Friday, 2 December 2016

Christmas at the Going Rate


This poem was written in 1997 and first appeared in a poetry magazine based in Canterbury before I included it in my first poetry collection.  I wrote it after shopping in the West End of London and being shocked at seeing so many homeless people huddled in sleeping bags in shop doorways and on the steps of theatres. 

Fourteen years on, London, like so many big cities around the world, continues to be haunted by its homeless. It is a sad reflection on the 21st century, in particular its finely rhetoric-tuned, comfortably-off world leaders in politics and religion/s world-wide. [Does anyone really believe they put the interests of the everyday man, woman and child in the street before their own?]

CHRISTMAS AT THE GOING RATE

Starling on the snowy bough,
where will you go now
as you stir your wings to fly
across this sorry sky?
Better off than I, stuck here
(sitting pretty enough in a world
dishing pity to its cardboard men);
I pause and you disappear;
Bells ring out Christmas cheer
to celebrate the Church's share
in a saviour for all seasons, who
taught the heart needs not its reasons
to care about another, rich or poor,
saint or sinner. A tramp passes.
Good souls pause to wipe their glasses
and better their chances
on Judgement Day - doling out
a sweet reprieve of misery
(and all for 50p). Now, let's hurry,
we'll be late; carols at eight
or was it nine?

Thinly drawn, cardboard line

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2016


[From: Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001]

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

N-A-T-U-R-E, Imaging Eternity OR Beyond Known Parameteres


It seems to me that we often overlook the simpler pleasures of life in our enthusiasm for the more exotic or whatever is most likely to impress family, peers and neighbours. A friend once commented, ‘We never know long we’ve got so all the more reason to cram in as much as we can while we can.’ I get that, but not everyone is a crammer; we all want different things from life and just because someone does not appear to have a lot to show for his or her life doesn’t mean they have not live it, in their own wat and time, to the full.

Now, every so often, someone asks me why I often write about death. Well, as a positive thinker, I try to be as positive about the inevitability of death as I do about making the most of each day as it comes, no matter what it may bring. Besides, I have been living with prostate cancer for nearly six years now so shying away from death is not an option. Not that I have any intention of letting the Grim Reaper have his way with me just yet! (Better to be positive, surely?)

It has been suggested by those who do not know me very well that I should ‘find God’ and therefore need have no fear of death. They mean well, of course, but I have never been able to relate to any religion or idea of a personified ‘God’. Nor am I am an atheist, though, but more of an agnostic in as much as I do believe in a sense of spirituality that enhances our customised vision of the world; outwardly and inwardly. However, as regular readers well know, I take that sense of spirituality from nature, not religion.


Oh, and why, too, do I have a fondness for robins? Not least because they are survivors, known to see out the worst winters if only to sing in another spring, reminding us all that, of all nature’s gifts, hope has to be among the best on offer. (And should hope die in some bleak winter of the heart? Well, as spring follows winter so, too, might we…?)

N-A-T-U-R-E, IMAGING ETERNITY or BEYOND KNOWN PARAMETERS

No one ever lays flowers,
comes even to rework old times,
but an old tree reads poems
that passes for a fitting eulogy,
and a robin sings

No memorial marks the spot,
none have cause to pause this way,
but shadows make a play
for life at Apollo’s pleasure,
and seeds grow

Each of four winds has a say
in how the tree needs must recite;
leafy branches acting out
rhythm, rhyme, blank verse,
(all weathers)

Mark how seasons play a part,
anticipating nature’s every mood,
overseeing a predilection
for happy-sad shades of green,
amber, red and mould

No let-up by day or night,
the tree passing on its every nuance
of sight and sound to each man,
woman and child with any feeling
for the natural world

Nature may well see us through
time’s ever-changing kaleidoscope,
yet humanity has far more say
than any leaves in what patterns
it may shape us…?

Ah, but such is human nature,
it may yet branch out on leafy whim
to make, break, let rise or fall
such passions of the human heart
as a robin sings
  
Roger N. Taber (2016)





Thursday, 3 November 2016

Rhetoric of Mortality, Poetry of Life

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

Update (May 2016): A reader has been in touch to ask for the link to an interview I recently gave a student at my old university (some 40+ years ago) about my poetry for a multi-media project on 'an interesting person'. It was fun. Moreover, it warms the cockles of this septuagenarian's heart to know people still find me interesting. Unfortunately, this reader used the Comments button, but did not include an e-mail address so I am posting it again here.]

https://r224e31251.racontr.com/index.html  (NB. Copy into your browser to access this link.)

Meanwhile…

My mother died in 1976. I once asked her what she wanted out of life. She replied, ‘All I ask is that people remember and think well of me after I’m dead.’

What more can any of us ask for, eh?

RHETORIC OF MORTALITY, POETRY OF LIFE

Come a time I’ll close my eyes forever,
never again observe a waking day,
think of me with love as a new sun rises,
and weep not, but look for me there

Come a time I’ll close my ears forever.
hear dawn’s sweet chorus no more,
think of me as heavens make glad music,
and weep not, but listen for me there

Come a time my senses fail me forever,
never again smell a rain-kissed earth,
think of me as flowers open their petals,
and weep not, but walk with me there

Come a time we’ll have run life’s gamut,
may the dream that was ours never fade,
but merge into Earth Mother’s natural art
created for all our sakes and we for it


Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2016

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

W-A-R, Living on the other Side of Light OR Humanity, a Dark History


November 11, Armistice Day, is not far away; it will see the commemoration of an armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at Compiègne, an agreement that ended the fighting on the Western Fron that went into effect at 11 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918. While it marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, it was not a formal surrender; although the armistice ended all actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude a peace treaty, the Treaty of Versailles.

Today’s poem first appeared in Ydrasil (2009) and Poetry Monthly International (2010) [without an alternative title] before I included it in my collection. I wrote it soon after a former soldier I’d met in a bar had been telling me about a friend and former comrade who was in prison. The friend has been found guilty of attacking an ‘innocent’ party who had been goading him about looking better in uniform than in a suit. Apparently, he was on probation at the time. My companion commented, ‘It’s hard. You go to a war zone a whole person but each time you come back it’s like something more of that person is missing. Part of you dies out there or goes AWOL at the very least. I guess how much so is different for everyone…’

Many ex-service personnel (anyone, anywhere) need help to adjust to everyday life once they are home again either on leave or after being discharged. While it is important to help the injured and support the bereaved, there are also men and women who carry no visible signs of having been to war, but are just as much in need of our support and understanding as well as (in some cases) professional counselling. 

The man in the bar told me something else. ‘You have to be tough to fight, really tough. Show any weakness, and if the enemy doesn’t get you, your own side will. Back home, it can often feel like there’s a total stranger living in your skin and the chances are you don’t like that person at all. It's like the old self is all but dead. Sometimes the best part of that old self will make its way back, sometimes not. I dare say it’s the same for both sides in any war…’

This poem is a villanelle.

W-A-R, LIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF LIGHT or HUMANITY, A DARK HISTORY

I so look up to you with love and pride
for all the best qualities you nurture
where a light in you has all but died…

That first time you went to war, I cried
while you but longed for adventure;
I so look up to you with love and pride

In Iraq, your worst fears chose to hide
behind a ‘true grit’ human nature
where a light in you has all but died…

In Afghanistan, you fought side by side
with the bravest, a born again warrior;
I so look up to you with love and pride

You saw friends killed or injured, tried
to see hell as part of a bigger picture
where a light in you has all but died…

You seemed to take it all in your stride,
even carrying coffins on your shoulder;
I so look up to you with love and pride,
where a light in you has all but died…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012; 2016

[Note: This poem appears under the title 'Missing, Believed Killed' in 1st eds. of Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Book, 2012; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Read the Hand, Write us Up OR Back to School


By now readers will know the so-called Arab Spring has left those countries involved no better if not worse off than before. Well, that's world politics for you...]

Civil war has all but broken out in Libya yet People Power continues to make its voice heard across North Africa and the Middle East, ordinary men and women desperate for democratic reform and risking their lives for it.  The human spirit is strong if vulnerable, proving time and time again that it can and will rise above tragedy.  Perhaps, though, if more Western politicians even half understood Middle East politics and neither side did not always assume they know best...

As for Earth Mother, she is a fickle mistress. Nature gives and nature takes away. Perhaps, though, if we were a sight less inclined to bite its hand that feeds us, we might yet find ourselves in better shape to prevent humankind going to the dogs of war that have haunted its every step since the beginning of time.

The poem first appeared in Poetry Monthly International (2010) and subsequently in my collection.

READ THE HAND, WRITE US UP or BACK TO SCHOOL

There’s a hand that caresses the first buds of spring
and bids them grow;
it moves among summer corn in time for harvesting
by courtesy of Apollo

Where autumn’s leaves making ready for its turning,
it bestows a blessing;
when winter brings us to our knees, of life despairing,
it beckons us to spring

Where we run the gamut of love, hate, peace and war,
find, too, Earth Mother;
let Her fair hand caress and smooth the troubled brow
or we destroy each other

The question arises, dare we bite the hand that feeds us
and face the consequences
or do we accept it in a spirit of goodwill to all humanity,
put aside our differences?

Beware, or the hand that rocks the cradle may let it drop,
our world break up,
needs must, we learn to read the hand that’s writing us up
or else…Armageddon

Back to school

Copyright R. N. Taber 200; 2016

Note: This poem was first published (without alternative title) in Poetry Monthly International, February 2010 and subsequently Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012.]






Monday, 24 October 2016

Two Poems for Halloween


Halloween is almost upon us. Yet, it is not only at Halloween that we hear talk of ghosts at various social events and celebrations.

Now, Halloween is reputedly a time for witches and warlocks. So did witches and warlocks have no time for love? Moreover, what of their sexual persuasion, and who are we to make assumptions? As for ghosts…I dare say we all have our share of those.

In effect, Halloween is just a date on the calendar. We may well associate it with ‘Trick or Treat’ but I suspect most if not all of us find ourselves playing mind games now and then; with our various selves as well as with others, and they with us. (Let’s face it. Halloween isn’t the only time some of us love or even prefer to wear masks - metaphorically speaking, of course - so no one can read our faces.)

True, Halloween may well be as good a time as any to choose whether to let our ghosts persist in personifying our worst nightmares or invest them with benign fantasy and give peace of mind a fighting chance, whatever it takes. Gay or straight, though, who needs Halloween for that...?

Now, what’s this, general and gay interest poems for Halloween on the same page?

Many people (gay and straight alike) ask why I don’t necessarily treat gay-interest poems as a separate literary form, culture or issue. (Why should it ever be an issue?)  By default, I have gay-interest and general blogs although my fiction blog includes general along with gay-interest fiction and my Google Plus site also includes both gay-interest and general poems. .

As I have said before on the blogs, as far as I am concerned, no art form deserves to be singled out for its content alone in so far as that content relates to any sexual persuasion. In a nutshell, a poem is a poem is a poem just as a person is a person is a person, regardless of any LGBT or heterosexual associations. It is what goes into a poem and what readers may (or may not) get out of it that matters; the same principle applies to any art form. As for people it is not what but who a person is that's important, how and where he or she matters to others, not their sex or sexuality nor, for that matter, religion or ethnicity. 

RECONCILING WITH HALLOWEEN

One Halloween at a full moon,
come the witching hour,
live wires humming our tune

You had left me, oh, too soon,
life tasting, oh, so sour,
one Halloween at a full moon

Walking on, an autumnal rain
but a heavenly shower,
live wires humming our tune

A hand slipped gently into mine
like spring to a flower,
one Halloween at a full moon

Love, treading a rare timeline,
kept me company there,
live wires humming our tune

It lifted me, a spirit all but divine,
sure to last forever,
one Halloween at a full moon,
live wires humming our tune

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009; 2016

[Note: This poem appears under the title ’Taking on Halloween’ in Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

G-A-Y, SPOILS OF HALLOWEEN

Come Halloween,
I met a warlock, as wicked looks
as I’d ever seen

Full lips at my ear
murmured a spell that effectively
made us disappear

Into a candlelit place
he swept me, on wings of a night
configuring my face

In a mirror, a stranger
took my measure, quick heartbeat
sounding no danger

A fire was lit in my soul,
my body fuelled by its welcome heat
till first light fell…

The warlock only smiled
and a fierce kiss said I was free to go
back into the world

I told him I’d prefer to stay,
nor had his charms been wasted on me,
but let me see I’m gay

Gladly, into a glorious dawn,
we moved on, warlock and I, soulmates,
spoils of Halloween

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007

Monday, 17 October 2016

Travelling Hopefully, Arriving on Time OR Love, Raison d’Être


I have often heard people say they feel they have missed out on love, and it saddens them because they feel life has left them feeling incomplete.  Perhaps they have never been ‘in love’ or a partner has died young or a lover may have let them down in their eyes…

Whatever, love is neither so easily defined nor confined to the context of being ‘in love’. As I have said before on the blogs (and dare say will say again) love takes many shapes and forms that can be as real, inspiring and life-shaping as a lover.

Me, I haven’t had a steady partner for many years and we only had a short time together, but knowing him was a learning curve in many ways, not least in learning to take nothing for granted, especially love. It is possible, even likely, that platonic love between good friends can be as enriching in its own way as the love shared by lovers. A love of certain places or simply for travelling and experiencing new places can be wonderful nor less so the love of home life and everything it means to us, even if we rarely if ever step out of that particular comfort zone.

Different people want and need different things from life, but so long as we keep our eye on love, and always remain aware of and nurture its presence, the least likely we are to ever look back on our lives and find them wanting.

Few people, in my experience, can say they feel wholly fulfilled, Yes, I envy those that can, of course I do, but we should never let envy of others blind us to our own blessings, even when the latter sometimes seem somewhat thin on the ground; be assured they will pick up, but only if we open up to them, fill our senses with them, see them for what they are through our own eyes, not someone else’s.  Yes, I know it’s pretty obvious, but SO many people fail to see the proverbial wood for trees planted by someone else.

‘Where there is love, there is life.’ - Mahatma Ghandi

TRAVELLING HOPEFULLY, ARRIVING ON TIME or LOVE, RAISON D’ÊTRE  

Hey, listen out…

Hear that lasting beat 
whose remit to feed
the sweetest memories
to a hungry heart.
long after its life force
carried away
on wings of a day set aside
for sorrow

Hey, look there…

Discover cloud shapes
whose remit to relay
best (and worst) times
to an inner eye
long after losing sight
of friendly faces
to hands on a wall clock
stuck fast

Hey, have a smell…

Where grass is greenest
and leaves bring
the scent of summer roses
to the mind
all but closing down
in keeping
with a winter all but gone
to earth

Hey, get the taste…

For honey on the tongue
on what we may
liken to a ‘soul’ having left
its lasting imprint
on such as we may care
to call ‘spirit’
in the lamentable absence
of a poem

Ever get the feeling…?

Earth Mother, nurturing
the beauty
of our seasons going
full cycle,
constructive comment
even on dreams
of each hopeful tomorrow
left unfulfilled

Hey, reach up, touch…

Where the heart beats out
its hopes
for such peace and love
as may or may not
run true, but much the more 
worth the dreaming
for filling all my senses
with you

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016