Sunday, 28 September 2014

Disaffected Youth, Wasted Lives

The majority of young people are decent, honest, and hardworking, but there is also high unemployment among young people and that leaves some disaffected with society so they join gangs or become targets for radicalization; violence becomes a way of life until something (or someone) happens that helps them back into mainstream life and a more positive, fulfilling sense of personal identity.

While there is no excuse for violence, it is high time politicians, religious and community leaders among others (parents, too) looked more closely at its roots and took responsibility where society is failing so many of its young people. Some do, but rhetoric is not enough; actions really do speak louder than words. 

This poem is a villanelle.


Got my hands on a knife, a gun,
spread the word,
didn’t ask who’ll carry my coffin

Shouting at just about everyone,
no one heard;
got my hands on a knife, a gun

Needed to prove I was someone,
earn street cred;
didn’t ask who’ll carry my coffin

At first it gave me a buzz, was fun,
but all that disappeared;
got my hands on a knife, a gun

A gangster movie set let me down,
couldn’t show I was scared,
didn’t ask who’ll carry my coffin

Macho mates weep to see my crown
dripping blood;
got my hands on a knife, a gun,
didn’t ask who’ll carry my coffin

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Thursday, 25 September 2014

A Job Half Done OR Blots On Our Landscape

Have you ever been working on something you don’t really believe in, but have no choice…? Once, you may well have fought against it, but reality has a nasty habit of catching up with us and poring cold water over even the feisty flames of rebels with a cause…


Builder, pondering
a job half done, frowning
under a baseball cap…
(Wonder, what he’s looking at?)
Not a wall half done,
but doing battle with eco-warriors
armed with a common principle
to save a green and pleasant land
compromised by bricks
and mortar just such as this, creating
yet more sad office space
in a concrete jungle, parody
of nature

Builder, pondering
a job half done, distant grin
under a baseball cap…
(Wonder, what he’s looking at?)
Not scaffolding  
for brand new offices meant
to keep fat cats happy
once staff won over to the view
that a bird in the hand
is worth two in any hedgerow,
and he should know
with a wife, three kids, behind
with the mortgage

Builder at work
on a job half done, furrows
under a baseball cap…
(Now, what’s he looking at?)
Towers, like trees, touching the sky
where birds fly
like toy airplanes and drop
like sky divers
on the backs of eco-warriors
guarding nature’s own
from all fat cats on the make
that don’t care, don’t have to
live here

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2014

[Note: revised (2014) from an earlier version that appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised edition in e-format in preparation.]

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Urban Safari

I well recall walking home one night across a shabby part of London (doesn't every city have its shabby parts the tourists are steered away from?) and being captivated by a sense of  Gothic; poetry, romance, and a curious sense of fatalism.....


None but shuddering stones haunting
dead lawns…

Stretching from mossy rails
to graffiti trails
on silent factory walls
hear the Traveller
call for aid to ease
the burden Time has laid
on back and breast

No thought of rest, not here,
where occasional dock leaves conspire
a gentler ground
than makes this gravel sound
like another massacre…
On, on, playful night! Shedding favours
left and right,
teasing the Traveller’s jaded sight.
Glimpse, a tiger’s smile
where a pile of flowery wire flickers
like a far forest fire; city lights
beyond mass graves of missing people
plucked from welfare queues
and left to fend  without a friend
for years, their ghosts not far behind
as panic rears

Neon daubs, for stars and a generation
of paper tigers

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2014

[Note: Revised (2013) from an earlier version that first appeared in an anthology, Shadows in a Mist, Anchor Books (Forward Press) 1999 and subsequently in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revised edition in e-format in preparation.]

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sword and Shield, a Fight to the Better End

[Update (Oct 18 2016): It is more than two years now since my fall that resulted in a badly fractured ankle. The warned me tt the hospital that, given my age, I might never walk again, but I was having none of that, kept religiously to a daily schedule of physiotherapy and can now walk quite well with the aid of a walking stick. Yes, walking is sometimes painful still, but it is a great feeling to be out and about. The prostate cancer, too, remains under control with hormone therapy. worries that I cannot overcome by reflecting on my late mother's words, 'If you worry, you'll die and if you don't worry you'll still die one day so...why worry?' I guess we just have to keep a sense of proportion.]

Since my fall, five weeks ago, I have had to exercise a degree of patience I did not know I possessed. I am always out and about, but have been housebound as the front steps are too many and steep for me to negotiate with crutches. Unable to put any weight on my left foot, a Zimmer frame gives me greater mobility around my flat. It has taken until last week for a CT scan to reveal a fracture in the heel so now I have a cast and must continue hopping around on the Zimmer for at least another five weeks. The heel may mend or it may not. I must wait and see…

I live alone, but friends and my lovely neighbours in the flat below have been a godsend, helping with shopping and everyday tasks around the flat that I cannot do myself. Their support means everything. Even so, there have been moments when I have felt very low; it was at just such a time that I had a spirited debate with Pain and wrote the poem, a kenning.


True, I am no friend
but do not mean you harm,
will arrive uninvited
(and most unwelcome)
yet do my best
to make my stay as bearable
as possible,
coaxing mind, body and spirit
to comfort, find peace

I may bring clouds
and wintry days, but always
call on spring flowers
and scents of halcyon days
to brighten dark corners
where you may well cower
from everyday hardship,
and a growing sense of bleaker
times yet to come

True, I am no friend,
but I have the power to make
stronger person of you
if you will only rise above
the worst and make
the best of our time together,
let mind, body and spirit
make peace with even a wretch
the likes of me

As Pain its makeshift sword wields,
so peace and love, lasting shields

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Treading Water, Cue for a Positive Mindset

Even when we know we must move on, it is never easy to let go.

The trick is to never to even try and let go altogether, but let the good memories drive us forward while taking care not to let the bad one’s hold us back; cease resisting, and let mind, body and spirit work towards the same positive end.

Did I say it was easy?


I can feel the ground shake
beneath my feet, walking down a street,
hands in pockets, lost in thought,
wondering how on earth I got here,
what on earth I’m doing,
where I’m going, and why 
I should even care any more
(No one else does...)

Ground still shaking, I stop,
look,  listen out, for - what, exactly?
Another burst water main
on the High Street?  Can hear car horns
blowing,  sad kids screaming,
woman yelling at a cyclist for ignoring
a red light, man with a stick swearing
blue murder while attempting to negotiate
rights of passage among baby buggies,
market stallholders holding up bargains
for waving at indifferent faces,
pigeons squabbling assorted crumbs,
confetti for a wedding party going through
the motions

Sound, dead. Watery eyes;
left counting the seconds, one by one,
drowning in a busy pool
on a sunny afternoon, everybody keen
to do their own thing even if means
doing nothing about crises in the deep end,
learners getting into difficulties,
copper (playing lifeguard) with hands full
sorting out a fight, kids on the grab
running off, their shrill giggles coursing
the veins like a funny story folks
who haven’t a clue, oh, so love to tell
whenever life and love are not getting along
too well

Sounds, sights, rushing back,
send me reeling, ground hurting my feet,
shaking the body, scaring the heart,
tearing the lonely soul apart who staggers
against a brick wall, struggling
to recover balance, find  bearings,
arguing with passions nurtured
and neglected, wounded and  nursed.
Stop messing with my head.
I’m okay, can get by without you.
No way, did you say?
What do you know, anyway? No more
I (for sure) or we’d never have ended up
treading water

Treading water, eyes and ears
half shut to the world, wanting to be part
of all this, that, theirs, mine and…
Ah, yes, ours. But no ‘ours’ any more
(no one and everyone to blame)
looking hell in the face, cue for engaging
with a positive thinking mindset

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st (print) eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised e-edition in preparation.]

Monday, 15 September 2014


There is nothing wrong with ambition, but sometimes motivation is less clear sighted than we like to think., and we lose sight of our priorities if only temporarily; worse, we risk losing sight of who we are in our anxiety to prove we are more than a match for someone else…

Comparing ourselves with others is rarely a good idea as we will almost certainly go through life feeding an inferiority complex. Everyone is different, with different strengths and weaknesses. We need to lose any self-consciousness and develop the self-confidence to focus on ourselves and those people and issues that matter most to us. Otherwise, in attempting to prove we are as good as or better than someone else, we risk losing everything that really matters.


You hardly notice
I am here, and should you care
to look over your shoulder
the chances are you’ll not see me;
if the light is right I’ll fade
from sight, or (better still) no light
at all where I have taken
what I can of your mind and soul,
made them my own

You don’t fear me,
though you should, for am surely
your worst enemy;
you carry on with this and that,
making your way
in life, believing it’s your own
while all the time it’s mine;
my ambitions you aspire to fulfil,
rarely your own

Oh, but I am clever,
and would never lead you so astray
that you become lost
in a maze of conflicting emotions
and cannot find your way back
to where I intend you should be,
feeding you (now and then)
a hollow victory, its celebration
mine, all mine

You, my puppet, I, your puppeteer;
One upmanship, the Manipulator

 Copyright R. N. Taber 2011; 2014

Friday, 12 September 2014

Keeping-Up-Appearances, Life at the Shallow End

Not so long ago, I spent an evening with a couple about my own age (68) who are so obsessed with looks that they have resorted to cosmetic surgery on more than one occasion. Ironically, the results are none too flattering. Besides, its's personality that counts more than looks, and don't let anyone tell you different. 

Respect comes into it to, doesn't it? Personally, I have more respect for the person who lets nature take its course and stays young in at heart than for the man or woman who prefers to kid themselves they have discovered the secret of eternal youth. The body may be a slave to time, but that doesn't have to be true of the spirit. The mind may well be vulnerable, but a strong dose of positive thinking and avoiding daytime TV has to be a good start. Couch potatoes do not age well in my experience.

Now, I ask you. Gay or straight, let;s stay young at heart by all means, but what’s wrong with growing old naturally?

Surely, it's enough that so many celebrities love to make fools of themselves by trying to turn back nature's clock without we ordinary men and women playing the same silly game?

On my opinion, cosmetic surgery is only ever justifiable in cases when people may have some kind of visible disfigurement that causes them distress. [It would probably cause them less distress if other people were less obsessed with outward appearances and more concerned with the person behind them.]

This poem is a kenning.


I’ll make a hunchback of you,
both feet arguing with the waistline,
whitened teeth making the tongue
abort every truer word you try to say,
as if you have no real affinity
with the fix you’re in, only vaguely
aware of some discomfort, unable
(or unwilling) to track down its source
so carrying on regardless

I’ll make a fine fool of you,
object of scorn (though tempered
with compassion among family
and friends who daren’t say a word
in case you mistake their concern
for interference, pity, jealousy;
always a slave to passion’s blind spot,
you embrace me in your heart

I’ll make a poor loser of you,
unless you choose to take me on;
recognize the enemy within
for what I am or else go as a lamb
to slaughter at the altar of vanity,
always seeking shelter from life’s
worst storms in love’s harbours,
but as a guest, no sense of belonging,
only a hungry yearning...

Better to take Time’s lead with pride
than behind its shallow promises hide

Copyright, R. N. Taber 2007; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears under the title Obsession in 1st (print) eds. of Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; Revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Autumn Sonata

(Photo taken from the Internet)

For me, September is the start of autumn…whatever the weather people or the almanacs say.

Here’s my favourite autumn villanelle. It was first published in an anthology, Seasons of Change, Anchor Books [Forward Press] 2003 and subsequently in my collection.

Villanelles are not as easy to write as they look. Regular readers will know I have a passion for them and won’t be surprised to learn that I have written 200+. I try to vary style and content in my poetry and am always experimenting with voices. Even so, the villanelle remains a firm favourite of mine if only because its simplicity is far from simplistic and I get a sense of achievement from keeping to the discipline it imposes on a poet. Feedback suggests that some readers love them and others hate them, which is as it should be.

Left entirely to my own devices, I am inclined to waffle and have even been known to mix my metaphors. Oh, dear! Now, villanelles clear my head. They keep the inner eye focused on the straight and narrow if multidimensional paths along which a poet loves travel across uncharted territories of the mind, hopefully with his or her readers for company at various stages of the journey.


Silvery grey skies,
leaves drifting,
summer closing its eyes

Lighting home fires,
hopes flaring
silvery grey skies

Holiday goodbyes,
wishful thinking,
summer closing its eyes

Words to the wise,
softly treading
silvery grey skies

With long, wistful sighs
and daydreaming,
summer closing its eyes

Time quickly passing,
our hopes surprising
silvery grey skies,
summer closing its eyes

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

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Passage Home OR Nature at the Helm

We may travel far and wide in life or not all. It’s the going (or staying) wherever and doing whatever makes us and others happy that is journey enough for most people.

Yes, most if not all of us make mistakes and sometimes lose our way. But it’s my belief that those among us who make the journey for the right reasons can’t go too far wrong even though it may sometimes seem otherwise.

As for making the passage home, that’s wherever (and with whomsoever?) we feel the need to be; journey’s end.


I have heard waves whisper
of battles lost and won
on stormy seas, in far places,
among others demanding a turn
at the helm

I have watched clouds paint
pictures of losers, victors,
those staying on to dry a tear,
others preferring to turn a deaf ear
than take the helm

I have beached lonely shore
and coral reef, swam
with fishes, come to grief
in oceans surreal for abandoning
the helm

Time, our seasoned captain
has nailed my colours  
to its mast while stars, moon,
and rising sun insist on taking turns
at the helm

Passage home…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; 2nd (revised) ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sea Change

Summer is fast ebbing away and a potpourri of autumn scents are in the air already, assailing the senses and changing the inner eye’s kaleidoscopic view of self, nature and the world…yet again.

Autumn is a beautiful season with its turning leaves of red and gold, yet sad also as we bid farewell to the swallows and prepare - along with much of nature - for the winter months ahead. At the same time, there is something beautiful, too, in sadness as if human spirit and spirit of nature are always conspiring to somehow soften the sharper edge of grief, loneliness, apprehension,…whatever, and never more so than in autumn.

This poem is a villanelle; it first appeared s in a Poetry Now [Forward Press] anthology A Summer’s Breeze (2003) and subsequently in my collection.


Sea of muddy leaves,
our summer gone
as autumn grieves

Heaps, like ragged graves
with flowers strewn,
sea of muddy leaves

A dying sparrow heaves
its last, alone
as autumn grieves

North wind brings waves,
our seasons blown;
sea of muddy leaves

No kinder soul than braves
an acid rain
as autumn grieves

Each heart, in time, gives
up its own…
sea of muddy leaves
as autumn grieves

Copyright R. N. Taber 2003

[From: The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004: new (e-edition) in preparation.]

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Freedom, Beacon of Hope in a Darkening World

Many years ago, a teacher once described freedom to the class as the best of human spirit personified. I agree, though I guess it all depends on an incorrupt spirit and a sense of freedom for everyone, not a select few. 

Whatever, we should never take personal freedom for granted, always resist any efforts by anyone to undermine it, moreover understand and accept that it can mean different things to different people while much the same force for good.


In some parts of the world,
all paths to Freedom are (still) blocked
by power-hungry rulers
living in the lap of luxury where others
go hungry, and can but dream
of running fresh, clean, water from a tap
close to hand

In some parts of the world,
all paths to Freedom are (still) haunted
by fighters who lost battles,
but inspired others to continue the war
against the sickest corruption
in the highest places, best feet forward
in global markets

In some parts of the world,
all paths to Freedom (still) ring out loud
and clear with howls
of protest punctuated with the shrapnel,
gunfire and pride
that, oh, so often accompanies integrity
even in the 21st century

In some part of the world,
all paths to Freedom are (still) haunted
by voices of the dead,
inspiring men, women, and children
who know far better
than their so-called betters how to carry
a flag with pride

In some parts of the world,
all paths to Freedom are (still) littered
with human bones,
and while some have name tags attached,
others are identified only
by category, and one of the categories
is G-A-Y

In some parts of the world,
heterosexuality is promoted true enough
to hot-blooded stereotype,
but while some fall for the honeyed hype
from slyly zealous tongues,
others continue to cultivate a culture
of Freedom for all

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Classroom Consensus OR Planet Earth, Deserving Better

Many thank to those of you who have emailed to wish me a speedy recovery following my recent accident. I am still housebound and cannot put any weight on my left foot so hopping around my flat on a zimmer frame! The nights are not good. But I am coping better during the day with help from friends when they are free. Hopefully I will be well on the way to a full recovery in a few weeks, and I keep telling myself that. I must be patient. Old(er) bones take longer to heal. It has made me realize how difficult life is for people living alone who are incapacitated in one way or another. We take so much for granted, even simple things like making a cup of tea.


Education starts and remains ongoing in the home. School and university are just part of a larger picture. Put a foot wrong, and that larger picture becomes a smudgy mess.

So where are we going wrong? Maybe parents and teachers and just about everyone else in the adult world needs to start listening more to what up and coming generations have to say about the kind of life and world they want to grow up in?

Oh, and what has sexuality to do with anything?

This poem is a villanelle.


So nature’s at war with us
again and again…
Time to make peace

We’re to blame (who else?)
for acid rain…
so nature’s at war with us

Save species, keep trees,
sow more grain…
Tome to make peace

We seize woods for houses
(world population)
so nature’s at war with us

Climate, ignoring countries
in pain…
Time to make peace

Politicians into green issues 
for self-gain
so nature's at war with us,
time to make peace

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008

[Note: For the benefit of new readers, feedback has resulted in my posting a selection of historical post/poems well as any new ones on Google Plus to make browsing my blogs easier: ]

Monday, 1 September 2014

Alter Ego in Denial

A loud, talkative if successful businessman attached himself to me during an overnight stay at a hotel years ago, and offered me this advice over countless pints of lager: ‘In business, you have to aim high, be a real go-getter, stay focused on what you want and go for it, no matter what…or who. And shall I tell you what’s so great about life at the top, young man? It’s that you don’t need anyone, but everyone needs you, depends on you, for whatever reason. There's no feeling like it because you don't need anyone, you're top dog.'

Regarding the latter point, I could see he had all but convinced himself it was true. Even so, methinks he did protest just that little too much, and needless to say I was no more impressed with him or his 'advice' then than I would be now, some 30+ years on.

This poem is a villanelle.


Don’t need anyone telling me
the best way to get by.
(Loneliness feeding on me.)

Voices cruelly, mockingly,
demanding, why…?
Don’t need anyone telling me

Choices, always goading me
to expose a white lie.
(Loneliness feeding on me.)

Who's to stop me running free,
though a sandman try?

Don’t need anyone telling me

Scathing home truths would see
I get real, brave up, deny
loneliness feeding on me…

Love, it’s a life-and-death poetry
milking rhyme and reason dry;
(Don’t need anyone telling me;
loneliness, feeding on me...)

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears under the title 'The Hungry Heart' in A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005.]