Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Lead Player in a Docudrama


Social, religious, cultural and, yes, even sexual elements of human nature are inclined to conspire against us (supposedly for our own good) on a regular if not daily basis in order to establish themselves in this or that driving seat…

Such is the nature of the human ego that it can be something of a control freak...as and when it suits. Nor does anything bring this home perhaps than when browsing archives, not least those, enduring  relating to family history, reading and capturing the imagination like a docudrama portraying human nature at its best and worst, strongest and weakest, all-enduring despite (even because of) the very flaws that comprise it. 

This poem is a kenning.

LEAD PLAYER IN A DOCUDRAMA

I come in peace, a force for good
yet am often abused, used to make war
on lesser forces unable to resist
the strength of my will giving ambition
and determination their way;
for good or ill, time will have its say
and those, too, who endure
the wait to see if they can (ever)
put their trust in me

I bring hope where weaker forces
sure to fail, yet can be misunderstood,
seen as an enemy, threatening
to take control for my own purposes,
harbouring a secret agenda,
a measured tissue of lies and half lies
an impenetrable camouflage
for self-interest convincingly ticking
all the right boxes

I offer stability where foundations
of enterprise are in danger of collapse
along with all invested interests;
yet, I am easily distracted in playing
the hero, even persuaded
by my own convictions that any potential
for universal gain has to be better
than settling for less on the grounds
it bring happiness

I dress the bones of history with flair
who am that old chameleon, Power

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

Monday, 26 August 2013

Making Peace With Love


Love is invariably a win or lose affair.  For the loser, it can take a long time to make peace with love, as we must if we want to move on...

MAKING PEACE WITH LOVE 

I could almost feel it licking at my
heels every step I took;
it cast a feisty shadow every time
I chanced a look;
I began to feel like a missing page
in my own history book

One day I waited, let it catch me up
then moved in,
seized it by the scruff of the neck,
and demanded it explain;
it wrestled me to the ground, left me
writhing in pain

I staggered after summer, still reeling
from its blow,
grabbed it by the hand, insisted I had
a right to know;
it laughed in my face, warned me not
to follow

Ah, but follow I did, down blind alleys
into a shady corner;
we glared at each other, sworn enemies
forever…
but finally trapping jealousy, my shadow
and love, my stalker

It was now or never. Grateful for a choice,
we made our peace
and time since has been more than kind
to us. Though long ago,
that summer’s rogue flame still
lighting good memories

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2016

[Note: This poem first appears in On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]




Sunday, 25 August 2013

Upping the Tempo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

“Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?” - Friedrich Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols)

Gay or straight, it’s never too late to learn certain dance steps or re-learn, as the case may be...

This poem is a kenning.

 UPPING THE TEMPO 

I creep up on cold feet
(love to blow bubbles in a cynic’s face)
lead them a lively dance
away from querulous urban sprawl,
where open spaces beckon,
prose fields beside satire’s streams
where songbirds give the lie
to dashed hopes, impossible dreams,
cruel whispers in the ear

Oh, but I love to play games
(preferring pretty bubbles to drab tears)
especially hide-and-seek
among trees looking on with a grin
where open spaces beckon;
though telegraph poles might trespass
along with mobile phone masts
and utility pipelines, we’ll not let them
get to us

I’ll play tricks on cold feet
(bubbles like eyes winking mischievously)
lead them a lively dance
away from heads-you-win, tails-I-lose
looking glass wars
in dusty rooms, opening up windows
to let back in the heady smells
of honeysuckle and freshly mown grass,
Earth Mother in on the game

Inspired by Apollo’s lyre, I am the dance
into passion’s fire that’s called romance

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Real-Life Heroes and Popcorn Soldiers


I know I have said this before but it never ceases to amaze me how, when terrible clips of deaths and injuries suffered during the war in Afghanistan are shown on TV News, some people - especially children and young people - instead of being appalled, become excited, as if they were watching a war movie!

Oh, but it’s a sad reflection on our times if we cannot get across to everyone how to discriminate between fact and fiction.

REAL-LIFE HEROES AND POPCORN SOLDIERS

Dust, sand and blood
on his boots;
dust, sand and blood
on his uniform;
blood, sweat and tears
on his face;
blood, sweat and tears
in his eyes;
only a quiet heart kept
clean if not safe;
as for more of the same,
bags of them

No dust, sand or blood
on designer shoes;
no dust, sand or blood
on custom tee shirts;
no blood, sweat or tears
in high places;
no blood, sweat or tears
in eyes glued to TV,
only the armchair soldier
biting popcorn bullets;
as for more of the same,
bags of them

Copyright R. N. Taber, 2010


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Stoic Spirit, Vulnerable Heart


It is so true what they say about discovering who your real friends are when the going gets tough. Since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2011, several people I thought were good friends have rarely if at all even been in touch by phone or email. I am not upset if a little hurt, but mostly a feel a sense of déjà vu, having been here before. Even so, I am fortunate enough to have friends who are very supportive and more than compensate for those that choose to look the other way.

Of course, other people have their own lives to lead, may well have problems of their own they have no wish to share or are simply too busy to put friends first. But real friendship deserves better, surely? Otherwise, it is an illusion. Sadly, too many people see friendship as a one-way street; they take what they can get from it, and give precious little if anything back.

True, we don’t give to receive, but when we put ourselves out for people, show a genuine interest in their lives and try to give support whenever they ask for it, don’t we deserve better than a metaphorical slap in the face?

Few of us set out to deliberately hurt others. It’s just a sad fact of human nature that some people are so blinkered to any if not all home truths.  It can take many years before we call it a day with he or she who has played a significant part in our lives only to let us down time and again. It is never an easy decision, and one many of us are just as likely to retract should he or she ever need us again.

This poem is a kenning.

STOIC SPIRIT, VULNERABLE HEART

I run the gauntlet
of love, life, fun and tears,
trying to make the best
of things rather than complain
about the worst years,
struggling to rise above
the pain human beings
inflict upon each other time
and again

I turn to nature
for comfort and brief respite
from a daily torture
humanity asks me to endure
with all the dignity
and stoicism of someone
always expected to put
other people’s needs before
their own

I lie awake at night
wondering who or what
is wrong or right
amongst all that’s been said
and done in the course
of whatever merry chase
mischievous Apollo
and outcast Cassiopeia care
to lead us on

I am that sense of loss and hurt,
trailing where friendships abort

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011


Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Banker


Gay or straight, human nature is much the same world-wide. I dare say a good many of you can count at least one or two fair weather friends of your own. Maybe they might even recognise themselves in what I have to say on the subject although I doubt it.

Now, my mother rarely had a bad word to say about anyone and would put herself out for just about everyone. But I recall how she once referred to one of her closest friends as a vampire. I was curious. She told me that some people are only after what they can get out of a friendship, and when they have taken their fill they will waste no time looking elsewhere. So why bother with them, I wanted to know? My mother shrugged. ‘When people need you, what choice do you have but to be there for them?’

True enough, when we moved and it meant making an effort to stay in touch, the friend soon dumped my mother for someone who was more convenient, and we never saw her again. I was angry on my mother’s behalf, but she took it in her stride. ‘Yes, some people can be very hurtful,’ she explained to boy Roger, but they can’t help it. For them, it comes with being human just as some of us were born to be hurt.’ She said this without a trace of bitterness although she was clearly upset.

I, too, have suffered my share of vampires. Not any more. There comes a time when you have to escape their clutches or go on letting them hurt you. They are not horrible people, just thoughtless and self-centred. Neither are uncommon traits, but only human albeit aspects of human nature we much prefer to gloss over. 

Fortunately, though, I have also inherited my mother's spirit of endurance, especially while I have to deal with side effects of treatment for my prostate cancer. For now at least, yours truly is putting himself first. Even so, if a good friend has a problem, its mine too, and I will help as and when I can, not least because another trait from which I try to take a leaf from my mother's book embraces yet another of her frequently repeated sayings; how we reap what we sow in this world.

In recent years, I have experienced various health problems, not easy to deal with when you live on your own. Fortunately, too, though, I have some good friends, including some wonderful neighbours; they have rallied round and given much-needed support. My mother's adages have frequently come to mind, also a much-quoted wry comment by the poet, Robert Frost: "A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain." 

This poem is a kenning.

THE BANKER

I come as a friend,
yet in time you will realise
I feed on
the milk of human kindness
and will drain it dry
any chance I get, even where
it leaves a trail
of hurt and pain I’ll never
turn to see

I speak as a friend,
yet in time you will realise
all I say
turns on all I am, and you
count for little
alongside my needy ego;
even though
I mean no harm, I will
wear you down

I know all the excuses
that spring to mind whenever
challenged to give
thought where thought is due,
but I have little for you
for where would that leave me
but unhappiness,
one straw less to help
keep me afloat

Friend, indeed, am I, like sunshine,
but look for me not in pouring rain


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

Friday, 16 August 2013

Warning: Private Space, Closed for Repairs


I suspect the situation this post and poem attempts to reflect is probably familiar to many if not most of us.

Overheard in a café:

WOMAN: Michael has been trying to get in touch with you. By all accounts, he’s in a bit of a state.  I gather his love life has turned turtle, the poor love.

MAN: No surprises there then.

WOMAN: So why aren’t you picking up or returning his calls?

MAN: Because I have serious problems of my own at the moment. I really can't cope with Michael's until I sort my own. 

WOMAN: That is so selfish! It’s all right for you. You’re strong. You know how needy poor Michael is.

MAN: Yes, well, right now I’m needy too. I need to sort myself out, and I can’t do that if I’m stuck with sorting Michael out...again.

WOMAN: But, poor Michael...

MAN: Poor Michael needs to grow up, and if you think he’s so needy, YOU go and sort him out.

The man left abruptly. The woman caught my eye, shrugged and sent her eyebrows into overdrive while mouthing, ‘Some people!’ ...before returning to her snack.

My sympathy was entirely with the man (I’m not being sexist either) having been there myself many times.

Most of us try to be there for our friends, bur some friends take us for granted.  We look around for someone to be there for us when we most need to talk to someone about something that is tearing us apart...and there is no one there; everyone is too busy with their own problems to even consider that we may have problems of our own. After all, we are ‘strong’ and can take care of ourselves; we don’t need anyone. Well, the chances are they are so wrong, and one day they well may look to their ‘strong’ friend for customary support only to discover that that he or she has crumbled under the pressure of disillusionment and the convenient corner shop is closed for repairs.

Some people are naturally strong and others have strength thrust upon them by personal battles hard won. But strong or less strong, we should never forget we are all but human, and much the same basic human needs apply to everyone. Sometimes we have to put our own needs first or we are likely to be of little use to anyone, least of all ourselves. 

WARNING: PRIVATE SPACE, CLOSED FOR REPAIRS

I am but fragile
where seen as firm, fearless,
appearing strong,
no one suspecting differently
until I am stretched
as far as nature will carry me,
only to be exposed
for an illusion of the kind
feeding on dreams

I deceive no one,
but try to do the right thing
by family and friends,
be there at the right times,
lending a shoulder
to cry on, an ear to listen,
a take on how things
might change for the better
sooner or later

I am but human,
(with needs, too, of my own)
that often despairs
of finding no one there
or shoulder to cry on,
an ear to listen (for long)
or take on ending
this feeling of endless freefall
into empty words

I am the friend
trying to do the right thing,
at the right times,
lend a shoulder to cry on,
an ear to listen,
provide a take on how we
might set about
changing things for the better,
sooner or later

Handle me with care;
even close friends can weary
of being taken
for granted time and again;
no shoulder to cry on
or ear to listen for needing
to take up a little
of someone else’s private space
closed for repairs

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Making a Start OR On Letting Good Intentions Speak for Themselves


Sometimes everything but everything seems to be going wrong and is almost too much to bear. Then it’s time to take a step back and consider what to DO.

Tell someone, preferably a close friend or relative who knows you well. A trouble shared really is a trouble halved.

Seek practical / professional help and advice. If you don’t know where to get it…ask. (Your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau is always a good start if you have money worries).

Come on, folks. Nothing is ever quite as bad as it looks.

Try resolving things instead of letting them get on top of you. If they cannot be resolved, try making the BEST of things instead of the worst. True, it’s never easy, but always worth making the effort. Don't try and muddle through on your own either. We all need help and support sometimes. There is no shame in asking. Besides, most people - especially those closest to us - LIKE to be asked.

Remember, if no one knows we need help, no one is in a position to give it. We have no right to complain that no one cares about us if we insist on keeping our troubles to ourselves. Yes, sometimes people let us down, society too. We can but try. More often than not, being positive achieves positive results.

So come on, folks. Let’s get a life instead of letting it get to us. [Could it be that Earth Mother has the same idea? Now, there’s a thought…]


MAKING A START or  ON LETTING GOOD INTENTIONS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

Up to the ears in debt,
a broken romance,
a redundancy notice
obscuring headlines
on war, famine, floods,
earthquakes, other
natural disasters breaking
human hearts, taking
human lives, and blaming  
global warming
when we’re not blaming
each other for never
getting it right no matter
how we vote

No ozone hole to blame
for street crime,
racism or homophobia,
beggars (all ages)
haunting shoppers, kids
all but running riot
in supermarkets because
parents afraid to say
no, stop, don’t, mustn’t
or you’ll grow up with
precious few social skills
and even less hope
of getting parole halfway
into a life sentence

Must start to get real, nurture
for a better world

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2013

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from an earlier version that appears in 1st eds. of  Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Insomnia OR Never Let a Sandman Wear You Down.


Sometimes we can’t sleep for wrestling with the world’s problems and our own. Where the former is concerned, it’s a losing battle.

Regarding our personal problems…we hold the key to, if not solving them, at least moving in that direction. Insomnia is telling us that we should not prevaricate but take action sooner rather than later. Having decided what we already knew but weren’t quite ready to accept…we can then turn over open our minds to the peace and comfort of sleep.

If only the world could do the same...

Meanwhile, even the human spirit needs to recharge its batteries in order to be restored to positive thinking mode, and that's where sleep comes in.  The trick is, think nice things. Be nice to the Sandman and the chances are he'll be nice to you.


INSOMNIA or NEVER LET A SANDMAN WEAR YOU DOWN 

Tossing and turning, unable to sleep,
a desperate yearning for peace
of mind - but they are unkind to me,
the pillows, the sheets, a mattress
that sags in the middle; eerie shadows
on the ceiling, spiders on the wall,
strange noises rising from the floor,
sounds of partying next door
(I was not invited by the way, slighted
as ever…could it be because I'm gay,
surely not? The twenty-first 21st century
is well under way for heaven's sake,
though you wouldn’t think so for tragic
goings-on in countries like Iraq

So what’s wrong with me that people
always seem to be taking the piss,
leaving me tossing and turning, unable
to sleep, desperate for some peace?
Maybe I should try harder to be nice
or perhaps I’m trying too hard,
need to devote more time to listening
instead of complaining, taking
on board this point of view and that?
Mind you, at least I have opinions
worth voicing (well, don't I?) has to beat
recycling the everyday garbage
thrown out by Mr, Mrs and Ms Average
so the neighbours can gossip about
they’re not just keeping up with the Jones'
(and how!) but are actually putting
their money where their mouths once were
before the advertising moguls started
taking over the show, various media pundits
busy partying in the Corridors of Power,
confusing issues, boosting sales of tissues,
inciting dear Average and Jones
to exhibitionism (credit card fetishism?)
raising old Hue and Cry, ‘My, look at that.’
(Oh, and so what...?)

It has to be said, most of us are easily led
by any old halter, cattle to slaughter;
Note, I didn’t say ‘sheep’ - the exclusive
property of those unable to sleep
for sweating over, oh, such pretty lambs
(thanks, Mother Nature, you're a star)
therefore not in the same blanket category
as Average and Jones who'll never
lose any sleep over Dolly clones, let alone
war in Iraq, North Korea's intentions,
Human Rights globally, poverty everywhere,
not to mention the likes of that double act,
Bush and Blair, with whom history is unlikely
(ever) to get even

Alas, it will all keep, while the rest of us toss
and turn, trying to get some sleep

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2013

[Note: This poem has been slightly but significantly revised (2012) from the original that appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Fruit of the Acorn, Children of the Oak


Update (July 22 2016): Today is Prince William's 3rd birthday. (See the last photo below.)

Meanwhile...

Whatever their feelings about the monarchy, only a killjoy would not wish HRH Prince William, Catherine and family happiness.

The formative years for any child are so important, the greater influence on these being the home environment. As privileged or poor as that environment may be, the child growing up among those who love and care for him or her, while respecting his or her right to develop as an individual, will always have the greater chance of discovering and tasting the sweeter fruits of life. Let’s face it. Few of us will never get to taste its sourer fruits.

Royal children don't have easy lives. Constantly in the public eye they have to learn to juggle private and public pleasures and responsibilities. (I, for one, would hate that.)

As for the common accusations regarding wealth and privilege, every child deserves the best life has to offer. Given that we all want and/or expect different things from life, I suspect more of us achieve this than first glances often suggest.  It is never a good idea (or fair) to make comparisons.


HRH Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Prince George as a baby (Internet)

[Update May 2nd 2015: The Duchess of Cambridge has gone into labour with her second child this morning, and was admitted to St Mary's Hospital, London, at 6:00 am. + It's a girl! Born just after 8:30am.] (RT)
Photo of Prince George and proud dad released just prior to his 2nd birthday (Internet)

 HRH Duke of and Duchess of Cambridge with new baby daughter, Charlotte (Internet)

HRH Prince George and Princess Charlotte, 2015; photo taken by their mother. (Internet)

Family photo, Christmas 2015 [Internet]


Prince George at 3 years-old (July 22 2016)

FRUIT OF THE ACORN, CHILD OF THE OAK
        (written at the birth of Prince George)

Fair of face and born to be king,
(world’s cue for love and peace)
in a millennium, itself, a seedling

On him, nature’s every blessing,
to loved ones, a rare happiness;
fair of face and born to be king

For him, let nations unite to sing
(a fine lyric for love and peace)
in a millennium, itself, a seedling

No matter what time’s tides bring,
may his be a spirit of openness;
fair of face and born to be king

For a long, happy, life bells ring,
lifting hearts to love and peace
in a millennium, itself, a seedling

Come a private or public viewing,
may his heart beat true, at ease;  
fair of face, and born to be king
in a millennium, itself, a seedling


[London: July, 2013]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013

[Note: For the benefit of anyone unfamiliar with it,  'Fair of face' is from the old rhyme, 'Monday's child is fair of face...']




Sunday, 4 August 2013

When the Wind Blows OR Listening Out for a Love Song



Only fools take little or no care to create and store happy memories as they go through life or on wintry days, when a north wind blows, they will have little or nothing by which to warm themselves, take hope, and feel inspired.

Be sure, second hand memories won’t do the trick.

I have said much the same thing before and a reader got in touch to say that his partner has Alzheimer’s so what use are their happy memories?

Well, I believe that a person does not have to articulate on happy memories to enjoy them; the spirit of that happiness never dies and will sustain us through just about anything. In my experience, where that spirit is weak or absent, the human heart tells a very different story. 

I have known people with and written poems about Alzheimer’s; it is a very sad condition, but even as it progresses many of those who have it seem able to convey and live (for much if not all the time) by the spirit of a happy past even though they cannot recall it in much or any detail. Perhaps this is wishful thinking of my part, but an overwhelming impression all the same.

A devoted carer once said much the same thing to me so it isn’t just a poet’s rhetoric. ‘It keeps me sane,” he told me, “knowing that the spirit of the love we have shared for the best part of a lifetime is still there, intact. True, its human container is outwardly more than a shade battered, bruised and all but beyond recognition, but its contents will remain as fresh, pure and precious as ever for as long as at least one of us continues to draw breath. After that…who knows?”

Who, indeed?

WHEN THE WIND BLOWS or LISTENING OUT FOR A LOVE SONG

A north wind, penetrating within,
purging the soul, tearing skin
from a body staring ruin in the face,
and no way back to the way
things were but a leaf or flower away;
driven to choose this track
or else no chance of winning;
hope fading, risk losing just about
everything

Blows the wind cruelly, tears freezing
faces turned heavenwards
seeking aid, mercy, grace, forgiveness
for the error of our ways,
judgments cast in stone to boost egos
begging superiority over erstwhile
minorities, teeth showing
like the smile on a hungry tiger
selecting priorities

We persevere. Though fear do its worst,
we shall endure, see the sun shine
in our faces again, belie the damage
of acid rain, camouflage our pain
under a slick, blank sheets of copy paper
signifying nothing, signing us up
for whatever the world cares
to have us say we feel, no matter
what’s just or real

Listen. Above sounds like wolves howling
and cash druggies prowling, a love song…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2013

[Note: A slightly different 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.]


Thursday, 1 August 2013

California, Ole Grizzly Remembered


I fell in love with California and wrote several poems on my first and only visit there in 1999. I would love to return, especially to San Francisco, but my prostate cancer makes that very unlikely, not least due to the exorbitant cost of travel insurance. Moreover, I have since incurred a blood clot (now dispersed) in the course of treatment for a bad fall so remain vulnerable to DVT. Even so, I'll never say never...

The California grizzly bear was designated official State Animal in 1953 - more than 30 years after the last one was shot. The grizzly bear is also honored on the California state flag.

Photo: Grizzly bear (taken from Internet)

Before the grizzly bear was exterminated in California, this magnificent animal thrived in the great valleys and low mountains. Sadly, the grizzly would not retreat from advancing civilization, killing livestock and interfering with settlements. Apparently, it took less than 75 years after the discovery of gold to track down and kill every grizzly bear in California.
  
CALIFORNIA,  OLE GRIZZLY REMEMBERED

California sunshine
opens up my heart, like petals
of a glorious summer rose;
a poem grows, proud and free
like Bear all around
on streets, in trees, among hills
that surround

If in a misty rainfall,
all words disappears, its presence
a bitter-sweet comfort still
on California’s ears like songs
about pioneers risking all,
now inspiring us to plant poems,
in home soil

Through sunshine, mist
and rain, our seasons turn again,
yet may summer roses
ease even the loneliest pain,
its poems, oh, so  proud
and free, celebrating Ole Grizzly
in gold country

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2015

[Note : Slightly revised (2013) from an earlier version that appears under the title 'Days of Bear and Roses' in 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]