Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Ghosts, a Prepaid Ticket to Ride


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


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.


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.]

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