Monday, 29 April 2013

Spring, Ethos of Renewal

The genesis of this poem appeared in my secondary school magazine. I was aged 11 years at the time. (Are we really in 2014 already, and will I really be 68 later this year?)

Oh, my, how time flies! Scary, yes, but (as regular readers will know) I for one take reassurance in the fact that spring always follows winter…


In the air, a sense of renewal,
everywhere, bluebells
ringing out their message
of peace, love, rebirth,
imaging a passage of seasons,
(shortcut to Eternity)
where every human heart
dares share its secrets
with Earth Mother for all
that Time will (as likely as not)
get to read between 

A (far) kinder consciousness
intoning rites in the wind,
trying to magic a better future
for all humankind

Humankind shadowing nature
in its arts, achievements,
image makers come and gone;
no mere chance thing,
but a never-ending story-poem
for each human being
to tell, retell, immortalised 
(as likely as not) in archives 
revealing a hint (at least) 
of human endeavour engaging 
with the Spirit of Spring

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2018

[Note: An earlier version of this poem first appeared under the title.'A Hymn to Spring' in an anthology, The Joy of Spring, Poetry Now (Forward Press) 2001 and subsequently in First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; a revised version appeared on the blog (2010); after useful critical feedback, it has since been revised a second time.]

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Mind Hears, The Heart Listens

Yes, we should probably do what our heads tell us more often, but it’s invariably so much more fun (and human) to follow our hearts. True, it can be a risky business but some risks are always worth taking, and love is one of them.

Love comes in all shapes and sizes, expresses itself in countless ways,  probably has a finer grasp of what life (and time?) is really all about than even the most learned mind will ever know.

This poem is a villanelle.


Where Time has its way
with each of us,
Love will always have a say

Eyes shut, cold clay,
no sweet caress
where Time has its way

Fear not the close of day
(waking to emptiness?);
Love will always have a say

Duty, too, its passion may
well speak up for us
where Time has its way

On dark secrets kept at bay
(haunts of fear and lies)
Love will always have a say

Eternity but a breath away
from a cynic’s kiss;
where Time has its way,
Love will always have a say

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2012

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of  A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Spring Sunshine

We talk about the spring, summer, autumn and winter of our years (which probably places me in mid winter) but I suspect that for most if not all of us, at heart anyway,  it’s always spring…

[Photo taken from the Internet]]


Oh, for spring’s leafy corner of the heart
where I love to lie and watch the sunrise,
a beacon of hope to guide us at the start,
its life-shadows playing tricks on our eyes

Each time a cloud passes over my head,
they home in on me, such shadows, on wing,
like birds of prey demanding to be fed
or winter dreams grown impatient for spring

Clouds pass, leafy sky fills with song again
come the sun at noon and twilight’s descent;
though shadows chill a heart like winter rain,
in one corner, spring sunshine never spent

Where nature gives and nature takes away,
in love’s leafy corner, spring sure to stay…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2013

[Note: The first line of the final couplet has been revised from an earlier version of this poem that appears in 1st eds. of Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Friday, 26 April 2013

Shades of Hamlet OR Undertow

Update: (April 23 2016) William Shakespeare - The Bard - died 400 years ago today yet his plays and poetry live on; they are timeless if only because they embrace not only the human condition apropos the individual, but also its universality.

William Shakespeare

As well as wonderful poetry and great entertainment, Shakespeare’s plays positively buzz with philosophy.

Yes, ‘The play’s the thing!’ the Bard has Hamlet say. So what ‘thing’ is that then? To ‘catch the conscience of a king’, yes, but what else…?

If life is a play and we but players in it, perhaps Shakespeare hits closer to home when he has Macbeth cry: ‘…Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/ that struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ and then is heard no more; it is a tale/ told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/ signifying nothing.’

William Faulkner takes up the same theme in The Sound and the Fury that has to be one of the great novels of the 20th century.

As for the rest of us, only a select few are likely to leave giant footprints, but when it comes to developing a sense of direction and purpose in life, there’s nothing to stop us following in the footsteps of giants…is there? 


Time, time! A shifting, sifting play
on love and death - warring, scoring,
giving and partly giving;
urges better things, tugs at lesser
strengths, all finer struggle
caught in undertow

Now, sun in the water dazzles me
splendid heavens. Dove circling saintly
dives on a crumb;
willows weeping for each star fallen,
ebb tide grieves
me home

Home, home! A shifting, sifting play
on love and death - warring, scoring,
giving and partly giving;
urges us to better things, tugs at lesser
strengths, all finer struggle
caught in undertow

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000; 2012

[Note: A slightly different version of this poem appears in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2000;  revised ed. in e-format in preparation].

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A Kindness of Ghosts

Many people say they find  religious festivals very depressing; everyone comes together in the spirit of their religion for only a short while, and then we all start fighting amongst ourselves again, nations as well as families; nations wherever there are meddling politicians and fundamentalist clerics trying to put one over on each other and everyone else and families divided for various reasons, not least what they see as some members creating a cultural divide between old and new ways of life.

Whatever, we can only do our best to make sure that socio-cultural-religious differences do not undermine us; there will always be peace and love somewhere and in someone that we can turn to whenever it looks like they might succeed. Alive or dead, near or far, they will always be people and/or events inspiring us to overcome even the worst this world may throw at us for as long as we leave the door of our hearts open to them and never let anyone or anything provoke us into slamming it shut for the sake of any socio-cultural-religious persuasion.

We are a common humanity whose differences (as I have said so often and will say again) do not make any one of us different, only human, regardless of colour, creed, sex or sexuality.

Here’s wishing you all Happy Days, not just at festive times, but always.


Seabirds, making
graceful flight;
missiles, closing in
on us

Homeowners striving
for a good tan;
refugees having to settle
for staying alive

Jagged rocks along
the seashore;
spent shells among
daisies on a lawn

Children crying over
lost sandcastles;
sorry world, weeping
at mass graves

Climate change across
land, sea and air;
nature, despairing at
our despair

Love, hope and peace
but as ghosts…
kept busy haunting our
better selves

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2013
[Note: The poem has been (very) slightly revised from a version that first appeared in CC&D, Scars Publications (US) September 2005 and subsequently in 1st eds. of Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Monday, 22 April 2013

C'est Magnifique (In any Language)

Now, regular readers will know I have written many love poems, often with my late partner in mind, but not with heavy sadness or regret but immense thankfulness for the relatively short time we had together years ago.

At the same time, as always, I try to ’open up’ my poems to lift them beyond the personal so that anyone can access and follow reflective thoughts of their own.


No grief
finer than a kiss, inflicting
mortality on this body
that's barely spent with our
lovemaking, caressing
lips with secret smile, seeking
the Creator, Destroyer
in us all with Delilah’s gall,
starry-eyed Samson set up
for star pupil

No madness
in the weirdest shadows
flirting with twilight,
teasing the sun’s embers
with a scattering of stars
brighter by far than the eyes
haunting this mortal frame;
only sadness for a leaf,
that's fallen here at our feet
before its time

No tears
(a misty rain in the wind)
nor cries from the heart
but a nightingale for others
of our kind, covering us
like a death sheet as a mark
of respect for this ultimate
reckoning, proud Cassiopeia
sharing out gifts among regrets
like falling stars

Ah, c'est magnifique

Copyright R. N. Taber 1999; 2011

[Note: an earlier version of this poem  appeared uner the title 'Affairs of the Heart' in the anthology, A United Voice, Poetry Now (Forward Press) 1999 and the poetry magazine Fire (17) in 2002 as well as my first major collection, Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revised ed. in e-format in preparation. Fire has since ceased publication, but can still be accessed on-line via the Poetry Library archives.]

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Ode to Spring

The poem first appeared in an anthology, A Natural Way of Thinking, Poetry Now [Forward Press] 2003 and subsequently in my collection.

Now, it is spring and who wants to think about anything else but celebrating love and nature?  

Reader ‘Marian J’ contacted me some time ago to say she especially likes this poem ‘because my love for spring gets me through even the worst winters.’ That goes for me, too, Marian.


I heard you laughing on a summer wind,
telling the world about me,
how you made me fall in love with you
then said you wanted to be free;
I couldn’t make you change your mind…
You said I’m really not the kind
for you, I should find someone new,
left me alone and blue

Memories, a summer breeze

I heard you crying in a winter wind
telling the world about us,
how we fell and threw our love away
like autumn leaves;
I couldn’t make you change your mind…
You said you’re really not the kind
for me, and I should find someone new,
had to let you go

No peace of mind, winter wind

I’m laughing now it’s spring again,
telling the world about you,
how I went down on my knees today
whispered a prayer or two;
I can’t believe you changed your mind…
You said, we’re two of a kind
after all, so let's see if we can’t find
a way through

Come, let the wind blow...

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

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Variations On A Theme

Hello from London UK.

I am fine, folks, (thanks to many of you for asking) but feeling very tired again after another restless night. [For the benefit on first time readers, I am being treated for prostate cancer and doing okay.] .

Now, my late mother was always singing around the house and there was a time I thought it was because she was happy. In later years, I realized that she sang to think herself into happy mode; singing, for her, was a kind of escapism just as reading was for us both. My mother always wanted us to be a happy family unit, which we never truly were. I mostly blamed my late father, but I dare say he and my brother would put the blame on me.

I stopped playing the blame game years ago and can see now that I was not an easy child to live with. I suffered from depression (no one acknowledged depression in children then) that brought on awful migraines. In addition, I had significant hearing loss that no one ever appreciated, including me, until I was much older. As a teenager, being removed from my childhood friends at 14 years-old and forced to live in a god-awful backwater called Hoo (in Kent) did not help, especially as it coincided with my realizing I am gay; gay relationships would not be decriminalized for a few years yet.

Yes, I was a ‘difficult’ child and youth although no one knew just how troubled I was. [My perception is that family members sit down and talk to each other even less than we did then so heaven help future generations!] The only surprise about my having a severe nervous breakdown in my early 30’s was that it hadn’t occurred years earlier. It was a messy business. By then my mother was dead and neither my father nor brother ever asked me for my side of events that took place during that terrible time. They made assumptions and I was expected to live with them. I recovered sufficiently to find another job nearly three years later, but it took me a good ten years or so to recover fully and get my life back on track. [Even so, my breakdown still haunts me just as those closet years of awakening sexuality always will.]

There was something very wistful about my mother’s singing, yet positive too; it helped her rise above the trials and tribulations of everyday family life just as writing helps me. How many of us, I wonder, find similar outlets for their frustrations? For my own part, as regular readers will know, writing as an art form comes a poor second to its means to a very effective form of self-help therapy.


One long-ago spring,
I heard an old flower seller
hum a song my mother
would always sing to me
whenever I felt sad
and lonely, evoking a line
from a poem about
a pretty robin left sobbing
(for all innocence?)
as autumn starts to turn

I was so innocent then,
listening to Mother singing
a song to lift my heart
though I’d often wonder
why it sounded so sad
and lonely, like the flower
in a poem, rejected
for a pretty rose tree’s blooms
demanding a poet’s eye
find excuses for its thorns

One long-ago winter,
I heard another flower seller
hum the song my mother
still sings to me whenever
I miss her, feel so sad
and lonely for no one even
trying to see how it is;
song, mother, child, robin,
rose, poet, poem…variations
on a common theme

Life forms, art forms, voicing 
wishful thinking

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

[Note: References to ‘a poem’ in stanzas 1 & 2 relate to The Blossom and My Petty Rose Tree among William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, but whether or not readers are familiar with these should make little or no difference to any appreciation of my poem.]

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Never leave Me OR Homecoming

Since 2001 I have introduced all my books with, ‘Colour, creed, sex, sexuality…these are but part of a whole; it is the whole that counts.’

Now, I was recently informed by someone ‘in the know’ that it is politically incorrect to say ‘colour’ and I should say ‘ethnicity’ instead.

Having asked various people from various ethnic backgrounds how they feel about it, none said they were offended and most agreed it was yet another example of political correctness gone mad. One woman told me, “You’re white and I’m black. What’s offensive about that?  As for ethnicity, as far as I’m concerned, my ethnicity is the same as yours. I was born in London into a family of third generation immigrants. Yes, I’m proud of my great grandparents’ roots. But my roots are right here in London. Besides, I’ve got better things to do than take offence where none is meant. In any case, it’s not what you say that matters but how you say it, right?’

She is so right, as far as I’m concerned, but please feel free to email me if you have any thoughts on this.


Today's poem has appeared on the blog before and is one of several that I am reinstating; it was inspired by a conversation with someone waiting for a loved one to return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Unable to live with the stress, my companion had sought comfort with someone else until realising that comfort is no substitute for love. It took a while, but she worked at getting her marriage back on track. She and her husband are expecting their first child in the summer.

The poem is dedicated to all those serving in armed forces abroad, regardless of colour, creed, sex or sexuality, and to their loved ones waiting for them to return home.


In a fairy tale wood,
dwarfed by leafy towers,
we planted seeds,
watched for flowers;
none did we see
that childlike summer
you promised me a love
to last forever

You went to war
(Iraq then Afghanistan);
I found another,
my heart a safer haven;
broken promise,
a fairy tale shot dead
for a soldier, kill or else  
be killed...

One night I dreamed
I ran among ruined towers
where dragons roared,
giants trampling flowers…
What of our seeds?
I had to save them or try;
nature’s needs abandoned,
like love, will die?

Truth to learn,
nature leaving no choice
but to return,
listen out for its voice
where leafy towers
like rousing sermons rise,
clouds rehearsing love songs
in lonely skies

All was much the same
(restored, glittering towers)
as you called my name
through late summer tears…
Back to war you’ll go,
yet never leave me, watching
love bloom, grow, anticipating
every homecoming

[Note: First  published under the title 'Never Leave Me' in Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012]

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Bonding With Eternity OR Together, Whatever

I have written many love poems; this one is a favourite, written with a wonderful couple in mind who had been happily married for many years before one partner died.  

It is so hard being left behind. Family and friends are a source of great comfort, and memories too. Even so, there can be no substitute for the real thing.

Ah, but where love is the real thing, be sure it inspires the mind to all things bright and beautiful, transcending the human body into the very spirit of its being, leaving a trail across time and space for others to follow. True, love has its ups and downs, good times and bad, but the more enlightened among us will always put our trust in its capacity for enduring joy.

This poem is a villanelle.


It was love opened up my heart
to all life means to me…
nor shall death its bonding part

Sands of time, soulmates at the start,
a song of destiny;
it was love opened up my heart

May the world no finer truths impart
than its natural beauty;
nor shall death its bonding part

Like summer skies, stars, even clouds
charting a fragile humanity…
it was love opened up my heart

If a taste on the tongue sweet or tart,
our togetherness a delicacy;
nor shall death its bonding part

Be nature’s kin struck by a poison dart
comprising all inhumanity…
it was love opened up my heart
nor shall death its bonding part

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

Sunday, 7 April 2013

All In Good Time

I have written several poems about my feelings regarding my having been diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2011; it is not thought to be aggressive, and ‘more of a pussycat than a tiger’ according to my consultant. .

A neighbour (who chose a different course of action) thinks I am ‘courting death’ by changing my mind about having radiotherapy and settling for hormone therapy. He could well be right of course. It is certainly not a decision that would suit everyone. Nor, I have to say, is it one that I have taken lightly. However, I don’t see my decision as courting death, but courting life.

No worries. Basic instinct tells me (as it did before I panicked and opted for treatment) that I have a good few years left in me yet. Besides, it is a fact that more men die with prostate cancer then from it. Yes, I could be making a mistake. Let’s hope I’m not, yeah?

Where there’s life there’s love, and where there’s love that’s enough for me. I may not have a partner now, but I still love him; others, too, who have been or still are in my life. I trust them and Earth Mother to see me through.


Death comes to us all,
even if its when, where and how
but minute specks
on the hands of a kitchen clock
inviting us to rustle up
some good times, serve them up
to memories always hungry
for leftovers of a favourite dish
created with loving hands

Tick-tock, tick-tock,
hands of an alarm clock moving
too fast for us
as we lie in each other’s arms
after making time for love
before the work ethic demands
we answer its call,
steer a course as best we can
to kinder shores

Tock-tock, tick-tock,
hands of cloud clocks inviting us
to run races we cannot win,
but can still have some fun trying
for a place in the role call
of winners, losers and also-rans
reeled off by commentators
making love to their microphones
in soundproof boxes

Life favours us all,
even the when, where, and how
of its telling notches
on the hands of a kitchen clock
inviting us to rustle up
some good times, serve them up
to memories always hungry
for leftovers of a favourite dish
created with loving hands

[London: August 5th 2011]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Life Companions OR On the Healing Power of Nature

Today’s poem was written in 2011 and was first published in an anthology, Fear Itself Forward Press, 2012.

In the 1980's I spent a couple of years working as a librarian with the local Home Library Service that visits housebound people unable to get to a local library. One of my customers was a lady well into her nineties, all of whose family and friends had died. She was a lovely lady; with soft, silvery hair and the most beautiful skin I have ever seen on an old person; she must have been a real beauty in her younger years.

The group of people with whom I worked visited the same people every three weeks in a mobile library van and we got to know some of them well. I asked this lady once if she was ever lonely. ‘Of course,’ she replied in a hauntingly musical voice. ‘I miss my friends and family, but I have my reading, my music and can look out on my garden and enjoy nature and wildlife. They are always reminding me that life is precious, but nothing lasts forever. I used to worry about dying alone, but not now. The garden will know when my time comes. The flowers and trees, birds, butterflies, and even the grey squirrels will see me through whatever lies in store for me. Earth Mother will remember me when I’m no longer here, even if no one else does....’

At the time, I thought it was a very romantic thing to say, but that’s all. I know better now.

Whatever their colour, creed, sex or sexuality, people of my generation and older (I am 67) who don’t have a partner, for whatever reason, often tell me they get scared sometimes of growing old alone and dying alone. I can relate to that although I rose above such fears some time ago. 

Yes, I have occasional lapses of confidence and start to panic, but only have to look out of my window at the garden below or go for a walk along the canal or on Hampstead Heath to feel reassured. Even city life plays host to nature if not on the same scale as the countryside.

In later years, especially after I turned sixty, I realized it was unlikely I would meet anyone else with whom I’d want to spend the rest of my life.

I confess I grew more and more apprehensive about growing old and being on my own. Yes, I have some good friends, but who’s to say who will outlive whom? For a while, I found little comfort even in my close affinity with nature. Indeed, I became more than a little apprehensive about the future. I got scared, really scared.

Ah, yes, but not now….for human nature has a healing power of its own; it is called positive thinking. besides, whenever I contemplate the inspiring beauty of the natural world, I feel a sense of peace that lifts me above any negative feelings that might try to sneak in, not least regarding my prostate cancer...


There was a fear in me
that became terror as I grew older,
of being left alone,
family and friends long gone,
dying on my own

I could not sleep at night
for the grip on me this terror had,
a living nightmare,
nowhere to go, no one to share
so much as a tear

One sunset, in my garden,
watching fluffy pink clouds drift by,
a nightingale’s song
captured the sheer joy of living,
an eternity of loving

I felt Earth Mother’s arms
take me in a strong, intimate embrace,
a presence reassuring,
sense of rest and peace enduring,
no dark dreaming

I slept easy that night,

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011; 2012

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

View from a Church Window

Today’s poem is an early poem albeit slightly revised. Having been partially deaf since  childhood, I possibly developed a perceptive inner ear at an early age. At the same time, I became increasingly aware of other people’s inner deafness.

Kissing Gate


There’s a thrill of blossom
on the old tree,
a greeny-white chirrup
of noise bouncing
gently, like a ball at play
in child hands

Every nuance of creation
about the old tree
tuned to perfection, you and me 
shaking our heads
at confetti coming down on us
like acid rain

A hymn to life,
such beauty!
Tiny wafers of noise
tongued lightly
at the kissing gate
over there…

Here, a dim view
of immortality as we pass
our seasons by,
grown deaf  to each leaf,
rarely (if ever) making time
to wonder why

Copyright R. N. Taber 1997; 2013

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from an earlier version that appeared in several poetry magazines between 1997-2000 and an anthology, Changing Seasons, Poetry Today [Forward Press] 1998 and subsequently in  in 1st eds. of Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]