Friday, 27 September 2013

Human Identity, Lost in Translation

In response to this poem, someone once complained that I 'seem to be suggesting that being gay is as natural as God intended.' Well, the poem lends itself to various interpretations (as a poem should) and if that's theirs, I am delighted to have at least giving a religious bigot some food for thought.

When it comes to the various Holy Books and the attitudes they convey towards gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women, I know many people feel the same as me; much has been lost in translation or, as often as not, deliberate misinterpretation.

We all occupy a mother’s womb. I will never believe the love there is conditional to our turning out the way some parents’ preoccupation with various socio-cultural-religious conventions try to impose as. indeed, they have done very successfully since the beginning of time. Thank goodness for a natural capacity of the human heart for rebellion against such constraints; it may well have lost a good few battles and will surely lose a good few more, but is as sure to win the war for  common humanity as day follows night.  

It was once put to me by a work colleague that poetry - no more or less than other art forms - is all about self-indulgence. I beg to differ. Poetry - no more or less than other art forms - is all about finding out who we are; nor is it a definitive 'we' or first person persona for, as the metaphysical poet John Donne points out, 'No man is an island entire of itself...' (Meditation XVII)

Whatever, be in reading prose, poetry, a painting or a person, the chances are few if any will come to the same conclusion, and even greater are the chances of any one person reaching the right one; we are all made up of many parts. The arts - among which feedback regarding my own suggests poetry is often considered the poor relation - attempt to reach at least some of those parts, the sum of which makes us who we are.


When people ask where I came from;
I answer, my mother’s womb,
so why am I so haunted by a sense
of having been somewhere else,
distant, unknown, as if I’d crossed
mythical territories of time and space
just to find my way here?

When others ask if I have a ‘real’ goal
in life, I confess I’m never sure
which doors are left ajar just for me
to take a peep (our choice, enter
or not) and may let a still, small voice
out of time and space persuade me to try
the safer (better?) path

Sometimes I am even accused of sitting
on some metaphorical fence
rather than explore secret passages
of the mind, and the doors open
to tease me, dare me enter, have a go
at translating the ages-old hieroglyphics
lining Mother’s womb

Yes, I have a ‘real’ enough goal in life
if prompted by a poet’s feeling
for wrestling with the hieroglyphics
between womb and tomb,
writing up an alternative autobiography
of my life and death than trust local graffiti
on doors kicked shut

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2016

[Note: This poem has been significantly revised since first appearing under the title 'Lost in Translation'in Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Making a Difference, the Upbeat Heart

You don’t have to be in the media spotlight to influence people, even society, for the better; big or small, every contribution counts and we can all make one.

Setting a good example can make a big difference; it may start off as a small ripple on a BIG pond, but it will spread. Much the same can be said for setting a bad example, of course, and we would all do well to remember that. At the same time, in various socio-cultural-religious respects, different people have different takes on what constitutes good and bad. I guess all we can do is engage with and trust our better, kinder, instincts. (At least the meaning of kindness is universally understood if not always much in evidence.)

Ah, but if we can see a ripple spread, we rarely get to see what difference our words and everyday behavior make. Take good manners for example; they seem to have gone out of the window here in recent years, but just saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to someone may well encourage them to do the same and so on, making more of us feel just that little bit better, even hopeful that this sorry world of ours might also take a turn for the better any time soon. Our differences, too, can make a difference to the much divided world in which we live and its splintered pulling together and creating a better world to pass on to those who deserve better.

This (revised) poem is a kenning. Like many of my later poems, this one is the more mature version of an earlier piece. So why publish the earlier piece? Well, it seemed a good idea at the time, and like many good ideas feedback has since shaped it into something much the same yet significantly different. 


How will it all end,
if they have their way, clerics
and politicians pulling me  
in all directions?
Will some fallen angel
pick on me and drag me away
or will a gentler spirit
have mercy, find a place for me
come Judgment Day?

Shall wolfish death
delight in tearing us apart
or strike swiftly
and cleanly at the human heart,
lost doves find their way,  
defy infernal dark, fly eternal light
or (conveniently) consigned
to mythology, out of human mind
and history’s sight

Not ours to know the how,
where, or when, but be glad to give,
learn, unite in Love and Peace
than passively wait Death’s turn
with us while our ‘betters’
play politics with common sense,
and the better, kinder, part
of human nature gets on with making
all the difference

I am that up-beat of the human heart
that gives humanity a head start

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2013

[Note: This poem has been substantially revised from an earlier version published in 1st editions of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004 - of which a 2nd (revised) e-edition is in preparation - and subsequently in Ygdrasil:, a Journal of the Poetic Arts, May 2006.]

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Stretcher Bearer

A boy at my school was being taunted about his grandfather being a 'cowardly conchie' during the First World War. 

When I asked my mum about this she told me that the lad's grandfather had not fought in the war but acted as a stretcher bearer, frequently on the front line of battle, and was no coward. 

She also explained to boy Roger (I would have been about 10 years old at the time) that people who hold fast to their convictions rather than surrender to demands to the contrary are no cowards anyway.

(Image taken from the Internet)


I wear a badge of courage
few can see who look for medals
on the chest
or a victory sign to oblige the press
anxious for a story
but less interested in mine;
I’m no hero, not me,
shooting holes in the glory
of a devotion to duty

I wear a badge of courage
few can see who look for scars
won in battle
or, better still, a crippling injury
that will treat me
to free beers at local bars;
for me, only looks
and words drawn like swords,
politics of all wars

I wear a badge of courage,
will join heads bowed in gratitude
and pride at the finest marble
monuments to its tears, the price
(no choice?) of freedom,
so many would have us believe,
if not the likes of me
left stitching up the glory
of a devotion to duty

Under fire, I, the stretcher bearer,
Front Line conscientious objector

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

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

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Words of Wisdom

Sadly there will always be prejudice and bigotry especially in some parts of the world that are slow to get real about Human Rights, but elsewhere as well. 

All we can do is lead by example, try to educate the less enlightened among the heterosexual majority in our own little corner of the world and trust that the ripples we make will spread, become waves and cross oceans. It has happened before, is happening even now and will always happen.

Yes, there will always be bigotry and prejudice but be sure it won’t always get its own way. People, on the whole, are better than that, although it may take more time than we would like for those some to realize that. Others, of course, like die-hard evangelicals and those repressive regimes around the world who put self-interest above common humanity, will always pursue their own agendas...that is, for as long as the rest of the world lets them get away with it.

We can but resist the worse aspects of life as best we can and try, each in our own way,  to live up to the legacy that every good parent leaves his or her their children - love. Love, in all its shapes and forms will see us through just about anything life throws at us.Sadly, some children miss out on that, but love is open all hours, we only have to make time to look and learn... if we so choose. (Something else my mother taught me and which, especially as someone with no partner to share the ups and downs of growing old - I am 70 now - I try to live up to in my heart and pass on in my poems.)

The best oral traditions are more than just stories, they are a legacy of love that - should we care to listen and learn - encourages us to bond with a common humanity and play our part, each in his and her own way.


There are words my mother told me
that, when I’m low, I always recall,
seize upon and cling to passionately,
open to this body, heart and soul

There are dreams my mother shared
that, when I’m low, I always recall;
knowing how much she really cared
keeps her near, makes them real

There are principles my mother had
that, when I’m low, I always recall,
believing good will always best bad
though humankind would do it ill

There is bigotry my mother warned
that, when I’m low, may get to me;
the trick (she had its lesson learned)
is cry inside, so the enemy won’t see

My mother passed away years ago
but I can hear her voice in my ear
urging me to keep the faith and know
love’s truth will always conquer fear

These are words my mother told me
that, when I’m low, I always recall;
no matter colour, creed, sex, sexuality,
love embraces heart, body and soul

In those words my mother told me,
hear the cry of a common humanity

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008

Friday, 13 September 2013

Overheard in a Cafe OR A Sign of the Times

This poem reflects just what its title suggests, a conversation overheard in a café. I have included it in my new collection. I came away from that cafe feeling more than a little relieved that I am not alone in finding the various world religions divisive.

Societies force-feed us religion from childhood. It is reassuring to know that some people manage to take the better (kinder, more compassionate?) elements of religion while sidelining the rest, breaking away from the dogma while retaining its spirituality in the way they take other people as they find them...without rushing to judgment as so many religious-minded folks are inclined. It is not religion that is at fault, but many of those who preach it, selecting to home in on whatever suits their own agenda; an agenda that may well have far less to do with religion than its founders intended.

Let's be clear here. I am not knocking religion, only those who use it to their own advantage, frequently feeding a desire for influence and power that is contrary to all the principles upon which faith and religion are meant to turn.

It is to their credit that a good many followers of this or that religion are by no means as gullible as their self-styled leaders appear to believe, proving that religion does not have to be as divisive as their so-called 'betters' paradoxically insist.

As for me, regular readers will know only too well that I take my spirituality from nature.

(Image taken from the Internet)

What would we do without religion,
where would we be?
For a start, we’d have a kinder world,
less bigotry

What would we do without religion
telling us what to say?
For a start, commonsense might just
win the day

What would we do without religion
putting us in our place?
For a start, love and peace, not about
saving face

What would we do without religion,
no God to blame?
For a start, a common humanity living
up to its name

Where would we be without religion
separating us out,
Holy Books vying with each other to
put us right?

Where would we be without religion
promising salvation
for all the guilt, despair and grief
it feeds upon?

Where would we be without religion,
what would we have done?
For a start, arguing over some other
rhetorical question

Yes, waiter, more tea and cakes please
and…any answers?

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

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Who's Counting the Petals?

Sometimes I despair of the world we live in. (Well, don’t you?) But despair never did anyone any good so, no matter how high the odds stacked against success, we have to try and be positive.

True, it's never easy…

As I have said before - and dare say will continue repeating myself (as I often do) - if we can’t change the world, we can at least try and improve our own little corner of it and trust that the ripples any change for the better makes…will spread.

This poem first appeared in a 2004 issue of CC&;D magazine, Scars (US) publications and subsequently in my collection.


Flloods here, drought there, swollen bellies;
refugees from civil wars pleading aid;
terror taking place on our own TVs;
men, women, children, taught to be afraid

So what are the world’s governments doing?
All they can, we’re expected to believe,
so why tragic images we’re seeing
of a world wearing its heart on its sleeve?

Where horror hits hardest, a hurt laid bare;
beyond headlines, inconceivable pain;
flowers at gravesides, each petal a tear
for those men, women, children moving on

Find cash flowing freely for wars, elections,
(Big Business politics for generations)

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004;2013

[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 ed. in preparation].