Wednesday, 16 August 2017

It is what it Is...or is it?

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

Only recently, a reader emailed me to ask if I consider myself an agnostic because I am gay and, if not, why not…?

Over the years (I'm in my 70's now) I have lost count of the times I have been told by members of various religious groups that I will go to hell for being gay. (So God is a homophobe?) Evangelical Christians and the majority of Muslims are by far the worst, but I exclude none. (While Judaism is inclined towards a liberal attitude towards LGBT issues, most Orthodox Jews stop well short of sanctioning LGBT relationships.) For this reason, I am publishing this post/poem on both blogs since feedback suggests that not all readers visit my Google + site where I link to new and historical posts & poems on both blogs. Regular readers will know that I have every respect for all religious faiths, but as a human being (who happens to be gay) I have the right of reply.

At school, 50+ years ago, we were once asked to write an essay about ‘Secrets’. This was preceded by a class discussion on the subject during which we were all agreed that secrets are hard to keep, especially from family and friends. Someone made an unkind remark about gays not being ‘out’ to which the teacher responded with a wry shrug that “Time outs us all in the end. The trick is to get in first, before gossip and ignorance can do their worst.’ This comment livened up the debate no end, but I missed most of what was being said for dwelling on the concept of Time ‘outing us all in the end.’ It is so true. Gay or straight, it is a rare person that has no secrets; invariably these come out, if not during their lifetime then in the course of events following their death.

I only came out to a few people until a bad nervous breakdown in my 30’s finally rid me of all self-consciousness about my sexuality. Even then, though, I trod carefully through what I had known for years as a minefield of public opinion. The breakdown had lasted several years before I found the confidence to face the world again. During this time, I explored human nature through avid reading and writing poetry, both of which had already stood me in good stead at university.

Being gay is, of course, only one aspect of human nature, one part of a complex whole. It has always been the whole that interests me although, obviously, I have a special interest in the gay aspect. Some gay people seem to find it strange that I write general as well as gay-interest poetry. But…why not? Being gay is a very significant part of who I am, yes, but I can hardly ignore the rest of me, those other parts that make me who and what I am. Well, can I...?

In my 70’s now, I often look back and wish I had done things differently (as in ‘better’) but I guess we are all victims of our circumstances up to a point, and my circumstances have often conspired against me. Yet, I am no victim in the sense that I made my own choices, albeit not always the right ones.

Many who subscribe to a religion have told me I will forfeit Heaven and go to Hell although I suspect we make our own heaven and hell as our lives take shape by our own hand. So is death the end of all things, I wonder? I have no idea, but as a nature lover, take comfort from the way nature nurtures itself, and spring follows winter. Love, too, never dies even as lovers and loved ones pass away. I suppose I put what Faith I have in nature and love rather than in any religion since, from both, I have always taken a strong sense of spirituality. As to whether or not that sense of spirituality is seen as a sufficiently positive force in my poetry  to pass into living memory by way of my readers after my death, only time will tell.

IT IS WHAT IT IS…OR IS IT?

Time running out,
mind-body-spirit left floundering
among regrets
for missed opportunities, rushes
to misjudgement,
and plain, everyday mistakes
with consequences...
for there can be no payback
equal to the task
of making reparation for any flaws
in humankind

No sense of a God
likely to extend any forgiveness
to the likes of me,
unable to relate to any Heaven
(potential safe haven)
throughout a lifetime of struggling
to make sense of dogma
interpreted by Religion’s finest
as leave to preach
a Politics of the Heart making sense
of humankind

How then to approach
the End of Things in the absence
of any New Beginning
other than as some deactivated spirit
gone to ashes, dust,
someone else’s (imperfect) memory,
there to endure
a kindly ‘eternity’ that sits more easily
on the tongue than ‘death’
while advocating spiritual qualities
in humankind?

I have asked this of poems
that have dogged my every footstep
from child to senior,
no one answer offered (or confirmed)
but a sense of moving
through time (other than growing old)
acting out tales passed on
by ghosts about leaving footprints;
no one left behind
but (together) creating a continuum
called humankind

To each, our own way,
engaging with the greater mysteries
of life and death,
finding such comfort as we can,
pinning our finer hopes
on what’s better, kindlier, said
and done, wiser choices
than less so, promise nurtured
or left unfulfilled
for an indefinable social conscience
to define us as it will

Whatever, it is what it is, and Time
will out us all one way or another…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Friday, 4 August 2017

Blood on the Bread


This villanelle was written on June 29th 2008. On the previous day, another young person had been fatally stabbed on London’s streets. Tragically, the poem is even more relevant now than it was then. 

Official figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS)  in April 2017 showed a very significant increase in violent crime across the UK, much of it gang-related. Knife crime alone had increased by 14 per cent year on year by 2016 to levels not seen since 2011; a leap from 28,427 knife offences to 32,448.

The greater tragedy is that gang-related violent crime remains prevalent on the streets of many countries worldwide; such a waste of human lives where, more often than not, contemporary society fails to provide constructive alternatives offering potential solutions. 

Whatever, these people commit violent acts by choice and the buck stops with them. If they have a conscience at all, they need to come to terms it, start steering a kinder course through life before they, too, become just another fatality statistic... and what kind of footprint is that to leave behind?

BLOOD ON THE BREAD

Don’t carry a gun or knife,
a young friend said;
show more respect for life

I want a career and a wife
(and a four-poster bed)
don’t carry a gun or knife

Let years of pain and strife
stand peace on its head?
Show more respect for life

Though gang rats run rife,
and blood on the bread,
don’t carry a gun or knife

Let me look, dress how I like
if it makes me feel good;
show more respect for life

Streets of fear, tears of grief,
saw him shot him dead;
Don’t carry a gun or knife;
show more respect for life

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008; 2017

[Note: This poem first appeared in Poetic Expressions, Poetry Now, 2009 and subsequently in my own collection, On the Battlefields of Love, Assembly Books, 2008; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Friday, 16 June 2017

Battle Royal, no End-Game or All Our Tomorrows

Are the freedoms we enjoy being gradually eroded by invisible (and visible) Mandarins or Kingpins of Power?

Wealth is power, yes, but so is  influence and many who put themselves forward as our so-called ‘betters’ have plenty of that across the entire  socio-cultural-religious and political arenas  in which we live.

Free speech, yes, so long as it is not considered politically incorrect and that seems to be decided these days by which side of a particular divide one happens to be.

I am no racist. Neither, though, will I hesitate to speak out against bad attitude or behaviour no matter what colour, creed, sex or sexuality a person may be. Yet, the chances are – as has happened more than once – that I will be called a racist, feminist, bigot (for not subscribing to a religion) etc. etc. I am none of these things, and it goes against the grain not to speak out against someone whose behaviour I find offensive simply whatever their colour, creed, sex sexuality or political persuasion and, yes, even age. (My own generation can be a real pain in the proverbial at times.). Even so, I have to confess to having kept my feelings to myself more often than not in recent years simply to avoid the inevitable hassle. Is that common sense, I wonder, or simply cowardice?

Feedback over years of writing poetry and publishing much of it on the Internet suggests that many people from diverse backgrounds feel much the same way, that there are times when we are made to feel like puppets, poised to speak our minds until a jerk on invisible strings by some kingpin puppeteer advises if not demands our silence or, at best, extreme (diplomatic) caution…or there will be a price to pay.

I will be 72 this year, and I am becoming less and less enamoured with the world as it is now with each passing day. At the same time, I retain a basic faith in human nature, convinced that if we all try and do our best in our own little corner of the world, the ripples will spread to the extent that  it may yet become a better, kinder place no matter what goes on in its  socio-cultural-religious and political arenas.

There are more good people in the world than bad, people for whom peace and love are more, far more, than just rhetoric; it has always been that way, and always will be. Sadly, it has always been the more malevolent Kingpins of Power that, in getting away far too often with pulling our strings, continue to make their presence felt and voices heard.

BATTLE ROYAL, NO END-GAME or ALL OUR TOMORROWS

Yesterday, a dark mood
descending into a recent grave
created by fall-out
from crises (local and worldwide);
even near comprehension,
of mind- body-spirit all but broken
by political forces alien
to free thinkers everywhere left
ploughing moral high ground,
slaves to this or that philosophy,
whatever cap fits…

Slaves, yes, bound to rebel
against those siding with kingpins
of wealth and power jockeying
(discreetly) for a prime position
in the greater  influence stakes,
claiming to have the best interests
of common humanity at heart
(local and worldwide) while nursing
such personal ambitions as likely
to go down as well with the media
as raising taxes

Today, no lighter mood,
rising among the ghosts of leaders
past and present to remind
those of us (local and worldwide)
why we helped put them there
(if only by default, considering
the alternatives on offer)
no matter gossip buzzing like flies
in corridors of power
about which  kingpins  plotting
whose downfall…

Kingpins of power, yes!
Always ready to load our excuses
on their backs under a cloak
of invisibility to avoid pricking
consciences of crusaders
(local and worldwide) for a way
of life less complicated
by a sense of kingpins composing
the poetry and prose
of destiny on our behalf, and we
having little say

Tomorrow, we will nurture
a more positive mood, rise above
rise above dark thoughts
about any Kingpins of Power
undermining us
at every step we take as we journey
through life…
reassert a native self-confidence,
an enduring spirituality
taken from natures, religion, either
of both (free to choose)

Free to choose, yes,
whether to have faith in ourselves,
(conceding any flaws)
and keep to a learning curve of love,
personal aspiration,
private ambition, social responsibility,
discerning wood and trees,
drawing in the best of whatsoever
and whomsoever
we may find, as we seek completeness,
journeying hopefully

Hopefully, yes, humankind
and nature working together to play
any Kingpins of Power
at their own game, introducing  mind,.
body, and spirit,
working in harmony, all the better
to see light triumph
over darkness, good over evils no one
can deny exist,
a legacy of enduring peace and love,
no end-game in sight

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Monday, 12 June 2017

The Zen of Renewal


A single friend recently commented that his everlasting regret in life is never to have been in love, loved in return, and having children. This, from someone whose family adore him and who will be remembered by many for a kind heart and generosity of spirit.

Few if any of us can say, hand on heart, that we have no regrets. Life, though, deals each and every one of us a different hand, not least because we are all different. Such is the nature of things. Whatever any mistakes or wrong choices we may have made in life, love comes in all shapes and sizes, and we should regret none of it, even where it may not have (quite) come up to our hopes and expectations. Love is a life-force from which we should all take heart. We may be single, or fortunate enough to have found a partner (within or outside marriage)…whatever, I defy anyone to say they have never loved at all…whether it be of the human or natural world…past or present, nevertheless continuing to make itself felt always, and hopefully making us better, kinder people for its place in our lives.

As for whatever we may leave behind us  when time demands we take our leave of this life, we could all do a lot worse than have secured a good place in someone else’s memory, the effects of which may well be passed on for generations...


THE ZEN OF RENEWAL

Watching a sunrise,
all live senses re-awakening
to the spirt of nature,
metaphor for balmy breezes
encouraging evergreens
to sing a song for all seasons,
birds winging Nature’s
semaphore of hope, no matter
blue skies turning grey

Watching high noon
play out its daily theatricals,
all we passionate
children of the Earth eagerly
aspiring to make
the most of opportunities lost,
missed (or never were)
before Time has its wicked way
with us, and it’s too late

Watching a sunset,
curtain all but drawn on affairs
of mind, body, spirit…
working in a harmony (of sorts)
to contrive meaning,
purpose, (closure?) whatever
it takes for laurels
upon which we may rest easier
if not (quite) in peace

Watching a darkness
gather our world to its bosom
where we may well
writhe like new-borns lacking
in communication skills
to express our needs, desires,
all found wanting…
yet a sixth sense of its potential
but waiting in wings

Watching at a window
on the world from the balcony
of a tower block,
returning inside if only to forget
those cares of the day
(ever ready to keep us company)
by taking from love
(in real time, memory or fiction)
a renewed life force…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Thursday, 1 June 2017

S-E-L-F, Tales out of School


The first day of June may well be closing in on summer, but there are people around the world who feel left to live out winters of discontent…while others find various ways to compensate and follow the bluebird of happiness where even angels would fear to tread. I know because, over the years, I have had the privilege of meeting some of them; ordinary people living ordinary lives with an extraordinary mixture of a resilience and stoicism bordering upon heroism and an enviable capacity for finding contentment that should not be mistaken for being resigned.

Many if not most of us live secret lives, mind blowing tales out of custom designed storybooks that feed our egos (in the nicest possible way, of course) compensating for discrepancies in how we might like our lives to be and how we (and others) are likely to find them.

Such is the potential for winters of our discontent…until or unless we find a way to lend the stories more truth than fiction (in the nicest possible way, of course) and do more than simply reconcile ourselves (and others) to the status quo.

S-E-L-F, TALES OUT OF SCHOOL

If I were a robin,
I would fly far south at the close
of autumn…
to better times, kinder climes,
no lust for stoicism

If I were a fox,
I would outrun hunt and hounds,
deny them
a red brush token trophy,
any glory, all mine

If I were an owl,
I would hoot merry hell at a world
daring sleep
parade its vanities under cover
of safe houses

Yet, call me human,
no season to fly or run in the heat
of wannabe heroics,
finding excuses for a sad lusting
after posterity

If I were a robin,
I would take heart from all nature’s
lust for life,
hope to learn, pass on the better
part of its poetry

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017





Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Restoration (Human) Spirit Guide

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

Now, there is a saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, I disagree.

It isn’t only retired people who can feel lonely, of course; it can (and often does) happen to anyone who, for whatever reason, feels out of the social loop and has no idea what to do about it. Doing nothing, though, is not an option unless we are resigned to letting life pass us by. For retired people, daytime TV isn’t a satisfactory option either.

Focusing on the job in hand, many of us underestimate the importance of the everyday contact with other people that any work ethos offers. Suddenly, we arrive at the retirement we have looked forward to all our working lives; for single people, especially, that everyday contact may well no longer be there. Gone are the people that have been so much a part of our lives for so long; gone, too, a major focal point…the job itself.

I got chatting to a widower recently who hated retirement until he joined a local community group campaigning for better facilities for young people in his area. A former business executive  he  was able to bring his organization skills (among others) to the campaign and made lots of new friends, young and old. I asked him why he got involved in the first place. “I suddenly realised I was on my own, going nowhere fast and I’d be stuck with Jeremy Kyle if I wasn’t careful,” he told me with a grin. “I was out of the loop good and proper, and nothing was going to change unless I made it happen. I heard about the campaign, and have never looked back. If not the campaign, I’d have found something, you can be sure of that. I mean, you can’t survive on your own, can you…?”

How do I cope with retirement? Well, I took early retirement at 50 so I could spend more time writing. An isolationist occupation, you might think, but feedback suggests my blog readers enjoy many of my poems, and I have always found writing very therapeutic. Even so, I made a point of getting out and meeting people for many years if less so now as I have prostate cancer and a mobility problem following a nasty fall in 2014. Yet, I made some good friends and remain in touch with some, especially my best friend Graham, these plus my blog readers help me feel in a loop I’d rather be in than out so no worries there.

Many older people are unable to get out and about; for them – especially single people and those whose families are not on hand – loneliness can be a terrible thing. I recently heard of someone who takes retirement (and loneliness) in his stride by visiting lonely people and spending time with them. “It’s two-way traffic,” he told me when we met recently, “We support each other.”

Supporting each other… What better way to stay in the loop, eh?

I recall once complaining about being bored to my English teacher Mr ‘Jock’ Rankin who had asked how I was settling in at my new home across the river. ‘Life won’t come to you, Taber,” he said, “You have to go out and meet it head-on or you’ll not only be bored, you’ll be lonely too” Wise words in my ear, some 60+ years on…

RESTORATION (HUMAN) SPIRIT GUIDE

Loneliness crept up on me,
had its feet  well under my table
before I knew it

No one calling on the phone,
no one ever knocking at my door
to ask how I am

No more cheery cards, letters,
remains of  kinder times dropping
on the doormat

No one stopping
for a chat while window shopping
to pass the time

In free fall, made a blind landing,
complete strangers rushing to help
piece me together

Faith in humanity now restored,
I joined a local community project,
a life-changer

Looking back, I see myself
taken for a fool by giving self-pity
a free rein

Grown old, I was resigned
to but sadly scratching the surface
of a once-life

Ah, but life goes on, its shell
if cracked, heavy, serving us much
the same purpose

Though a body grow weak,
mind dim, the human spirit but asks
we heed its cue

Never discriminating, a spirit
imposing on a divided world, a sense
of better late than never

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Getting the Better of Giants

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

Not infrequently, people confide how they feel helpless against a tide of socio-cultural-religious forces manipulated by various leaders for their own sakes and/or kind to the detriment of 'outsiders'. ‘Why are we all so divided?’ someone only recently wailed in my ear, ‘Why must it take a tragedy like the recent terrorist atrocity in Manchester to bring people together …until innate differences start to drive them apart again?

On the grounds that repeating the obvious is sometimes necessary if only to prevent its being lost in a sea of trite, I often make the point in my blogs that our differences do not make us different, simply human; we can and should learn from them, not gang up against them. Far too many if not most socio-cultural-religious leaders are invariably quick to agree in principle, but less willing to practise what they preach.

So what can we do?

It is (surely?) down to each and every one of us to live our lives as best we can and try not to be judgemental, the very trap our leaders and so-called ‘betters’ would have us fall into by appearing to refute it, thereby planting the very seeds of division in our minds that suit their individual purposes while cleverly avoiding either blame or responsibility.

A socio-cultural-religious metaphor may well be a chess master’s political strategy where the likes of you and I are taken to be vulnerable pawns; it is, however, a game that two can play... Being our own person (no pressure or aspiration to be someone else) and living our lives as we see it playing out to the best of our ability, immune to unfair or unwanted comparisons...that is what is known as being on the winning side.

GETTING THE BETTER OF GIANTS

What is it really all about,
I’d ask myself as a child, this growing up
among restless giants…?

Why do giants wear a mask
for every occasion, always seem so wary
of letting any slip…?

(Why must I tread so warily
for fear of offending by just being honest,
speaking my mind…?)

Diplomacy is all very well,
but no substitute (surely?) for keeping faith
with basic principles…

Oh, and what of love’s light,
come to guide us through a darkening world,
but frequently cutting out?

Yes, we need rules to live by
or sheer chaos likely to get the better of us all,
but who rules what, for whom?

It’s a discerning inner eye
that perceives the flaws in any moral authority
over anxious to flex its muscles

So where does that leave us,
who can but trust basic instincts albeit thwarted
at every turn of phrase and policy?

It leaves us strong, stoic, free
to speak up, make ourselves seen, felt and heard,
risk being ignored, mocked, bullied…

Or what has it all been for,
I’d ask myself each new day as time rushes on by,
and I grow old…?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Esprit de Vie OR Spirit of Life (In any Language)


I started school in 1950 and never did well academically. Yet, as if not more importantly, I learned a lot from a hard hit generation of post-war teachers. Upon his retirement, I asked one (as children do) if being old was scary ‘what with death and all that’. He shrugged and gave it little thought before replying, ‘You reap what you sow in life, Taber. Sow well, and the chances are you’ll find Death isn’t such a grim reaper after all.’

That was more than half a century ago. Out of the blue, I found myself  thinking about him and those words of wisdom; both inspired this poem, written to help lift myself out of an inexcusably negative awareness of growing old and the cancer nagging at my prostate.

ESPRIT DE VIE or SPIRIT OF LIFE (IN ANY LANGUAGE)

Sometimes, hearts lie heavy
on a spirit (still) young and fancy free,
in a world, oh, far less kind
than in its past it ever looked to be
in selective archives

No mornings up with the lark,
flying high in skies all shades of blue,
negotiating storm clouds
like a seasoned performer in the art
of positive thinking

Some may suppose little left
but sweet dreams to alleviate the taste
of time passing ever faster...
heart, mind, and body left to babysit
a restless spirit

Ah, but nature has other ideas,
nurturing life forces to the very end
of any span only visible
to the applauding eye, ever mindful
of its seasons

Earth Mother’s watch, keeper
 of all living things, human or other,
never discriminating
along lines of good, bad, and ugly, no
judgement passed

If a sad mind likely to lead us on
into a world of tears for losing its shine,
it’s a sadder spirit still
sees us taken in by the sweet-smelling
poetry of self-pity

Where a body less able to follow
first instincts, to do, go, leave footprints
deserving of praise,
heed a native spirit on making the most
of each new day

So I grow old, so what? C’est la vie;
the mind- heart- body self can but dream
of rewriting its history…
while its spirit makes of us what we will,
no endgame

Though death would shut us out
of the world (however we may  perceive it),
find rest and peace in any
who continue to take from us their cue
for esprit de vie

Copyright R. N. Taber (2017)

Sunday, 14 May 2017

History,Through a Looking Glass OR Full Circle

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

As a young man, I once had the privilege of meeting a famous actor in a cafe one rainy evening in Soho. He caught me staring at him and grunted that he was in no mood to give autographs. I confessed I did not collect them anyway, but was thrilled to see him in real life. He thawed, and we chatted. I commented how wonderful it must be to live a life for which he would not only be remembered for all time but which had also been recorded on the big screen. “Oh, wow, what a legacy!” I enthused. He shrugged and muttered that the big screen was all about his acting, not his life, and how the only life and legacy really worth having is recorded for all time anyway…among the fonder memories of those who matter most to us.

At the time, I thought it was a trite thing to say. Now I know better.  I even found myself saying much the same thing to an elderly friend who was recently lamenting the fact that he had done nothing with his life to deserve leave any mention in the history books. I reminded him that the he has wonderful children who, in turn, have given him grandchildren. What better legacy or record of anyone’s life and history…?

Me…? No partner, no children or family to speak of…but hopefully my friends will think well of me when I’m gone and my poetry will at least have found a place in the hearts and minds of some readers. Do I think of my poetry as a legacy? I would not presume to predict. I have enjoyed every moment of writing ever poem, though, so hopefully some of that pleasure will have rubbed off on readers sufficiently for them to pass on the pleasure if not the poem.

Ripples…

HISTORY, THROUGH A LOOKING GLASS or FULL CIRCLE

Once, I looked in a glass,
glimpsed saw a child waving
at me, a cheeky smile,.
face smudged with playtime,
eyes shining

Later, I looked in the glass,
glimpsed a cheeky grin, youth
full of hope and promise,
face unlined, past and present
shining through

Once, I looked in a glass,
glimpsed a watery smile, years
having taken toll enough
to obliterate even the shadow
of a half-smile

Later, I peered in the glass,
misty with a quickening breath,
face barely visible
but for a weepy smile regretting
no record of it

Now, I put an ear to the glass,
listening for words I cannot see
of life, love, nature,
an oral poetry returning me
a cheeky smile

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017



Saturday, 13 May 2017

Extracts from a (gay) Poet's Diary

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

This is not a new post but one I deleted from this blog after receiving several troll-type emails. I usually ignore these, but friends advised me to post it on my gay-interest blog instead while continuing to link to it from to it from my Google + site as previously. Then I though, why should I? So I am re-posting post and poem here. At the same time, friends are probably right in suggesting it will be of more interest to gay readers so I've posted it there as well.

We talk about 'blind' instinct, but there is a native instinct that know us better than we know ourselves, and it is anything but blind; it has a clearer sense of what to do in situations where any brooding, thinking self hasn't a clue.

In February 1969, I sailed for Australia (as a would-be migrant) on the SS Southern Cross from Liverpool. While it was a huge mistake in many ways, it was also one of my better decisions.

In short, I was running away from the UK - and a family that had no idea of how much of a psychological mess I was in or of share their of blame for it - rather than going to Australia. Gay relationships ‘between consenting adults’ had been decriminalised in 1967  but it would be many years before society as a whole began to accept us, if grudgingly. I had left school five years earlier but saw myself as having no career prospects and was still a long way from becoming truly reconciled with my sexual identity. Apart from a growing sense of isolation, I felt hurt and angry. Significant though sexual identity may be, it is but a part of a greater whole. (Why should the greater part of me be made to feel it needs to apologise for what, after all, is no one else's damn business?)

While I will always have a great affection for Australia and the people I met there, I arrived with neither enough money nor qualifications to fulfil my dream, even in the longer term. During the six-weeks crossing, however, I’d had plenty of time to think and reflect on my motives. I found myself homing in on home truths that appalled me. Was I really such a coward?

So, yes, on the face of it, Australia was a disaster but I returned to the UK not (quite) with tail between legs but as different person, more self-confident than I had ever felt before and determined to shape my life in a positive way. In spite of a severe nervous breakdown in my 30’s, I like to think that, in general, I have succeeded.  (I have battled with depression all my life but any gay angst has only ever been part of the emotional equation albeit a vital one.)

It is up to all of us - gay or straight - to make the best of things, not the worst, and be positive about ourselves, each other and life in general even when the immediate future may be looking on the bleak side. That’s when the human condition comes into its own, now a pussycat, now a roaring lion. Mind you, everyone has lapses of self-confidence in self and in humanity from time to time, including me.

If the journey to Australia nearly 50 years ago was a nightmare, my stay there was an epiphany. My return to the UK marked the kind of new beginning the poet in me had been yearning for without any real sense of either the what or the how, only the why. Moreover, I no longer felt that gay-interest poetry is something for which I should feel any need to apologise; a poem is a poem is a poem just as a person is a person is a person...regardless of sexuality. Ironic that I had to go to Australia to find myself, true, but well worth it.

EXTRACTS FROM A (GAY) POET’S DIARY

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left wondering
why it should attack now,
this animal lust
for freedom, open spaces
far, far, away from city faces
and grubby streets

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left wondering why
it should strike now,
this hunger for adventure,
need to prove something
although what or to whom
remains to be seen

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left feeling excited
if scared of a caving in
rather than a pressing ahead
with some heady fiction
well aware its return thread
so easily broken

Looking to play the hero
or merely wishing
to please myself for once
instead of always
putting head before heart,
doing the ‘right thing’
(but right for whom after
all's said and done?)

Rage, burning, a life-long
learning in flames;
passion, a feisty yearning
to escape this caged-up
non-life, a Here-and-Now
parody of a lion’s den
where the mouth gone dry,
sweat soaking the brow

Who is it, this other 'Me'
writing up emotions
half killing me to admit
in these early hours
where conscience seeks
respite in its humanity
as if its poetry were indeed
a match for its sword?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2017

[Note: The last stanza has since been added to the original version of this poem that first appeared under the title, ‘A Poet’s Diary’ in  The Third Eye by R. N. Taber Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

T-I-M-E, Hands on a Millennium Clock OR L-I-F-E, Echoes of Sound and Fury


‘Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing...’ – Shakespeare (Macbeth)

Provoked by a classmate, I fought with him in the school playground some 60+ years ago. We were both given detention, and I missed a favourite TV programme as well as having to explain to my mother why I was late home. I protested that it wasn’t my fault, to which she replied, ‘It’s never Anyone’s fault, dear, which is why No one gets anywhere fast because Everyone is too busy blaming Someone Else to actually get to the bottom of things.’ This meant nothing to me at the time, of course, but continues to resonate with me, making sense of a kind it has taken me the better part of a lifetime to grow into…

T-I-M-E, HANDS ON A MILLENNIUM CLOCK or L-I-F-E, ECHOES OF SOUND AND FURY 

Childhood, waved me on
to better days
when grownups take notice
of what I think,
even have the presumption
to offer an opinion

Teenage years greeted me
with false promises,
aspirations soon warned off
by my betters
as overarching my potential,
mere pipe dreams

A working life beckoned
away from schooldays
filled with angst about exams,
impressing peers,
yearning a greater freedom
of personal space

Retirement welcomed me
with a cheery wave,
promising leisure moments filled
with fun and laughter
free from work stress, more time
for family and friends

Old age has the last laugh
on me, them, us,
and a worldwide Family of Man,
exposing home truths
more sinned against than sinning
for sowing confusion?

Such are tales told by an idiot,
signifying nothing…
unless we discern and accept
some responsibility
for our world as it is, and do our bit
to change it for the better

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Back to School OR Rediscovering Letters on Building Bricks, Learning Tools for Grown-Ups

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

While I will always refute the notion that schooldays see us through the best years of our lives, I will always be grateful for a less than happy learning experience that has brought me to where I am now; one which, for better or worse, has more yet in store for me. For just how much longer, only time will tell; no life experience teaches us all the answers although there never was any harm in speculating and trusting that a few, at least, will filter through.

I was like a fish out of water at school for all kinds of reasons, not least because no one picked up on my partial deafness so I missed much of what was being said. Moreover, I am not a very practical person and hopeless at subjects like woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing, which, it being a Technical School, were primary subjects. I learned a lot, though, if only by way of survival skills that would see me through the rest of my life.

Although a ‘low to medium’ achiever’ at school, I had some great teachers and learned a lot; e.g. how to compensate for my deafness by developing a wacky sense of humour that would get me out of all kinds of scrapes; feeding my imagination on classic children’s poetry and literature that would soon find me devouring adult works that, in turn, would serve me well as a mature student at university;  enjoying my ups by coming through my downs with a real sense of having learned something although (of course) I hadn’t thought of it as a learning process at the time; discovering at first hand that self-pity is a waste of any potential for mind, body and spirit left waiting in the wings, demonstrating (only too well) the futility of going nowhere fast.

Oh, and last but not least, those less-than-happy-but-worth-every-minute schooldays taught me to live with myself, warts ‘n’ all. (Rarely a flattering image, but, what the heck…? Sure, escapism by whatever means is all very well, so long as we can get real - with ourselves if not always with each other - whenever needs must.)

Yes, 71 now and still discovering what letters make what words on what building bricks used to make a world...

BACK TO SCHOOL or REDISCOVERING LETTERS ON BUILDING BRICKS, LEARNING TOOLS FOR GROWN-UPS

Old building,
groaning for developers
knocking it down

Empty rooms,
full of jeering ghosts
putting me down

Nightmares,
haunting my every step,
bringing me down

Old school tie,
noose around my neck,
dropping me down

Formative years,
lessons but half learned
letting me down

T-I-M-E, choices
breaking us in, schoolkids
on a joyride

L-I-F-E, a half-ruin
waiting upon developers
to reconstruct us

N-A-T-U-R-E,
kinder ghosts, ready to lend
a helping hand

L-O-V-E,
better teachers, overriding
lesser mortals

P-E-A-C-E
but graffiti on a blackboard
till we can spell

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017






Monday, 10 April 2017

First Among Equals or Nature, Powerhouse of the Spirit


We may like to think we live in an open society, yet behind closed doors thrive secrets of all kinds, not least the human kind.

Open or less open, the world’s societies, communities, and families have kept various secrets since the beginning of time where most if not all of us would happily settle for just one...

FIRST AMONG EQUALS or NATURE, POWERHOUSE OF THE SPIRIT

I have heard a spring rain
challenge trees to open up to us
and share their secrets

I have heard leafy sunshine
serenade flowers with summers
overflowing with secrets

I have seen autumn’s glow
fair reassure the world’s lovers
of keeping their secrets

I have seen wintry clouds
express every intention to betray
all the world’s secrets

Between womb and tomb,
peace of mind, first among equals
in this world of secrets

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Picking Up the Pieces


Regular readers will be aware that I suffered a severe nervous breakdown in 1979. As I began to recover, so I started writing again as much by way of creative therapy as any natural love for the art form. Following an indescribable struggle with mind, body and spirit, I finally regained a sense of ‘normality’ and was fortunate enough to dig myself out of that Black Hole, unemployment, and return to work a few years later. In 2005, I began publishing poems, self-publishing the only option open to me as no literary agents or publishers wanted my gay-interest material and I refused to leave it out.

This poem (a villanelle) has been significantly revised since I published in 2005, itself a (lesser) revision of a (handwritten) version written during the 1990’s. Not one of my better poems, perhaps, although its place in the history of my poetry of no small significance. 

For years now, I have been striving to (a) reach out to readers, (b) share an inner learning curve, and (c) reconcile form and content in my poetry in a way that does some justice to its art form; it has been a long journey, and not over yet. To critics who suggest I should not poet poems until I and they are ‘ready’ I can only say that, having sowed various seeds, I am never quite clear how they might grow until they flower; sometimes they remain but seeds or may sprout shoots that refuse to flower or may flower in ways that are true to a picture on the seed packet.

One way or another, we have to take responsibility for ourselves; playing the blame game never got anybody anywhere hast unless it’s a Black Hole like the one I crawled out of years ago into a self-awareness that insisted I stop playing Jack-in-a Box about being gay and learned to take responsibility for and a pride in a better, kinder self than any which life experience had all but succeeded in moulding me into hitherto.

I’m 71 now, and still learning…

PICKING UP THE PIECES 

We broke the pot,
(Earth Mother cried)
up to us to mend it…

Birthdays forgot,
(the old beggar died)
we broke the pot

Loyalty split,
(so our ‘Betters’ lied?)
up to us to mend it

Peace, it could not
get the better of pride;
we broke the pot

To each our lot;
though humanity divide,
up to us to mend it

Marking the spot
where hope all but died;
we broke the pot,
up to us to mend it…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2017

[Note: A version of this poem first appeared in A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Friday, 31 March 2017

A Question of Perspective


A reader, Helen, has kindly written in to say she and her family enjoy my poetry and she thinks my blogs I deserve more followers. Well, thanks a lot, Helen, encouragement is always welcome. Poetry, though, is not everyone’s cup of tea and I am just happy that the blogs are still going strong after six years via my Google Plus site that links to new and historical posts/poems. I have set the statistics so Google does not count my own views; this gives me a clearer picture of readership. 

Now, today’s little poem was written way back in 1979. Sadly, it strikes me as being even more relevant now than it was then. A neighbour had been complaining to me about retirement, saying how he missed ‘the buzz of real life’ because all there was for the likes of retired people was a second hand existence by courtesy of television and cinema. I suggested keeping up with friends, getting out and about and doing things, going places…pleasures for which we often have little or no time when working full-time and/or bringing up a family…? (Mind you, we need to make time.) He simply shrugged and went indoors to watch an afternoon soap opera.

No, I’m not knocking TV, or the fact that we live in a Digital Age, but now I am retired myself, I enjoy keeping up with friends, getting out and about and doing things, going places…the simple pleasures for which it was often hard making time for when working.

Following a bad fall in summer 2014, I was housebound for months and spent a good year or so learning to walk again. I live alone so TV was a great comfort and companionship (of sorts) in between writing up the blogs, three sessions of (ten) physiotherapy exercises a day and chatting to friends who were kind enough to drop by and help out on a regular basis all the while I could barely walk. I missed getting out and about and do so now as much as I can; even though walking is still quite painful, I have a sturdy oak walking stick, and it is always worth making the effort.

So when I talk to young people rushing home to spend hours on social media, I can’t help feeling they are missing out…

No, I am not knocking on-line social networking, but there can be no substitute for real-life, face to face companionship and banter among friends, not to mention getting out and about in the sunshine…can there? Now I am older (71) and less mobile, it is harder to get out and about and meet people, but (still) always worth making the effort.

Social media. the world wide web, TV...all have a place in our lives, of course they do, but no one's real life balance should be tipped in their favour...surely?

Yes, cyber fun can be good fun, but there's no fun quite like sharing fun in the real-life company of friends, forming and developing interpersonal skills that can teach us as much about ourselves as other people, and will see us though the best part of a lifetime. Oh, and it really isn't a case of you can't teach an old dog new (digital) tricks; this old dog knows a few, and all the better for having learned a good few of the non-digital variety...

A QUESTION OF PERSPECTIVE 

Little birds singing on the garden wall

I’ll not write you up
you’re, too sentimental
for the Age, they say

As one to another you brightly call

I’ll shut the window;
a new soap opera's about
to start on TV  

Bright sunlight distorting everything

screen-lined faces
like grotesque cartoons
in a Hall of Mirrors

Let's close the curtains, better already

all the better now
for armchair perspectives
on the world

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2016

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised since it first appeared under the title 'To a Sunny Day' in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Friday, 17 March 2017

Discernment, Reconciling the Science and Art of a Developing Consciousness


In the late 1960's, I migrated to Australia. In many respects, the whole episode was a disaster, my dream of creating a new life proving just that - a dream. True, I had been told a pack of half-truths at Australia House that misled me into thinking I was making the right decision. True also, that I was in such a panic about getting my life on track that I could not even begin to see any wood (real or proverbial) for its trees.

At the time, my deafness had not been identified. Self-esteem was not high, since I constantly seemed to be misconstruing (for mishearing) people and facts. I knew I wasn’t stupid so covered for my mistakes with a sense of humour that got me out of scrape after scrape but with which I was fast losing patience.  Having acknowledged - to myself at least - at the age of 14 (1959) that I am gay hadn’t exactly boosted my flagging self-confidence since same sex relationships were a criminal offence at the time. In short, I was a mess and if I’d had anyone to confide in who would have listened to me instead of judging me, they would certainly have advised me to face facts and get on with my life. Instead, I ran away from it all. Ironically, this cleared my head and proved to be my salvation.

If returning to the UK was seen by family and friends as an admission of failure, it was one I found able to take on board without feeling a failure.  I had discovered a new self-confidence which, along with a bent for positive thinking would see me through the rest of my life. Oh, it would be no easy ride (whose life is?)  but I was now equipped with an emotional capacity for looking on the bright side of life, no matter what; this would come to my aid in physical and emotional crisis after crisis, not least the death of loved ones, a severe nervous breakdown and more recently a bad fall during which I sustained a badly fractured ankle which left me housebound for months.

It may sound trite but is true nevertheless that sometimes we have to run away from ourselves to come full circle and find ourselves again, presenting to the world an invented self that was, in fact, there all the time but needing to be coaxed out of its customised shell, not led by the nose through various hoops provided by our so-called ‘betters’ to illustrate invention’s nemesis - convention. For the first time, I began to believe in myself.  The year I was 25, I became a student teacher, fell at the first hurdle (teaching practice) on account of my hearing…and compensated by getting a university education instead. Later, I would do a postgraduate course at Library School and spend the rest of my working life as a professional librarian. Oh, life has been no less a roller coaster for all that, but if I haven’t always enjoyed the ride, at least I live to tell the tale. At 71, I have been living with prostate cancer (treated with hormone therapy for six years and despite mobility problems since my accident, remain a Happy Bunny…Well, most of the time.

I will probably never return to Australia but it will always occupy a special place in my heart,. Australia and Australians gave me what I had lacked since early childhood…faith in myself as I am not as certain others would have me be. (Yes, I learned the hard way, but is there an easy one…?)

DISCERNMENT, RECONCILING THE SCIENCE AND ART OF A DEVELOPING CONSCIOUSNESS

I sailed away to a place
in a dream,
only it wasn’t a dream
but a get-away,
running (scared) from a reality
I couldn’t bear

Water, water, everywhere,
co-conspirator
of a loneliness closing in
on me, secret fears
demanding open confrontation,
no hiding place

Sea, sky, and wind
(day after day)
expressing an affinity
with the chaos
of mind-body-spirit seeking
a reconciliation

Cloud faces wherever
I look, masks
that have intimidated me
all my life, needing
to be ripped away, exposing
secrets and lies

Each landfall, a thought
for the day;
revisiting native hosts,
naming them,
raging so at some for having
led me on

I try befriending people.
failing miserably,
probably down to having less
to say for myself
than a child’s comic book hero
making pillow talk

Ah, but isn’t that exactly
how it had been,
an inarticulate desperation
to do something other
than dance some light fandango
at a masque haunt?

A dawning comprehension,
landfall of a kind
likely to grow on us for integrating
with ‘live’ art forms
not incompatible with the science
of human evolution


Copyright R. N. Taber 1969; 2017

[Note: Most of this poem was written this year, but is reflected in lines I scribbled aboard the ship that took me to Australia in 1969 (The Southern Cross) and which I recently discovered folded between the pages of a novel I hadn’t read for years.]


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Poetry Live

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

[Update) March 25, 2017: Well, the poetry evening is well done and dusted. Not a lot of people came but we enjoyed ourselves. (There's nothing quite like live poetry.) Everyone seemed to appreciate my choice of poems and we all got on well during the break which was really nice as some people had only just met for the first time. The arts are meant firstly to entertain and secondly to offer food for thought. Feedback suggests the evening was a success on both counts.

For me, personally, it was hard work but a labour of love so I'm glad I went ahead with it despite being a bag of nerves...which, thankfully, steadied once I got started. This year marks sixty years of getting my poetry into print, given that my first published poem appeared in my school magazine summer 1957. I have also been living with prostate cancer for six years (treated with hormone therapy).

If you enjoy my poems on the blog/s and live in the UK, please help if you possibly can. My page will remain a while longer; every little helps its team in supporting men with prostate cancer - and their families - across the UK:



I have recorded the  poetry reading on my voice recorder although I daresay some editing of the resulting voice file will be necessary.  (I hate the sound of my own voice so will leave that to my friend Graham who shoots and edits the videos on my You Tube channel.) Hopefully, blog readers will eventually be able to link to it.]


I did not have the confidence to read in public for years. However, after a few years of occasionally performing Open Mics at Farrago Poetry evenings in London, I found the self-confidence to accept invitations to give readings around the UK (2003-2014). Only weeks after a reading in 2014, I had a bad fall and have spent much of the last two years learning to walk again. I can get out and about quite well now with the aid of a walking stick, for which I am truly thankful as my left ankle had sustained a complicated fracture and I was warned I might never walk again. Oh, but I love walking and am stubborn enough to defy any harbingers of doom. Even so, I did not expect to give another poetry reading.

Now, this first poem appeared in Visions of the Mind, Spotlight Poets (Forward Press) in 1998 and subsequently in my first collection,  Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001. It is an early piece, written in the summer of 1976 during which I gave an impromptu reading of it in Trafalgar Square to a friend (and several appreciative passers-by who paused to listen.) 

POETRY LIVE

Words

to music, out of words
let the sun rise
in the eyes of that ragged-eared mongrel
curled on George’s doorstep
tongue lolling stupidly
nostrils a-smoke

Words

to music, out of words
let carnival hot dogs
substitute for garden scents,
make easier the stink
of slop-outs in
the gutter

Words

out of choc-smeared mouths
in Bank Holiday sunshine;
kids in glad rags spilling
on the streets like bin bags;
shirtsleeves copper
getting chatty

Poetry

Copyright R. N. Taber 1998; 2017

I never dreamt that 30+ years on I would be reading a selection of my poems there, this time to a global audience via web stream as my contribution to Sir Antony Gormley’s ‘live’ sculpture project, One and Other (2009) sponsored by Sky Arts. To view, click on:

https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20100223131109/http://www.oneandother.co.uk/participants/Roger_T    [NB. Ignore any error message and give it a minute or so to start up; the whole clip lasts an hour.]

Now, as regular readers will know, I remain very positive about my prostate cancer (being treated with hormone therapy) and included it in my reading last night. Sadly, it later transpired that a friend in the audience is having tests for prostate cancer. Hopefully, this will not prove to be the case. In any event, it is a worrying time for him. Whatever the outcome, I like to think the poem will help him to stay positive.

RIPOSTE, TO THE DARKER SIDE OF NATURE or LIVING WITH PROSTATE CANCER, SEIZING THE DAY

Gripped by fear,
I could but direct it elsewhere,
yet it keeps returning,
this awful cancer stalking me
like a predator

Away, dark fear,
and let me get on with my life.
Go, feed elsewhere.
I’m only human, but no easy
prey for a predator

Seized by doubt,
I can but trust positive thinking
will yet prevent
this awful cancer turning me
inside out

Away, negativity,
always on hand to undermine me
wherever I lend an ear 
to voices arguing the wisdom
of my choices

Let me not resist a need
for comfort food and fiercer hugs
than ever before
to restore poor self-confidence,
give love its head

Come, Earth Mother,
and never let go of my free hand
as with the other I’ll sign
to mind, body, spirit, and world,
we’re not done

Yes, I will survive
whatever this cancer throws at me,
instincts insisting I embrace
all a feisty spirituality has to give
in its place

Let nature have its way;
together, we will no more concede
any disease its V-Day
than see human beings put down
just for being gay



Copyright R. N. Taber 2011