Tuesday, 25 April 2017

T-I-M-E, (Subdued) 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…


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
angst about passing exams,
impressing peers,
yearning a greater freedom
of personal space

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

Old age, it has the last laugh
on me, them, us,
and all humankind worldwide 
for harvesting home truths
if as sinned against as sinning
for sowing confusion

Such is a tale told by an idiot,
signifying nothing…
unless we discern and accept
our share of responsibility
for the world as it is, 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


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...


Old building,
groaning for developers
knocking it down

Empty rooms,
full of jeering ghosts
putting me down

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

kinder ghosts, ready to lend
a helping hand

better teachers, overriding
lesser mortals

but graffiti on a blackboard
till we can spell

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Monday, 10 April 2017

Nature, Powerhouse of Secrets

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 (human and natural) - along with its various communities and families - have nurtured a whole world of secrets since the beginning of time .

For better or worse, appearances are invariably deceptive. 


I have heard a spring rain
cajole the world open up to us
a whole world of secrets

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

I have heard autumnal hues 
reassuring all the world’s lovers
of keeping their secrets

I have heard a wintry wind
express every intention to expose 
even the best kept secrets

Between its womb and tomb,
peace of mind forced into hiding
by a whole world of secrets

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 2 April 2017

On the Mend

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…


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: An earlier version of this poem first appeared under the title 'Picking Up the Pieces' in A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]