Saturday, 30 November 2013

Homing in on Self-Awareness


I look around and sometimes wonder...if we can’t keep faith with each other, what hope for our keeping faith with ourselves? Whatever, it is down to us, no one else.

We may blame fate, our therapist, even God...but when push comes to shove there is no lasting escape from our having to take responsibility for our own choices. Nor are we entirely to blame for making wrong choices. We are as we are. No one (thank goodness) is perfect.

This poem is a kenning.

HOMING IN ON SELF-AWARENESS

Come, child,
where I lead, don’t be afraid;
listen to the murmurings
of your heart, exercise the finer
leanings of your mind;
start to care, understand why
I, too, am always here
for you, trying to be fair,
even kind

See, child,
where I walk and let’s talk,
you and I, exchange
home truths before they fester
and die in the bowels
of a soul bent on proving
its very existence - by
token resistance to temporal
magnificence

Hear, child,
any wise words of your own;
feel free to ignore mine
if you suspect they threaten
your ivory tower
of pretension, no protection
against a world its own
worst enemy for a divided
humanity

Part godly, part devilry,
call me, Destiny...

 Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2013

[Note: A slightly different version of this poem appears under the title 'Know he Voice, Can't Place the Face' in A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Looking for Christmas, Anyone?


Yes, Christmas will be with us in less than a month. However, not everyone enjoys a happy Christmas. For homeless people and others down on their luck, it is a time much like any other time...unless we can somehow make it special for them too.

Years ago, I met a homeless gay man who had been physically ejected from his family home on Christmas Day after his father discovered he is gay. This Christmas, I know of a couple on the run from their families who disapprove of their relationship because they are on opposing sides of the same religion. [If God doesn't mind, why should anyone else?]

No matter what religious festival is being celebrated at whatever time of year, a little understanding goes a long way. It is, after all, part of the pact we make with love. And what worth any religion without love in it? I am told that the God in whom so many people believe is a God of Love. Take love out of the prayer and ritual and all I imagine He sees is someone enjoying an ego trip.

We can't always expect to understand those we love and may not always agree with them, but that doesn't (or shouldn't) mean we love them less. It has always been one of humankind's greater tragedies that too many of us let socio-cultural-religious traditions dictate how we live, even love.

At the heart of every religious celebration is (or should be) love in all its shapes and forms...or what is there left that any God would have anyone celebrate?  

LOOKING FOR CHRISTMAS, ANYONE?

Come, hear the bells of Christmas
though lost, alone, in the snow
recalling times past when we’d leave
a card for Santa, hot cocoa
and a mince pie, try to sleep while
listening out for reindeer hooves
pounding across the sky, a cheery cry
ringing loud and clear for children
everywhere to hear, know (for sure)
that we are loved, no matter who
we are or how our lives shaping up,
whether or no we’re finding signs
of Christmas or much the same cruelty
(or worse) than the day before

Peering ahead down an endless road,
lost souls, alone, no place to go
till time (at last) to reclaim gifts of love
and peace, count blessings, let bells
speak for us, echo high and low, anxious
to share out the joys of Christmas,
fearful for lost souls looking for refuge
from a bitter-sweet winter snow

Copyright R. N. Taber 2003; 2013


[Note: This poem has been slightly revised since it first appeared in Christmas Remembered, Anchor Books [Forward Press] 2003 and subsequently in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Other Side of Christmas


Religious festivals are, among other things, about thinking of others and not taking all we have in life for granted since, there but for good fortune, go you and I...

For those men and women (some of them gay) fighting wherever there is conflict for a better, kinder, world,  may the future hold some real progress in that direction. As for the politicians who send them there, let’s hope they won’t lose sight of those finer aims either, in spite of being preoccupied, as they invariably are, with their own personal standing on the world stage. Nor should we forget loved ones left behind while those in the thick of war risk their lives on a daily basis.

Many fight another war, this time on the Home Front; against poverty, prejudice, loneliness, depression, rejection, unemployment…

Unhappy people have told me how they hate being told to count their blessings because they are too few. Maybe they and all of us need to look (and count) again...?

THE OTHER SIDE OF CHRISTMAS

No Christmas tree in the window,
no cards or festive decoration,
no real interest in some Baby Jesus,
cause of starry-eyed celebration

As for listening out for reindeer,
deaf ears will catch no sound
or bells ringing out glad tidings
of great joy to (all?) mankind

No joy in snowflakes whirling past
like dervishes on a battlefield
assured of spoils in this, my city,
by climate change across the world

As for taking comfort and delight
in any religious celebration,
fat chance, when all its factions
primed for eternal division…

Nothing special for Christmas lunch
(but better than going hungry)
yet I dare say we’ll survive another
parody of common humanity

Some folks struggle, same folks cope;
where there’s love there’s always hope


Copyright R. N. Taber 2009

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A Day in the Life of the Human Race


All human relationships - including friendships - have their ups and down. If they matter to us, we must work at them. Should they flag and all but fail, we must do our best to revive them. Nor can we let foolish pride get in the way.

If we want to build bridges with someone badly enough, what does it matter who makes the first move?

Sadly, sometimes we have to face the fact that a relationship was never as worthwhile as we thought in the first place.

Let’s be honest though. It is too easy to find excuses for doing nothing. Doing something, on the other hand and…well, who knows?

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE HUMAN RACE

One day to remember,
one day to forget;
one day together, another
cruelly torn apart

One day for friendship,
one day for rage;
one day for love, another
blotting its page

One day to be, oh, so sure,
one day to doubt;
one day sharing my bed, another
in a rush to get out

One day, love and peace,
promising to endure;
one day it’s spring, another
already winter

One day, life’s lessons
to learn and share,
we students of life, another
finding us still here

Copyright R. N. Taber, 2007; 2013

[Note: An earlier version of this poem - under the title 'One Day' - first appeared in Awakening of the Soul, Poetry Now (Forward Press) 2003 & subsequently in Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Zen of Bouncing Back OR Rubber Ball, (Another) Metaphor for Life


Years ago, I asked someone (as one does) what life is all about. Yes, well…silly question, I know. I received what I thought was, in turn, a silly answer, something about a rubber ball. Now, though, I’m not so sure and suspect it was too profound for my little poem to do it justice.

‘Being your own person rather than sheep often means developing a persona akin to a rubber ball,’ he said. ‘Take me, for example. All the rubbish people throw at me just bounces off.’ I was only twelve years-old at the time but I never forgot those words. They would serve me well in later years.

When I told my mother about our conversation she just said, “He’s a very nice man. A little eccentric perhaps, but there is always more to eccentric people than meets the eye, and they are always worth listening to. Now, go and do your homework…’ She was a very nice person, my mother.

Whatever,  know one thing for sure. There’s no rubber ball can show me anything new about ups and downs and bouncing back, not to mention being lost (and found) every so often...

THE ZEN OF BOUNCING BACK or RUBBER BALL, (ANOTHER) METAPHOR FOR LIFE

Sometimes I regret my lost youth
but for its teaching me the truth
about my place in the world, neither
big nor small, like a rubber ball
bouncing up and down along ground
now smooth, now rougher…

It’s enough, in the end, to land safe
and sound, roll gently down a hill
till still as a star on a cruel wintry night
bringing to travellers a peace of mind
they never thought to find at all,
like children searching for a rubber ball
now lost, now found, like a fairytale
meant to lull us asleep, took us instead
to a world neither big nor small,
like a rubber ball bouncing up and down
along ground now smooth, now rough,
on a roll, safe and sound till done, bounce
all but gone

Sometimes, I wonder if life isn’t, after all,
but a tale at bedtime about a rubber ball

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009


Friday, 15 November 2013

Tattoo Art, a Singular Unselfconsciousness


I well recall how, in my teens, I confided to my mother that I was worried sick about an interview with a Careers Officer the next day because I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to be when I left school. She just shrugged and said, ‘Try being yourself and you won’t go far wrong.’ She was right, of course, but that was hard for me to admit at the time since I wasn’t being myself at all as being gay was still a criminal offence. I’ve tried to make up for it since.

Love it or hate it, most people are inclined to nurse a secret envy of tattoo art in so far as it conveys an unselfconsciousness that speaks for the self which, without meaning any offence, refuses to pussyfoot around or participate in the socio-cultural-religious sensibilities of others.

Every art form, of course, attempts the same.

TATTOO ART, A SINGULAR UNSELFCONSCIOUSNESS

I’m not the sort to strut
sidewalks alongside the latest
fashion clones

I prefer to speak plainly,  
no making a stab at diplomacy  
with awful clich├ęs

I’ll not vote for the party
least likely to keep pre-election 
promises

I have never been in awe
of celebrities who love to preen
on camera

I like to call a spade a spade;
a ‘digging implement’ impresses
no one

I rejected religion years ago;
nature lends me a growing sense    
of spirituality

I love to share word patterns;  
as tattoos to the body, so art forms
to the mind
  

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Friday, 8 November 2013

Ode to the Fallen or Engaging with Life Forces Around a Dead Tree Trunk


As regular readers will know, I have a You Tube channel that is as much about my friend Graham’s videos as my poetry. Many a time, I have felt inspired to write a poem to try and do the video justice and vice versa. We hope you will enjoy what has been a team effort from the start:

http://www.youtube.com/rogerNtaber

I have just read today's poem over a new video. Graham shot the video while visiting family in Wiltshire recently, and I love it. I played it back several times, and then just had to sit down and write a nature-cum philosophical poem to accompany it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W37DVIo3pJM

Now, feedback suggests that some of you cannot access You Tube for one reason or another so I am repeating both poem and video (see below) here on the blog as well.

Many years ago, I confided in my mother that I was afraid of dying. Later that day we went for a walk in the countryside and she pointed to a dead tree trunk; we watched a variety of insects, birds, mosses growing and a colony of ants all building their lives around this 'dead' thing. You see," said my mother, "there is no death without life so there is really nothing to be afraid of...whether you believe in God or not," she added, knowing full well that I did not share her religious beliefs. (I had chosen to take a growing sense of spirituality from nature even at the young age of eleven). "Life and death," she said before changing the subject, "are simply different sides of the same coin."

My mother died of cancer 40+ years ago, and I still take great comfort in recalling the day we paused to observe a dead tree trunk and nature's living memorial to it...

ODE TO THE FALLEN or ENGAGING WITH LIFE FORCES AROUND  A DEAD TREE TRUNK

Fallen, but not forgotten,
by its own kind
sure to keep a vigil of sorts
the whole year round

Fallen, but never alone
among its kind
proudly waiting for their turn
to come around

Fallen, by whose hand
no one knows;
some say an axe man, others
blame the wind

Fallen into glorious decay,
like autumn leaves;
nurturing, inspiring greener
memories

If dead, not left without a care
by an Earth Mother   
demanding nothing of Time
but its signature

Once, a living icon for a world
of love and peace;
a cue for ants to keep running
rings around us

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013






Thursday, 7 November 2013

Horror Story OR Glory, Facts and Fictions


Some readers have said they would like to read some of my poems again but either can’t find them on the blogs or haven’t time to look.  I am now linking posts/poems past and present to Google + where they will stay for about 5-7 days.  Over time, most regular readers should be able to catch their favourite poems while, hopefully, new readers will also discover them at the following link:

plus.google.com/118347623673930289606

Meanwhile…

I was in a bar once where an injured soldier was being asked about his experiences in Afghanistan. Someone mentioned the word, glory, which met with excited murmurs of approval and expressions of admiration. ‘Glory?’ the young soldier exclaimed in disbelief, ‘Haven’t you people learned anything?’

Good question.

November 11th will be Armistice Day closely followed by Remembrance Sunday. Since we are only just into October, some people have suggested I should wait until then before posting any poem in remembrance of those who have given their lives in two world wars and subsequent conflicts worldwide as well as those bereaved families left to get on with their lives as best they can; remembering, too, those who have suffered physical and psychological injury and their loved ones who are helping them to live as full as life as possible.

Ah, but every day is an anniversary for those who bear the emotional and/or physical scars of love and loss, in times of war and peace alike.  

Armistice Day or Veterans Day or Remembrance Day, whatever  we call it,  is an important anniversary; an opportunity for people to come together as a nation to commemorate those who have fought to try and make the world a kinder, safer place in which to live. 

This poem is a villanelle.

HORROR STORY or GLORY, FACTS AND FICTIONS

Sure to give the lie to glory
(for all its medals won)
who live war’s horror story

No contemplating bravery
(the job has to be done)
sure to give the lie to glory

Struggling with the futility
of a friend’s mind blown,
who live war’s horror story

Flagging up a bull for history,
red rag to a politician
sure to give the lie to glory

Proud aloud, scared privately,
in for the duration
who live war’s horror story

Blind eye, tight lip, testimony
to the injured and fallen;
sure to give the lie to glory
who live war’s horror story

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011





Saturday, 2 November 2013

Poppies, for Remembrance OR On Display, Fears of History's Repeating Itself...


Today’s poem was written in 2004 and appeared in my 4th collection the following year; it has also appeared in an anthology, The Colour of War, Forward Press, 2011.

I have written almost as many poems about the tragedy of war as I have about the inspiring quality of love, much influenced by the powerful poems of World War I poets like Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Vera Brittain, to name but a few.

The irony cannot be lost on anyone. Given that the horrors of war have been passed on so graphically from generation to generation since, it neither prevented World War II nor this sorry world of ours remaining a battleground for various socio-cultural-religious-political forces worldwide.

Here in the UK, as Armistice Day approaches, many of us buy a poppy as a symbol of remembrance; the money raised goes to the British Legion, a charity that, for many years, has provided financial, social and emotional support to members of the British armed forces, veterans, and their dependants.

National anniversaries of remembrance rightly salute the dead, but the dead would not want those they leave behind or injured friends and colleagues who survive to be forgotten either. Charities like the the British Legion  and Help for Heroes have stepped in where successive Governments much prefer not to tread.

Countless poppies, countless tears; hopes, shared by millions for a peaceful world while haunted by the growing sense of a twenty-first century no less inclined than any other to the rhetoric of peace.


  

Photo: Cenotaph war memorial, London (UK)


Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins with setting by stage designer Tom Piper; ceramic poppies commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of World War scheduled to progressively fill the dry moat around the Tower of London until Armistice Day, November 11th, 2013.


Photo: In the war memorial Neue Wache (Berlin) the moving sculpture, 'Mother and her dead son' by the Berlin artist Kathe Kollwitz says it all...

POPPIES, FOR REMEMBRANCE or ON DISPLAY, FEARS OF HISTORY'S REPEATING ITSELF...

In two world wars, and conflicts since, they died
for love of country, freedom and their own;
shells, mortars, bullets and bombs they defied
so we may reap the rewards they have sown

Let’s remember those who never came back,
(sitting comfortably, watching TV);
Somme, Dunkirk, Korea, Falklands, Iraq...
(So much for the lessons of history!)

The wounded, too, deserve our thanks and pride,
some forgotten, left but to fade away
in pain, loneliness, no one at their side
as fought with them so bravely, won the day

World in remembrance, hope, prayers, and tears
for peace in its time to yet end its worst fears

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