Sunday, 29 March 2015

Endgame OR Freefalling

This poem was written in the spring of 1970. It is among a number of early poems from my student years that I included in Vol. 1 of my Love and Human Remains quartet. I recall feeling very tired when I wrote it just after finishing an essay. I may well have had someone in mind at the time. Yet, looking back, I can’t help wondering if that someone might have been but an older version of, yes, myself…?

Could it be, I wonder, 45+ years on, that I had something of a feeling for some kind of endgame,   freefalling into the ages-old poetry of time and space…or whatever… even at the ripe old age of twenty-four?

('Fireside' by Joseph Henry Sharp, 1859 -1953)


Watch shadows rise and fall,
seek between and all that’s behind,
relax contours of informed mind;
wander, trespass, feel your way
through fawning mists of pink
and grey. Behold, all fond reason
left untold

Caress young visions huge moons
have kissed, meander pathways
time never missed, only you, dear fool,
who thought you knew it all

Flames flicker and die, phantoms fade...

Between gloom and glow,
dawn’s sly blade strikes a bowed crown,
lets one grey lock slip slowly d

Copyright R. N. Taber 1970;2015

[Note: A slightly different 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.]

Saturday, 21 March 2015

An Affinity with Spring

It is typical of spring to tease us with wintry days among hints of warmer, kinder times ahead; likewise, life, as the human heart emerges from wintry climes, and gets to grips with hope…


New leaves 
sailing into imagination;
peace of mind
in capitulation to fears
of a kind
defying description,
assailing senses,
holding the body, mind
and spirit
captive to anticipation
of the worst that can happen
to any of us

New leaves
drifting through our time
and space
for a place to drop
into that freefall
the more intimate senses
are bound,
serving body, mind
and spirit
to a kinder end
than the worst that can happen
to any of us

New leaves
like voices without sound
on the ear,
killing off all human fear
of life and death
by returning to the earth
past promises
of a springtime, not lost
but sleeping,
Earth Mother intending
its leaves to nurture seeds of hope
in all of us

Buds opening
of an old tree, so delightful
on the eye,
restoring a flagging faith
in the nature
of all things once bright
and beautiful,
demanding we find time
and space
to reconnect
with the poetry of peace and love
in all of us

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

National Curriculum OR Connecting with Wannabe Heroes

When I worked in public libraries as a librarian, it seemed that children and young people were frequently given homework projects on the subject of war. To confront them with the horrors of war has to be a good thing. However, when they were telling me all about their respective projects, enthusiasm would nearly always stem from getting a buzz from the idea of war rather than being appalled by its consequences…

A parent once complained to me that her son wept while repeating a teacher’s graphic description of how a relative had suffered a lingering death from ‘undignified’ wounds sustained during WW2. “No child should hear such things!” she protested. The ‘child’, though, was 16 years-old and (surely?) deserved to know that war just ain’t like it is in the movies. 


Today we have History
and World War Two
spills across the classroom,
filling every trench
with a stench of homesickness
and blood, desks dripping
pools of mud, where elbows
nudge each other,
half an eye on the clock
as we get stuck in

Under fire. Bayonets fixed.
Will we have the guts
to use ’em? Somewhere,
birdsong and sunshine,
but these have no place in skies
where Death’s face pours
acid tears on an atomic bomb
package in texts
carefully selected for their bias
for a gung-ho glory

Science next

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2015

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised and an alternative title added (2015) from the original as it appears in Words of Wisdom, Poetry Today (Forward Press) 2001 and 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Toys in a Window

Today’s poem was written in 1981, but it was not until the 1990’s that I began submitting poems for publication.  At the time, I was mid-recovery from a severe nervous breakdown s few years earlier. Writing helped considerably towards an initial if fragile recovery that eventually saw me looking for (and finding) a job some18 months later. 

I would like to think I am more optimistic and a shade less cynical about life and society now, but…

Well, we all know what thought did…


At a window on my life I gaze,
close my ears to the weary windings
of clockwork days, try to imagine
how it might be should these stiff-neck
streets ever cease their turning me
to what I am - part of this global sham
of human boast, comprising toy folk
for the most if a few taking  heart still,
tugging at the sleeve as a child will,
ever anxious to leave the plastic places,
and cartoon faces undermining a flair
for freedom on see-saw, swings, among
other things we forget soon enough
while struggling for reasons unknown
to keep some stubborn noon design
intact; part of the same act invariably
put on for each day’s passing us by,
sure to earn a slow clapping in the head
at bedtime from other toys in the hands 
of toymakers aspiring to coax cash mules
to the world’s water holes

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000; 2015

[Note: An earlier version of this poem was first published in a Poetry Today (Forward Press) anthology, Looking through the Mirror of Life (2000) and subsequently in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Something about Ghosts and Goldfish

Most if not all of us have regrets of one kind or another at just about every stage in our lives. The trick is never to believe it is too late to do something we wished we had done but couldn’t, wouldn’t or simply didn’t for whatever reason. We cannot turn back the tide of subsequent events, of course, but more often than not we can put our minds at rest to some extent rather than keep fretting our lives away…

Worse, perhaps, is regretting something we did simply because we wanted to do it, but the consequences were not as we may have hoped. Even so, better to have given it a go than spend a lifetime wondering how things might have turned out if only…

Yes, there will be some who feel inclined to observe, even judge us, but judge us according to criteria of their own, rarely if ever ours. We may well care what they think, but they might as well observe a goldfish for all it really matters. [Does it matter to a goldfish what we think of them, I wonder? Who knows…? If not, as I suspect, maybe there is some cause for envy there after all…] Whatever, let's be self-confident not self-conscious, yes? YES.

I once asked a tramp why he lived rough. ‘Because I like it’, he said, ‘and sleeping under the stars gives me a good feeling, so it does.’ ‘What about when it’s pouring with rain and freezing cold?’ I wanted to know. He shrugged. “We all of us have to take the rough with the smooth, so we do. Besides, the stars aren’t going anywhere are they...?’


Can’t hear for ghosts,
scratching at the door, damp patches
on walls, bars
across a window taunting us
with wannabe personae
demanding to know why we never
made the grade

Sweating like sick kids
on a sunny summer day who’s ma
won’t let us out to play,
always looking for new ways
to get by, but weary
of crosswords, can’t help envying
the goldfish

Dreams like broken hearts
falling apart, everyone pretending
not to notice for fear
of ‘getting involved’ since
(after all) if the goldfish
cannot be blamed for everything
then who…?
Puppets jerking to order,
except for a street guitar player
making little sense
of a world losing its dignity,
too busy scoring points
against neighbours to give music
its due

Anaesthetized by blame
is about all we cellmates exist for,
deserving everything we get,
prisoners of conscience locked
in his or her own cell
of regret for a life spent envying
a goldfish

Ghosts, scratching at the door,
(nothing to say left unsaid before)
thought couldn’t hurt us
anymore, but we were, oh, so wrong,
to turn a half-deaf ear;
should have paid more attention,
and let them in

Better late than never…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2015

[Note: Revised (2015) from an earlier version entitled ‘Inside’ that appears in First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 9 March 2015

Listening Out for Kindness OR The Other Side of Silence

Some days, it can feel as if we are falling apart; everything goes wrong or at least not according to plan and listening or reading to the daily News extends that sense of falling apart to the world itself; it and we, it seems, are in freefall…

Whatever happened to kindness, we may well wonder? Suddenly, we hear or read about a simple act of kindness that touches the heart, restores our sense of being part of something worthwhile even if that worthwhile-ness is vulnerable to attack from extreme forces that have no place in in a world where love, peace, tolerance and kindness are seen as strengths not weaknesses, and just because these are elements of human nature with which we will almost certainly always have to contend doesn’t mean to say we cannot win our own personal war against them if not every battle. 

A teacher who was well-liked but considered eccentric, once told a noisy class, ‘Shut up, the lot of you! Now, listen to the silence. Yes, listen to the silence. The chances are it’s an angry one, at the very least fristratied. And what’s on the other side, eh? Kindness, that’s what, a whole new world to which the inner ear will lead any one of us who can be bothered to listen out and head for it.’ For a whole minute, you could have heard a pin drop, and then we pressed on with the lesson, about which I recall nothing, 50+ years later, but that silence.


There is a darkness
that is not night, but an absence
of light
in a space that is no vacuum,
but filled
with all the sound and fury
of an alarm clock
ticking towards a clapping of hands
in applause
for a sorry world’s falling
to pieces

There is a silence
that is not quiet, but an absence
of any sound,
freeing the senses to urge cloth ears
open up
to all the sound and fury
of unspeakable
injustices, prejudices, malpractices,
sure to cause
a sorry world’s falling
to pieces

There is a voice
that has no words, but an absence
of expression
meant to shatter the darkness,
release the silence
to all the sound and fury
of the human heart
raging against powers-that-be
setting agendas
that would see its humanity
in pieces

There is a life force
that births humankind in a stream
of consciousness
and nurtures it in the darkness
of a silence
daring the sound and fury
of human existence
to find a voice, make itself heard
with the resonance
of a kindness sure to piece us

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015

Saturday, 7 March 2015

A Feeling for Landscape

Many thanks to those readers who have been in touch to say they have enjoyed some of the novels serialized on my fiction blog:

I hope to upload them as e-books at a later date. [I have been unwell for some time; there were initial problems with prostate cancer during the early days of hormone therapy, and last summer I had a bad fall which left me with a smashed heel and unable to walk for months. However, I am on top of all that now if still experiencing some difficulty walking and have returned to working on Book 2 of my fantasy novel Mamelon which I hope to start serializing later this year.]


 There are few scenes more amazing about any landscape that particularly captures the imagination than sunbeams dancing on the back of a blast of rain.

They may well strike at the heart, those sunbeams, and open it up for nature, human nature and our own self-consciousness to make of their findings what they will...


Glorious landscape under a rainbow;
life force Sun come again,
Apollo haunting the evergreen slopes
of Parnassus…

Birdsong, a bouquet of happy hearts
sending out a message
of hope and joy, offering sad souls
some respite from pain,
dreams to aspire, well worth recalling
where any rainbow’s turning
reveals no ages-old mythical ending
likely to help compensate
for some bleak, unfulfilling spring
(summer, too?) till autumn
takes its cue from our tears, prelude
to a wintry season of longing
for a (far) kinder spring and summer
than came upon us once
like opportunist magpies to egg-birds,
leaving a trail of blood
more likely even than Joseph’s coat
of, oh, so many colours
to be misunderstood by those of us
anxiously looking for meaning…

Let cloud faces make what they may
of all they (and we) see, hear,
say or do, and the landscape we view
share its secrets (and mine) with you

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2015

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

Monday, 2 March 2015

Something to be said for Karma

It is only human nature to worry about life's unknown factors, especially when they directly concern us and we have little or no control over either their presence or potential development.  A few years ago, I started worrying about a lesion on my leg as to whether it might be skin cancer or a sign of diabetes or whatever…until I fancied I could hear my mother whispering one of her favourite sayings in my ear, ‘If you worry, you’ll die and if you don’t worry, you’ll still die one day so…why worry?’

My GP referred me to a dermatologist and a shot of liquid nitrogen did the trick. No cancer there.

I wrote this little poem at the time and returned to it when I first discovered I have prostate cancer in February 2011. It’s not a particularly good poem (what is a ‘good’ poem, anyway?) but has proven very therapeutic. I can still hear my mother’s voice in my ear expressing approval. (She died of cancer in 1976)


Worry, worry, worry,
will get us nowhere at all;
worry, worry, worry,
and we’re heading for a fall;
positive thinking
is the only way to go
before worry, worry, worry,
hits an all-time low

Worry, worry, worry,
gets our knickers in a twist;
worry, worry, worry,
(far too many woes to list);
a positive thinker
is the only kind to be
since worry, worry, worry,
won’t ever set us free

Worry, worry, worry,
and life is sure to pass us by,
all the best things in life
between earth, sea and sky;
positive thinking
(easy enough to say)
unites mind, body and spirit,
brings each into play

Worry, worry, worry,
and we’ll surely die one day
(when, who’s to say?)
so come, let’s make hay…
A positive thinker
is the only kind to be
since worry, worry, worry
won’t ever set us free

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011; 2015