Monday, 29 August 2016

Remembrance, where grows a Flower for every Beat the Heart Skips


Today, our thoughts fly to the victims of the recent devastating earthquake in Italy; the living and the dead.

Nature, as we have seen, is constantly reminding us that humankind, for all its progress through the ages, remains vulnerable. (As if we need reminding!) No less vulnerable, the human spirit, but also an indomitable life force.

Now, memories are no compensation for reality. Nothing and no one can compensate for the loss of a loved one; family member, lover or close friend. Even so, it has been my personal experience that memories can keep good times as fresh in our minds as when we first shared them, and in so doing any tears - in time -become more like spring rain than some relentless wintry storm.

Such is the power of love that that it will inspire the human spirit for generations to weather any storm, repair close-knit communities damaged by events beyond their control and, most importantly, concede love the victory over grief. 

Did I say it was easy…?

This poem is a villanelle.

REMEMBRANCE, WHERE GROWS A FLOWER FOR EVERY BEAT THE HEART SKIPS 

In thoughts so near, so far away,
inspiration visits old Memory Lane;
love’s fairest flowers here to stay

Whether or not we choose to pray,
love will survive us time and again
in thoughts so near, so far away

Deep sleep, no guiding light of day
nor dark, only kisses like spring rain,
love’s fairest flowers here to stay

Come despair keeping life at bay,
cue for human love to take the strain
in thoughts so near, so far away

Where a body quits worldly affray,
good hearts repeaing its finer refrain;
love’s fairest flowers here to stay

Though life bury us in colours grey,
trust human goodness ever to remain;
in thoughts so near, so far away,
love’s fairest flowers here to stay


Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Saturday, 20 August 2016

L-O-V-E, Bridges over Time

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

A number of readers have been in touch to ask if my poetry collections are still available. Well, I’m afraid not as they are out of print and I have no plans to publish further print runs or 2nd editions. However, I am in the process of preparing revised editions of each collection in e-format for Google Play; this will take some time, especially as I do not enjoy good health since I hit 70 last year.

I am also often asked for the link to an interview I gave Benjamin Richter, a student in multimedia journalism earlier this year. I have added it to several blog posts, but here it is again for anyone who may be interested. 

https://r224e31251.racontr.com/index.html

Love and hate are among the strongest of human passions, and can always be relied upon to leave a deep impression on us; so deep, it can last a lifetime and beyond. Whoever we are, wherever, and whatever our gender or sexuality, love, though is by far the more enduring and will always have the edge if only because it is a positive force for good; positive forces for anything less may well survive the test of time in terms of the human life span, but never the test of timelessness.

L-O-V-E, BRIDGES OVER TIME

One summer we lay beneath a willow tree,
gazing at a fluffy, leafy, sky,
passionate branches like arms around me,
enduring river flowing idly by

Time then to laugh, play, see kingfishers dive
for shimmering scales defying capture
in vain, an inspired will to stay alive
to the last breath, like love’s gasping rapture

Daring to dream, we made that summer ours,
let joyful birdsong drown the river’s sighs
till autumn’s beating at heaven’s towers
brought us, half-listening, to the world’s lies

Though some mourn, scorn stones separating us,
let the willow weep for them, not our ghosts


Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2016

[Note; this poem first appeared under the title 'Separate Stones' in Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; the alternative title has since been added.]

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Gambler

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

I get angry when people comment along the lines of someone’s having no ambition.

Ambition means different things to different people and cannot be measured in terms of ‘success’ or ‘failure’; far too often these things are measured in terms of fame and/or fortune without taking into account someone’s success as a well-meaning, decent person; in the latter category, you will often find some of the poorest people in the world.

At the same time, we are all but human, fallible and not infrequently vulnerable. Few things goad a person into taking a misguided path in life, albeit - initially, at least - for all the right reason than self-criticism for failing to live up to someone else's expectations, especially if that person is a loved one.  We need to prove ourselves.  Sadly, in the case of the gambler, we not only risk losing ourselves, but also all we hold dear along the way.

This poem is a kenning.

THE GAMBLER

I can be a friend or foe, take me as you will
to a corner of your heart and let me stay
to whisper sweet words of love and desire
in your ear, bring precious respite
from life’s trials, wars and sleepless nights
for worry, fear, dread of what the day
may yet devour. I can light your darkness.
Only, dance with me on the shadow-line...
win or lose

I can be a friend or foe, take me as you will
into a corner of your mind and let me stay
to whisper unkind words of lust and desire
in your ear where no respite
from life’s trials, wars, sleepless nights
for worry, fear, dread of what day may bring,
rain or shine. Come, and let's conspire
with our love of money to prove ourselves
again, and again

Yes, the human whole comprises parts
that may be taken for friend or foe
as it will, all it needs to feed the body,
fire mind and spirit for good or ill;
young or old, discover how all that glisters
is not gold nor dreamers fools who live
and love each day as if their last,
see in me but distortions of better selves
that faithless shadows cast

Call me Ambition, no saint (or criminal),
self-styled gambler with human potential

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2016

[Note: This poem has been revised since it first appeared under the title 'Dirty Dancing' in 1st eds., of Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]



Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Service Charge Included OR Ghosts, a Prepaid Ticket to Ride

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

Readers often ask if I am on Facebook or Twitter. No, I am not, but if anyone is interested in a regular (or occasional) email exchange or is ever in London and would like to meet up for a chat over a drink, coffee, meal (or all three) feel free to get in touch: - rogertab@aol.com

Meanwhile...

Someone once accused me of lying and told me I would pay dearly for it when I die, as I would for any other sins. Well, I am not a religious person, but I was raised a Christian and am not unfamiliar with the Holy Bible. It has always struck me that Jesus of Nazareth spoke a lot of good sense. When a woman was about to be stoned, he is reported in the Gospels as saying, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’

If sin embraces lies and other forms of deceit, wrongdoing, selfishness, bigotry and hypocrisy - to name just a few of the worse human traits - I dare say most if not all of us have sinned in one way or another. Some sins can be explained if not excused; others are inexplicable and inexcusable.

So what obscure life force is it within us that makes us sin, sometimes against our better judgement?  Whatever, we can rely on conscience to see we are not let off the hook.

I believe we make our own ‘heaven’ and our own ‘hell.’ To what extent depends on what we do - or don’t do - to deserve either or both. So when, as mythology would have it, the Ferryman comes to row us across the Styx, I see no reason why we should pay a penny more than we have spent a lifetime paying…one way or another.

Someone else once told me that Conscience is our salvation, not Belief, seeing to it that any bad in us pays;  it is the spirit of any good in us that the Ferryman lands on the shores of infinity. (Maybe that is why the poet in me sees and listens to ghosts, all of whom appear to mean well?)

As a child, I loved mythology. Once, I asked my mother how much the ferryman might charge for  rowing me across the Styx, and would he expect a tip? She laughed and commented that we had already paid with our lives, no need for either. 

Would it be a scary journey, I wanted to know? She hesitated only briefly, "Not if you've always been a good boy," she said. "And if not sometimes?" I asked. She shrugged, "Well, it always helps to be in credit, but no one is all bad, and I dare say God is no more above making allowances than the rest of us." 

"I'm not sure I believe in God," I confessed. She was visibly shocked, but as reassuring as ever. "Everyone is different.  Whatever happens when we die, that is taken into account as well. So don't you worry about dying, especially when there's a whole life out there just waiting to be lived. Now, how about an ice-cream...? End of a conversation I barely understood at the ripe old age of 10 years ...but well recall the best part of a lifetime later.

SERVICE CHARGE INCLUDED or GHOSTS, A PREPAID TICKET TO RIDE

A time must come when we shall die,
and what last steps do we take?
Do we pray or simply weep a goodbye
to all we’ve loved for life’s sake?

Will death us, a kinder ‘God’ restore,
peace of mind, innocence of a child,
or see us writhe in pain at a closed door,
pay the price for being of this world?

What is repentance, what does it prove
but sheer desperation to be rescued
from an eternity denied the spirit of love,
free fall in a well of all lies reviewed?

If life, it play fair at death’s home shore,
why pay the ferryman a penny more?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2016

[Note: This poem has been revised (2016) since first appearing under the title 'Service Charge Included' in The Sound of Silence, TA-TI Edizone (Italy, 2005) and A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; a revised version of my collection - in e-format - is in preparation.]

Monday, 15 August 2016

Surreal, Aspects of Self-Awareness


Life is what it is; we make the best (or worst) of things. Everyone is different and no one has the right to judge another simply because they appear to aspire to less than their potential suggests. Fame, fortune, travel…these are wonderful achievements if and where the cap fits but aspiring to be nothing more or less than a good parent/person is no less wonderful, even more so perhaps for its invariably being less obvious (or newsworthy).

Whatever, we can always fall back on imagination.

SURREAL, ASPECTS OF SELF-AWARENESS

Home truths, like near dead lilies on a lake
running dry

Lifelines, like veins of a turning leaf
come autumn

Desire, taking comfort in homemade soup
in winter

Wisdom, taking its cue from the first
cuckoo of spring

Ambition,  Jack Frost’s tablecloth spread,
our places laid

Passion, saving water lilies from a lake
running dry

Love, preserving archives should humanity
need reminding...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2016

[Note: This poem first appeared under the title 'Rummaging the Archives' in Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007 and was subsequently published in CC&D v 270 (Scars Publications, USA.) under the same title); revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]


Saturday, 13 August 2016

War and Peace, the Bitter-Sweet Poetry of Being Human


War, more often than not, takes a cruel toll on Home Fronts as well as on the battlefield; it changes people, and in doing so can destroy relationships, inflict all manner of blows on family life, cause individuals to question the validity of any raison d’ĂȘtre on offer.

It is perhaps the greatest tragedy of humankind that it’s multi-ego has a problem with the notion of simply agreeing to differ

WAR AND PEACE, THE BITTER-SWEET POETRY OF BEING HUMAN

At war, injury or worse for victory’s sake,
not all survivors showing its scars;
at home, cradles rock and boughs break

Back home, safe passage no piece of cake,
many survivors too weary for tears;
at war, injury or worse for victory’s sake

See the battlefield, its finest heroes make
of women from Venus, men from Mars;
at home, cradles rock and boughs break

All roads to peace, too, their victims take,
for all we’re told an answer to prayers;
at war, injury of worse for victory’s sake

Where war makes waves across time’s lake,
find peace putting its faith in straws;
at home, cradles rock and boughs break

Shall history its peace with war ever make,
its windows on the world need no bars?
At war, injuries or worse for victory’s sake;
at home, cradles rock and boughs break

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2016

[Note: Title (only) of the poem revised (2016) from the version that appears in 1st eds. of On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]






Friday, 12 August 2016

A World of Difference OR It Takes All Sorts

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

"It takes all sorts to make a world," says Badger to Ratty in Kenneth Graham's classic novel 'Wind in the Willows'.

Now, I hate being referred to as a gay poet. I prefer to think of myself as a poet who happens to be gay. When I commented as such to someone only recently I was told it was much to be expected as people tend to be judged by/ remembered for their behaviour; it was put to me that my being gay was by far the more significant aspect of who I am as a person. (Bullshit!)

Different takes on life do not make us different, just human. As human beings, we need to respect those differences, not malign them except, of course, where terrorism and other acts of criminality are involved; being 'different' is no excuse for the terrorist or actively criminal mindset.

My being gay IS a significant part of who I am, but other aspects of a person’s individuality are every bit as if not more important than their sexuality.

The same person suggested that being gay was ‘unnatural’ and therefore more likely to ‘stick out like a sore thumb’.

Well, nature’s heterosexual majority, it would appear, is far more accepting and understanding of various species’ native traits in this respect than many among its human counterpart.

While there are a number of documentaries on You Tube about homosexual behaviour in animals, the link below will take you to my favourite video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYdcvRe7ox8

A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE or IT TAKES ALL SORTS

As I walked in the garden one day,
I saw a dog chase a cat into a hedge,
but cat kept its head,
spat and glared till dog backed away
and went after a squirrel instead,
but the wily squirrel was far too quick
and scampered up a tree
while the dog settled for chewing
on a bone left lying on the lawn

As I strolled out in a park one day,
I saw dogs chasing each other’s tails
and clearly having fun
till one glimpsed a cat in the distance,
hared off after it,
the rest on its heels barking madly,
but cat already gone
so began fighting each other viciously,
owners converging in alarm

As I went on a protest march one day,
riot police shields herded us into a corner,
tarring us all with the same brush,
(peaceful protesters and trouble makers)
but someone broke free,
police on their heels shouting madly,
soon catching up with the person
who was then brought down viciously,
dragged off crying in handcuffs

I spotted children observing a dog
taking no notice of a cat but to exchange
glances as if commenting
on the weird way we humans carry on,
now boxing in our own
or fighting, now hugging each other,
while a sparrow in a nearby tree
had to agree, all three alerted by history
to humankind’s split personality

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011


Friday, 5 August 2016

A Life in the Day of Everyman

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

Two readers have been in touch to pose questions I am often asked. Q1 Why do I write poetry, and why so little blank verse when everyone knows rhyme is old hat, especially as the media ignores me for the most part so I’m not even famous? Q2. Why spoil a good poetry site by including gay poetry? [Thank you for the praise element there.]

Well, fame isn’t everything, nor is blank verse, and I do have a reputation of sorts around the world if feedback from my blogs and other Internet sites is anything to go by. The most important thing to me is that there are people out there who read what I write; whether or not they like what I write is less important than it may give them food for thought. [Even not liking something demands we ask ourselves, why?] As for including gay-interest poems, as I do in all my collections…why not? I am a gay man and a poem is a poem is a poem. I have received emails from heterosexual readers to say it has helped them think differently (better) about gay people and from gay readers thanking me for my inclusiveness. Opinions will always be divided; such is the nature of food for thought.

Poetry is a passion with me. Prior to university, I wrote many poems; less so for some time afterwards. Reading and writing critical essays about great poets was very enjoyable, but also very daunting. How could I possibly follow in the footsteps of the likes of Wordsworth, Shelley, Blake, Hardy and so many more? It took a while for the penny to drop. I could not hope to follow in their footsteps nor should I even try. No, I must create footprints of my own. It would not matter if few people found them worth following so long as they were there, to be chanced upon; hopefully, of some worth to someone somewhere at some time or another finding their way in life (and losing it now and then) as I have done. Reading great writers has helped me become a positive thinker; no mean feat considering the inferiority complex that dogged me at home, school and young manhood.

I have only ever been in love once in my whole life, but love takes various forms and I have loved many people in various ways. Take friendship, a form of love at all its various levels, and probably the most commonly open to abuse. Sometimes love is returned; often, though, it is abused. Nor am I referring to physical but to psychological abuse; people taking advantage of love, taking it (and us) for granted, always taking, taking, taking… with little or no thought about what it means to give. It can hurt, really hurt. For me, poetry has always helped ease that hurt. 

Yes, poetry is my passion, a love that returns far more than I can ever give. Especially as I grow old, the passion continues to course through my veins and remind me of all that is beautiful in this sorry world, in nature and human nature; more than a match for cynic or pessimist, and music to the ears of a positive thinker so long as he or she remembers to listen out with inner ear, see with inner eye, feel a way through bad times to better.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all poets in the sense that poetry is the very act of living; how we chose to define it - and ourselves - is down to each and every one of us, each in our own way, not least in poetry, bearing in mind how there is a poetry of sorts in everything we are, do, regret, aspire to....

Does that answer the questions?

This poem is a villanelle.

A LIFE IN THE DAY OF EVERYMAN

Who seeks out poetry, seeks love,
always listening out for its call
in nest or flight, wings of a dove

Between earth and heavens above,
as human passions rise and fall.
who seeks out poetry, seeks love 

Find nature’s finest, hand in glove
with Man’s first aim, survival;
in nest or flight, wings of a dove

Where a trophy hunter may prove 
a keen eye for kill potential,
who seeks out poetry, seeks love

Let it be, feel a mountains move,
its centuries-old dreams fulfil;
in nest or flight, wings of a dove

Grown cold, a hand out of its glove
like prose to reason’s overspill;
who seeks out poetry, seeks love,
in nest or flight, wings of a dove


Copyright R. N. Taber 2008; slightly rev. 2016

Monday, 1 August 2016

Olympic Games OR Old Gods, New Gods, and the Rest of Us


[Update (July 21, 2016): Congratulations to Team GB and everyone taking part in the Rio Olympics. As for those nasty people who targeted Tom Daley for homophobic abuse, I can only echo J. K. Rowling; I am not sure which is more offensive, the stupidity or the spite. Some religious groups especially need to get real; their founders would be appalled. I do not subscribe to any religion, not least because I find it too divisive and closed-minded where religion should be the very opposite, acknowledging that our differences neither put us in the wrong nor make us different, simply human. Moreover, I came to this conclusion before I realised I am gay. One of my You Tube videos makes the same point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrTjc2373IU  
Needless to say, I received a number of offensive emails after posting it.]

Now, leaders of every society like to play games with its citizens and today’s poem was written in 2000; it has nothing (directly) to do with the Olympic Games. Even so, here’s wishing good luck to everyone participating in the Rio Olympics and upholding humankind’s finer qualities of fair competition and mutual respect among winners and losers alike. To win a medal is, of course, a wonderful achievement, but as wonderful if not more so is the thrill of taking part, an incomparable memory to share and treasure over a lifetime.

If the poem invokes a sense of society falling into moral and political well as economic decay, hopefully the feeling rarely lasts; it only takes events that embrace the human spirit of the Olympic Games to raise our hopes once more and make us realise there is (far) more to life than any judgmental take on it will ever suggest.

Even so, let's not forget how Greek mythology would have us believe the old gods got up to all sorts of mischief on Olympus; all work and no play…



Mount Olympus, Greece

OLYMPIC GAMES or OLD GODS, NEW GODS, AND THE REST OF US

What will be, will be,
in this century as others gone before;
wealth and poverty, a sick lottery
of love and hate, peace and war invariably
played out by tin gods with humankind
and everything to play for, bearing in mind
(of course) that who dares wins,
no matter what their sins, and losers
will always cast the first stones
before they will admit being taken in
by substitute icons

Olympus, alive and well on Capitol Hill,
humanity, in free fall…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2016

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised and an alternative title added (2016) since it first appeared in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; rev. ed. in –format in preparation.]