Monday, 27 July 2015

Darkness and Light or L-I-F-E, Shades of Love and Death

Now and then, readers get in touch to say they will be visiting London and ask to meet up for a chat over a coffee, beer, or perhaps a meal. I have met people from all over the world, male and female, gay and straight, and it has always been a delightful experience. 

It is not only very encouraging but also fulfilling for a poet to meet his readers, and I hope more of you will feel free to meet up with me. Oh, and fear not, I appreciate plain speaking and don’t expect everyone to like or even agree with everything I write. Needless to say, I always enjoy a friendly argument…

Feel free to email me any time:


On wintry days (not necessarily of the seasonal variety) it can sometimes seem as if darkness must inevitably get the better of us, such is the nature of things, that we human beings will never shrug off its nightmares for long and any light of day revisited but a cold one.

Ah, but never, never, say ‘never’ or underestimate the capacity of the human spirit for love in all its shapes and forms…or the enduring power of either.

Photo: from the Internet

This poem is a villanelle.


Though death’s dark canopy,
our lives may obscure,
to light, the final victory

Along thorny paths of history
let us tread with care,
though death’s dark canopy

If few life choices made easy,
consciences left clear,
to light, the final victory

Among triumphs over misery,
to light, the greater share,
though death’s dark canopy

Where shades of inhumanity
feed on hate and fear,
to light, the final victory

Let self, its own worst enemy,
love’s true colours wear;
though death’s dark canopy,
to light, the final victory 

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2015

[Note: An earlier version of this poem first appeared in Expressions from London and Home Counties, Anchor Books [Forward Press] 2004 and subsequently in 1st eds. of A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised ed. of the latter (in e-format) in preparation.]

Sunday, 26 July 2015

A Duty of Care

Today’s poem first appeared in Poetry Monthly International in 2009. Sadly, the magazine has since closed after a very successful run for some years as Poetry Monthly. The poem subsequently appeared in my collection the following year. [I often add alternative titles to blog entries to help facilitate searches.]

Whatever our socio-cultural-religious, political or even sexual persuasion, our lives will be found sorely wanting unless we allow for and respect certain points of view and aspects of Belief  (or non-Belief) that are different from, even hostile to our own.

Yes, we should condemn criminal/terrorist violence and any that seek to force others to adopt a twisted ideology tailored to their own distorted view of raison d’être, but there is a world of difference between engaging with and relating to raison d’être in (many) different ways and upholding a distorted view of it.

As I have said before on my blogs, our differences do not make us different, only human, and to be human is to understand and act upon a sense of compassion; nor should compassion (ever) be mistaken for being patronizing or showing pity, a form of weakness or some unwelcome intruder bent on having sport with us…but needs to be acknowledged and accepted for what it is, a life force that requires nurturing since, without it, humankind loses much if not all of its humanity.

Oh, and how to nurture? Well, could it be perhaps that where there’s a common socio-cultural-religious- political will, there really is a way? Fat chance, I dare say, but if enough people make enough ripples…one day, who knows?  We all have a duty of care towards each other, always have had, and even if not especially in the world today, looking out for each other across divisions, not creating them, leading by example as and when we can, and trusting others may yet follow. Yes, we are only human, but is it really too much to ask...of all of us, not just those who care because they are naturally caring people and/or they work with the emergency services.

This poem is a kenning, or 'Who am I?' poem as the kenning is often called.


Invariably, I am tested to tears
where fear, resentment, blame, even hate
would have me take on the persona
of some dark angel, turning its back on all
it holds dear, clawing its way
under the skin of whom it holds responsible
for those self-same tears
shed for a love meaning more, far more
than any free fall horror

Invariably, I am all but torn apart
where a native sense of right and wrong
weigh down the scales of justice
on a side I would much prefer not to be,
taking the human heart to places
it would much prefer not to go, carried
in spite of itself by a relentless
undertow of fiercely conflicting emotions
preventing rescue

Invariably, I reach out for hands
stretching from a shadowy shore so near
yet, oh, so far…and it comforts me
in my distress to know there is goodness
and hope where the human heart
beats with a will to overcome its worst,
demanding we do our best, despite
a tearful mist blurring the sight, sure threat
even to love’s lasting light

Survivor, where conscience spares no one,
I am called Compassion, and only human

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009; 2017

[Note: this poem has been slightly revised from the original that appears under the title 'Only Human' in 1st eds. of On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 20 July 2015

Getting the Better of Rock and Hard Place

It often strikes me as one of life's more bitter-sweet ironies that it's the heart in winter that focuses most on spring...

Me, I have never been as happy as the too few years I shared with my late partner a long time ago. Even so, I learned to be happy again. Oh, I have never met anyone else with whom I wanted to share my life, but I have made some good friends, found a curious peace, comfort and joy in my poetry as well as being blessed with a natural optimism to see me through. I may not be a very successful writer, but success has never meant as much to me as enjoying life in my own way.  [Yes, I have prostate cancer, but have all I need to see me through that too.]

Love comes to each and every one of us in all shapes and forms; its effect on us never (quite) fades even though sometimes it may be but a visitor, passing through. The past, too, is a part of us and never forgotten, whether or not it needs to be tempered by forgiveness, nor should it ever be where it has made us happy. Ah, but it's building on that happiness, making the most of the present, each of us in our own way, and looking forward to the future that counts…no matter what.


I walked in a wood one winter
as I had with my true love one spring,
promising ourselves to each other;
the trees were bare, yet so splendid,
whose leaves happy enough to perform
the music of life just for us

Heavens, near empty and grey,
whose wings of light once, our spring,
gaily affirmed Earth Mother’s love;
world, a spread of snow where flowers
(all kinds and colours) created an ocean
of brave dreams just for us

I let my heart fall to the ground
where you lay your raincoat one spring,
our first lovemaking blessed;
yet, my heart refused to stay long,
but spread wings (just as it had before)
meant to survive all weathers

I’ll not let it grieve me that nature
should liken its life force to a graveyard,
and we among the fallen;
life goes on, poor humanity caught
between its rocks and hard places save
for the enduring power of love

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2015

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Opening Up to Life OR Getting the Better of the Worst

As regular readers know only too well, I have suffered with depression all my life and still take 25mg of a (fairly) mild anti-depressant. Prozac helped me through a very bad time once, but (like another strong anti-depressant I tried) left me feeling exhausted all the time so I switched to the (far milder) one I take now.

It is important to find an anti-depressant that suits you and always read the information leaflet for possible side-effects. Even so, never rely on anti-depressants to see you through. A positive attitude and any form of creative therapy you enjoy remain a must-have and must-do. (Creative therapy can be anything from gardening, walking, writing, pottery... anything in which success is measured by the enjoyment achieved by simply doing it, not results.) Creative therapy is no quick fix and requires a huge effort if always an effort worth making. Always easier said than done, never try and do it all on your own. 

I suffered from depression even as a child although depression in children was not recognized in those days. For years, I would go on anti-depressants until I started to feel better and then come off them. This, I now realize was a mistake. I was scared of becoming dependent on them so it was music to my ears when a GP suggested that patients prone to depression should stay on an appropriate anti-depressant and dosage all the time. I suspect my life would have taken a hugely significant turn for the better had I been given this advice a long, long, time ago. 

A friend who suffers from depression has paid a lot to visit counsellors but they don’t help everyone and it all depends who you see and how good (or bad) they are. I think it is important to get feedback from a counsellor; too many just sit back and let you talk, which is not a bad thing, but I personally would need positive feedback to feel it was worth parting with my money.

My friend says she hasn’t the self-confidence to do anything new whether it's meeting new people, studying a subject in which she is genuinely interested etc. She says she 'cannot' do anything new until she gets her self-confidence back. I sympathize, but take the opposite view. I believe we only get our self-confidence back by doing things, setting ourselves realistic targets etc. These need not be too ambitious to start with, and if they don’t work out quite as we hoped we should not see it as a failure but give ourselves a pat on the back for giving it a go…and try something else.

Many people think I am a strong person because (most of the time) I manage to beat depression. Believe me, though, when I say I am not strong. It is (very) heavy going. I make the effort because the alternative is even worse to contemplate. 

True, it isn’t always easy to find someone to listen; certain family members and friends won’t recognize the danger signs and will fail to appreciate a depressed person’s depths of personal crisis, handing out well-meaning platitudes like a plate of biscuits to make matters (much) worse. Even so, never give up; there is invariably someone who can help if we let them and are honest with them about how we feel. Talking to a pet can help, too, if only because the worst seems so much less bad once we give it a voice.

There is no shame in feeling less able to cope. Putting on a brave face is never a good idea. (No one can read minds.)


Envelopes unopened;
scared to look, acknowledge even;
feelings like flowers left
at a grave if only to give the dead
a raison d’être

Profiles of the Great
interrogating me wherever I go
about my response to the cost
of living, voices chanting dark spells
at every checkout

Fear, clammy hands
on matchstick arms, humanity
strutting its hour on stage
(art of least resistance) chalking up
mock victories

Words, like mandarins
in white coats supervising a trainee
working from a manual
on staying bottom of the class without
really trying 

Envelopes, daring me…
Fingertips fumbling with terror
(Can I really do this?)
No stigma in old wounds ruling out


Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2015

[Note: An earlier version of this poem – under the title ‘Prozac Nation’ - appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

L-I-F-E, and all that Jazz...

Once, years ago, when feeling low, I overheard a conversation in a bar:

MAN (despairingly and a little drunk) I don’t know where I’m going any more or who the hell I am even…

WOMAN (wearily) Oh, sure, and all that jazz…

MAN: Huh, I don’t even like jazz…

WOMAN: You don’t like jazz? Then you don’t have much of a liking for life, man, and it sure as hell won’t take much of a liking to you either….

After a sober pause, both burst out laughing and joined several other couples swinging to a lively number on the dance floor like saplings in a summer breeze. I went home feeling more upbeat than I had in ages although not sure why…and that feeling has lasted - through thick and thin - ever since. Maybe it has something to do with especially enjoying jazz among all kinds of music (and vocal) that do their genre justice.... 


Looking back
at angry shadows waving 
madly at me,
but not in a friendly fashion,
clearly blaming me
for doing what I should not
have done,
being where I should not
have been,
saying what I should never
have said

Looking ahead
at more shadows waving
madly at me,
and can’t even tell if friends
or enemies
urging I do what I want
to do,
be where I feel meant
to be,
say what (too long) needs
to be said

Swinging round
like a scarecrow in the wind
at what’s behind
making my heart skip beats
out of fear
for all the mistakes I’ve made
and half made,
put right and half put right,
left uncertain,
no idea which way
to turn

Standing quite still,
listening out for something
(or Someone?)
to point me in the direction
I need to go;
right fork, left, fork, or give up
and turn back…
till sounds of bright music
pointing me at trees
making the kind of mad  jazz
that’s a life force 

Turning my back 
on fear, galvanised by nature
to chase after life
as a child might a butterfly
if only because
it, oh, so beats doing nothing,
going nowhere,
being no one, feeling sorry
for the child self
that never caught a butterfly
or listened to jazz

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015

Saturday, 11 July 2015

The Rebel OR Whose Future Is It Anyway?

I will be 70 years-old on the winter solstice. I have mobility problems following a serious fall last year and have been living with prostate cancer since 2011. Oh, well, c’est la vie.

As I grow older and (increasingly) more tired, so my admiration for the boundless energy, passionate idealism and fertile imagination of youth increases, along with no small regret for a certain subduing of rage in me against a world still divided by various socio-cultural-religious and economic factors threatening its societies; threats I suspect many politicians and religious leaders would and could do more to temper with plain common sense and a visible sense of justice and humanity...but for their politics and religion.

I sincerely hope I never become either complacent about or resigned to the status quo in a world that has the potential to be a far kinder, safer, better place.

This poem is a kenning


I penetrate lies,
exposing home truths brushed aside
by those who would keep me
in a cage custom-built by generations
in remembrance of the worst
of times past, likely to catch up with us
where I thirst for a progress
that puts peace, liberty and equality
above self-interest

I conspire with reason
to drive paths through chaos to places
my peers can gather,
sound out those who would prefer
the world’s changes
ring to bring hearts and minds
to their senses
rather than impress judges in some
rigged reality show

I yell to make myself heard
above a clamour of insidious ambition
and darker emotions
driving mortality to prove itself
while it still can
if missing those greater aspirations
to which we are born,
keys to a common world with respect
for its differences

Rebel, put down for my take on truth;
vulnerable to its flaws, call me Youth

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Potential for Victory OR Tackle the Weeds, Save the Garden

[Update (March 4 2017) Our thoughts are with the friends and families of all those killed and injured in yesterday's terror attack on the St. Petersburg Metro. At the moment, no terrorist group has claimed responsibility although official Russian sources are saying it was, indeed, a terrorist attack. A second bomb at another Metro station was successfully defused. The world's War on Terror goes on, a war its perpetrators cannot and will not win if only because they underestimate the human spirit's capacity for overcoming even the darkest forces. How ironic, though, that terrorism should bring out the best in good people everywhere, uniting us in grief, peace, and love even as other wars rage and divide us.]

[Update ( July 15 2016): I am sure readers will join me in sending heartfelt sympathy along with thoughts of love and peace to all the families and friends of those killed and injured during the latest terrorist attack; this time in Nice, only yesterday. May the eternal optimism and resilience of the French people help them through such terrible times. Indeed, it would seem that decent people worldwide must find a way to rise above the constant threat of terrorism if only so these psychopaths cannot claim victory over the better, stronger, kinder and more stoical elements of the human spirit that will endure long after all terrorists are less than dust in the wind, no matter how many lives they may have taken or whatever trail of destruction they leave behind; any suggestion that the name of any terrorist is in the least bit worth remembering is an insult to the memory of his or her victims.]

We can but hope common sense will prevail over politics and a two-way dialogue will (eventually) allow diplomacy to triumph sooner rather than later over the sub-machine gun, the missile, the roadside bomb, the suicide bomber, the likes of an attack by mindless fanatics on innocent commuters, a defenceless young soldier in broad daylight on a London street, worshippers in a place of prayer, tourists sunning themselves on a beach…

And so it goes on across the world...

The trouble is some people - especially the more vulnerable among us - are easily persuaded that weed flowers are worth saving, even nurturing. The good gardener, of course, knows better.

I guess all we ordinary men and women on any street anywhere in the world can do is just get on with our everyday lives, do our best to create ripples of peace, love, and respect for each other’s socio-cultural-religious differences instead of open hostility. Hopefully, these may spread far and wide enough to do at least some good. Wishful thinking…? Well, maybe, but worth a try surely?

This poem is a villanelle.


Where terrorism strikes fear,
encouraging the world’s divisions,
sense its victory, oh, so near

Inhumanity painfully clear
(election fodder for our politicians)
where terrorism strikes fear

Though survival cost us dear
following conscience-led decisions,
sense its victory, oh, so near

Dare humanity turn a deaf ear
to the in-fighting among its religions
where terrorism strikes fear?

Once mutual respect finds cheer
in spirituality’s common aspirations,
sense its victory, oh, so near

May peace songs persevere
with infiltrating all enemy positions;
where terrorism strikes fear,
sense its victory, oh, so near

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2015

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Waves, Metaphor for Life

Some readers also dip into my fiction blog, and those of you who enjoyed the first part of my fantasy novel, Mamelon, will be pleased to know that I am (just about) on track for completing the second (final) part by the end of this year.  Sorry for the delay, but I am still experiencing difficulty walking (even with a walking stick) after my accident last year. However, I am learning to manage the pain and get out and about. Better news, though, is that hormone therapy continues to keep my prostate cancer at bay. Gotta look on the bright side of life, YES.

Now, regular readers will know I love the sea. For me, it is one of nature’s finest metaphors for life; love, war, peace, spirituality, inspiration, fulfilment, regret…a potpourri of its more splendid aspects while, at the same time, acknowledging the starkness of its reality and the comfort of home grown illusion.

 Photo; from the Internet


Waves, splashing
against me  like a meeting up
of old friends…
rushing to shower me with kisses,
only to run away…
just as you did towards the end
of our living together
when we had no more giving
for each other,
only the pain of recalling
how once we were,
one life, one love, twin waves
embracing the same shore,
flotsam spreading across pebbles
like prayer beads
at your throat, fragile fingers
trembling at each fastening
and unfastening, hearts rising, falling,
like waves lingering
oh, so briefly at a still much loved,
if (now) all but deserted shore,
my back to a crumbling sea wall,
ever listening out for your call – but
only seagulls…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2013

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised from an earlier version that appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]