Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Zen of Yellow Roses

When a loved one dies, a part of us dies also. Yet, my experience of death has been that, even as time passes, the worst of grief fades, and memory may even start to play tricks on us, love sees us continuing to share in the experience of loving and being loved, the quality of our inner life is all the better for that.  

In the language of flowers the yellow rose is for remembrance. What better icon then for the mind to click on at birthdays, anniversaries, whenever loss makes itself especially felt, than a yellow rose, and let flower the bitter-sweet joy of a happy memory risen above its thorns?

This poem is a kenning.


I bring truth
where imagination would feed
on fear and speculation,
engage with those seeking comfort
and reassurance
in far darker places than even
Orpheus searching
for his lost love in the bowels
of the Earth

I combat the terrors
of sleepless nights spent tossing
and turning
in early hours with no respect
for human dignity
or a desperation feeding
on such crumbs of hope
as left out for birds in winter
at its worst

I bring a lasting sense
of peace to mind, body and spirit,
where shadows
gather like key conspirators
with intent to kill,
yet kept at bay by a natural
instinct for survival,
struggle though it may against
hellish odds

As a rose its thorns, I’ll rise above,
who am Closure, ever open to love

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Riders of the Watch

Today's poem has not appeared on the blog since 2007, and I have since revised it; the original version also appeared in a Drifting Thoughts, Poetry Today (Forward Press), 2000.

I recall once walking along the water’s edge in the moonlight. I was very unhappy. I saw no point in continuing the battle of wits between head and heart. Yet, the feisty beauty of a summer night touched whatever it is in us we like to call ‘soul’ and instead of lamenting an ending, I began to anticipate a new beginning...

(Photo taken from the Internet)


Moon shadows,
riding white horses across a vast rippling plain
of dark despair;
a dashing of hooves,
indelible imprint on what passes
for the soul

Ghost riders, all deceit and lies,
shivering, shimmering, desperately willing us
to run...

Oh, but where?

Stripped bare, a lifetime's audacity;
time to cast off the trappings and pretty wrappings
of integrity;
Waves, a crashing ovation
for giving reason its marching orders, joining
the heart’s accomplices

Ghost riders, all deceit and lies,
shivering, shimmering, desperately willing us
to run...


Moon shadows, a force for salvation
among the flotsam and jetsam of human frailty
left for us beachcombers
to spot and salvage
what dreams we can (if at nature’s caprice)
without losing face

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000; 2011

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2000]

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Nature and Human Nature, in the Blink of an Eye

As each day closes for a night of preparing for dawn - and vice versa - we hopefully anticipate the next performance; and so it goes on with life, death, love and nature tracking The Torchbearer across time and space...


See late evening clouds billowing;
bulbous folds of a Big Top

Leafy shapes performing in trees;
trapeze artistes in sequins

Spring breeze rippling through it all;
old gods and new, laughing…

Sun’s last blushes on a white dove;
paint on the face of a clown

Lovers in best complimentary seats
enjoying candy floss kisses

Faces shutting down (show's over),
parading back into their cages

Nature poetry, playing ring master
to the greatest show on earth

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012; 2018

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised since first appearing under the title 'On with the Motley' in Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation]

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Marking Time OR Sapling Waiting On Its Seasons

Today’s poem has not appeared on the blog since 2008 so I guess now is as good a time as any to give it a airing albeit a slightly revised version. 

I am in my late 60s now. Now and then I consider the discrepancy between what I have achieved and what I’d once hoped to achieve, and my heart sinks...until I consider various off-shoots of that ‘unfulfilled potential’ and then the tree doesn’t look half so bad after all.


Youth, with dreamy eyes
and wind in the hair,
soaking up heaven’s store
of tears for cares
like leaves untimely fallen
on slim shoulders

Like a sapling in a breeze,
see it bend, never break;
watch leaves bud and grow;
now green, now red,
now gold for each mortal
breath it takes

Nor shall its season cease,
grown older, stronger,
a bold heart harbouring 
the finer seeds
of Creation for nature’s  

Spirited tree, proud and free,
a living part of earth’s
finer tapestry, sheltering all
(no one’s enemy)
though they carve initials
on your body

Forever, tall and beautiful
in the mind’s eye;
where lashed to dark skies,
a freedom won
by egg cries sure to archive
its leafy passions

Potential in its prime, marking
Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2011

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

Monday, 14 April 2014

Shadow Play, Companions for Life

Now, some of us find that special someone to share our lives and others never do, while some of us find him or her only to lose them again.

Whatever, most of us have a dream that is always with us, both our comfort and inspiration.

This poem is a villanelle.


Always with me, life companion
(true love so far, so near);
a tall shadow dancing on its own

Left half-awake in my bed alone,
it whispers poems in my ear;
always with me, life companion

Above, a jet plane’s sleepy drone
promises nothing to fear;
a tall shadow dancing on its own

No tears for a lonely half-person
whose way ahead unclear;
always with me, life companion

Come day, night, sun and moon,
its presence strong and dear,
a tall shadow dancing on its own

Asleep, lovers on a plane flown
where summer lasts forever;
always with me, life companion,
a tall shadow dancing on its own

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Tracker or Nature of the Beast


[Update 30/11/17: I have been living with hormone therapy for nearly seven years now as well as mobility problems since my fall. Believe me, it ain't easy. Even so, I get out and about as best I can and am still looking on the bright side of life. if only because the alternative is unthinkable. Besides, there are always people much worse off than ourselves. I have some good friends, my life and my blogs so count myself lucky.]

[Update 22/4/17: Following a bad fall in 2014, I was unable to do the Shine (Charity) walk again, but a friend did it for me  that year and we raised a tidy sum for Prostate Cancer Research UK. Earlier this month, I gave a sponsored poetry reading and, again, raised money on-line for Prostate Cancer UK via my JustGiving page. Hormone therapy continues to prevent my cancer becoming aggressive. More than six years on from being diagnosed, I remain a Happy Bunny...well, most of the time.]

To readers that email me now and then to ask how I am dealing with my prostate cancer, I can only say ‘so far, so good.’

Hormone therapy continues to keep the cancer from becoming aggressive. I feel fine, although I have to confess to being haunted by the fear that the cancer may well catch up with me one day. Even so, Fear and I are old adversaries that have the measure of, and more or less tolerate each other. Even so, we do fierce battle now and then whenever it ventures out from that shadowy corner of the mind to which I would prefer to have it confined.  Eventually, it admits defeat and slinks back into its corner, but not before having taunted body, mind and spirit to extremes.

I once confided fear of something (I can’t recall what, but does it matter?) to a teacher at my secondary school 50+ years ago who commented to the effect that to deny fear is to deny the inner self that makes us human.  ‘Deal with it, Taber, and get on with your life,’ he said. ‘It may not go away entirely, but that chances are it won’t bother you anywhere near as much again.’

Participating in the London Shine Walk for Cancer last year to raise money for prostate  cancer research left me with such a sense of achievement for being able to complete a half marathon even in my late 60s (in 5.5 hours, with pit stops) that Fear retreated back into its corner and has yet to raise its ugly head again. 

This poem is a kenning, sometimes called a ‘Who am I?’ poem.


I journey through life
with companions I would leave
but for clammy fingers
clutching at my sleeve and voices
I would prefer to ignore
demanding my attention, pity,
moral support and more
than I am willing to give, yet
can but do my best

I arrive at crossroads
with companions I would leave
to their own devices
while knowing they would be lost
without me, no map
supplied to help them decide
which way to choose
other than human instinct set
to following its nose

I journey on, on, and on,
companions that would leave me
to my own devices
as obsessed with my keeping track
of the world’s injustices
as with lesser vices charging
a vulnerable mentality
to take responsibility for body,
mind and spirit

I am that fear of the unknown,
animal all but human

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Looking for Answers OR A Passing Comment on the Human Psyche

It has been my experience of life so far (I am 68) that many people ask the wrong questions of themselves and others. Could that be why, more often than not, they come up with the wrong answers?

Questions are too often tailored to preconceived ideas, including stereotypes. I refer in particular to those bigots who persist in condemning gay people for their sexuality and/or others for the colour of their skin and/or religion (or non-religion). Whatever happened to live and let live?

Sadly, stereotypes of all kinds become fixed in some people’s minds; especially where the mind is so small there is little room for manoeuvre. If only more people were to consider opening up their minds and hearts to accommodate new ideas, confront the possibility that their approach to morality and various socio-cultural-religious issues is not without its flaws.

Could it be that asking more appropriate and relevant questions might well encourage all of us to enter into (even if continuing to disagree with or even disapprove of) more appropriate and relevant points of view...sufficiently, at least, to leave us feeling less inclined to impose our own?

Oh, but I wish...!

As I have said before (and probably will again) our differences don’t make us different, only human.


‘Who am I?’’I asked a river
but it just kept rushing on by without
making any reply;
‘Who am I?’ I asked a songbird,
but it just took off into the sky without
making any reply;
‘Who am I?’ I asked a sycamore
where angels fell from the sky without
making any reply

‘What are you?’ asked a river
but I’d just keep rushing on by without
making any reply;
‘What are you?’ asked a songbird,
but I’d just scoff pie in the sky without
making any reply;
‘What are you?’ asked a sycamore
where angel wings were in a flap about
any right of reply

River, bird, tree, human being,
leading questions in the mind’s eye, only
guessing at replies;
questions of identity the world seeks
to thread through a needle’s eye without
caring how or why;
If Discovery the Mother of Creation,
may it teach us to ask the right questions,
respect any replies

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Symphony Pathétique

For me, love and nature go hand in hand. There is nothing more natural or beautiful in this life than to love...unless it is to be loved in return.

As for our sexuality - gay, straight or transgender - love does not discriminate so by what right does anyone else?

The death of a loved one, in any circumstances, is one of the hardest things we have to face in life. Thinking about death, though, does not have to be morbid or depressing. We just have to remember that spring always follows winter and be glad for the good times. [True, it’s never easy, but always worthwhile.]

As I have said before on my blogs, and dare say will again, moving on does not mean leaving anyone behind.


I see the sunrise in your eyes,
watch it set in your hair,
but when I’d kiss you goodnight,
you’re not there

I laugh with you in the rain
like we hadn’t a care,
but when the sun starts to shine
you’re not there

Media homing in on the spread
of HIV-AIDS everywhere,
the rhetoric of concern exposed
for an empty chair

If heaven’s kisses bitter-sweet
for the love in our care,
dare we betray, fail to keep it safe
in lust’s dark lair?

But for your love in my heart,
I could not bear
to know each time I take a fall
you’re not there

Let nature leave its mark on us
nor its passion us spare,
come mind-body-spirit awakened,
you are there

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2018

[Note: This poem first appears under the title ‘Sympathetique’ in On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010.]

Monday, 7 April 2014

Parnassus, Rites of Way OR Mortality, a Poem for All Seasons

I am often asked why I write poetry.

While I think of myself as a poet who happens to be gay rather than a gay poet, the gay input to my poetry is especially important to me. Hopefully, gay readers will enjoy relating to it, if only in part, while the heterosexual reader is invited to put aside any outdated, misleading, and often offensive stereotypes that continue to attach themselves to the whole gay ethic in the minds of the less enlightened.  

Now, although I enjoy socializing, I am also a very private person. I have never kept a journal because I hate the idea of anyone accessing details of my private life and thoughts when I am no longer around to qualify what I wrote. At the same time, my poems are journal pages of a kind; few are strictly autobiographical, but each and every one turns on the kind of person I am, warts ‘n’ all.

Many of my poems have been inspired by conversations with all sorts of people - men and women, gay and straight alike - who have told me about themselves as this bar, that bus queue…wherever. The subsequent poem is as much their story as mine. At the same time, how I chose to write the poem illustrates my train of thought upon hearing and often relating to what they had to say and mulling it over for hours, weeks, months, and even years.

Writing poetry, like any creative process, exercises the inner eye in seeing even what is sometimes considered (by whom?) best overlooked. We all need to see and feel in order to try and understand; every artist wants to share his or her insight, feelings, and subsequent understanding - flawed though it may well be - with others.

Oh, and, by the way, I was born on a sloping dead-end street.


When this life ceases to be,
my spirit left to feed on eternity,
what will they think of me
who drank my wine at table,
doubted I was even able
to write at all or, at least, as well
as one might who always
kept Mount Parnassus in sight,
despite the English climate?

Oh, I dare say they were right,
but I’ve so enjoyed being a poet,
lapping up all criticism, praise,
scepticism, quips about simplicity,
a serious lack of intellectuality,
how gay-interest poetry undermines
a proud genre’s finer integrity,
compromises the very aesthetic
of its history and spirituality

I've heard it’s a cardinal sin
to lower the tone, let anyone in
on a poem, its place in the arts
intended to impress, access
only partly allowed or its mystery
all but solved, and that way
(surely?) anarchy lies. Whatever,
a poet will always have the edge
on Mr, Mrs, and Ms Average

Although but mortal, the mind and body
expect more of the spirit, and its poetry

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2012

[Note: This poem was mistakenly published under a provisional title (Requiem for a Poet) in 1st eds. of A Feeling for the Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Sunday, 6 April 2014

A Short History of the Human Race

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1. While it is only right that we should remember all those who fought and died for world peace along with millions of unsung others caught up in the conflict one way or another, we should perhaps reflect upon how various socio-cultural-religious divides have caused conflicts through the ages, and continue to do so.

If wars are all about winning the peace, remembering that has to be making sure peace prevails, surely? Or what has it all been for, apart from killing innocent people, greasing the palms of arms dealers, promoting political rhetoric and profiling humankind’s inhumanity towards its own? [World leaders of all socio-cultural-religious persuasions, please note.]

When will they every learn? When we ever learn...?

This poem is a villanelle.


Coursing centuries,
blood of angry ancestors
cancerous war cries

Wherever they rise,
venom of our adversaries
coursing centuries

Kingdoms, dynasties,
playgrounds for predators’
cancerous war cries

A pot-pourri of lies
camouflaged in scriptures
coursing centuries

Socio-political policies
(sovereign ears and eyes)
cancerous war cries

Drawing on prejudice’s
bottomless well of tears;
coursing centuries,
cancerous war cries

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Lines on a Carthorse

I wonder...how many of us pause every now and then to look at something (or someone) and see something (or someone) else?

Photo (Internet)


Green patch, bursts of sunshine,
retired carthorse munching
contentedly away at a spread
of dandelions

Light breeze in a solitary ash
washing down a dusty heart
with tactile thoughts inclined
to haunt like romantic songs
played on your guitar dedicated
to the pair of us, could well
be now, fancying that I glimpse
a lock of red hair at the edge
of a teasing, passing cloud whose
oh, so-familiar ears, eyes,
nose, lips, turned to another

I didn’t see what was happening,
lost sight of listening, forgot 
to look at what I saw, mistook hazy
infringements of personal space
for a lazy contentment, happiness
unaffected by the world beyond
that perimeter fence I constructed
with loving care, either assuming
we'd want the same things or maybe
too scared to ask, unknowingly
afraid of getting it wrong, ending
up alone

Retired carthorse, last seen munching
on dandelions by a solitary walker
shot down in a green patch by bursts
of sunshine

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2010

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in Observing Life, Anchor Books [Forward Press] 2000 and The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised version appears in CC & D poetry magazine, Scars Publications, U S., 2010.]