Friday, 28 March 2014

Divided, We Fall


Integration is the key to a successful society so why are there so many ghettoes and pockets of people from around the world determined to follow a policy of separatism wherever they settle? Here in the UK, I have expressed the view for many years that Faith Schools, for example, have a lot to answer for in this respect.

Children and young people are the citizens of tomorrow. How can they, as adults, be expected to properly integrate when so many have been encouraged to feel they have the moral high ground over those of other faiths (or none at all)?

Now, this year  (2014)marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1, the war that was supposed to end all wars…

How much more fighting and suffering will it take, I wonder, for more of our so-called ‘betters’ across the world to understand that various socio-cultural-religious differences do not make us different, only human?

United, the human race may have a chance of surviving its Armageddon; divided, it stands little if any at all.  Common sense, you say? So whatever happened to common sense?

May more  socio-cultural-religious (and political) leader)s take note, be seen to emerge from their various boxes and rise above their rhetoric...while  the rest of us follow a basic instinct for common sense in doing our best to heal divisions within our communities... as expected of a common good.

This poem is a villanelle.  

DIVIDED, WE FALL

Unsubtle divisions,
tablets of stone;
our world religions

dark contradictions
(sure conviction)
unsubtle divisions

Unholy conditions
(dogs at a bone);
our world religions

Fine godly lessons,
few clerics learn;
unsubtle divisions

Posturing politicians
(daughter, son);
our world religions

Holy constitutions,
bloodily written;
unsubtle divisions,
our world religions

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2013

[Note: A slightly different version of this poem first appeared in an anthology, Have Your Say, Poetry Now (Forward Press) 2004 and subsequently in 1st eds. of  Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

One plus One = Two's Company


Many if not most of us quite often think we could be doing this or should be doing that as if we were unhappy with our lot. Some of us are, of course, and need to following up our words with some real action. For many of us, though, it’s just talk, and we are okay with the way we are and the life we lead...

Could it be because we feel guilty about being happy that we are so wary of admitting it?

Life could always be better, of course. We all have our share of problems. On the whole, though, is life really as bad as some of us seem to be always complaining?  Well, yes, in some cases. Maybe, though, if we complained less and were more positive about life generally, things might improve for all of us and there would be less to complain about? A more positive rather than negative take on each other’s socio-cultural-religious differences would be a good start.

In my experience, the great thing about letting ourselves feel happy is that we find ourselves being more positive about everything and everyone; if we can develop our interpersonal skills along the way and achieve a greater sense of personal as well as social identity, so much the better. Moreover, while it doesn’t necessarily take two to be happy, it helps…

ONE PLUS ONE = TWO'S COMPANY

Yesterday,
we talked about doing this ‘n’ that
while we played with the cat
as the budgie looked on and the dog
snored away in his basket

Yesterday,
we discussed going here or there
while you vacuumed the floor
as I loaded up the washing machine
before we went shopping

Tomorrow,
we’ll talk about doing this ‘n’ that,
clean out the budgie’s cage,
probably ask the neighbours round
to try out the new Bar-B-Q

Tomorrow,
we’ll discuss going here ‘n’ there,
then take the dog for a walk
where we’ll be welcome at the pub
and catch up on the gossip

Today,
will be very much like yesterday;
shades of self-consciousness
for having far less than some if more
than many…and being happy

As for our arguing points of view,
it’s how one plus one makes two

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Anatomy of Chaos

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

We may not be rich, but even those of us blessed with life’s simpler, everyday comforts need to count our blessings whenever, from time to time, they may seem somewhat thin on the ground. 

Millions of people worldwide are struggling to survive in appalling conditions; floods, drought, famine, lack of clean drinking water, overcrowded refugee camps, extreme poverty, war…We may catch glimpses of these on TV and spare them a thought, only to go on and watch a movie, fun quiz, chat show or whatever…

There is no point in feeling guilty, just very fortunate, and if awareness of the world’s ills does not help us keep a sense of proportion, it damn well should.

ANATOMY OF CHAOS 

Carpet stains
greeting the dawn,
yawning
away with bare feet,
flip-flops,
mouths dripping
coffee,
cornflakes, butter
on toast…
chair legs banging on
about
how chaos rules
OK

Carpet stains,
epitome of a life
enjoyed,
fibre heart strings
singing along
with garden birds,
grasshoppers,
teenage rock moves
and ma
performing a star
turn
at the kitchen
sink

Carpet stains,
alive, but only just;
sunset
soaking its fibres
with shades
of red and yellow,
like autumn
saying its goodbyes
to faces
at windows looking
for ways
to make the best 
of things

Carpet stains,
put to bed with wine
and candles,
left to soak up
evidence
of home comforts,
world politics
redirecting its refugees
via short-cuts
to Paradise Road,
splinters
of broken glass
overlooked

There will be blood

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Systems Failure OR If, Epitome of Vulnerability

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

Information technology is a wonderful thing although I suspect it is leaving me behind, but at least I can read, write, wrestle fairly successfully with numbers and don’t need a computer to write a poem in my head…

Oh, and yes, I can go into common sense mode with ease as well. [Whatever happened to that plain, old-fashioned common sense upon which world societies once turned?]

Nowadays, I suspect we get our priorities if not wrong, exactly, then muddled to say the least. Technology must take its share of the blame. More of us are relying on it to the extent that we are getting lazy about thinking for ourselves. Worse, some people actually prefer social networks to meeting up and chatting face to face with people and friends.  (Is it any wonder social and interpersonal skills are going much the same way as common sense?)

No, I am not knocking new technology, but we should remain alert to the truism, ‘garbage in, garbage out’. Information technology, for all its wonders, remains vulnerable to human input.

SYSTEMS FAILURE or IF, EPITOME OF VULNERABILITY

If

Life is a matter of sensibility,
love a question
of values, democracy a state
of mind, God as and when we will,
will we...?

If

A body should grow numb,
(even dumb)
behind twitching curtains
of acid rain, should we, dare we
trust automaton?

If

To rummage broom cupboards,
for inspiration,
amateur philosophers
are driven or be of a whim
to go

So…

We could ask a computer
what IT's all about,
but don’t forget garbage in,
and garbage out will be the end  
of us

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appeared in The Language of Life, Poetry Today (Forward Press) 2000 and subsequently in Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]


Monday, 17 March 2014

The Savage

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

[Update (Sept 4, 2016) A perceptible rise in hate crime against EU and other migrants in parts of the UK since the Brexit vote is as disturbing as it is appalling; another modern tragedy perpetrated by a significant but vocal minority along with racism and homophobia. Even intolerance of elderly and disabled people is not unheard of in this sorry world of ours While some prejudices are ingrained in certain socio-cultural-religious conventions, others merely service a warped ego; all need to be weeded out, and will be, but not in my lifetime, I fear.]

From time to time (or perhaps more often these days?) stress rears its ugly head and tempers become frayed. We can try and recognise the signs and stay calm, but that's easier said than done. 

Too often, we say things we don’t mean in a temper or, if we do mean them, we probably shouldn’t have said them. If the worst comes to the worst, all we can do is apologise and try and make peace. As my late mother used to say, if your head is too big to apologise, your mind is too small for it.

With some people, of course, the damage done is irreparable but that isn’t always a bad thing. Having let rip with anger, it can sometimes bring a welcome sense of relief, especially when it targets those among us with whom it is impossible to talk things through. If it gives the person with whom we have lost our temper food for thought, so much the better and we should accept any genuine olive branch gracefully. However, some people are too self-centred to concede that it takes two to make a quarrel and two to make it up. They prefer to hug their grievances to them, relating them to all and sundry as a means to gaining an invariably undeserved sympathy vote.

By the way, I speak from personal experience. When I was younger I would put up with ‘friends’ (and family) treating me badly because I knew they didn’t necessarily mean it. Even so, most would run a mile rather than sit down and talk things through. Once I turned sixty, I decided life is too short and time too precious to waste on people like that.


“Angry people are not always wise.” - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

This poem is kenning.

THE SAVAGE 

I watch you, though from shadows,
and you know I am there yet choose
to ignore me, hoping I will go away
but it’s my choice to stay, observe
the way you walk, talk, seeing how
you react to what others do or say,
assessing your hurt by scratch marks
of the queerest designs you pass off
as laughter lines

I follow you about wherever you go
and you would be rid of my company
yet dare not face me with all the facts
I have gleaned over years of grooming
you for my own ends. Any resistance
is futile, though I grow apprehensive
when you mix with others who would
usurp my place, take you for their own,
share love’s crown

Years pass, and now we walk together
and you dare not say ‘no’ to passing
into the shadows with me for have I not
watched over you as I would a child?
Where can the light of the world take us
but among regrets and betrayal, along
tracks made by paper tigers that belong
here, where only leafy skies have shed
tears for centuries

I hold the hand writing history’s next page,
and am called Rage

[From: On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Easy Money or What is it About the Price of Lemons?


In reality, there is no such thing as easy money. Even a huge lottery win is rarely roses all the way and more often than not leaves a trail of heartbreak. Someone recently mentioned that betting is easy money (he had just won £50 on a horse.) Ah, but how many bets had he lost over years, I wondered? Even so, I resisted the temptation to ask and risk throwing cold water on an old man’s elation.

Many years ago, during a period of mental illness, I became addicted to fruit machines and probably wasted thousands of pounds over a period of several years. Fortunately, I am cured now and have a life. Gambling is no less addictive than drugs, smoking or alcohol. It can destroy people and their families. At the time, I was caught up in the protracted aftermath of a nervous breakdown. That’s when addiction strikes, when we’re at our most vulnerable. It can happen to anyone. So never give up on an addict, yeah? The challenge is trying to prevent addicts giving up on themselves.

It is an appalling indictment on contemporary society, especially given the stresses and strains of modern living, that there are relatively few rehabilitation centres or other avenues of help for addicts or those less obviously in the grip of mental illness. They may be the last to admit, it but they need friends and family to stand by them and be willing to go that last mile.

If you know an addict (drugs, gambling, whatever) please, please, be there for them. You won’t get much if anything by way of thanks, but no one can beat addiction without support from someone who cares that they should. Sometimes, yes, it’s a losing battle for everyone concerned, but we have to try…for all our sakes.

Did I say it was easy?

Ah but there’s ‘easy’ money for the taking if we play our cards right?  No, I don’t think so.

EASY MONEY or WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE PRICE OF LEMONS?

Public faces worthy
of more respect than many
have earned the right
to expect in modern times;
paper tigers wandering
corridors of power, seeking
an easy prey, a nose
for more; bits and pieces,
(when put together)
likely to create an incomplete
jigsaw 

People come and go,
all history in the making,
fortunes for the taking;
winners, losers,
gamblers paying respects
to palaces of pleasure,
Stock Exchanges,
After hours bars ringing
with a cacophony
of celebration, despair,
whatever...

Worldwide, trails
like snails’ slime tracking
the best and worst
of us, no discrimination;
looking to the future,
(things sure to get better)
Family of Man living
up to old myths and doing
its best by us, guiding
the hand it feeds for better
or worse

Like leaves on a lemon tree,
shades of easy money

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]


Saturday, 15 March 2014

My Friends, The Trees


Sometimes it can feel as if our world has come to an end or is closing down on us like the curtain on a Shakespearean tragedy.  

I have often felt that way, even as a child (when no one took depression in children very seriously if at all) and have spent the best part of a lifetime finding ways of restoring a view of life and self that gives rise to optimism rather than pessimism.

Creative therapy (writing) and reading have played a vital part in my battle to beat depression, but it is nature that has proved my salvation.  While not even the finest arts can copy it, a troubled mind, body, and spirit can do far, far, worse than try. So it has been with mine since my partner died even though we were together but a few years and it was a long time ago. My mother’s death, too, affected me deeply. 

Yet, the trees remain, the same trees we walked among, talked among, and rested among to enjoy leafy kaleidoscopes and create our own; trees now bursting with life, now all but dying only to thrive again according to time and season. Such is the stoicism of nature from which the human body-mind-spirit can take heart if it will but pause long enough to look and see, listen and learn…

MY FRIENDS, THE TREES

I never felt so alone
as once you were gone,
drab days stretching
on and on like dirt tracks
leading nowhere
but deeper into woodlands
where no sun shining,
birds singing or rabbits
teasing the eye

Then a day came, 
long after you were gone,
I chanced to spot
a chick sparrow fly the nest,
hover uncertainly,
fledgling wings in a flap,
but only briefly
before soaring up, up,
and away 

I followed its flight,
spotted a trickle of sunlight
bursting through trees
whose spring leaves
dripped rainbows on the eye,
restoring colour 
to a world left colourless 
since you painted me
out of it

Suddenly, the inner ear 
hears once more, inner eye
can see again,
empty heart starting to fill
(if slowly) with joys 
of spring, reawakening
happier times, 
trying out heart strings
and retuning 

Oh, but less lonely now,
befriended by trees, lifted
by ages-old tales
of love and peace, songs
celebrating life,
poems reflecting that death
must wait its turn
while we relish the thrill
of first flight

Sparrow flies into tree,
possibly same bird, same tree,
but not the same me, 
loath to leave my friends,
the trees, yet anxious
as they to remind the world 
it’s spring, 
body, mind, and spirit 
overflowing

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

Friday, 14 March 2014

In Praise of Perennials OR Survivors, Making History


Regular readers will know I have prostate cancer and have been receiving hormone therapy. I am trying to take it all in my stride. Think positive, Taber, I keep telling myself, and urge anyone in the same or similar circumstances to do the same.

The body as well as mind and spirit need to stay strong if they are to defeat any intruders that present a threat. Whatever happens, why deny ourselves the satisfaction of putting up a good fight? Letting things (or people) get us down only makes a bad situation worse.

Few if any of us can say, hand on heart, that we never have ‘bad’ days. It is a challenge to get through as least scarred as possible by problems, crises, disappointments, nasty shocks and/or scary happenings...whatever.

Me, I take my cue from nature. Mind you, that’s after taking several long, slow, deep breaths and counting to ten....

IN PRAISE OF PERENNIALS or SURVIVORS, MAKING HISTORY

I am the spirit of the wind
writing poems for trees, turning leaves
just as humankind turns select pages
of history, Creation taking imagination
to its heart and turning it
into a religion, nurturing growth
independent of home truths
daring to question how best to raise
born again geraniums

I am the spirit of the wind,
no sooner rocking a baby in its cradle
and composing a lullaby than pitting
sailors against  moody waves as fickle 
as the Holy See towards gay 
and transgender folks standing up 
for love and peace, re-asserting
that common body, mind, and spirit
aspiring to enlightenment

I am the spirit of the wind
treating the eagle and the dove
with equal favour or cruelty,
as Earth Mother has demonstrated
since Creation took imagination
to its heart and turned it into a religion,
stunting growth, leaving home truths
so vulnerable to decay in the thick
of a long, weepy, autumn

Perennials, like ghosts in the wind,
templates for humankind…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Progress, Shades of Armageddon OR Earmarked for Development


Several readers have asked when I intend to record more of my poems for You Tube. Well, soon I hope. However, Graham, my close friend and cameraman works full-time so is not often available and I have been unable to get anyone else interested.

For those of you who may be interested but haven’t yet seen and heard my capers on You Tube,
try: http://www.youtube.com/rogerNtaber  or keyword ‘Roger Taber You Tube

We only do it for fun (and that includes heading straight for the nearest pub afterwards) but hopefully people will enjoy our efforts. I will be posting more on You Tube throughout the year, weather and cameraman availability permitting.

Meanwhile...

The world's growing population requires that we provide for its housing and other needs. We should not forget, though, that nature provides not only for its own protection but ours too. Our taking from nature without giving back is already making itself menacingly felt in various ways, and will likely haunt future generations with even greater menace.

PROGRESS, SHADES OF ARMAGEDDON? or EARMARKED FOR DEVELOPMENT

World’s children playing
where trees and grass…
Listen! Bursts of laughter
like breaking glass…

In ones, twos, and threes,
drifting far, far, away
like the leaves on its trees,
birds that sung all day

Nobody comes here now,
grass concreted over…
Empty carbuncles in a row,
a dead bird, no laughter

(Nobody left likely to know 
how or why it became so...)


Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2016

[Note: This poem has been  revised since first appearing under the title 'Earmarked for Development' in The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004.]

Monday, 10 March 2014

More of the Same OR Not Necessarily So...


Here’s a BIG thank you to all my readers. When I started writing up the blogs, I hoped to reach a few thousand people, but both blogs have now had 53,000+ page views since Google started collecting statistics in May 2010; feedback suggests many of these are regular readers.

Christmas seems light years away. Let us hope 2014 will be a better year for us all. Sadly, for many of us, I doubt whether it will feel much like we are emerging from recession and hardship for some months, even years yet.

All we can do is find a bright side and focus on that as we try to make the best of things rather than dwell on the worst. Despite having to contend with regular bouts of depression, it is something I have always tried to do…with varying degrees of success (and failure).

Did I say it was easy?

May we all find peace and love...this year, and always...keeping mind and heart open to all things and all people.[Well, as far as some people will let us anyway.]


MORE OF THE SAME or NOT NECESSARILY SO...

A new year calls to us among the remains
of a Christmas past its use-by date,
discarded wrapping paper a pretty metaphor
for token gestures the world over

Our shame, its magic fading, oh, so quickly
to an everyday ordinariness
(They fade too soon, the laughter and songs
of a world come together…)

Even so, the frailest things may last forever
once touched by love;
so say bodies left for dead on the Gaza Strip
or in tent cities the world over

Wherever a heart beating in time with others,
love will find a way,
though heaping even starker choices upon us
than any Holy Books

To business, recycling pretty wrapping paper
and tearing a strip off humanity
wherever it fails to teach its children respect
for our differences the world over…


Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Memo to Mortality


What is the meaning and purpose of life?  Why are we born if it’s only to die? Oh, but wouldn’t we all like to know! Could it be the answer is really quite simple for all the egg-heads and philosophers like to suggest it is so complex?

I once asked my late mother who responded without hesitation that ‘It’s about making the best of all we are, all we have, and all we achieve…not wasting time and tears over all we are not, all we don’t have, and all we haven’t achieved.’  (She was a wise woman, my mother.)

Now, this little poem may not really do justice to its theme, but what poem ever really could?

MEMO TO MORTALITY

I know not how or why
my life is as it is,
only how blue the sky
and pretty the daisies

I know not how or why
each season’s rebirth
wherever birds may fly,
beasts of the earth

We know not how or why
our time shall cease,
only, as we must die,
so first find peace

How or why a life’s task?
Let’s not forget to ask


[From: The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004]

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Promises, Promises...


Several readers have been in touch to question the wisdom of my repeating historical posts on Google Plus.  I had the idea after readers said they would like to read some of my poems again but did not have time to browse the blogs. Feedback suggests that my contribution to Google Plus is quite popular so I will continue, especially as I am not too well these days so not often up to writing new poems. (Even so, I hope to post some new poems from time to time.) Meanwhile, I hope readers will enjoy at least some of the poems I put on Google Plus, perhaps even take an interest in the historical nature of various preambles. Most post will remain on Google + for five days and return again every few months in the hope of catching new readers and keeping the attention of regulars.

Now, if life is a manic roller-coaster ride, love has to be its saving grace, for all its ups and downs. Since we have no choice but get used to the idea that we come into the world  to live and die , we can at least make the best of what falls in-between,  and if that involves entering into a contract of mutual responsibility with Earth Mother as well as the rest of humankind, so be it…

Easier said than done, of course, in a world where only too often nature is perceived as a slave to what humankind so likes to justify as ‘progress’…

PROMISES, PROMISES...

Among angry hills,
where I was promised to worms,
a storm burst
and I stumbled on slopes
of grassy mud
to which I promised every last drop
of my blood
if they would see me safely home,
and then the sun
came out again, opening my eyes
to birds’ wings
and other miracles of nature;
I got headily drunk
on a misty rain, bare feet stalling
where ragged stone
and thistles bent on re-aligning
my personal integrity, demanding  
I do… what, exactly?

Something, someone,
purpose, reason, sense of resurrection
once mist and rain
finally done, restoring the sun
to its crowning glory
though bits of sky haunted still
by clouds emulating
rocks, thorns, unicorns in scattered shapes
and various personae
yelling in the ears to keep running,
running, running…or miss
the last train, promising to get me
to the station on time,
deserves (surely?) promising
in return to see these feet
safely home, tucked up in bed
by nightfall, eyes closing, peace
(of sorts) descending

In dreams, weeping hills touch gently
upon mutual responsibility

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2014

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from the original version as it 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]




Monday, 3 March 2014

Spring Magic

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

It has been a long, dull,wet  winter here in the UK so I thought I’d write something cheerful.  The poem is a little whimsical perhaps, but regular readers will know that I ‘do’ whimsy quite often.

Now, early March is hardly spring, but at least we can kid ourselves it’s just around the corner.

Besides, we have only to let the inner eye stray to some once-upon-a-springtime, and it’s here again already.

Thank goodness for the power of imagination, memory, positive thinking, and the spiritual quality of humankind’s more discerning affinity with nature.

SPRING MAGIC

As I paused by a tree,
I saw it weeping for me;
bad times, hard times,
ever-haunting back roads
of my memory

As I paused by a tree
I heard it laughing at me,
for ever dwelling
on darker, wintry, aspects
of my history

As I paused by a tree,
I heard it singing for me
while opening up
a gift-wrapped box of delights
we call memory

As I paused by a tree,
it covered me with kisses
of faery blossom,
working spring magic, life-force
of all history

As I paused by a tree,
leafy skies swooped on me
and spring cleaned
the darker, wintry, corners
of my memory

As I passed by a tree,
I heard it gaily cheering me
for moving on,
a new spring in every step
making history


Copyright R. N. Taber 2014