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 and 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 (hopefully) make little or no difference to any appreciation of the poem.]

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