Friday, 9 October 2015

G-A-Y, Making Peace with Pride OR Where Someone has to Make the First Move

Friends, lovers, gay or straight, most if not all of us fall out with someone at some time or another and regret it, but wait for the other person to make the first move.

It can be a long wait…


We split and I missed you,
wanted to tell you so, but pride
got in the way

I missed our teasing banter,
the cosy intimacy and sensuality
of a couple in love

I sought sanctuary (in vain)
among friends, burning candles
at both ends

Love, though, refusing to stay
in some dark corner of my heart,
sought the light of day

Time and again, I willed myself
to pick up my phone and call you,
but pride got in the way

All attempts to turn a deaf ear
to body, mind, and spirit, failing
oh, so miserably

Before and after sleep caved in
to need, I’d reassure a wet pillow
I would call tomorrow

Day after day, I gave you a hug
and kissed you at favourite haunts
on Memory Lane

Yet, nothing could ease my pain
or begin to fill the black hole in me
but being with you again

Fearfully, I picked up my phone
and called you, and within minutes
you were on your way

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015

Thursday, 24 September 2015

G-A-Y, Closet Lives OR The People's Choice

Years ago, I had a fling with an Austrian guy called Günter. He was not openly gay in Germany, but enjoyed being so with me here in London. (I have lived in London 30+ years.)  We had a great time, seeing London - including a few gay bars, most of which have since closed down - and getting to know each other better.  The affair only lasted two weeks, and then he returned to Austria. We kept in touch for a while, but there was no Internet then and neither of us was good at writing letters. (Post-Internet generations are so lucky in as much as it is so easy to keep in touch with people by e-mail, even Instant Messaging.) 

I have often wondered if Günter ever took the plunge and came out to family and friends as he was very unhappy about not telling them. He asked me what I thought he should do, but I never give advice, only express an opinion. If he was unhappy, I said, he needed to do something about it. He agreed, but seemed doubtful so I often wonder…

It is a curious phenomenon, unhappiness; hard, near impossible to put aside, but can and needs to be superseded by a life focusing on sufficient satisfaction if not joy to keep it in the shade where it belongs. Like many trite sayings, there is much truth in ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ More often than not, the way is neither easy nor plain sailing, especially in the shorter term.

Whatever, it is always a good start, achieving peace of mind, in one sense if not another…and who knows what lies ahead?  Nor is it so different for gay people coming out of a dark, lonely, closet than for heterosexuals harbouring secrets they would prefer not to keep but fear the consequences of breaking their silence?  

Most if not all of us tell lies sometimes, but we are kidding ourselves to suggest it does no real harm. Oh, yes, we tell truths too.  The trouble is humankind tends to have different versions of each. Most lies and just as many truths invariably hurt someone, somewhere. Better then to develop a greater affinity with truth, and be less judgemental if it doesn't happen to coincide with our own version of it?


Shadowy stalker,
haunting you day and night,
however hard you try
to put me out of your mind
with various distractions,
given that even the human spirit
(easy prey to convention)
sees me as a tough adversary,
never easily defeated

Whatever fine strategy
you may devise to put me down,
I come up with another
and we lock horns, you trying
to beat me at my own game
while I play dirty, reminding you
of all you stand to lose
if you so choose to give the heart
its straining head

Yes, I play dirty, and well,
teasing inner selves with scenarios
that makes any victory over me
a petty, piecemeal affair compared
to the potential peace 
and quiet of silence, its riptide 
ever closing in as you run
for cover, having known no better
than secrets and lies

Playing hide-and-seek in your space,
I am Conscience, the people's choice

Copyright R. N. Taber

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

G-A-Y, Thinking Outside the Box OR Engaging with Identity

I once asked two gay guys how they first got together, and this poem is – in effect – their story. It is one to which I, too, can relate if not quite in the same way, which is probably why it is a long poem. I found myself wandering Memory Lane and wondering whatever happened to a long-ago good mate of mine…

As some of us struggle with our sexuality, it is only too easy to imagine we are the only ones facing trial by conscience; a conscience moulded into shape over formative years when we had neither the experience to understand the implications nor the articulation to ask the right questions. Our elders and betters knew best, end of story.

As we grow into ourselves, strive for a sense of personal identity, we may well start to wonder how much of that identity comprises the real self and how much is the result of well-intentioned brainwashing. We ask of ourselves the questions we never thought to ask, often struggling with the answers our experience of the world so far feels inclined to offer; not just gay people of course, but many if not most of us who begin to question what we had been raised to believe was unquestionable. 

For gay men and women, the consequences can (not always) be traumatic…until we make a decision as to whether or not (and how) to move forward or slip quietly, unobtrusively, back into our comfort zone. The trouble is, the chances are it will no longer offer anywhere near the same the degree of comfort, no matter how conscientiously we address the task of playing hide-and-seek with human nature. 


A mate (among others) for years
kissed me out of the blue
and I sent him flying, left him lying
in a bloody heap on the floor,
ran to the door and into the street,
telling myself I was so angry I could cry,
and, yes, I did, but (much) later

After that, I ignored him for weeks,
satisfying the intense curiosity
of family and friend with a pack of lies
everyone seemed to swallow,
urging that we kiss and make up
quite oblivious to the irony of that phrase,
well meant, but like a knife in me

I missed him so much, the hurt in me
sent my mind rapidly spiralling
into dark places I had not been before,
yet among faces I easily recognized,
mouthing words I had only ever heard
in the school playground, on street corners,
folks taking the piss out of queers

How had I never guessed he was gay,
this good mate of mine for years,
with whom I had enjoyed doing the things
mates do, even chatting up girls now
and then (what on earth was he thinking?)
all the time, holding out on me, living a lie,
hidden feelings I could barely imagine

Imagine, though, I did as time crawled by,
dragging half-forgotten memories
into a pattern of sorts I had either missed
(or chosen not to see?) - revealing
as much about me as my former mate,
uneasy nights and restless days haunting
every move I made, ever word I said

I called at his house one rainy weekend,
much as per usual in the old days,
and his mother was so pleased to see me
I felt guilty for having stayed away,
feet dragging on the stairs as if leaden
as she showed me up to his room, his pain,
like a scar across his face, plain to see

What to say, where to start? I had no idea,
Having struggled with my feelings
to reach a (very) piecemeal understanding
of why I’d said and done what I had
and couldn’t undo or unsay so let instinct
have its way, let my senses run free wherever,
gave him a big hug, hoping for the best

He asked me nervously why I had come.
and it was only then I knew
why his loss had left me so empty a shell,
and how to fill it, mind and spirit
embracing a body hungry for such dreams
as I’d thought impossible, going there anyway,
much relieved he was kissing me back

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Closet Love OR G-A-Y, Beating the Odds

Here in the West, it has been my experience that many gay people take freedom of sexual identity for granted.  True, there is no denying that homophobia is still alive and kicking. Yet, I have listened over the years to chilling tales of how it is to be gay in countries where same sex relationships remain a criminal offence (Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and various African countries among many) punishable by a public whipping, prison or worse. I have learned to count my blessings…even during those low points in my life when they may otherwise have seemed too thin on the ground for much comfort.


No one can know we’re lovers,
Everyone sees us as good friends
Or love‘s peace of mind won’t stand
a chance

No one can know we share a bed
whenever I stay over at your place,
taking each day as it comes, for good
or ill

No one can know we’re gay men
playing hide-and-seek with shadows,
one mind, body and spirit ever hungry
for nurture

No one must guess our secret,
war weary of judgmental stereotypes
dragging us down even as we recharge
its batteries

No one must catch a single look
between us that even hints at a story
that dare not be told though reworked
for centuries

No one must guess we’re lovers
who would cheer us publicly stoned
to death to satisfy an inhumanity baying
for blood

Yet, we will lie, bodies entwined,
away from prying eyes and loose talk,
to make love among kinder hypotheses,
dream on…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015


Friday, 18 September 2015

G-A-Y, A Feeling for Moon Craters OR The Comfort of Strangers

Now and then, readers of one or other (even both) my poetry blogs  - all ages, both sexes, gay and straight - email to say they are in London or coming to London and would like to meet up for a chat (about anything and everything) over a few drinks or a meal. I always enjoy these get-togethers, have met up with some very interesting people and keep in touch with many of them if only by email. So feel free to contact me any time, even if a meet-up is never likely to be on the cards. While I don’t allow comments on the blogs, I will always reply to emails; a lively exchange of views and opinions is always fun.

My mother used to say that if something was worth saying, it was worth repeating. So, yes, I often comment on the blog how sad it is but true that many gay people still find it hard to be openly gay, more often than not because they happen to live in a gay-unfriendly home and/or school and/or work environment.  We may well be attracted to the same sex, but whether or we do anything about it can be the toughest decision some of us make in course of our entire lives. There are always consequences, of course, good and less good. We need to consider likely scenarios and ask ourselves how or if we are up for handling these. Doubts will persist until a decision is taken, but is a half-life of keeping up appearances a workable alternative?

In some countries, of course, gay relationships remain a criminal offence punishable by prison or even death.  Gay people have little choice but a closeted sexual existence in which case, better the human self in a closet than a cage…or worse. Even so, it is possible to be true to the self while paying lip service to everyday survival tactics.  I discovered that for myself as a youth and young man. It is stressful, yes, but sometimes necessary; those of us who can be freely, openly gay need to remind ourselves of that sometimes.

As regular readers will be only too aware, I was in and out of the closet for years before finally leaving it as an openly gay man in my late 30s. To this day, I am l haunted by those long-ago closet days. We should never presume to judge or condemn someone for NOT coming out, for whatever reason; it is a very personal choice.

Instinctively, during a crisis of self-awareness, we feel in dire need of a comfort zone, putting inner chaos in perspective with someone whom those same primeval instincts tell us is wrestling much the same crisis of  self-esteem, self-consciousness and, yes, sexuality.  At such times, there is something intoxicatingly uninhibited about giving sexuality its head among moon craters on a clear, starry night…


Moonlight at the window
like pale lips on a wine glass,
sipping without tasting,
teasing,  pleasing, as if enjoying
good company…
A tinkling laughter
like wind bells floating through
a half-cocked ear,
an easy rhythm of voices,
music enough
to stir a body to mimic saplings
in spacious gardens
swaying to a gentler rhythm,
easing its burdens

What are you thinking?
Are you wondering, could I be gay
and (if so) what to do,
come over and chat…or what?
Here we are, wallflowers
at some charity ‘do’ wrestling
an intimate affinity
with a complete stranger,
swaying like saplings
in a breeze (but with no grace)
furtively sending out
mixed messages hard to read 
over the misty rim of one  wine glass
after another

Chased by a cacophony
of muffled sounds, making an escape
through French windows;
a mercy, could well have been
so embarrassing…
Better like this, on the edge of time
and space, making-believe
a place in some grander scheme
of things, more than a face
in a crowd scene getting arty-farty
about life and love, finding
peace (of sorts) in moon craters
offering sanctuary to people like us  
for centuries

Safer, more anonymous
than ever here, outside everything
and everyone,
no copycat reflections demanding
I circulate, chat, or opt out,
although of what, exactly, unable
to (quite) articulate
as vaguely aware of your presence
behind me, closing the doors,
pricking the mind, body and spirit
with pin-drop silences
as together, yet not (quite) together,
we go where garden scents
like passionate kisses excite us  
to lie among moon craters

Copyright R. N. Taber. 2004; 2015

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. In e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

G-A-Y, Saved to the Desktop OR F-R-I-E-N-D-S, Testing Times

What do you do if you’re gay and belong to a culture that is intrinsically homophobic?  This poem is based on a heart-warming conversation I once had with a gay Muslim man and his straight boyhood friend. It is good to know that platonic love is still alive and kicking even in the face of socio-cultural-religious homophobia.


Out walking in the park,
saw someone who looked like you
pause to watch clouds drift by
like fluffy bits of snow, nowhere
to go and nothing better to do
than haunt us with memories, good
bad, happy, sad, and needing
to be saved to a desktop before lost
in that System more commonly known
as the human condition

Out walking in the park,
someone who looked just like you
came right up to me,
wanted to know where I stood
on life, love, humanity,
‘taboo stuff’ like sexual identity…
and why shun a best mate
for being true to his conscience,
fighting socio-cultural- religious ideas
that put good people in boxes?

Out walking in the park,
someone who looked just like you
told me he was not ashamed
of being gay and if I was worried
about guilt by association,
he understood (yes, only too well)
but had no regrets
about telling everyone his secret
because secrets only tear people apart,
body, mind and spirit

Out walking in the park,
on a day when even the clouds
were unprepared
to take my side as I, oh, so tried
making sense of the world
a stranger who looked so liked you
would have me accept
as a normal, natural extension
of the only life we had both known
since we were children

What happened, I wondered
to the best friend I had looked up to
and adored for years,
as my eyes misted over with tears
for times shared, innocence lost,
doubting I would ever understand
as he would have me do,
though sharing his pain already
so I just gave him a hug, no words,
as we left the park for the world

Out walking in the park,
saw someone who looked like you
pause to watch clouds drift by
like fluffy bits of snow, nowhere
to go and nothing better to do
than haunt us with memories, good
bad, happy, sad, and needing
to be saved to my desktop before lost
in that System more commonly known
as the human condition

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015

Monday, 7 September 2015

Vice Versa OR G-A-Y, At the Cutting Edge of Reason

I sometimes receive emails from gay people (and their parents) who complain that I over simplify the act of ‘coming out’ as an openly gay boy, girl, man or woman. Apologies for that, but it is not the impression I try to give. On the contrary, I appreciate only too well how hard it can be for some gay people to be openly gay, especially if they happen to be living in a gay-unfriendly environment.

The first and (in my view) the most important step is that gay people should come ‘out’ to themselves. How they live their lives after that is up to them; that’s where choice comes into the equation. We do not choose to be gay, nature made us this way, but we do have to choose what paths we follow in life once we have acknowledged our sexuality to ourselves.

Gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or heterosexual, we all need to come to terms with the multi-facets of human nature and the human condition as it relates to us on a personal level and makes us who we are; once we acknowledge these and bring them together in mind, body and spirit, then and only then are we in a position to choose to make more or less of the opportunity to make more or less of our lives…as we are, not as others would perhaps have us be.

As I have said on the blogs so many times, our differences do not make us different, only human. While it may not always be easy to get other people to see that,  it has been my experience that life becomes a whole lot liveable once we see it for ourselves.


Told, a devil in me,
all but sold on the idea of my sexuality
as a travesty of morality;
cold, this body for want of intimacy,
grown old before its time, a fragile mind
at the cutting edge of reason

Conventions taunting me,
all but convincing me I entertain a parody
of humanity;
questions haunting me,
demanding of sense and sensibility
a lasting reconciliation

At odds with family
and friends, raging against a raw obstinacy
(all they ever see…);
a frantic  spirit in me
demanding the human right to be free
to be as I am, no one else

Time, applauding me
for going my own way, and purposefully
though remarked foolishly
by those who cannot (or will not) see
life is love,  and vice versa

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015