Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year, New Hope, Old Story

Today’s poem first appeared in Poetry Monthly International (sadly, since discontinued) in 2008 prior to its inclusion in my collection. It seems an appropriate enough poem for today since this evening will be New Year’s Eve.

Let’s just hope the celebrations will not be premature and that the 2014 brings more than just hope for world peace and a genuine sense of reconciliation between its divided socio-cultural-religious groups; a recognition, too, of basic human rights for everyone regardless of colour, creed, sex or sexuality, especially in those areas of the world and its societies that encourage if not legislate a policy of persecution.


Bursting into the New Year
with a sing-song and a prayer
for peace across the world

Toasting our tomorrows
by way of drowning sorrows
for not letting go of pain

Putting on a smile, laughing
at sick jokes, better than crying
for the price of our mistakes

Brave New Year resolutions
little more than poor solutions
to centuries-old problems

Humankind’s record so poor,
less likely to make peace than war
if good at saying prayers…

High and far they fly,
fine words across a New Year sky,
repeating history

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

Monday, 30 December 2013

Lines on the Human Condition

Love, like life has its darker side. Some people have fixed ideas about love and will oppose anyone - including family members - who choose a different variation on the same eternal theme. 

The ability to turn love’s darkness into light is a gift passed on by lovers everywhere throughout history. Sadly, humankind’s other gift - for inhumanity - will all too often try to turn things around yet again…and succeed. It is down to each and every one of us to do our best not to let that happen.

We cannot stand by and let them invade our privacy, those who are blinded to the happiness of others by some misguided and/ or ill-informed interpretation of what is right and wrong.  

Every humanitarian needs to speak up against socio-cultural-religious traditions being used as an excuse for bigotry and sectarian division/violence where it is but the dark side of human nature that is to blame.

As for love…Gay or straight, two people in love have the basic human right to be in love. No one has the right to deny us that. World leaders who abuse their position to support anti-gay legislation (that means you, too, Mr. Putin) and religious leaders who choose to interpret their religion to much the same effect are a disgrace to humanity.

Whatever our colour, creed, sex or sexuality, we are all human beings and deserve to be treated as such.


writing treaties in various tongues
on a mother’s heart
as it sighs over satirical goings-on
in comic strip cartoons

providing a eulogy for the failures
of its multi-cultures,
observing how occupied territories
live on empty gestures

inciting revolution among dreamers
who would face facts,
repair broken words to make good
well-heeled intentions

Body-mind and spirit,
watching out for black holes blown
by wannabe martyrs,
sending love letters home on scraps
of roadside shrapnel

last heard arguing for Human Rights
with the world’s tin gods
who so love to blame their pet hates
for its worst nightmares

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Up rhe Down Staircase OR Here We Go Again...

Every year life dishes us our highs and lows, successes and failures, fun times and sad times. In no time (or so it often seems) another year will be stretching ahead from Day One. We can but promise ourselves and each other to do our best to make sure it is a better, kinder year...

As for making dreams come true (don’t we all have them?) it has been my experience, on the more promising occasions to which life has treated me now and then, that we may be pleasantly surprised how close we can get just by trying. 

The great thing about Sandmen is that they never discriminate; you can be rich or poor, gay or straight, super fit or severely disabled, from any country in the world...whatever...and they don't give a damn, just as it should be among human beings…

Me? Oh, I’m just one among millions of dreamers out there who hold the world as it could, would, and should be in the palms of our hands. [Slippery things, though, dreams...]

This poem is a villanelle.


A few dreams down, more ahead,
(Well, haven’t we all been here before?)
Earth Mother left (still) seeing red

Integrity as unevenly spread
as ever across the world’s political floor;
a few dreams down, more ahead;

Mutual respect so thinly spread
among this world’s religions’ harder core;
Earth Mother left (still) seeing red

Nations’ survivors bury their dead,
the injured left knocking at Heaven’s door;
a few dreams down, more ahead;

A better world, our forefather’s said,
that’s what our blood and tears are shed for;
Earth Mother left (still) seeing red

A kinder world would bow its head,
seeing fair Progress farmed out for a whore;
a few dreams down, more ahead;
Earth Mother left (still) seeing red

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Saturday, 28 December 2013

A Perception of Ghosts

As I grow old(er) there are times when childhood  seems like yesterday and even leaves stirring in the wind carry its echoes to my ears; the stronger the wind, the stronger the echoes… now happy and excited, now weepy and anxious….and I am bound reflect how old age is not so very different.


North wind,
roughly raking the last glowing coals
of a wintry day;
faintly among the trees like an echo
through my years
like tuneless
whistling noises made by a child failing
to impress peers
that mock,
and run away, never to know the hurt
to self-esteem
a lifetime later, the cruelties of human
roughly raking the last glowing coals
of a wintry day

Wind drops,
nature’s opera taking off on wings of light
into a blueness
such as
a child feels when playing with imaginary
and sad at the same time for meeting reality
a safe place, yet less safe for being wide open
to fantasies,
by the same invisibles once on-screen trolls
all defences in the best tradition of humanity’s
inhumanity to its own

South wind,
gently stirring the last glowing coals
of a sunny day;
as strong among the trees in the twilight
of my years
as shrieks
of joy uttered by a child when birthdays
finally arrived
in times
when family get-togethers were mixed
of the love
the child craved, feasted on, yet always
left hungry,
never able to satisfy a growing awareness
of immaturity

Cold wind, warm wind, sweet smelling breeze;
old man, young child, a perception of ghosts

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Beyond Christmas OR Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All?


Come Boxing Day, we may well already be starting to look beyond Christmas. Oh, but if only the spirit of Christmas - and other religious festivals - might endure, messages of peace and love be heard around the world, especially in those parts where bitter conflict persists. Fat chance, little hope, beautiful dream ...? Why so, given that where there is the will there is (supposedly) a way...?  

As a child, I once asked a complete stranger standing next to me at a carol concert, what happened to 'peace on earth' and 'good will to men' after hearing 'I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day' at a carol concert. He did not hesitate, but replied in two words, politics and religion. I thought he was being sarcastic. Some 50+ years on, I look around and see only too plainly what he meant. On the arre occasions I have heard that particular carol  - based on a poem by Longfellow - sung again, i understand his despair and only wish I could enter into his ultimate optimism for the human race. Even so, hope springs eternal...and if we all play our part, who knows...?

Now, I have friends who are Christians and feel I am missing out because I don’t believe in God in any religious sense but take what I like to think of as a sense of spirituality from nature. 

Well, as I see it, no religion is all about its interpretation of God, but also about humanity. (Interpretations of God as a homophobe are as absurd as they are pathetic.) Take the humanity out of the religion and what's left is not worth having. (Fundamentalists haven't a clue!) Nor does religion have a monopoly on spirituality.

Now, whether we choose to believe in God or not, all world religions have much to say about humanity that is well worth listening to; some would do well to pay more attention themselves. It may well be that any given religion is a closed shop, members only, but interpretations of it remain open access to anyone at all times.

In those parts of the world where people are still persecuted for their sexuality and/or democratic principles, we can but wish them peace and love. As for their persecutors, especially those arrogant, evangelical types who are a plague on all our houses, (especially in parts of Africa) but other bigots and despots too, whatever socio-cultural-religious excuses they may care to make for their behavior, they would do well to remember that what goes around invariably comes around…


Christmas spirit can’t always connect
with peace in parts of a sorry world
divided by crises, all failing to reflect  
even hidden meanings in the word

Wherever colour, sex, sexuality or creed
tell dark tales, let light in, hear love call
by way of answering a basic human need,
body, mind, and spirit seeking to fulfil

Where mortality respects no boundaries,
conflict deaf to cries for a lasting peace,
love continues to tell its beautiful stories,
bring hope to each and every one of us

Christmas says much for love’s spirituality,
common even to a divided humanity 

Copyright R N. Taber, 2007; 2013

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revided ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 23 December 2013

A Winter Canvas OR Behind the Scenes

Winter can be as incredibly harsh as it can be incredibly beautiful. Such is life, and human nature. Art may well do its very best to interpret and record, but it can only ever be one interpretation of one particular moment in time…

 Claude Monet - Snow at Argenteuil (1875)


Straggly trees against a snowy sky,
robin redbreast in low key,
snowflakes like angels drifting by,
no more idea of what they’re doing,
where they’re going (or why)
than those of us down here, eagerly
lapping up the weather forecast
though for no particular reason other
than everyone else will be doing
much the same thing so there’s sense
of sorts in a camaraderie, missing
in our everyday lives, though friends,
and family do their best to assuage
our loneliness and poor self-esteem
where we can’t help comparing
ourselves with neighbours who seem
to be doing very nicely, thank you,
while we’re but getting nowhere fast
like the poor weather forecaster
always trying to convince us better
days are just ahead.

Robins singing, angel voices asking
why we’re all running around
in God’s backyard like headless chickens,
world chasing its own tail after Peace
(its Holy Grail), politicians rallying
worn phrases tried and tested
(if only for election clout) while the rest
of us rest on laurels as sure as winter
while glossing over its threatening skies
with talk of spring, change, everything
turning out better (if not best) when all's
said, done, leaving the astute artist
to gloss over any doubts with canvases
celebrating the bright and beautiful,
inspiring generations, in turn, to look,
listen, maybe even learn a thing or two
about life, love, nature and how art
copies more, far more, than what it sees
if only because beauty is in the eye
of the beholder, discern subtler differences
for better, for worse

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2013

[Note: an earlier version of this poem appears in A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005]

Friday, 13 December 2013

A Passing Comment on Retail Therapy

We don’t always know what we want, and when we do, we don’t always get it, but that should not stop us even just window shopping for inspiration…like millions before us throughout history anxiously seeking seeking a comfort zone of sorts, sufficient at least to see us through another cloudy day.


Now and then life grabs us
by the scruff of the neck
and throws us into the street
where we lie on our backs
look a passing cloud in the eye
and demand answers of fate

It soon becomes very clear
the cloud doesn’t care
why fate threw us into the street
(nor it seems do passers-by)
so we have to face the possibility
it could well be our own fault

Our faults stand up poorly
to close examination
lying on our backs in the street;
time to get real, get up,
walk on, trust centuries of hope
to any blisters on our feet

Wearily, treading the world
in anxious footmarks left
by ghosts fired by desperation
to track the kinder side
of reality, live in love and peace,
companions to imagination…

Vulnerable to a fault, last spotted
in retail therapy on Main Street 

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013

Monday, 2 December 2013

Living with Hans Christian Andersen

Everyone loves a Christmas tree, but (let’s face it) Christmas does a fir tree no favours.

Now, both as a child and adult, I have loved the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen...at any time of year. As Christmas draws near, I cannot help but recall The Fir Tree.  

The fir tree is in such a hurry to grow that it fails to enjoy the beauty around it. All it thinks about is how much it wants to become a tall fir tree and see the wide world and experience new things. It finds no joy in the moment, but is always longing for the future. Finally, the fir tree realizes it has wasted its life by living for the future instead of for the present.  As a story about failing to appreciate what we have going for us until it is too late, I dare say many if not most of us can relate to it in one way or another?

Hans Christian Andersen, 1805-1875

As well as loving Andersen’s fairy tales, I carried much of their sense of morality and spirituality with me into adult life, which is possibly why I still enjoy reading them from time to time. It can do no harm (can it?) to recall that na├»ve, free, faery, spirit upon whose back I would frequently ride off into magical other-worlds and find respite from childhood’s darker side. (However much we may like to think of childhood as all innocence and light, it is no more immune to the harsher realities of human nature and everyday existence than adulthood; the latter, even at its worst, at least offers experience and choices rarely if ever available to us as children.)

This poem is a villanelle.


A certain Danish weaver
became a tailor, turned to acting, 
found fame as a storyteller

His tales told world over,
(inspiring many an ugly duckling)
a certain Danish weaver

Denmark’s heart breaker,
(the little mermaid lost everything)
found fame as a storyteller

Shrewd political observer,
(even of an emperor’s new clothing)
a certain Danish weaver

Steadfast, like a tin soldier,
(firm favourite at bed-time reading)
found fame as a storyteller

Where childhood rides forever
on the back of its wishful thinking,
a certain Danish weaver
found fame as a storyteller

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013