Thursday, 28 February 2013

Memo From Earth Mother

My thanks go to all of you who have been in touch to ask how I am getting on with my prostate cancer as first diagnosed in February 2011. Well, I saw my consultant yesterday and the news is very encouraging. The hormone therapy continues to do its job and my cancer remains at bay.

Oh, but  I will have a cataract removed from my right eye tomorrow so may not be adding to my blogs for a short while as I plan to keep computer use to a minimum in the early days while the eye settles down. I have to confess to being a shade nervous, but my best friend is taking a day’s leave from work to come to the hospital with me for which I am very grateful as I will need some moral support.  As I live alone, I’m a little nervous about coping during the immediate days following the cataract procedure, but I dare say I will cope. (Do I have a choice?)


Regular readers will be well aware of my passion for nature. Beautiful and inspiring in all its moods, dare I say that nature also reminds us of (mirrors even) our own strengths and shortcomings…?


Grieving cliffs

Telling tragic tales
of grief and pain,
souls wracked on a wheel
that turns, turns,
and turns again until a time
all human misery
is shaped into pretty poetry.
all the better
for posterity and the ears
of youth than… truth

Stoic cliffs

Battered by wind, rain,
and sea,
keeping faith with a wheel
that turns, turns,
and turns again until a time
all humanity
is pressed like souvenir leaves
into well-worn pages
of science and spirituality
competing for… truth

Splendid cliffs

Bold, fantastic canvases
for sun and stars
to work the art of a wheel
that turns, turns,
and turns again until a time
all humanity
assumes the savagery and  guile
of an animal world,
its conscience and survival
said to rest on…truth

Coming at me…

Shadows across the mind
(people - friendly giants)
treading some Great Wheel
that turns, turns,
and turns again, until a time
fairy tale and myth
ally themselves with  history
in a Hall of Mirrors
reflecting its uses and abuses
of power and…truth?

Almighty cliffs, stark reminders
of life, death, and home truths

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013 

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


 Of all the dreams anyone ever had, second only to love, the most beautiful if one of the saddest has to be…


It’s a hybrid rose called Peace
that carries spring into summer,
letting its petals fall in autumn
to shield the heart from its winter

Coloured yellow, the peace rose
is for remembrance of times past;
if love, like roses, fade and die,
be sure its petals are crafted to last

At any time of year, whenever
and wherever we ache for a need
to inhale love’s heady perfume,
Peace roses, human senses, invade

Too often loved ones go to war,
never to return or, even if they do,
we too, like them, still suffer
as only humanity in winter can do

If the more ghastly realities of war
even ghosts fear, only fools suppose
its deeper roots lie but dormant
as nature sleeps and nothing grows

At such times, we must be strong,
take well-worn paths the heart knows,
for where there’s love there’s hope
and kinder summers of the Peace rose

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

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Nightmare on the High Street

[Update: 20/2/17]: High Street shop owners now fear being left in financial ruin as the Government considers a huge increase in business rates in town and cities across Britain. Don't these (mostly financially secure) politicians realise that small businesses are the backbone of any nation.] RT

Today’s poem was written in 2009, less than a year after the so-called ‘credit crunch’ first made its appearance in the UK and began to bite; it first appeared in an American poetry magazine under the title Nightmare On Main Street (2010) and then in a UK anthology, Inspired Minds, Forward Press as well as my own collection during the same year.

Across the world, many families and small businesses continue to suffer great hardship as we all seem stuck with a prolonged period of adversity.

Yes, there are glimmers of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Yet, it all seems so far away….


Jobs tossed away like beer cans
in a trash bin;
houses repossessed, cash hawks
at the ready

Homes crumbling like sand bags
in a hurricane;
marriages made in heaven filing
for bankruptcy

Bankers playing the blame game
to save face;
politicians relying on fiscal fears
for a free hand

In politics, business much as usual
(promises, promises…);
credit crunch or no, can’t go frugal
on the arms budget

World religions cleaning up on new
safety in numbers, unless you’re in
a war zone

Told to save on energy, and who’ll
save the children?

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

Monday, 25 February 2013

O, Cervantes

An earlier but only slightly different version of today’s poem was written in 1972; it appeared in Poetry Monthly (1999) that has since closed down and in All in One Day, Poetry Now (Forward Press) 2001 prior to my first major collection.

Since the 1970s, pressure of work on the average person has at least doubled; fewer staff and the common misconception by (too many) managers that just about anyone can be replaced by a computer has been a major contributory factor. Only ten years earlier, my teachers at school had been telling us how wonderful the 1980s would be once machines were doing the lion’s share of the work we were paid full-time wages for part-time hours. [Whatever happened to the Golden Age of Leisure we were promised?]

Oh, but show me a windmill!


One commuter rises
at seven, has to run for the train
at eight after ritual peck
on doorstep, and warning the kids
not to be late for school

Arrives for work wearily,
re-sorts any post meticulously,
checks with a secretary
about what’s worth knowing
on the grapevine

Another day done,
breaks for tea well-deserved,
our hero heads home,
packed like a helpless veal calf
on the continental run

Turns a brassy yale
at about half-six most days,
picking at supper
by seven ten, sends screaming kids
to do their homework

Starts to tell the wife
about his own work, and then...
(Damn, the mobile again!)
A smoke, glass of red, some soap TV,
(pity about the ulcer, scary.)

No outstanding bills, and never
a thing about windmills

Copyright R. N. Taber 1999; 2011

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appeared in 1st eds. of Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revied ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Sunday, 24 February 2013

In the Company of Dolphins

I have been asked to repeat the link (above) to my poetry reading on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square during the summer of 2009  as part of sculptor Antony Gormley's One and Other 'live sculpture' project. At first, I am shown being lowered by crane to the plinth and it is a good five minutes before the reading starts.[NB For now, at least, this link needs the latest Adobe Flash Player  and works best in Firefox; the British Library archives website cannot run Flash but changes scheduled for later this year may well mean the link will open without it. Give it a minute or so to start up. The video lasts an hour. ] RT 2018


This short poem is about love and friendship and being there for loved ones and friends when they need us. .It is also about the lasting power of love and friendship.

There is a saying that what goes around comes around. We never know when it will be our turn to need help. People for whose idea of love and friendship is a one-way street (and there are plenty out there who expect us to be there for them but rarely if ever reciprocate!) would do well to remember that.


I think of us at twilight’s gentler tears
on flowers in a pretty garden, glistening
like ocean spray in spring sunshine…
In the mind’s eye, I see survivors
clinging to the wreckage of a ship that
safe harbours will never greet again,
and dolphins come like guardian angels
to redeem a fate demanded by storm clouds
riding old Poseidon’s back

Now calmer seas, survivors washed up
on kinder shores, dolphins gone, task done.
Lost souls saved at godly whim?
I know not, can but let heart and mind
wish the company of dolphins to bring us
safely home…and though that be left
to this sad world’s darker poetry,
may love’s light shine through twilight’s
gentler tears on us

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

Saturday, 16 February 2013


One of the nicest compliments I receive is from readers who say that as a rule, they don’t like poetry but enjoy reading the blog.

So can we try a little experiment? Please send the blog URL to at least one person you know (especially if they don’t like poetry) and ask them to do the same. Then we’ll see what happens:


This poem was written with a woman in mind whose courage in the face of serious health problems as well as her natural beauty is truly inspiring. She is also a dancer. Oh, she’s not rich or famous, just one of thousands of ‘ordinary’ people who are far from ordinary.

This poem is a villanelle.


Dancer in the gloom
with angel poise
lights up any room

Sunshine in a storm
spreading its rays,
dancer in the gloom

A music all her own
across stone floors
lights up any room

To Penelope’s loom,
her soul she bares,
dancer in the gloom

Like heaven’s broom,
our fears she clears,
lights up any room

Mere flesh and bone,
our joy and tears,
dancer in the gloom
lights up any room

[From: The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004]

Friday, 15 February 2013

Lament for a Grasshopper

I have nothing against progress. Civilization would not have come far without it. At the same time, nature deserves better than to have us measure progress in terms other than material gain or cosmetic ‘improvement’. Nature protects us as well as giving us pleasure and breathing space to consider out options…

Nature is an inspiration, not just for artists and poets but for every man, woman and child in the street who seeks sanctuary sometimes, precious moments of peace and quiet away  from the frantic hustle and bustle of everyday life (and worse) in the modern world.

Yes, nature can be cruel, but perhaps humankind should look to its own archives before we enter into that argument.

Nature is a treasure beyond words, much of which we are in danger of losing forever; the more we lose, the less likely future generations will ever forgive us.

This poem is a villanelle.


Once I heard a grasshopper sing,
heard the dawn chorus…
where now, trucks thundering

I have heard bluebells ring
sweet sounds of silence;
once, I heard a grasshopper sing

I saw a stream, twisting, turning,
haunted by otters…
where now, trucks thundering

I have watched birds mating
in leafy trees;
Once, I heard a grasshopper sing

There used to be a graceful flying
of kingfishers…
where now, trucks thundering

Needs must, called ‘progress’
through the centuries;
once, I heard a grasshopper sing
where now, trucks thundering

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

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Close Friends, Distant Lives

Some readers may recall this poem. I have been weeding the blog, deleting and sometimes revising some less popular poems. Rightly or wrongly, I feel this poem deserves a second time around; it first appeared in an anthology, A Testament to Life, Triumph House (Forward Press) 2000 and subsequently in my collection. 

One of the most wonderful aspects of a close relationships and friendships is that they can survive just about anything, even distance, especially in this technological age that makes it so much easier to keep in touch.


I see the moon,
you see the sun; another time,
another place;
on the ground, perceive a snail
trying to keep pace
with it all

Our faces lit, now dark;
laughing, weeping, waking, sleeping;
world turning on a snail

I see the sun,
you see the moon; same day,
same night; in our hearts,
a secret place where old friends
meet to laugh, talk
and play

Ah, but our time is up
(even snails sleep). I close my eyes
and see you, feel your heart
beating under my shirt, your breath
painting sweet dreams
on my face

As good a time as any
to embrace our history, against which
all else pales

Such is the significance of snails

[From: Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2000]

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Visionary. a Man of Substance

As regular readers well know, I never post comments but always read and appreciate them, even the less kind ones. But you can always email me direct - - and I will always reply. I don’t expect everyone to like what I write or agree with what I say…so feel free to take issue with either or both at any time.


Someone once asked me if I had any heroes. I replied that, off the top of my head, Martin Luther King is the first name that springs to mind. The person who posed the question appeared genuinely puzzled because King was black and I am white, asking,‘Didn't he champion equal rights for black people?’ Of course he did, but ‘equal rights’ is the key phrase here.

I am passionate about equality and a common humanity, passionate too about peace and love and how the people of this world should respect each other’s differences instead of using them as an excuse for stirring up division and unrest, even war.

All that is good in the world is worth fighting for and all that is bad cries out to be exposed and (hopefully) rectified…however long it takes.

I was in my early 20s when Dr King was assassinated. Yes, his legacy is perhaps cherished most among black people but this is one white poet who learned a lot from this great man whom I have long counted among my heroes and always will. Although no poem can do justice to the man and his work, it was written in good faith.


He had a Dream and shared it with the world;
many listened, but others would not
(some learn lessons taught, others soon forget.)

Nor does it matter, the colour of his Word;
black, white, whatever…naming and shaming,
exposing pain and prejudices, homing in
on humanity’s weaknesses if only to show
how far (yet) we have to go before life
means more than stitch and seam, making good
its patches putting humanity through its paces,
conjuring up a united front in all the right places

All that glisters is not gold nor all that’s aged
grown old, however much we’ve seen
since time began and taught us how to dream,
envisage humanity running true without
having to shoot down any living thing that flies
too close for comfort…

A dove winging peace and love, free voices
reminding us we have choices

[Note: An slightly different version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation].

Monday, 11 February 2013


I confess no poetry editors have ever shown an interest in today’s poem, yet it has always been well received at poetry readings and even stimulated lively debate.  So many people seem to have been the victim of rumour at some point in their lives or know of someone else who has fallen foul of gossip. Far too often, seemingly ‘harmless’ gossip has become exaggerated beyond recognition by the time it has run its course.

Now, it can be a sad as well as wonderful feeling when a reader makes contact to say how a poem of mine has affected them deeply because they can relate so intimately to it. A reader got in touch with me in 2005 to say how he had borrowed my collection form his local library and this particular poem brought back vivid memories. It appears that he had been forced to move away from his childhood home after neighbours circulated nasty rumours about him; these resulted in his being physically as well as verbally assaulted in the street and his house was also vandalised.  The rumours were unfounded, but even after a local newspaper printed a true version of events, completely exonerating him, tongues continued to wag and the harassment continued.

I am pleased to say that I have heard from this reader since. He has made a new life for himself and his family and his wife recently gave birth to their third child.

Tragically, not every victim of vicious rumour has a happy ending. I personally know of one who committed suicide.

Oh, but if only some people would think before they start apportioning blame to others for this or that before they have all the facts…!


Closed, the curtains now,
graffiti on the sill;
no cheery sounds in every room
just gloom and an eerie chill;
no laughing at the budgerigar
or thinking about a new car
but cowering in fear at a banging
on doors, the yelling
of good neighbours
out in force...after rough

Empty, the garden now,
daisies on the lawn;
no kids playing on the old swing
and the satellite dish has gone;
no dog chasing next-door’s cat
or neighbours at the gate
converging like wolves
on fresh meat, working up
a thirst...too late
to make a killing; the law
struck first

Media in on the act,
and prime TV;
parents puffing their points
of view, kids enjoying
the party...
All quiet now. Werewolves
slinking from the scene.
(Can’t get it right every time
and who's to say
what might have been? A job
well done.)

Budgie gets to keep its cage;
history skips a page…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2010

[Note: This poem has been (slightly) revised from the original as it appears in 1st eds., of  First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; 2nd ed. in preparation.]

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Picking Up The Tab

I have often been called a dinosaur because I steer well clear of so-called 'designer' drugs. Well, for a start, you never know what you’re getting or how well (or badly) your body will cope.

Take ‘ecstasy’ for example. Few people have suffered much by way of harmful effects from taking it. Yet, I recall Leah Betts, a schoolgirl from Latchingdon in Essex (UK) whose death on November 19th 1995, shortly after her 18th birthday, resulted in extensive media coverage of and panic about those same so-called ‘designer’ drugs. (Sadly, neither of these lasted long and complacency - especially among young people -  very soon set in again.) 

Photo: A November 1995 photo of Leah Betts in a coma that was widely circulated in the press at the time; copied from Wikipedia.

On November 11th 1995, Leah took an MDMA (‘ecstasy’) tablet, and then drank approximately 7 litres of water in a 90 minute period. Four hours later, she collapsed into a coma, from which she did not recover.
I never knew or met Leah Betts, but perhaps you will think of her when you are tempted to try this drug or that on the grounds that ‘everyone else does’ therefore  ‘it can’t possibly do me any harm.’ (Oh, no? Who says…?)

Apart from the fact that there is a lot of rubbish being pushed on the streets these days (this dinosaur keeps his ear to the ground) there has not been time for sufficient research into the long term effects of even seemingly harmless drugs.

Now, everyone loves to party and (too often) drugs are part of the party scene. Now, if you want to play Russian roulette with drugs, go ahead. Just remember, though, that it could well be your family and friends picking up the tab for it for the rest of their lives. 

Have fun, YES, but play safe and say ‘NO’ to drugs. 

Oh, it’s been said before, of course, but countless funerals and ruined lives suggest a lot of people didn’t listen…and are still not listening. But me, I’m just a dinosaur. Why should I care? Well, for a start, one of those funerals and ruined lives was that of someone I loved.  


Bitter-sweet, a dark place
where I dream of you; 
harsher than a gull’s cry, 
its silence

Treading a swell 
of despair,
and it’s a rare angel 
who’ll care much 
(if at all) for the fool 
sleeping off 
the hangover of a lifetime
bargained for 
with ecstasy, paid for
oh, so dearly! 

Fine feathers, shot down 
in glorious flight,
a fall harsher on the ear
for its silence...

And who’s to blame?

Copyright R. N. Taber, 1999; 2012

[Note: A slightly different  version of this poem first appeared in an anthology Reach for the Truth, Poetry Today (Forward Press)1999 and subsequently in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, 2000.]