Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Kin to Shadows, O-U-T

I wrote today’s poem while recovering from a severe nervous breakdown in the early 1980s. A very significant, but by no means the only cause for what was essentially a collapse of mind, body and spirit lay in an all but zero self-confidence regarding my sexuality.

If attitudes towards mental health problems leave much to be desired now, they were even worse then, and being gay was a prime suspect. If you were gay, even many (if not most) professionals saw it as a root cause for any distress or sense of alienation likely to result in some personal Armageddon.

Creative writing therapy along with the support of a few wonderful people saw me through those awful years, and I like to think I came through it (eventually) a stronger person; not least, stronger for a sense of identity of which no small part is my sexuality. For years, I had lived like a shadow with only a very nebulous relationship with light. Finally, I was out of all that, and would stay there.

Oh, but they didn’t quite go away, those damn shadows, haunting me for years and resisting efforts to shake them off once and for all like flies on a horse's face. But I finally won through, and old age brings with it a peace of mind even love has never (quite) been able to sustain without having to concede more than the occasional battle if not the war. 


We were as shadows by moonlight
haunting a natural world so bleak and bare
because it refused us its colours

We were as shadows by moonlight
chased by bold hunting horn and bugle blast
down country lane and High Street

We were as shadows by moonlight
until Apollo shamed us one enchanting dawn
with nature’s colours brave and bright

As shadows, we ventured by daylight
into a natural world much less bleak and bare
though it still refused us its colours

Less shadowy, we ventured into sunlight,
deaf to each bold hunting horn and bugle blast
down country lane and High Street

Out of shadows, embracing sunlight,
we held hands, hugged each other and kissed,
wore nature’s colours brave and bright

Kin to shadows, the world’s gay lovers,
lifted in mind and spirit by sun, moon, and stars
often let down by mothers and fathers

Copyright R. N. Taber 1982; 2013

Monday, 7 April 2014

Taking the 'y' Out of Gay

Readers often ask why I write fiction as well as poetry. Well, why not? Regular readers will know that I've suffered regular bouts of depression all my life; writing in any genre is not only an enjoyable pursuit, but also a lifeline by way of creative therapy. Having anyone read what I write is a nice bonus:

The first novel I serialized was Dog Roses, a gay-interest story about a young man and his family coming to terms with his being gay; another, Like There’s No Tomorrow is about a woman who returns every year to the hotel in Brighton where her daughter disappeared without trace some 20+ years earlier.


When I was young, I’d frequently ask myself why I was gay… until I realized it did not matter. All that mattered was that I got on with my life and learned to let my sexuality play its part. It’s my life, after all.

My sexuality is no more up for being dictated to than my sense of spirituality. I feel fortunate to have learned in time how to relate to both with a passion I try to convey in many of my poems. In this respect, I owe absolutely nothing to the 'education for life' I received in the classroom. Sadly, even these days, gay issues are rarely if ever discussed in British schools; indeed, across the world. If ever a gay person needed support and reassurance regarding their sexuality, it is during our teenage years.

Sexuality is universal. We all have a gene that identifies our sexuality, thereby partly identifying who we are. Nor is sexual identity any less an integral part of the whole person that his or her social, cultural, religious identity... It is a mystery to me, therefore, how even the less enlightened among the heterosexual majority really believe there are no young gay boys and girls out there who will develop and grow into their sexuality as responsible adults with no less integrity or capacity for love and compassion than anyone else?

You will find homophobes in all echelons of all societies, and of all socio-cultural-religious persuasions; some are out, others prefer to stay in their stuffy closets. I have marginally more respect for the former although it’s anyone’s guess why these foolish people insist on displaying their ignorance of the human condition for everyone to see. I guess we can but do our best to encourage them to overcome this blindness of the inner eye in respect to gay men and women before more lives and societies worldwide are made to suffer for it.

This poem is a villanelle.


We’d meet after school every day,
go to our secret place
learning to take the ‘y’ out of gay

We took our time, found our way
through love’s maze;
we’d meet after school every day

Two teenagers with plenty to say
about spots on society’s face;
learning to take the ‘y’ out of gay

A brave maturity, come what may
(some say gay is but a phase);
we’d meet after school every day

At each parting, so longing to stay,
but homework setting the pace,
learning to take the ‘y’ out of gay

Years on, we came true to our clay,
where others taking our place;
we’d meet after school every day,
learning to take the ‘y’ out of gay

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A Late Evening Swim OR G-A-Y, Breaststrokers...

Readers sometimes ask me how I cope with being gay and growing old on my own without a partner. (What has being gay got to do with growing old?)

Well, I have some good friends so I don’t feel so alone, and my Muse may be fickle but she can be inspiring when she likes. Besides, I live near Hampstead Heath so there’s always plenty of trees and bird life to sustain me whenever I feel the need, whether or not any human company on hand.

It may well be too late for me to find love again, but maybe not. I will be 69 at the next winter solstice, but only recently I met a couple about my own age in a local gay bar celebrating their anniversary. When I asked how long they had been together, both grinned from ear to ear and told me how they had met in that same bar just two weeks to the day. They were so happy, their years falling away even as we chatted. I might have been in the company of lovers in the first flush of youth.

Never say, never…


Friendly fingers ruffling my hair,
Apollo’s belated kisses
bringing blushes to my cheeks
as I slumped by the sea, let your tears
drip rainbows on my heart
if low, grey, clouds all but refusing
to be titillated

I’d thought your feelings for me
were as mine for you,
but your, stunned expression
when I took a leaf out of Apollo’s book
had me pinioned to a crab’s back,
scuttling over sand pebbles mocking
all human despair

Sea horses prancing all around,
daring me choose one,
head for lost horizons shrouded
in a shadowy mist harbouring pirate ships
and slavers crewed by ghosts
last seen flailing among sharks’ fins
alerted by bad blood

Friendly fingers ruffling my hair,
your belated kisses
bringing blushes to my cheeks
after you caught up with me, let your tears
drip rainbows on my heart,
low, grey, clouds capitulating to Apollo’s
surprise breakthrough

Gay breaststrokers riding into a sunset,
on bold, white horses…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Sunday, 16 March 2014

G-A-Y, Safe and Sound

Few of us are fortunate enough to have an easy time of it between the cradle and the grave, least of all lovers who find themselves at odds with family, friends, culture, religion...whatever. 

Many of us have nightmares, often fuelled by doubts and misgivings fed us on a daily basis by those who think they know what’s best for us, and really haven’t a clue. Moreover, in my experience, the severest critics of other people’s relationships have failed miserably in their own despite pretending otherwise…invariably more successfully to themselves and each other than to anyone else.

Oh, but the bliss of snuggling up to someone and feeling safe and loved. It's no different for same sex lovers, of course, and don't ever let anyone tell you differently.


I hear sounds like a child crying
in my dreams, then screams;
my eyes flying open, straining
to hear, wind and rain engaging
with my fear

A noise like someone weeping
prevents me sleeping;
lips parting, framing questions,
quickening breaths shooting down
suspect answers

A hunger for the womb’s bread
recreating a lonely dread;
voices persistently demanding
I cut the cord strangling their hold
on me

I hear sounds like a child crying
in my dreams, then screams;
beside me, your body stirs briefly,
yet long enough, arms reaching out
to save me

Snuggle close, rest, let loveless
ghosts do their worst

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2010

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

Friday, 14 March 2014

Shipmates OR G-A-Y, Time and Tide

Very few of my gay-interest poems have been published outside my collections; this is one that appeared in an anthology, True Love, Anchor Books (Forward Press) 2001 and subsequently in my collection the following year.

Ah, the (rare) bliss of a one-night stand turning into something more...

Some years ago, I met a guy on the Gay Scene who was drop dead gorgeous. It turned out he was a sailor. For all I knew, he had someone in every port. Did I care? Well, no…and, yes, we did have protective sex. [Tip: Never have too much to drink when there is any possibility that you might have sex. It can ruin the sex and a condom is the last thing on anyone’s mind].

We had a fling that lasted as long as his shore leave then he sailed away, I assumed out of my life forever… but I saw him every shore leave for several years. Oh, how I  envied him a life at sea until he confided how he hated the closet but it was impossible to be openly gay in Her Majesty’s Navy without having to endure daily bullying, even violence. He envied me for being free to sail the sea of life without having to live a lie. (Having been forced to live that very lie from school days to early manhood, I understood only too well what he meant.) One day, we hugged and kissed goodbye, and I never saw him again. He disappeared from my life as unexpectedly as he had entered it.

Even now, years later, I answer a knock on the door and half expect to find him standing there, arms open wide, a cheeky grin on his face and a wicked twinkle in each grey-green eye. I do just that sometimes, but only in dreams…


It was just a one-night stand,
I’d tell myself;
mustn’t let a fun time in bed
go to the head;
get a grip. Stiff upper lip
and all that

Read a book. Watch a movie.
Go for a walk, anything...
Must stop hovering, waiting
for the damn phone to ring,
’cause it won’t, yet here I am
in case it does…

We’re but ships in the night!
(Logo for a tee shirt
bought in Old Compton Street);
chin up, chest out,
time to get real again, strut
and fret a Happy Hour

Away, all boats, away!

Till I answered a knock on my door,
and there you were…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001

[Note:  For any readers unfamiliar with London UK, Old Compton Street is in a district called Soho that has hosted some great gay bars and cafes for many years. An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; 2nd (revised) e-ed. in preparation]

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Spring Fever OR G-A-Y, War Games of the Heart

Readers continue to ask if a CD is available of my poetry reading on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square back in 2009 as my contribution to Antony Gormley’s One and Other 24/7 ‘live sculpture’. Sadly, no, but you can still catch it here, just bear in mind that the whole thing lasts an hour.


Now some readers have asked why I am repeating historical posts on Google Plus. On the whole, though, people seem to like having the opportunity to return to poems for which they don’t have time to browse the blogs. These will be a mix of gay-interest and general poems, a few You Tube video-poems thrown in for good measure from time to time, will usually remain on Google + for five days, and be repeated every so often in the hope of catching new readers and keeping regulars.

Now, spring is on its way. Well, hopefully so. Ah, but spring fever easily outlasts spring. Nor does it always play fair with its lovers.  If you ever go on the 'Gay Scene' you’ll know just what I mean. (Not that it's any different on the 'Straight Scene'...it isn't.)

I often write about living among friendly ghosts. Not all ghosts, though, are welcome, especially those hell bent upon reminding us of our mistakes. 

Me, I am but a sheltered flower these days…of the wallflower variety. But… who knows? If being in my late 60s places me in the autumn of my years, perhaps I may yet be in for an Indian summer…


We greeted love on a high,
my heart and I, acting our parts
for beech, sycamore, lark,
nightingale, lured by their call,
choosing to ignore the cuckoo’s
sweet if cocksure yell

We found secret beaches,
among the remains of rainbows;
caresses, kisses, promises
wrung to madness, high tides
sweeping us way beyond the salty
shingle of local gossiping

Ah, but we abandoned love
(without thinking) for other thrills,
seduced in crowded places
by winks and grins inviting us
to play cuckoo since all's fair in sex
and war games of the heart

Reunited among ghosts of defeat, 
but much, much, too late...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.] 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

G-A-Y, A Feeling for Spring

There is something about spring that seems to bring out the best in even the worst people. I well recall one spring a work colleague (closet homophobe) conceded to me that ‘Well, maybe you gays aren’t so bad after all…’

True, spring is some way off yet, but it is March, and we can dream, can’t we?

Now, every season is magical in its own way, but there is something so special about spring that any small child with a lively imagination could be forgiven for saying he or she had spotted fairies taking charge of things. Of course, we adults know it was only blossom sailing on a spring breeze. (Well, don’t we…?)


It was a spring to remember;
we saw rainbows every day
in leaves singing peace songs
for lovers, including those of us  
who are gay

It was a spring to remember,
let a sweet-smelling rain
heap nature’s blessings on us,
wash clean the worst stereotypes,
fears and pain

It was a spring to remember,
Pandora’s Box flung wide;
innocence, mating swallows
taking time’s feisty cut and thrust
in their stride

It was a spring to remember,
a fine memory to cherish
as seasons pass, leaves, petals,  
rainbows fade, and fairest things
seem to perish…

Spring, a time to remember,
rainbows for every day
of love’s asking but to be left
in peace where Nature’s banners
flying, bold and gay

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014