Saturday, 30 March 2013

Nature and Human Nature, A Collage

Life is frequently inclined to behave like a rush hour commuter, shoving us this way and that until we are confused, angry, despairing to the point of giving up the daily struggle to survive on the best terms available to us.

We may well seek some respite with nature.  Indeed, and why not?  For it is nature’s way more often than not to offer peace of mind, comfort, reassurance and hope as well as putting everyday human crises in perspective.

Ah, but neither does nature shirk from putting us mortals in our place any more than we mortals, each other.


Sunset, Apollo’s blushes
(for a failing humanity)

Dogma, missiles homing
in on the most vulnerable

Heavens healing wounds,
all God pundits divided

By dawn, subtle birdsong
calling for a kinder world

Clouds, weary foot soldiers
haunting political pundits

High noon, tears of the sun
(for all human prejudices)

Dead leaves, Earth Mother
all but given up on it all...?

Twilight, wrapping-up time
making our mess look good

Stars, all eyes on our 'betters'
ever negotiating moral highs

Darkness, mind over matter;
(pause for thought heroics)

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2018

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007]

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Dark Side of the Moon

I love nature, but - like humankind - it has its dark side. While I have experienced the darker side of human nature at first hand from time to time just for being gay, I suspect other readers will have had similar experiences if for other reasons. It is one of our world’s greater tragedies that different people from different socio-cultural-religious backgrounds are not always born and raised to adopt ways of seeing, thinking, believing and acting that are compatible with a common humanity.

The good news is that the kinder side of nature and its human counterpart will eventually triumph over the cruel if not always how and when we would prefer.


I watched an owl
glide a path of moonlight
hover a certain spot
before selecting to swoop
on a prick-eared rabbit;
watched the owl
penetrate a cluster of stars
clutching its prey,
only to be sucked, in its turn,
into night’s open jaws

I crossed to the spot
where both owl and rabbit
had but followed
the harsher laws of nature
we’d rather forget;
where once, grass,
now splinters of broken glass
that pricked my palm
as I picked them, anxious
to remove all trace

No blood on my hands,
glass but as tears of the moon
for our having seen
life and death as if nothing
to choose between;
walked slowly home
mindful of a sharp chill in the air
and the vastness
of earth and skies sucking me
into its jaws

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Zen of Life Balance

Some readers have commented on my profile photo that was taken by a friend, Christopher King who is also a professional photographer. He also took the b/w photo it replaces. I was delighted with both, especially as I am not very photogenic. You can find more about Chris at:


We all have a force for love on the inside looking out for us. Whether or not we pay it much attention, it records everything we do, good or bad, for better or worse. Moreover, it is a permanent archive, available for reference by anyone who may be interested in searching for more than just proof that we ever existed…among the lower as well as higher profiles in history’s much doctored pages.

This poem is a kenning.


I fly where eagles dare,
tread where hungry lions feed;
among all my enemies,
it’s of short sightedness I most
have cause to be afraid,
that legacy living histories
designed to weaken
if not the bring down the pillars
of its communities

I swim with dolphins
to lead humankind to safe shores,
away from sharks
sniffing for blood in deceptively
still waters,
befriending those beguiled
by a killing tide’s moon
or having taken on high noon
without back-up

I may run with hares from foxes,
but am likely to mistake the fortitude
of tortoises for folly
than the less perceptive human being
is inclined to perceive poverty
for weakness or taking pleasure
in those simpler pursuits
cash can’t buy (nor ever will)
as throwing the race

I am that take on mind, body, and spirit
shaped by life, seduced by art

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A Crying Shame

This poem has not appeared on the blog since 2008. I feel the sentiment if not the poem deserves an airing. I am so lucky, living alone as I do, to have a small, but reliable network of friends who would soon realize if anything was wrong.

Now, we may like to think we are looking out for family, friends and neighbours, but it is so easy to be caught up in other events, issues, whatever...and forget to look.


There are muddy hand prints on a gate
that groans as it swings in the wind;
footprints on a path lead to broken steps
rising to a weepy front door pleading
to be opened, local kids at play forever
ringing its dirty push button bell,
only to run away, laughing, screaming...

The old house is haunted, neighbours say
since the gruesome discovery made
of an old woman who lay dead in her bed
for more than a year, no one to shed
a tear or so much as notice her gone from
the daily round of shopping, washing…
regularly weeding, hedge trimming, going
about her own business like a ghost, less
inclined to socialise than most nor (exactly)
ostracised for this but, not considered
a neighbourly thing to do; small wonder then
these good people moaned to each other
about grimy windows, disgrace of a garden,
sickly odour of decay among weeds
grown tall and spreading, everybody asking
what on earth had got into the old girl,
high time perhaps somebody paid a call?

A good turnout at the funeral

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

Saturday, 23 March 2013


One of my poems begins with the line, ‘I care not for the world as it is now…’.I never said or wrote a truer word. But living in the world is one thing, how we get on with our lives is something else.

We can but try and make our private world a better, kinder, happier place, while hoping some of it will rub off on at least some of those with far more say in world affairs than us so that the world, too, may become a better, kinder, happier place.

Yes, well, wishful thinking perhaps...


Once a bird flew to my window sill
and sung its song for me,
spreading peace, love, and goodwill
as far as the inner eye can see;
over hills, forests, deserts, far away
to lands where little can grow,
and people going hungry every day
while others prefer not to know

As I listened to the bird on my sill,
its song touched my heart
with such peace, love and goodwill
(it saw through me from the start.)
What can we do for the world as it is?
(little enough, it’s true)
but if a bird can prick our consciences,
there has to be more we can do

I watched the bird fly up and away
on wings of that song I’ll hear
as I take in the world News every day
in the comfort of my armchair…
What can I do for the world as it is?
(little enough, it’s true)
but if a bird can prick its conscience,
there’s hope yet for me and you

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008

Friday, 22 March 2013

To Apollo, Over OR Shining a Light on Blood, Sweat and Tears

Old gods, new ways, first dawn, last sunset…world ending with a bang or a whimper, I wonder?

Nature may well hold most if not all the answers, but wears them close to its heart, and who can blame it given humankind’s compulsion for getting its own way no matter who gets hurt or what damage done in the process…?

Nature, of course, will endure long after humanity has failed to learn from its worst mistakes.

As for humankind, we can but trust that those faceless mandarins stalking the corridors of power across the world may yet be named, shamed, and replaced by those whose feeling for humanity and humankind’s obsession with (greener?) pastures new is  not above demonstrating some old-fashioned common sense.


Broken statues in the dust,
signifying one historic dawn,
shooting long shadows

Far, far the shadows fly
across our much scarred land
like many arrows

Into a scholar’s dugout
one arrow flies just as surely
as Apollo’s early rising

Red sun in our dust
making broken statues weep
and bleed for us

Copyright R. N. Taber 1999; 2013

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from an earlier version that first appeared in the poetry magazine Meridian (1999) and subsequently in 1st eds. of  Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Monday, 18 March 2013

Making sense of Numbers

Before I retired, I was a librarian working in public libraries here in the UK. It has been a source of great concern to me in recent years that a growing of children and young people asking for help in finding material for homework projects had such poor literacy and numeracy skills. For some adults too, of course, that may not have had the benefit of much formal education, these skills same remain underdeveloped.

It has always seemed to me that numeracy is somehow seen as the poor relation to literacy even though a grasp of number is every bit as important as a grasp of letters.

 ‘Karl’ and ‘Brett’ once wrote in to tell me how getting help to improve their numeracy skills ‘by leaps and bounds’ had considerably boosted their self-confidence. Karl says ‘Numbers were like a foreign language. I could not make any sense of them.  I was made to feel I was in a minority and was too ashamed to ask for help. I got paranoid and it felt like there was some sort of conspiracy against people like me. I didn’t realise so many people have the same problem. Now I can even work out rail and bus timetables. Before finding a really good (home) teacher I was clueless about the 2400 hours clock.’

Believe me Karl, 2400 hours timetables confuse a LOT of people.

This poem is a villanelle.


It can feel like a conspiracy,
(the world an enemy)
this nightmare, innumeracy

Out shopping, and invariably
spending too much money;
it can feel like a conspiracy

Debts spiraling relentlessly
(affront to integrity)
this nightmare, innumeracy

I look at my friends and envy
their budgeting effortlessly;
it can feel like a conspiracy

I once confessed ashamedly
to life turning sour on me,
this nightmare, innumeracy

I found support and sympathy
and help for others like me;
it can feel like a conspiracy,
this nightmare, innumeracy

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Last Long Hauler Out Of E-Bay

Some people like to hedge their bets regarding what if anything they might face once they have ‘shuffled off this mortal coil’. (That’s straight out of Hamlet, of course. Good ole Shakespeare. Sounds so much better better than just being dead, doesn’t it?)

Me? Well, I was never much of a gambler so I guess I’ll just have to take my chances with nature…


Bid for a ticket,
now halfway to (Heaven?)
angels rushing by - no
less anxious than I to see
the end of the line

Looking down, I see
people on hands and knees
in poverty and pain - far
more anxious than I to see
if God’s at home

Looking out, I feel
a devil’s breath on my face,
smell incense burning
like a pot-pourri of roses
and grow anxious

Bid for a ticket,
now halfway to (Heaven?);
angels rushing past - no
less anxious than I to make up
for lost time

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

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Living With Ghosts

Time heals nothing. Gradually, though, happy memories become even more precious, help sustain us in our loss, encourage and inspire us to get on with our lives.

There is no feeling more inspiring than love, in all its forms.


I glimpsed a ghost
in spring leaves,
a fragile thing, flickering
with loss and pain
till joy, its brighter light.
bursts through - winter
woods alive again

I glimpsed a ghost
in summer leaves
a bold thing, enjoying
no finer freedom
than hope, a brighter light
bursting through - green
woods strong again

I glimpsed a ghost
in autumn leaves,
such a pretty thing, high
on colourful passions
like home fires acting out
our lives like mummers
in a play

I glimpsed a ghost
in winter snow,
a sad thing, its sorrow
shining through…
Yet love, a brighter light
still, watching over
my grave

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

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Fail-Safe For Mortality

What is life all about? How should I know? But a passion for nature reassures me it’s part of a bigger picture than even the inner eye can see…


Where the sun clips the wing of a blackbird,
there I’m heading;
where a spring breeze sings in swan’s down,
there I’m coming from

Where summer rainbows kiss autumn leaves,
there I’m heading;
where April showers give birth to its daffodils,
there I’m coming from

Where autumn leaves make music to die for,
there I’m heading;
where laughter and love take their holidays,
there I’m coming from

Where the snowmen dance to a robin’s tune,
there I’m heading;
where old gods pass new myths off as history,
there I’m coming from

Where a spring breeze sings in swan’s down,
there I’m heading;
Where the sun clips the wing of a blackbird,
there I’m coming from

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013

Monday, 11 March 2013


While waiting for a cataract operation on my right eye, I began to consider a deeper significance of the blur in front of me everywhere I went. [I am pleased to report that the procedure went well on March 1st and I can already see better although my vision in that eye remains a little watery.)

Now, why write a poem instead of an essay or a novel? Why paint a picture rather than create a sculpture? Why compose a symphony and not a ballad?  Could it be that the inner eye strives to focus on what can never quite come into focus because it does not exist, but remains a haunting presence needing to find ways to make itself felt if not known…?


Everything is a blur;
I can scarcely see the way ahead...
Yet, I have only to look up
to spot friendly faces in clouds,
hanging from Earth’s ancient rafters
like celebration bunting

Everything is a blur;
I can scarcely see the way ahead...
Yet, I have only to look down
to spot familiar tracks in wet grass
leading to places I love whose smell
fills me with spring

Everything is a blur;
I am left peering into a misty rain...
Yet, I have only to let birdsong
take on body and spirit to negotiate
safe passage past nature’s funereal veil
to Mount Parnassus

Senses, conscience, reasoning…
Blur is everything

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A Mythology of Leaves

Regular readers will know I have a passion for nature; its trees, history, and mythology...


As the wind rustles leaves across earth and sky
and the moon feels its way among clouds,
hear voices of old gods telling loud and strong
of a time when they sat, oh, so proudly,
on the crest of Olympus considering the ways
of Earth’s children and found us wanting

It is Earth Mother who replies, loud and strong,
reminding them where they went wrong,
trying to manipulate humankind at their whim
like pieces on a chessboard instead
of allowing for its foibles and letting its peoples
win or lose their own battles

To the tawny owl, she calls, as it hunts its prey
and to the rabbit, trying to run away…
To the rough sleeper on the streets of a city
where few will act upon their pity
but watch and wait, playing the blame game
(old gods, in all but name)

As the wind rustles leaves across earth and sky
and the moon feels its way to dawn,
hear voices of old gods calling loud and strong
on a time long, long, gone…
while Earth Mother can but consider the ways
of a new generation and find us wanting

Come day, hear Earth Mother confide in Apollo
how humanity’s poetry rings, oh, so hollow

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

Monday, 4 March 2013

Where Did All the Baby Otters Go? or

We take nature too much for granted. If we are not careful, by the time we wake up to the beauty of a natural world at our fingertips, it may well be out of reach. 

Although hunted less than in the past because their fur isn’t the money maker it used to be, pollution and global warming remain huge threats to otters... as it does to all of us.


There was a stream that ran down a mountain,
through this gutted forest, that daisy field,
joined sewage spilling without correction
over banks where once baby otters played

As men and women challenged the mountain,
would feed also at heaven’s angry breast,
so its life-giving milk turned to poison,
killing us off, like the otters, God rest…

The snows of the mountain slowly melted,
flooding forests, fields, humankind and beast;
City folks, too, slowly forced to admit
their share of the blame neither all nor least

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