Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Zen of Renewal


So many people tell me every year that they dread January 1st, a whole new year stretching ahead that is unlikely to live up to either Happy Christmas or New Year celebrations. January sales on the High Street are more likely to be suspect than generous (shifting unwanted stock) and any excitement over ‘bargains’ short-lived. So, what next? What, indeed…? Dare I suggest it is down to us…not circumstances-beyond-our-control or fate by any other name …but us. Oh, we are not entirely in control of whatever life dishes us. That is SO true. We ARE, though, in control (if we choose to take it) of how – in the longer term at least – we choose to respond. We all have choices and some of these are not easily made, but choosing positives over negatives has to be a good thing…doesn’t it?

Oh, and many thanks to those readers who get in touch from time to time, always good to hear from you. Please remember, though, that if you use the Comments box, I cannot reply unless you include an email address. (Although I never post comments - favourable or critical - I always read them.)

Wishing you all a very HAPPY  and POSITIVE NEW YEAR,
Roger

THE ZEN OF RENEWAL

Another year begs
to be enjoyed for its own sake,
not as reparation
for others that have let us down,
failed to live up
to expectations feeding dreams
that fail to mature…
because that’s just how it is,
the way we are?

Another year
pleads a chance to prove itself,
not as reparation
for glossing over past misfortunes
turning mountains
into molehills so the human ego
can rest easy…
because that’s just how it is,
the way we are?

Another year
when looking back at negatives
will get us nowhere
unless it’s back where we started
before we began
to get wise to false promises
and fake news…
because that’s just how it is,
the way we are?

Another year,
urging mind-body-spirit to listen
to its weaker self
focusing on losses, regrets, mistakes,
and making excuses
for not looking on the bright side
of life…
because that’s just how it is,
the way we are?

Another year,
making time to let a dawn chorus
reassure us all
that nature and human nature but wait
to be embraced
in a spirit of hope-peace-love
(raison d’ĂȘtre)
because that’s just how it is,
the way we are

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018






Friday, 29 December 2017

The Play's the Thing OR Audience Appreciation Paramount


‘One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and nature shall not be broken.’ – Leo Tolstoy

That quote leapt to mind one evening only recently as I recalled observing a glorious sunset from my bedroom window that looked over the backyard and garden of my childhood family home.  I experienced such a link then, like an electric current so powerful it made my head swim and almost knocked me off my feet.

I was only 13 years-old at the time, and that feeling of intense, personal bonding with nature has never left me even in my darkest moments. Whenever people let me down (as people are inclined from time to time) I go for a walk in the country, let Earth Mother  dry any tears and lend me the strength to rise above any ill feeling.  

Nature, too, of course lets us down sometimes; Earth Mother can be a harsh mentor. Yet, mentors teach and the better pupil will learn. While we should not cherry pick what we choose to take on board or reject, I suspect most if not all of us do just that. Whatever, I look around and see the world Shakespeare once likened to a stage as parts of a whole, and I bond with that whole, and the whole is nature.

I also recall my English Teacher at secondary school, commenting that we are to nature as nature is to us, and the sooner humanity gets to grips with that, the greater its chances of survival.  Like everyone else in Class 5B, I nodded and said “Yes, sir!” although none of us had a clue what he meant at the time. When I summon that moment to my mind’s eye now, though, more than half a century later, I am not in class at all, but that same bedroom window experiencing an epiphany in a sunset…

THE PLAY'S THE THING or AUDIENCE APPRECIATION PARAMOUNT

Glad blue skies, a stagy backcloth
to sad, naked branches
barely hinting at far kinder times
yet to come once winter
has worked its worst on humanity
for wanting to prove itself
better, stronger than Earth Mother
while working its worst
on all things bright, beautiful
and freely given

Sad clouds leading us a merry dance
for wondering if any tears
that may (or may not) fall are meant
to harm (even kill) or nurture,
inspire, re-invent an ethos of peace,
love, kindness and respect
for nature, human nature, all-inclusive
no cherry picking for any ego
demanding the bright and beautiful
serve its own interests

Grey skies, making no sure promises
(or threats) to naked humanity
anxious to avoid the worst of nature
yet to come once winters
of the heart have worked their worst
on human mind-body-spirit
obsessed with survival for its own sake
rather than acknowledging it
all the brighter and more beautiful
for freely given

Amber-red skies, reflecting uncertainty
on earth as it is in heavens
anxious to see us avoid the very worst
we knowingly or unknowingly
propagate for the sake of a greater good
as reworked by dogma
bent on killing freedom of expression
by imaging only the brighter
and more beautiful in its own eyes,
on its own terms

Wide, open skies, ever inviting all nature
and human nature to a life
freely given, never for the asking or taking
besides Time’s remit
written in tablets of stone before its seasons
flowered, died and rose again
as humankind woke, slept and woke again;
testimony to old gods, new gods
and digitalised mock-ups... no match
for Earth Mother
  

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Touching Base with Christmas


Every year for some years now I have written a secular Christmas poem to share with certain people on my mind and, of course, my blog readers. 

Although I am not a Christmassy person (not religious and some bad memories) that doesn't mean I don't wish everyone else a happy time. 

Sadly, not everyone will enjoy a happy festive season for a variety of reasons; to those people, I can but wish peace, love and hope, trusting that all three may prove as inspiring company as they have to me through 72 years of life's ups and downs...despite their failing from time to time to live up to my greater expectations.

Happy Christmas everyone and thanks for your company.
Wishing you all peace and Love always,
Roger

TOUCHING BASE WITH CHRISTMAS

Christmas,
recalling our better memories,
(forgiving the worst?)

Christmas,
gifts large, small, or none at all
(as the case may be)
in a spirit of tradition invariably
failing to (quite) equate
with the lighter, kinder side
of expectation

Christmas,
paying lip service to appearances
(or be found wanting?)

Christmas,
needs must make the carol  service,
let the local church
lend a flavour of common humanity
to a sense of spirituality
all but blinded by the full-on glare
of festivity

Christmas,
wishing love and peace to everyone
(or just a select few?)

Christmas,
absentees making their presence felt
for better or worse,
the latter glossed over in a rosy glow
of Here-and-Now
leaving the lonely looking back
in tears

Christmas,
to a homeless person, the occasional
Good Samaritan

Christmas,
star-crossed lovers and family rejects
(gay folks among them)
making a case for building bridges
even if (finally) having
to concede that old habits
die hard

Christmas,
a chance to touch base with peace, love,
and each other
  
Copyright R. N. Taber 2017


Thursday, 7 December 2017

Somewhere In-Between

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

When not directly involved, it is often possible to see both sides of an argument or divisive situation. We then, of course, leave ourselves open to the accusation that we’re sitting on the proverbial fence. Well, as my mother used to say, there is nothing wrong with that so long as we are prepared to jump down and take sides should the need arise.

Seeing both sides can help us to move a peace process along; it can also create further divisions and lose us friends among those convinced they are in the right so everyone else must not only be in the wrong but an ‘enemy’ for thinking so. (I dare say I'm not the only person to have been squeezed out of certain areas of circulation in that way.)

Yes, life can be tough for the inbetweeners of this world. Mind you, as I have already pointed regarding my mother's wise advice, no one can sit on any fence forever and we all need to be prepared to jump down on one side or the other when (as invariably it does) push comes to shove... I

SOMEWHERE IN-BETWEEN

Day is day
as night is night;
in-between, a twilight
always playing tug-of-war
with us

Love is love
as hate is hate,
yet we can always find an affinity
with both

Dreamers dream
as nightmares haunt,
infiltrating a native stoicism
in us

Beggars beg
while rich men profit
insinuating a sense of fatalism
in us

Brave is brave
as scared is scared,
yet we can always find an affinity
with both

Day is day
as night is night;
in-between, a twilight
always playing tug-of-war
with us


Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

More than Handfuls of Dust


I discovered the original version of this poem in a drawer while collating a collection in 2007; it was dated May 1979, only months before I had a nervous breakdown from which it would take me a few years to recover. 

Regular readers will know that I often revise poems, sometimes only slightly, sometimes drastically, but always significantly. This doesn't mean I lack confidence in a poem at the time, only that my perception of whatever feelings prompted me to write the poem in the first place have changes or at east shifted. Many poems in my early collections were  written long before I achieved any level of maturity as a poet although not all have been subsequently revised. I have no regrets about publishing them, though, if only because this maturation (an on-going process) fascinates me; hopefully, readers might find it - as well as the poems - of some interest too. too.

Meanwhile...

By all means let’s reach for the stars…but be sure not to strive so hard that we miss what is under our very noses.

MORE THAN HANDFULS OF DUST 

Reaching for the stars,
(only in lonely hours);
reaching for the moon,
(only for hope gone)

Reaching for a rainbow,
(only in sorrow)
reaching for sunbeams,
(only in daydreams)

Reaching to pluck clouds
from the sky
only making us cry

Reaching to savour songs
from leaves
flying in our faces

Reaching out to the world
on Main Street,
be a part of 'all that'

Reaching for imagination,
(only for motivation);
reaching for a redemption,
(only for salvation)

Searching for peace of mind,
among all humankind;
sure to find (let us dare trust)
more than handfuls of dust

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2017

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appeared in 1st eds. of Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.] 


Sunday, 5 November 2017

In a Word, Presence


When people used to ask why I consider myself an agnostic rather than an atheist, I found it a difficult question to answer in a way they might (hopefully) understand. That I subscribe to no religion is easy to explain in so far as religion is so divisive and in this sense alone (as far as I am concerned) the essence of hypocrisy, advocating peace and love but only on its terms.

Regular readers will know I find a sense of spirituality in nature to which I can relate while religion (any religion) strikes me as offering nothing but principles inconsistent with the values they purport to expound and expect of the individual. At the same time, the concept of an all-inclusive force for good in the world is one of which I may be sceptical but cannot dismiss, having experienced it at first-hand from men and women in all walks of life whom I feel privileged to call a mentor.

So how do I see God? Well, much as I see nature (and why discriminate?) as a shining light, a force for good by any other name.

To those who argue that God created the natural world, I would suggest that it is humankind that created the word God, not least by way of explaining away the inexplicable given that even the best scientists don’t have all the answers. While religion may well offer a safety net of sorts for whatever, if anything, happens when we die, it is enough for me that spring follows winter.

For all its destructive powers, nature is more inclined to side with principles of growth and renewal far more meaningful (for the likes of yours truly) than any persuasive rhetoric expounded by clerics worldwide.

'Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.' - Voltaire

IN A WORD, PRESENCE

I know not who, what
or where, yet I feel its presence 
here, in the very heart
of me, no less a part of me
than the sun by day 
or moon and stars by night,
rain, too, nurturing 
a world that, when all is said
and done...
knows precious little
for certain once its rhetoric
found its target...
body-mind-spirit left in the dark
were a force for good 
not here, there, everywhere...
urging us to better things,
better ways than else we'd know 
without any sense 
of its light breaking through

World, its cry assailing
the ear where none so deaf
that will not hear,
urging us shed any shackles
of personal history
or public concerns, break chains
for a joining of hands
in Peace and Love defying
any leading lights
in whatever dogma undermining 
self-confidence,
by making veiled threats
about being sentenced to hell 
and damnation
on Judgement Day when it's they
who are judge and jury
where it's human conscience
will have the last word

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2017

[Note: An earlier version of this poem first appeared under the title 'In a Word' in an anthology, In the Dreams of Angels, Triumph House [Forward Press] 2001 and subsequently in my first collection Love and Human Remains, Assembly Books, 2001]

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

When Winter Comes


For many of us, November means we needs must brace ourselves for what could well be a hard winter ahead weather-wise. Others may well face a testing winter of the heart, wherever they may be, regardless of time and seasons. Some may well argue it’s a case of the survival of the fittest, meaning physically, and there is a lot of truth in that, but the physically weak can also be emotionally strong; strong enough to rise above depression, anxiety, everyday concerns …

We have but to give a natural lust for life its head and the chances are its predilection for positive thinking will, in time, rescue us from the pull of negative forces, bypass even the most heroic stoicism, and allow an innate optimism, Hope’s much loved bed-fellow, to once again play a leading role in our lives.

Wherever we may be in the world, whatever its weather patterns, day will always follow night just as winter will always follow spring on the calendar of nature and human nature alike; the latter, though, needs must find a way to turn on the power of mind-body-spirit to save its natural spiritedness from dying just long enough to rediscover that raison d’ĂȘtre which has to be as good a metaphor for spring as any other.

WHEN WINTER COMES

Oh, but when winter comes,
I look around and see trees stripped bare,
and petals in tatters where flowers
once lifted this heart now close to tears
for having watched the swallows fly south
that once greeted its spring

Oh, but when winter comes,
I look around at snowfall on the ground,
see children playing, laughing,
making merry with each other instead
of being glued to social media in a world
whose seasons rolled into one

Oh, but when winter comes
find the days grow shorter, nights longer,
all the more so for a prevailing
north wind wailing like some lost spirit
of summer trying to find its way back home,
familiar landmarks wiped out

Oh, but when winter comes,
I’ll see robins give the lie to defeatism 
in as sweet a song as ever there was
to fill a sad heart with hope for a future
beyond any wintry landscape’s implying
positive thinking is a cruel hoax

Oh, but when winter comes,
I’ll get together with friends, make light
of any feelings of empty days
or lonely nights for hearts beating in time
to what is, after all, but an overture to spring
composed-performed by nature

Oh, but when winter comes,
may divided societies around the world
yet join hands and dance
to the music of its time, fan any flickering
peace-liberty-fraternity into a flaming spring, 
season of second chances...

Copyright R N Taber, 2017

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Competing with Ghosts


Much if not most of what we do and say - for better or worse, good or ill - has consequences for ourselves and/or others, either directly or indirectly, now or later.

Whether we accept or deny our part in any such consequences - for whatever reasons - we have to live with both reasons and consequences. This may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what we may have said or done or chosen not to say or do, as the case may be; since saying and/or doing nothing can have consequences of no less significance than being actively (or even passively) involved in a particular chain of events,.

Whatever, we are left with clear choices; accept responsibility, deny responsibility, lay it at someone else’s door altogether or delude ourselves that we are absolved of any blame (where any might be attached) if only because we could not possibly have foreseen how certain events, thus triggered, might unravel, especially  given the unpredictability of human nature.

Ah, yes, human nature… the most feeble yet probably the more convincing of all excuses for our own shortcomings, especially with regard to certain perceptive qualities we like to think of as an acquired wisdom and are therefore reluctant to admit we may have been misguided, not to mention downright wrong.

A colleague once commented on there being no point in dwelling on the graver mistakes we make as we go through life, how ‘The only thing to do is kill them stone dead and move on...’ - which has to be one of the best descriptions I’ve yet to hear of a posthumous consciousness inhabited by ghosts likely to haunt its owner evermore. Yes, we can (hopefully) learn from our mistakes and try to make some redress for them. At the same time, they are kin to those proverbial sleeping dogs, likely to wake and disturb even the most carefully constructed comfort zone at any time…

COMPETING WITH GHOSTS

Now and then,
a ghost searches archives
of the human spirit
for mixed feelings to explore
and touch base
with a mind-body ethos
imaging a finger tip
pricked by thorns on a rose
drawing blood

Now and then
ghosts gather to consult
with each other
about the best ways to rectify
errors of judgement,
bring subsequent wrongs
to the attention  
of any directly (or indirectly)
feeding on them

Now and then,
a ghost will reason a need
to come clean
about such misdemeanours
as least intended
to result in hauntings
of the worst kind
for want of a broader (kinder)
take on life

Now and then,
a ghost will home in on us,
confront us
with such past-present-future
leftovers of time
as buried alive in the heart
by a seventh sense
naming names, hearing voices,
calling us out

As for what action
we may or may well not take
by way of an answer…
to each of us the same choices;
find a way to let ghosts
rest in peace at whatever cost
or disown Conscience,
block access to its archives once
and for all...?

Let the human ego
reinvent itself as and when it may,
it cannot unsay
what’s said or undo what’s done,
least of all rewrite
archives comprising life choices
and consequences
pertaining to the least favourable
self-portraiture

Self-discipline
demands things left unsaid, undone
than let the worst in us
its gamut run until the best in us
is left undervalued,
darker shadows casting farthest
and lasting longer
for archives remaining vulnerable
to sensationalism

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Wreck, Permanent Access


Today's poem was inspired by the wreck of a boat found on mud flats in Grays (Essex) and photographed for blog readers by my close friend Graham Collett who also shoots the videos for my You Tube channel. There is, of course, no mist in the photo -  nor was there at the time - so you can see just what it was that caught my imagination. Once caught, it is only a matter of time before it is expressed in one or another art form by the observer's ever present if often unpredictable Muse; in my case, a poem.

[Photo by Graham J. Collett)

THE WRECK, PERMANENT ACCESS

Looming in an autumnal mist
as if out of nowhere…
a wreck once on its way,
who knows where
or why, even cares any more,
so many years gone by, tales told,
reworked, and told again?

Mildly protesting waves cradling
the cadaver like a family
anxious to save one of its own
any greater grief
from a lively imagination weaving
a tapestry of let’s-pretend memories
among various art forms

Dead wood, live spirit, ever ripe
for pickings by the inner eye
on the alert for choice moments
from nature’s archives;
likewise, an ear no less sensitive
to echoes of a past crowding senses,
reclaiming its voices…

Mist thickening, wreck vanishing
from view as if dying another
of a thousand deaths lent its tragedy
at the moment of its drowning
by such guardian ghosts as allow
mind-body-spirit permanent access
to nature and human nature

Copyright R. N. Taber





Sunday, 15 October 2017

Death in Vegas


All our hearts must surely go out to the families and friends killed and injured in the recent Las Vegas massacre.

I have known Americans for and against existing gun laws in the U.S over many years; the latter, invariably sick of always being shouted down by those for whom any change in laws enshrined in the Constitution would be tantamount to an infringement of their human rights. Even some family members and friends of the many who have been killed or maimed in terrible shooting incidents like that in Las Vegas recently continue to demand what they seem to see as a natural right to protection by arming themselves. (How does stricter control of the sale of guns infringe anyone’s Human Rights?)

Many argue that existing gun laws in the U.S. should not be seen as having been inscribed on tablets of stone; not only more appropriate to its pioneer days than a modern America but also  responsible for continuing outbreaks of violence on its streets, including such carnage as witnessed in Las Vegas. Relatively rare such shocking events may be, at least on such a scale, but isn’t it high time for some serious, informed, common sense debate on the subject without the powerful gun lobby invariably getting the upper hand by such under hand tactics as accusing the opposition of disloyalty to - even betrayal of and disrespect for - their country’s finer democratic principles?

Readers may think that, as an Englishman, America’s gun laws are none of my business and they may well be right. Even so, people from all over the world visit the U.S. for pleasure and business. I enjoyed a 4-week stay there myself some years ago. Doesn’t everyone deserve to feel less at risk by antiquated gun laws that simply need tightening?  

Should any law be considered sacrosanct in its original form where a few common sense amendments might well save even just one human life? I suspect we all know what the dead would say if they had a voice so maybe it’s time they were given one…? Don't all those comprising democratic societies bear some responsibility for that?

'Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind...' John Donne

Ah, I can all but hear one American friend say, but Donne was an Englishman and the English have no idea about other cultures. That may well be true, but - not least because I am gay man, I am reminded of the African-American writer Ernest J. Gaines on record for asking, 'Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?'

Food for thought, at least, surely...?

DEATH IN VEGAS 

Country ways in the city,
music for building dreams by
for eye and ear

Grass growing greener
in a city pretending not a care
in the world

Celebration on location,
sunny faces wreathed in smiles,
poetry of joy

Suddenly, out of nowhere,
all is chaos, devastation, grudges
out of the past

Random shots at the sun
if only to show Man's darker side
(for what, sport?)

Ask the birds and the wildlife
whose freedom was meant to count
for something

Ask folks on Las Vegas Strip
one October evening about legends
on tablets of stone...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

London, UK, October 3rd 2017


Monday, 9 October 2017

A Leaf out of Time

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

Another old poem, this, recently unearthed under layers of dust in a cupboard; it reveals a love affair with rhyme that has lasted the best part of a lifetime although I seem to have rekindled  another on-off affair with blank verse recently.

At school, more years ago than I care to remember, we were sometimes given homework by our English teacher, ‘Jock’ Rankin the title of which would comprise just a few words. We were expected to  comment at any length (or brevity) on these words and what they meant to us; subsequently, the best comments would be shared with and debated in class another time.  One such title was Beginnings and Endings. After much head scratching, I asked my mother what on earth there was to say about beginning and endings other than they…well, begin and end?

My mother merely shrugged over the ironing, “It depends how you choose to see either, I suppose. I mean, some of us see endings as no more or less than beginnings that have run their course and are up for something new…”

Jock was impressed and asked me where I had found the quote. When I said, my mother, he asked me to thank her for making his day.

Oh, but I love autumn, so beautiful if tinged with sadness; memories of spring and summer held in safe-keeping by Earth Mother to be rummaged and enjoyed over and over through even the worst winters...

A LEAF OUT OF TIME

I floated on an autumn leaf,
in a world still half-asleep,
kept company with sparrows,
saw willow trees weep

I watched the hands of time
sign warnings to passers-by
concerning the fall of Icarus,
its so-easy How and Why

I saw a fox home in for a kill
heard its victim’s last cry,
protesting an ages-old truth,
a time to live, a time to die

I heard a camp queen singing
a love song, loud and clear,
lasting memories of a summer
though its winter draw near

Breeze dropping, the leaf too
that once had pride of place,
tossing me aside, end of a ride
through time and space

I fell into moss, no harm done;
indeed, a lesson learned,
how each new day, as being gay,
but turns in Nature’s hand

Copyright R. N. Taber 1982; 2017













Sunday, 1 October 2017

Lost in Thought, an Autumn Reverie


As a student of English and American literature at the University of Kent in Canterbury in the 1970’s, I enjoyed reading the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. I dipped into his Notebooks and could  easily relate to this entry then just as, in my 70’s now, I still can, notwithstanding a mobility problem:

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."

[Notebook, Oct. 10, 1842]

LOST IN THOUGHT, AN AUTUMN REVERIE

Autumn leaves on a lake
caught like flies in a spidery web
of glittering sunlight

Breaking free in a breeze,
skimming feisty ripples, courtesy
of a north-westerly wind

Some taking off, low fly past
over sad trees standing at attention
for once-time companions

Others, caught in a sudden lull,
returned to the lake or as prodigals
to the earth’s safe-keeping

Somewhere, woodlands sounding
its Last Post by way of acknowledging
all its seasoned veterans

Glittering sunlight on a lake,
dead leaves like flies in a spidery web,
observers lost in thought

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017



Saturday, 30 September 2017

Redbreast


There’s a wintry chill in the air. A neighbour remarked how she dreads winter, not least for its contagious sense of despair. True, in a sense, of course.  Even so the natural world never quite gives up on spring - however it may seem it has sometimes - and neither should ours.

(Photo taken from the Internet)
REDBREAST

A wintry frost,
but nature not (quite) done yet
with downpours
of splendid reds and gold,
so easy on the eye

A wintry smell
but nature not (quite) done yet
with the scents
of kinder seasons lulling humanity
into false hopes

A wintry song,
its message never (quite) finding
redbreast
preparing to make an heroic stand
against an ill wind

Redbreast, candles to help us see
through the dark


Copyright R. N. Taber 2017