Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Kite, Metaphor for What-Might-Have-Been

Memories are precious and love never dies. But let’s face it. It is poor compensation for not having our loved ones with us and watching them get on with their lives.

Today’s poem is for families and friends left behind when a loved one dies. It is especially for parents who have lost sons and daughter; no parent should have to bury their child. Whatever the circumstances, death is always a tragedy for those left behind, but what can be worse than to be left with the image of a loved one meeting a violent end or never even knowing what really happened or having no body to bury…?

All knife and gun crime, but especially hate crime, and particularly among young people must stop.

Parents, teachers, social and youth workers should take every opportunity to lead intelligent, sensitive, debate so these killers realise they are not just killing a person but a whole family that will never be whole again.

There is nothing ‘cool’ about street crime. Young people who think it takes carrying a weapon to achieve street cred or even as a means of self-defence should bear in mind that someone could get so easily killed or suffer serious injury…and it could well be them.

Nor is time spent in prison anything to boast about. I once spoke with a young man who had spent time in prison but chose to turn his life around. I asked how it was in prison. He said unhesitatingly, ‘There wasn’t a day I didn’t wish I was dead.’ Thankfully, he is alive and getting on with his life in a very positive way. 

Every killer has a choice. Tragically, victims killed in the course of violent crime on our streets have no choices left. (I read somewhere that most killers regret their actions, but as my mother used to say, regrets are cold comfort in any language...)


No grave to tend, but a street corner
to leave flowers
where last they gathered
to reflect on your life, and send you
on your way

Faery dust, scattered in green fields
where once we children
loved to play; fond thoughts…
like the tail of a kite dancing in a breeze,
one long-ago day

Come twilight, more haunting shadows
marking time where Darkness
will have its way; no signs of life
in fields cruelly cut back, children gone,
lovers gone away

No grave to tend, but a street corner
to leave flowers
where last they gathered
to reflect on their lives, and send us
on our way

Kite, last glimpsed in a smoky breeze
trailing would-be memories...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2015      

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised (2012) from an earlier version that first appeared under the title,'The Kite'  in 1st eds. of  First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books 2002; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Hurt Garden

Most if not all of us have a hurt garden where we prefer not to go in waking moments. Sleep, though, invariably has other ideas…

Dreams may well leave us confused, but mind, body and spirit have a way of making make more sense of us there than any waking moments.


Blades of grass
tossing to and fro in the wind
like restless sleepers
trying to make sense of a kind
where logic and reason
have no place, square up to facts
of human nature
from which its indigenous hosts
would run away
but nature will ever have its say
in dreams, struggling to make sense
of us

Stems of flowers
swaying to and fro in a breeze
like drunken crowds
on losing their heads to whims
where logic and reason
have no place lest they make more 
of human nature
than excuses its indigenous hosts
from home truths
put aside, inclined to have a say
in dreams, struggling to make sense
of us

Dead leaves
drifting here, there, everywhere
like lost children
looking for a place called ‘home’
where logic and reason
concede its predilection for love
of human nature,
lend its indigenous hosts access
to life forces
in denial, ever finding their way 
to us left struggling to make sense
of dreams

signalling a love of life and nature
to practised ears
in the market (for a guide of sorts)
where logic and reason
have a place, but are never enough
for human nature
whose indigenous hosts ask more
of its humanity
than dream litter left in its garden
on the assumption they will clear up
the mess

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Someone's Forgotten Their Manners

A slightly different version of today’s poem was published in various anthologies and poetry magazines (1997-2001) before appearing in my first major collection.

I have made numerous revisions to various poems over the years, some minor others major. While most revisions appear on the blogs, I hope (eventually) to publish revised editions of each collection in e-format.

Now, at first glance, nothing seems to have changed much in 20+ years, especially in the sense that a significant proportion of children and young people seem to be having as raw a deal as ever. (Oh, but haven't I said that before once, twice, maybe even a thousand times?) 

Could it be perhaps that if we all try harder to keep our own little piece of the world clean, safe, and a good place to be, all the other pieces may yet come together in a more bearable, worthwhile  whole…for everyone? 

So many people, rather than act on what their inner self is telling them, prefer to take their cue from the Scarlett O'Hara character in Margaret Mitchell's epic novel, Gone With the Wind. The heroine is always telling herself, 'I'll think about that tomorrow.' It is a common human tragedy that, for some of us tomorrow, never comes...


Gone shopping,
kids left running wild,
trolley rage mums
all smiles (dad’s at the pub);
dog mess everywhere,
kids busy shooting pool
at late-night venues
when not hanging out
on street corners

On the pavement,
collide with some kid
On a bike (my fault
of course, forgot to look);
knives out
in the playground,
acid in the park,
kids chasing death
for a lark

Cops in their stride
(‘Come on, let’s get even.’);
kids on a joyride
to Heaven, street siren
screaming, ‘Amen’;
Mum’s off her trolley,
Dad’s on the booze,
angel on the sideboard,
yesterday’s news…

Copyright R. N. Taber 1997; 2015

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears under the title 'New Kids on the Block in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; alternative title added 9/17; revised ed., in e-format in preparation.]

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Circumnavigating Homer OR Engaging with James Joyce

At University, in the early 1970’s, I studied James Joyce’s Ulysses. The novel left a deep, lasting impression on me, something of which this poem attempts to convey. Make of it (and 'Ulysses') what you will...


Charybdis, blood-sucking history;
myth, reaching out to nourish our fictions
at the breast. Eyes of the navigator...

burning, like twin saints

Whose lips next to pluck a kiss from me?
I will suck the life from them, spew out the taste
of them - and Pallas won’t care,
my brave Ulysses, (save Mr Joyce put in a plea
for the sheer passion of absurdity)

I'll not be cheated of immortality
or heroes to wrestle the world’s straitjacket
while tin gods debate what’s right

and what's aesthetic…

Copyright R. N. Taber 1972; 2010

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

L-I-F-E, Achievement Skills OR Success, a Personal Best

There is no shame in coming last in whatever so long as we give it our best shot. In my experience, we are often inclined to let the past hold us back to such an extent that we deny our future much of its potential. Childhood hang-ups, failed relationships, being made to feel we are a disappointment to someone whose opinion matters to us…; such issues are never easy to shrug off even as we grow older and (supposedly) wiser.

Life isn’t - or shouldn’t be - a competition. It’s not all about winners and losers. For a start, we’re not all playing the same game even, let alone running the same race. Everyone is different and wants different things from life and that’s how it should be. Even so, we must not - nor should not - live in the past, however tempting sometimes that may be. Besides, we all deserve a decent future even if it doesn't always work out quite as we would have wished.

Body, mind and spirit deserve that we put them first even if it means trailing last in more judgemental eyes (that rarely if ever see a wood for its trees anyway...)

 As I have said before on the blogs - and almost certainly will again - our differences don't make us different only human and we all need to respect that. At the same time, as a teacher of mine used to say, respect doesn't come free but has to be earned. Perhaps if more of us set about earning respect for our differences instead of dragging them into disrepute by employing dubious one upmanship tactics, different people with different perspectives on a common humanity might yet find common ground, even discover that living in peace with one another doesn't have to be an impossible dream...?

This poem is a villanelle.


Judge not the present by its past,
let time fly by
crying, ‘Foul!’ (trailing last)

Beware memory’s fair blast
make us cry;
judge not the present by its past,

Let not life travel light and fast,
pass us by
crying, ‘Foul!’ (trailing last)

Hope, its colours at half mast
each day we die;
judge not the present by its past

Come dawn, let’s feed not fast,
or look it in the eye
crying, ‘Foul!’ (trailing last)

To life, let love a lifeline cast
(if not always at first try);
judge not the present by its past
crying, ‘Foul!’ (trailing last)

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008; 2015

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Rites of Silence, Fingers of Blame

Time and again, we feel inclined to silently lament how there is nothing we can do about this or that, while expecting someone to do something.

There is always something we can do, even if it is only to lend someone a helping hand or shoulder to cry on or (better still, more often than not) speak up for them.

Arguments rage worldwide while fingers of blame point to the damage humankind is inflicting on the planet. Indeed, there seems to be a majority conscience on the streets that something needs to be done…before it is too late for future generations.

So just whose ear does Earth Mother have, and how effective can we expect it to be, the voice of this majority conscience demanding our leaders listen to and respect our greater hopes and worst fears…and whose silence is deafening?

'Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.' - Haile Selassie

This poem is a villanelle.


We've heard Earth Mother crying
dutifully considered speaking up often
but chose to say...what, nothing? 

Wherever our senses reaching,
(restless dreams, at work or play even)
we've heard Earth Mother crying

Finally placed on a war footing,
in all conscience asking we be forgiven,
but chose to say...what, nothing?

A welcome peace celebrating
an end to all battles hard lost, hard won;
we've heard Earth Mother crying

The politics of blame resuming,
pointing out certain voices that complain,
but chose to say...what, nothing?

Her weary vigil forever keeping,
world putting its interests second to none,
we've heard Earth Mother crying,
but chose to say...what, nothing?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2018

[Note: This poem has been significantly revised (2015) from a version that first appeared under the title Who’s Sorry Now in an anthology - The Bread of Life, Triumph House (Forward Press) 2004 - and subsequently in  The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised edition in e-format in preparation.]

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The amazing Story of a clockwork Mouse

I once knew a devoted couple, one of whom died of cancer. A few years later, my friend found someone new and they have been very happy together.  At a party, someone bitchily remarked, ‘How soon some people forget...’ 

My friend’s new love overheard, shrugged and said, ‘You never stop loving someone, but ghosts can’t even kiss. How boring is that?’

Beneath an awkward tittering, I sensed a general consensus that my friend had made a good choice.

One love can never be the same as another, and it is not fair on anyone involved to make comparisons.

As for me, my partner and I only had a few years together and I never really fell in love again after he died, but I live for the love we had and have enjoyed my fair share of (real) kisses since. All the better, kinder, lasting life forces within me I take from that time we shared, even as I take my cue from nature's continuing predilection for renewal.


I walked to the House of the Dead,
lifted the latch and went in,
found a clockwork mouse on a table,
turned the key, laughed as it ran
in broken circles, just as my lover
and I had with each other

I lingered in the House of the Dead,
clockwork mouse for company,
let it run loose down Memory Lane,
breaking the circle trapping me
in the cancerous, cobwebbing gloom
of a near empty room

I wandered the House of the Dead,
pausing in a bedroom one day,
made love with a ghost, implored it
to stay, but it left, fading away 
like a sunbeam, leaving only space
for a clockwork mouse

I departed the House of the Dead,
let the clockwork mouse go free
till it stopped short at Memory Lane
and I saw no cause to turn the key
but passed it by to continue on alone
into a slow, tearful dawn

Recalling the House of the Dead,
I see now where I went wrong,
forgetting the drive of life forces
running ever true and strong,
like shadows chasing sunbeams
all summer long

I return to the House of the Dead
now and then in restless dreams,
dance with a ghost on tricks of light
where nothing is as it seems;
of the clockwork mouse, not a trace,
only love in another place

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015