Saturday, 30 July 2016

The White Horse

A reader has asked me to repeat a poem on the blog that accompanies a video on my You Tube channel. Apparently, a friend showed her on a tablet, but she has been unable to access You Tube on her own PC for some reason. Always happy to oblige, the video appears below; readers who can access You Tube might enjoy some of my other videos. (All were shot by my best friend, Graham Collett, a graphic designer by profession.):

I started my You Tube channel about five years ago. At the time, my best friend Graham and I had no idea how to insert a voice file into the video. Consequently, early videos show me reading my poems while later efforts (as in this instance) have me reading my poem (or poems) over the video; most readers prefer the latter, so do we.  Graham works full-time, and I'm no photographer so opportunities for filming are limited. To be honest, we were not expecting much of an audience for a poetry channel so are well pleased that people continue to access and contact us about it. (See my email address in the blog heading.)

This video concludes Graham's snapshots of Wiltshire and a trio of poems I wrote for the occasion. The Westbury or Bratton White Horse is a hill figure in the escarpment of Salisbury Plain where Stonehenge stands. Approximately 2.5 km (1.6 miles) east of the village of Westbury, it is located on the edge of Bratton Downs and lies just below an Iron Age hill fort; its origin obscure, it is the oldest of several white horses carved in Wiltshire and was restored in 1778.

'A dog may be man's best friend, but the horse wrote history.' - Author unknown

Just as the White Horse endures, weathering nature and human nature in all its shapes and forms, for good or, too, will love and peace endure, weathering whatever storms that nay threaten not only its survival from time to time but that innate capacity for goodness and kindness comprising the quintessential human spirit,


A white horse lay on a hill,
watching the world go by;
bold and brave, it waits there still,
and no one knows quite why

This horse will never make a fuss
as we try for a closer look,
though it's sure to put teasers to us    
like pictures in a history book

In sun, wind and pouring rain
it doesn't make a sound
as the world turns and turns again
on Time's merry-go-round

At night, it rides the Milky Way
as wild and free as it can be,
till the first cold light of a new day
wakes all we slaves to reality

In days of war and uneasy peace
the Westbury horse waits on
druids, their like, and the rest of us
making our play for salvation

A chalk horse carved on a hill,
watching the world go by,
begs the question, dare, how, will
we ever know quite why...?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Thursday, 28 July 2016

L-I-F-E, Blues Skies Punctuated by Patches of Cloud

To several readers who have said they enjoy my blogs but prefer not to register as followers for various reasons, thank you for your kind words and it doesn't matter whether you choose to 'follow' or not; it is more than enough for me that you visit them. I would also like to welcome any new readers who may also be interested to know that I add (and remove) historical as well as current posts/poems from this and my gay-interest blog to my Google Plus site on an almost daily basis, not least to save anyone who is interested in my work having to browse 1,000+ poems. [I don't publish comments, but you are welcome to email me any time; the address is in the blog heading.]

A small child more years ago than I care to remember, I well recall looking up one wintry day and seeing a splendid patch of blue among darkening clouds; that image has stayed with me ever since. (I am 70 now)

No matter how ominous, threatening or just faintly disturbing any clouds in my life, my inner eye has never (quite) lost sight of that patch of blue, as good a metaphor for love, peace, hope and happiness as any, surely, however elusive they may seem sometimes...

Life is not, of course, mostly blue skies for everyone. I commented as much to a disabled friend once whose response I have never forgotten. He said, 'True, but what life can't give us, no matter how hard we try, imagination can almost compensate for if we try hard enough. Not the same, no, but it's enough for most of us if we try to make the most of what we have and make our peace with what we can't have. Whatever, it's down to us; sink or enjoy a good swim..."

This poem is a villanelle.


Making a (far) kinder world with you,
a bright smile for everyone,
though clouds among patches of blue   

Whether exploring points of view,
enjoying life, just having fun...
making a (far) kinder world with you

No matter a storm passing through,
find our love, its gamut run,
though clouds among patches of blue

Like a brave new dream come true,
(harvest of the sun)
making a (far) kinder world with you

Dark death, its worst can never do,
love's victory already won,
though clouds among patches of blue

Among ghosts, such friends we knew
ere theirs and our day done;
making a (far) kinder world with you,
though clouds among patches of blue

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2016

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in an anthology, A Poetic Formula, Poetry Today (Forward Press), 2001 and subsequently in 1st eds. of First Person Plural, by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Utoya, Paradise Profaned

Albeit necessarily selectively, I try to keep a record in my poems relating to events of particular significance and/or tragedy (as well as celebratory events) worldwide. On July 22nd 2011, there was a bomb blast in Oslo, Norway, and related massacre of nearly 70 young people at a summer camp on the nearby island of Utoeya by a lone gunman. Sometime afterwards, a reader contacted me and asked me to repeat the poem - a villanelle - that I had written.

The reader says, ‘When a loved one dies, every day is an anniversary of happy times that will never come again. The world, too, needs to remember…’ The reader asks, 'How can we move on when every day brings as many tears as the day before...? I have no answer for that. I only know, from my own experience, that moving on does not mean leaving anyone behind. Do we not owe it to loved ones we have lost to live our lives to the full, as much for them as for ourselves?

Sadly, remembering does not always mean the likes of such tragedies will not strike again… just about anywhere around the world in these troubled times. All the more reason, surely, to make the most of our life and be sure to make time for those happy memories that may yet help see us through its darker moments? No two words in the English language cause more pain than, 'if only...'

Bergen architects 3RW's intervention, The Clearing, was created as a memorial for the events that took place on 22 July 2011. Gunman Anders Breivik opened fire on members of the Workers' Youth League (AUF) camping on the island, after detonating a bomb outside a government building in nearby Oslo, which killed a further eight people.

The Clearing memorial (Photo from the Internet)


Stark images of death and terror
(alien to any aspiring paradise)
stalked young people on Utoya

A dream blasted into nightmare
in any decent person’s eyes;
stark images of death and terror

Poison masquerading as a flower
(reason warped by prejudices)
stalked young people on Utoya

Grief, disillusion and fear torture
all victims of world injustices;
stark images of death and terror

Be it son, daughter, sister, brother,
a sick inclination to terrorise
stalked young people on Utoya

Long may a humanist ethos endure
in Norway and all democracies;
stark images of death and terror
stalked young people on Utoya

[London: July 23rd 2011]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

[Note: I included this poem in my collection, Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012; rev. ed in e-format in preparation.]

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Distant Voices

I am often asked why I often write about ghosts and have recently received several emails on the subject.

For a start, I have seen ghosts although, yes, that may well have been simply my imagination in overdrive. Even so, I firmly believe that the human psyche comprises passions enough to make itself felt at any point in time.

Each in our own way, we leave a footprint on the passage of time for others to follow or simply observe, examine, reach (debatable) conclusions and act accordingly as and when they may (or may not) so choose. Inspiration lies in whatever it is someone somewhere - in the distant or recent past (not necessarily ours) – may have sad and/or done; thereby making their presence felt. It is this ‘felt presence’ that embraces us. We, in turn, pass it on, perhaps without each realising it, by way of a chance remark or observation; past and present contriving to affect the future while, again, not necessarily our own.

And so it goes on, each of us making history in our own way whether incidentally or by design, experiencing time’s continuum as if it were a home treadmill.

This poem is a villanelle.


Distant voicescome to haunt me
(how long must I turn a deaf ear?)
like straws tossed on a stormy sea

World, acknowledging poverty
(conscience seeing its way clear?)
distant voices come to haunt me

Where ghosts, my only company,
(giant waves, nightmares of terror)
like straws tossed on a stormy sea 

Dark waves rolling back history
(one for every human being’s tear)
distant voices come to haunt me

Sure threads of life’s rich tapestry
(hidden persuaders, politics of fear)
like straws tossed on a stormy sea

As heavens watch impassively,
(Earth Mother’s intentions unclear)
distant voices come to haunt me
like straws tossed on a stormy sea

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007

Friday, 15 July 2016

Carnage in Nice, (More) Slaughter of the Innocents

There are really no words to express any decent person’s horror - whatever their colour, creed, sex or sexuality - at the senseless carnage in Nice On July 14 2016. Hopefully, though, someone somewhere who is perhaps harbouring thoughts along the lines of radical Islam, for whatever reason, may find this poem offers food for thought...and think again. 

At least 84 people were reported dead in Nice and many others injured, many of them children; their crime, having the temerity to enjoy themselves on Bastille Day, a national event celebrating the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution, July 14 1879.

In ‘The Age of Reason’ Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809) makes the point that ‘…the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man.’ What would Paine have to say, I wonder, about of the image of the prophet Muhammad every radical Islamist wears on his or her sleeve?

[Nice, Bastille Day 2016]

World, head bowed, but only for tears
where terrorism has its way,
nations, left victims of its worst fears

Though its nemeses breeding for years,
to love and peace, the final say,
world, head bowed, but only for tears

Freedom, a crown of thorns, it wears
for any who get in terror’s way,
nations left victims of its worst fears

Wherever fundamental dogma rears
its head, the mad dog has its day;
world, head bowed, but only for tears

Humanity, for all its flaws, endures
if inhumanity briefly holding sway,
nations left victims of its worst fears

In radical Islam, true faith disappears,
so testify efforts to keep it at bay;
world, head bowed, but only for tears,
nations left victims of its worst fears

[London, July 15 2016]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

History Live OR Ghosts Revisited

I was born on the winter solstice, 1945, in Gillingham (Kent) one of several towns on the river Medway collectively known as the Medway Towns of which another is historic Rochester where Charles Dickens once lived. While many childhood memories are not especially happy ones, there were good times, too; at 70, I often find myself revisiting these, especially those that that take in picturesque Rochester.

When I was 14 years-old, my family moved across the river to a sprawling carbuncle of a housing estate that dominated the village of Hoo or Hoo St Werburg, to give the place its full historic title. My life there was a waking nightmare, not least because there was only one bridge across the Medway in those days; it was not unusual for the journey home from school to take two hours to cover less than five miles. None of my memories of Hoo are happy ones. An opportunity to live and work in London just a few years after I left school was a godsend. .

As much as I hated Hoo, I loved Rochester. I’d sometimes see ghosts in historic costume, including battle dress, looking out over the walls of its castle keep or treading its ancient streets, especially on days when a light, seasonal mist would fall or a stormy haze. Figments of a young imagination, you say? Maybe so, even probably, although I swear I caught a glimpse of them, too, as recently as on my last visit in 2013.

[Photo: Rochester castle - cathedral in the background - from an engraving by H. Adlard after a drawing by G. F. Sargent, 1836; taken from Wikipedia.]

This poem is a villanelle.


A castle keep overlooks the Medway
in fair Rochester city,
ghosts, its guardians, night and day

Like a war horse grown old and grey
in the service of liberty,
a castle keep overlooks the Medway

Companion cathedral, holding sway,
for century after century,
ghosts, its guardians, night and day

Time, honoured guest invited to stay
(no one’s friend or enemy);
a castle keep overlooks the Medway

A Dickensian charm brushing away
the cobwebs of history;
ghosts, its guardians, night and day

River flowing sure, at work and play,
ever restless and moody…
A castle keep overlooks the Medway,
ghosts, its guardians, night and day

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Smokescreen OR Philosophy Live

Today’s poem has not appeared on the blog before. It was slightly revised in 2003 (for my collection the following year) from an earlier [1980's] poem, and you are invited to make of it what you will.

Now, at 70+, I still find myself recalling the words of a song from early childhood:

Well, you push the damper in and you pull the damper out,
but the smoke goes up the chimney just the same…

I well recall what a teacher once said when I asked about philosophy, having read the word in a book and found a dictionary of little help. (I was 11 years-old.) ‘Philosophy,’ he mused, possibly more to himself than to me, ‘…is a vehicle for language devised by human nature to fire its passions without its having to commit to any responsibility other than just that. Think of the fireplace damper in your living room at home; the more it is opened, the more air to fuel the fire. So it is with philosophy. The more open a mind you apply, the more fierce the passions of intellect are sure to burn. On the other hand, if it’s actual proof or even meaning you’re after, that is tantamount to the damper being closed and the fire left to go out. Does that answer your question?’ It did not, of course (and I'm pretty sure he knew it, but I hadn’t the nerve to say so. Besides, my head was already swimming.

Nearly 60 years on, I begin to see the appropriateness of the simile although I should perhaps add that, as I progressed from first year to 6th form, I came to see my teacher, for whom I had much affections and respect, as something of a devil's advocate.


Drifting, circling,
homing in
on us…
the senses about
who we are,
where we’re going,
what will become,
of us…
Drifting, circling,
closing in
on each other…
confusing rights
and wrongs
drifting, circling
like buzzards
in a mist…
Obscuring, deluding,
mind-spirit about
who we are,
where we’re going,
what will become
of us…

Can’t breathe

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2016

[From: A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Democracy, the Dark Side

Update (Oct 14. 2017): I have always believed that Brexit will be good for Britain, but never more so than now as EU leaders procrastinates while blaming the UK for negotiations not progressing as well as they might.  It is clear to many of us that they are afraid the UK just might be on the right road by exiting what is seeming more and more like and organisation unfit for purpose; a great idea in principle, but proving less and less so in practise. If we make a go of Brexit, as I am sure we will in time, the fear is that other countries may follow, especially given the fact that there is increasing unrest and dissatisfaction in other countries whose leaders seem determined to turn a deaf ear; Italy, Greece and Germany to name but three; nor is Freedom of Movement without due border checks in an Age of Terrorism the only issue. Even in the USA, Land of the Free, Congress continues to turn an all but deaf ear to growing demands for at least an appropriate/ common sense amendment to the law relating to a right to bear arms more relevant to the Age of the Pioneer than the modern world.] 

Update (Nov 03, 2015): It would appear that Democracy has just died. The High Court has ruled that Article 50 cannot be invoked without Parliament's approval. Hopefully, the Supreme Court may yet overturn this judgement. A democratic principle is at stake here. Why bother to ask the people what they want if they are going to be ignored? (It was a very high turnout for the referendum.)

My only regret about voting to leave the European Union is leaving myself open to abuse from narrow-minded, arrogant hypocrites who, on the one hand support Human Rights, and on the other have no respect for the rights of every individual to make up their own minds on matters that have a direct bearing on their lives and the lives of family and friends. Whatever happened to the right to disagree?

I resent being called a racist because I voted to leave the E U. Immigration was not the only issue on the political agenda. Besides, most people were voting against a flawed system of immigration over which we had precious little real control while under the thumb of the Brussels parliament. Many people of various ethnic origins who have been living and working here for years are also sick of the political shambles that passes for a European Union. [Yes, of course, EU nationals living and working here should be allowed to stay, not least because they are friends and neighbours, but what is our new PM supposed to say if any among the EU elite try to use Brits living there as bargaining chips during the course of Brexit  negotiations? Let’s face it. It would come as no surprise to anyone should they stoop to such tactics.]

Among a UK majority, I voted for an EEC (European Economic Community) not a United States of Europe.

Some of my friends voted to remain in the European Union and we have hotly debated the issue. However, we all agreed from the start to respect each other’s points of view (despite trying to change it) and - perhaps even more importantly - that we would not let our diverse opinions undermine our friendship. In short, we agreed to accept a majority vote if only because we all support the principles of democracy. Those people crying ‘Foul’ because the vote did not go their way are ignorant scumbags; no less so are those making the vote an excuse to verbally and/or physically abuse ‘foreigners’ living and working in the UK, some of them for years. Those who are calling the vote a disgrace need to look closely at the worse aspects of its aftermath if not their role in it.

No one likes a bad loser. I suspect the vocal albeit significant minority now noisily deploring the E U referendum result by casting aspersions on the opposition, even calling our integrity into question, will find that out for themselves in the fullness of time. Meanwhile, the country needs to pull together and unite not let knee-jerk reactions and activists prevent the UK's future outside the EU taking a positive turn in the longer if not shorter term.

This poem is, yes, another villanelle.


Come a vote on this or that decision
(why not let us all have a say?)
cue for bad losers to abuse someone

Some losers will wallow in delusion
(pity any scapegoats in their way)
come a vote on this or that decision

Vanity of vanities, the grand illusion
(in the right, deserve to win the day)
cue for bad losers to abuse someone

No assuming immunity to aspersion
(or sitting on the damn fence today)
come a vote on this or that decision

Take the case for a European Union
(grave reservations come what may)
cue for bad losers to abuse someone

Consensus is no call for celebration
(democracy, too, must feel its way);
come a vote on this or that decision,
cue for bad losers to abuse someone

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Monday, 4 July 2016

A Feeling for the Quickness of Time

Today’s poem first appeared in the on-line poetry journal Ygdrasil in July 2004 and subsequently in my collection of the same name the following year.

Now, I have never subscribed to the view that children should be seen and not heard; they may not always be right (and are parents?) but are entitled to a point of view that deserves to be addressed and discussed if only so that any serious flaws in it are not left to fester into adulthood.

All parents want to best for their children. It should follow therefore that they need to know what their children are thinking and vice-versa, including if not especially among immigrant families whose socio-cultural-religious background is often very different from that of the country they have chosen to make their home.

Young people often feel no one is listening to them or even wants to hear what they have to say. (Old people understand, better than they know.) They are assured their ‘betters’ know what is best for them, yet those same betters might as well have cloth ears for all the notice they take of anyone not of the same mindset. Is it not high time we all started talking to not at each other and listening to each other more…before it is too late, and time has already put the boot in?

At 70, I sometimes feel as if my life is being fast forwarded before I've even had time to get my bearings, and invariably find myself asking, so what’s new…? All the more reason, though, to live for the Here and Now and not waste time brooding on what-might-have-been and mistakes that cannot be rectified...


Yesterday gone, today nearly done, 
tomorrow soon on the run from shadows
wrestling with frustration like children
sent to bed early, a lesson supposedly
for the learning, but just as likely feed us
half lies (home truths may get a look in);
trying not to feel hard done by or cry,
would rather die than show how it hurts
to be missing TV, denied PC access,
nothing left to do but call people names;
could read a book, I suppose, but who
wants to do that these days…?
Nothing like being made to feel (so) small
for speaking your mind…

Being a kid’s a thankless biz, just wait till
I’m older...

I’ll show ‘em what’s what, high time
they learned what life’s all about
(too short to fuss about being late home)
although (fair enough) should have called
to say so, but, what the heck...? 
Got home okay eventually, didn’t I?
(Parents, who’d have ’em...?)

Ranting and raving at a window, 
watching the sun fade away, listening 
for voices we’re used to hearing say 
'don’t', 'can’t', 'shouldn’t', and 'mustn’t', 
old enough to know better’; shows 
they care, I guess, and an early night’s 
not the end of a child’s small world 
(in any language) even if we're as loath
as the mantel clock to acknowledge 
a fault, tailoring time’s cloth to suit parts 
we play (no carbon copy life will do) 
demanding a say in setting its stage, 
not ‘one day..’ but a resounding ‘Yes!’

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2016

[Note: A slightly different version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, 2005; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Saturday, 2 July 2016

On Discovering the Bitter-Sweet Poetry of Time

As I grow old(er) - I am 70 now - I think less about actually dying than about how about much time I might have left in this life, determined (in my own way) to make the most of and enjoy it.

Incidentally, on the subject of enjoyment, I am always delighted to hear from readers who live in or are visiting London and express an interest in meeting up for a chat, whether over a friendly beer or two, a meal or just coffee. Feel free to email me any time.

Now, writing, especially poetry, may well be my preferred form of creative therapy to keep my old adversary depression at bay (which it does, very effectively) but it has also been a learning curve; hopefully it may be of some interest to someone someday to track that curve from my early to later poems. Whatever their impressions or end verdict, I would hope to get at least some brownie points for having attempted the curve in the first place. This is why, over the next few years, I hope to make revised versions of my poetry collections and novels available as e-books on Google Play to anyone who may be interested; all are on my blogs, but I can’t see them remaining on the Internet indefinitely once Time has disposed of me as and when it will.

Who knows, and what does it really matter anyway? All that really matters is that, each in our own way, we not only enjoy, but also at least try to make some sense of the Here and Now. Otherwise, what chance of our own customised cameos of life’s bigger picture ever finding a place in Time’s endless tapestry of Memory?


It’s a long road that winds
past the cemetery, and sometimes
I’d take a shortcut by graves,
flowers, yew trees, head stones
wiped clean or left to weeds, mosses,
history and memory

Uneasy, all but surrounded
by a lifetime enemy called Death
(so near, yet so far…)
Should I be scared of or resigned
to its inevitability?
Alternatively, how dare I ignore
the whistle pursing my lips,
or a cheeky breeze in sentinel trees
sharing old jokes in the ear?
Shriek of starling’s return to the nest,
magpie come and gone, done
its worst, flower heads following
my every move, smiling at me
as I hurry along, opening my heart
to a sun that means us well,
no reason at all to suspect nightfall
means anything more or less
than a sure, helping hand from nature
to preserve life, keep us as safe
as time permits, and for every petal,
stem and root that wind, rain,
or human hand displace, more on call
to take their place

In no time at all, at iron gates
and passing through, Death behind me
(barely a thought) yet can’t help
but wonder as I turn into my street
why a rose in the gutter should matter
more than ever…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2016

[Note: This poem has been revised (2016) from an earlier version that appears under the title 'A Matter of Time, in 1st eds. of A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised edition in e-format in preparation.]