Saturday, 1 February 2014

Tell-Tale Mind


How many of us, I wonder, show ourselves to others as we really are rather than whom we would like them to think we are? Many people seem to think I am a strong person and very self-confident. Yet, nothing could be further than the truth. I portray a fictionalized version of myself in which I believe, because I have never quite managed to work out what it is about my real self that I can believe in.

Sometimes, when we are discussing mutual friends or colleagues with other friends and colleagues, even members of our own family with other members of the family, we are not infrequently surprised by what we hear and may even wonder if we are talking about the same person. I guess we present a different persona to different people. Yet, those personae are all the same person. So are we, I wonder, all caught up in our own fictions?

I have kept faith with my sexuality since I came out as an openly gay person many years ago, and am certainly not ashamed of being gay. At the same time, all those formative years of having to lie because being gay was a criminal offence have left their mark. In those days, I had to create an alternative persona in order to survive. On the one hand, there was the conscientious if not very bright schoolboy; on the other, there was the shy, scared teenager struggling to come to terms with an awakening sexuality and finding ways of satisfying it that would have shocked just about everyone I knew. I’d cruise for sex and love-hate every minute of it. I was like a good-bad character in a novel. My life, for years was a split reality. Even now, years on, no one knows or will ever know how much so or just how much of that split personality remains.

Oh, I am no Jekyll and Hyde, but if someone were to ask, ‘Will the real Roger Taber stand up please,’ it would be a motley collection of characters that step out of the storybook that is my life.

This poem is a villanelle.

TELL-TALE MIND 

I’d show the world what I would be
(as if make-believe pays)
but the mind, it tells tales on me

Terrified, as I confront adversity,
a sailor on angry waves,
I’d show the world what I would be

‘Be brave, go free,’ love told me,
quick to learn its ways,
but the mind, it tells tales on me

From nature, I take my humanity
(lost in a temporal maze);
I’d show the world what I would be

I have kept faith with my sexuality,
(mastering its ways)
but the mind, it tells tales on me

The heart, it seeks refuge in poetry
(from its nightmares);
I’d show the world what I would be,
but the mind, it tells tales on me

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009; 2011


[Note: Yes, I know I’ve been oversimplifying in my preamble and not saying anything original, but readers often ask what lies behind a poem, what prompted me to write it in the first place. Besides, I am writing a blog, not an essay on the human psyche.]

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