven or whatever. Oh, but how many takes on that…?

Forget tunnels. Life is an open road; religion, too, for those to whom it means the most as it did to a very dear mentor of mine; the same mentor who once told me that, just as we all need to at least try to keep an open mind and open heart or we are betraying our common humanity, so any religion that denies us either is betraying its very origins.


‘Come into the shade,’ cry ghosts
of seasons past, ‘and share the feast
that lasts forever, never fear to hear
the groans of hungry men and women
or whimpering skeletons of children
reassured pain is a passport to Heaven,
all things under the sun God-given

‘Come into the shade,’ cry ghosts
of seasons past, ‘and toast the peace
that lasts forever, never fear to hear
the groans of warring men and women
or whimpering children left to pray,
reassured price for war is paid in pain,
all things under the sun God-given

‘Come into the shade,’ cry ghosts
of seasons past, ‘and let’s play the jest
that lasts forever on those who hear
the groans of brave men and women
trying to save the planet’s children,
keep its trees fairest shades of green,
feed refugees, let asylum seekers in

Feast well, ghosts, on our seasons past,
the leftovers of inhumanity sure to last

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

Monday, 7 January 2013

Time and Tide

The genesis for this poem was written in 1976. I have only recently revised it.

Regular reader will be familiar with the sea – in all its moods, and as they reflect my own - as a theme for many later poems.

Sometimes, the sea inspires me; sometimes it comforts me; sometimes it scares me, especially as I grow old(er) and am inclined to see it as a living metaphor for a splendid vastness that will surely (for good or ill, better or worse) one day claim my spirit.


The lonely sea
laps at my feet, stars in the sky
small comfort;
on a hushed beach,
a huge white moon winks wryly
at me

Sun, sea, sand,
slipping through weepy fingers
like kinder times;
life, death, love,
hovering low above, still waiting
for Godot

Wind grown cold,
I growing old with all the stoicism
of a sand statue;

night-pools, they swirl
around me, surprise, confound me
with home truths

Though I dare
a sleepy shore’s passions reawaken,
I know…
why the lonely sea
laps at my feet,  stars in the sky
small comfort

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2012

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in  Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2000.]

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A Colouring Book

Now, when we use colour, we choose carefully because we want to make an impression although what impression we make is likely to vary from observer to observer.

So it is, I suspect, with nature, just as the impression Earth Mother intends to make will vary and quite possibly leave many if not most of us none the wiser.


Blue, blue, the colour
of a morning sky;
golden the sun, risen high;
green, green, the grass
where lovers lie, giving us
reasons to care

Red, blood red, crushed
poppies in the hand
like a fallen soldier’s wounds,
attempting to atone,
and only a solitary skylark
left to mourn

Grey, a silvery grey,
dusk’s sad pall;
tears of Earth Mother, nurture
for sweet dreams
of peace and caring better
for each other

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2012

[Note: An earlier version of this poem was published in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2000; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Friday, 4 January 2013


Telling jokes about people is a cruel pastime in which too many of us are inclined to indulge. Humour is wonderful, and some jokes can be very funny...until they get personal and take on shades of malice.

We all know how cruel children can be towards peers somehow marked out as ‘different’ from others… whether by a disability or whatever. At least children rarely appreciate the gravity of their actions. We adults, on the other hand, have no excuse.

Let's be kind to each other, yeah?


You dropped the joke into a humming pool,
let ripples spread
from merry chuckle
to sly whisper

I watched the whisper take its course
from eye to eye
until someone

Like a freak wave, that laughter came
tumbling upon the whisper,
dashing it to pieces,
scattering me


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

Wednesday, 2 January 2013


[Update: (April 8th 2017) Our hearts and thoughts go out today to the families and friends of those killed and injured in the horrific attack yesterday in Stockholm on innocent people going about their daily lives; it is being described as an act of terror. It is being widely reported that a man arrested has sympathies/links with so-called Islamic State. Yet again, decent people everywhere, from all socio-cultural-religious backgrounds, stand firm with the people of Sweden against the threat of terrorism from whatever misguided source.]

[Update: (March 24th 2016) This poem was written in 2007. Since then, the world the world has become and increasingly more dangerous place, not least due to the spread of radical Islam which we should never mistake for true Islam.  The horror of recent events in Brussels is nothing new to us. Yet, while our hearts go out to the families and friends of those so cruelly and senselessly killed simply for going about their daily lives, we must stand firm against these psychopaths, and not let fear dictate how we choose to live; our choice, not theirs.]

Some people, not only but especially religious fundamentalists, are inclined to get carried away by the prospect of martyrdom and welcome it; more often than not, this is a direct result of being mentally groomed and/or emotionally blackmailed into a deluded way of thinking by power-hungry leaders who (naturally) prefer to stay alive. 

The true martyr does not seek martyrdom for personal (including spiritual) gain but for the sake of honourable principles on which he or she refuses to compromise; there is no honour in taking and/or destroying the lives of innocent people.

Who deliberately seeks martyrdom to make a point, however important (to them, at least) deserves our contempt, yes, but perhaps also our pity? Pity for their having become mere tools in the hands of those they see as 'betters' but who, in reality, have surrendered their humanity to a distorted sense of and lust for power, both temporal and spiritual.

Fundamentalism is a threat to world peace, the more when it promotes martyrdom as a glorious ideal.

This poem is a villanelle.


No crueller wisdom
or faith more blindly placed
than in martyrdom

Life‘s tragic outcome,
love’s sacred trust misplaced;
no crueller wisdom

No prouder kingdom
better served by want and waste
than in martyrdom

By a beating drum,
each sound heartbeat replaced;
no crueller wisdom

No glory closer come
to grief, by holy words defaced,
than in martyrdom

Magnificent maelstrom,
supposedly to God’s door traced;
no crueller wisdom
than in martyrdom

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2016

[Note:  This poem has been revised (slightly but significantly) from the version that appears in Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised version in e-format in preparation.]