Saturday, 16 July 2016

Y-O-U-T-H, a Mask for Every Occasion OR G-A-Y. Getting to Grips with Sexual Identity


When we are growing up, many experiences and the emotional context in which we relate to them are new to us; sometimes we guess how we are meant to behave, guess wrong and try to mask our confusion and any embarrassment by playing the fool if only because it takes the heat out of whatever situation it is that we haven’t a clue how to handle. Heaven forbid that we should appear ignorant of the appropriate conventions! As we grow older, we (hopefully) find the self-confidence to express our own views and feelings without fear of being contradicted or even put down because we are more adept at holding our own in this or that situation, this or that point of view. We can dispense with masks, up to a certain point…at which we may well feel the need to retrieve one that has helped us out in the past.

I suspect most if not all of us all have a variety of masks hanging in that wardrobe of the mind we call memory, one for every occasion. I know, I do, although I binned the sexuality mask more years ago than, at 70, I care to remember.

This poem is a villanelle.

Y-O-U-T-H, A MASK FOR EVERY OCCASION OR G-A-Y, GETTING TO GRIPS WITH SEXUAL IDENTITY

I was never any good at school,
my schooldays were a sham,
I’d mess around and play the fool
because I couldn’t quite get to grips
with who I am

I had a working class education,
didn’t ever dare aim high,
couldn’t see the point of ambition,
so I’d mess around and play the fool,
content to live a lie

I had a real problem with identity,
couldn’t bear anyone to know
it was an awakening homosexuality
saw me mess around and play the fool,
put on a side-show

I’d have sex in sly, secret. places,
even fancy guys in the street,
could sense revulsion in their faces
though never one sure, all-seeing eye
would I ever meet

There came a time as I grew older,
I wearied of playing the ham,
resolved to get real and be bolder
about letting on to this sorry old world
just who I am

I came out to just about everyone,
and it was scary, but, oh, so cool
to be free at last of secrets, have fun,
be a man, walk tall, and less of playing
the fool

In those days I never had much of a life,
my early years were a sham;
now, though. if I sometimes play the fool,
it’s because I’m relaxed, happy, content
to be who I am


Copyright R. N. Taber 2011; 2016

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

F-A-T-E, Grains of Sand OR G-A-Y, True Grit


NB. Having published this post/poem this poem on the blog only a few days ago, I removed it after niggling reservations about the (original) tittle's persisted.

Now, I have met Christians who insist it is ‘nothing personal’ that I will go to hell for being gay, but ‘just a question of faith.’ I have also met Christians and those of other faiths who take the view that if we all were created by a God of Love, He is unlikely to make exceptions on such discriminatory grounds as sexuality...or much else, for that matter. Oh, and yes, I have also met gay Christians as well as gay men and women of other faiths, many of whom were cast from the fold like demons. So what kind of religion is it that demonises people for their sexuality?  

Regular readers know I do not subscribe to any religion, but take what I like to think of as a strong sense of spirituality from nature. At the same time, I utterly repudiate any suggestion that faith and sexuality are mutually exclusive. It may interest some of you to know that I came to that conclusion at the age of 10 while attending Sunday School. If I had the faintest idea then that I am gay, it was one for which I had neither the experience of life nor articulation to even begin to formulate. Like all children, though, I would overhear things. Rumour had it that a neighbour was a homosexual. My mother was shocked when I asked her what the word meant and said it was one that 'good' boys did not ask about. Naturally, I looked it up in my dictionary. 

Given that God created all humankind (as my Sunday School teachers would have me believe) it struck me as a grave injustice that anyone should be thought any less of simply for the way God had made them. This is probably why I felt no guilt when, at 14 years-old, I realised I am gay, and raged inwardly at everyone around me for years. (No one understood why, of course, or bothered to ask, so sure were they that their assumptions were correct, thereby missing the punch line altogether.)

Although I often write poems in the first person, few are strictly autobiographical. Even so, there are elements of autobiography in all my poems although just where is left for me to know and you to imagine…

F-A-T-E, GRAINS OF SAND or G-A-Y, TRUE GRIT

You were leaving a church,
a Holy Bible glued to one hand
as we exchanged glances,
all sense of body, mind and spirit 
like grains of sand descending
an hour glass, delivering us a world
we barely recognised as ours

You hastened on your way.
all but ran to the end of our street
while all I could do was try
to forget how you had affected me so,
scared you suspected
my returning a shy smile with a grin
exposed a maturing sexuality

I barely slept a wink all night
for thinking of you, me, and an ‘us’
never (surely?) any more then
than just wishful thinking on my part
for fear a secret I kept close
to this lonely heart have its way,
and all hell break loose

You skipped school the next day.
(the rumour was that you were sick)
and my pulse kept racing
for revisiting a subtly anxious glance
reflecting my own hunger
for a same sex relationship, love
but a welcome bonus   

I hadn’t subscribed to ideas of fate
till finding you by my side at the bell,
preparing to head off  
in the same direction, a freak shower
demanding our attention,
inviting us to make a decision,
make a mad dash for cover

Inevitably, we were soon engaged
in the kind of meaningless small talk
that means everything,
reading between lines and innuendos,
the suggestion we be friends...
while acknowledging so much more
without having to find the words

We were lovers but a short time,
(good mates the rest of our lives)
killing demon stereotypes,
exposing a world of prejudices,
religious dogma, bigotry...
as an any-excuses-better-than-none
mindset for abusing the rest of us

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016


Friday, 8 July 2016

A Raw Vocabulary OR G-A-Y, Speaking Up for Love


Apologies for the length of this post, but it seemed a good idea to publish the poem here at the same time as answering a number of queries regarding my fiction. (Some of my novels will be of special interest to gay readers.)

Since I first learned to read at 4 years-old, I have been an avid reader, especially of fiction; it offered an escape from certain realities of home life, not least an appalling relationship with my father.  At the same time, I have always enjoyed poetry; my mother would often recite dramatic poems like The Highwayman (Alfred Noyes) and The Ancient Mariner (Samuel Taylor Coleridge) at bed-times as well as or instead of reading a story.

My first poem appeared in my secondary school magazine in the summer of 1955 when I was 11 years-old; ever since, I have always thought of myself as something of a poet. At the same time, my passion for reading fiction remained my chief raison d’ĂȘtre throughout my childhood, teenage years and young manhood; as I became aware of being gay in a society where gay sex was a criminal offence, so the greater my need for escapism. [My partial deafness was also a factor in my hunger for fiction, given that I was constantly mishearing and consequently being misunderstood; at times, my reality was kind of hell.]

The more I read, albeit more fiction that non-fiction, the more I felt an affinity with the darker as well as lighter experiences of its various protagonists; I would often identify with the former and take heart from their (eventually) overcoming the worst of times while the latter encouraged me to develop a wry sense of humour which would carry me through many a humiliation down to both my hearing loss and being verbally abused for being gay. .

I wrote this poem while thinking about writing my first gay novel, Dog Roses. The book was never published except on the blog. No publishers were interested, but that did not matter because by the time I had finished writing the poem, I realised why I needed to write it in the first place; it was as if the poet in me was telling me to stop thinking about exploring human nature through fiction, but get on with it, give it a go. I have no regrets about leaving a permanent job for what would now be called a zero-hours contract so I would have time to do just that. (In those days, there was plenty of work available.) I have enjoyed every minute.

For anyone interested, my gay-crime novel ‘Blasphemy’ has just been published on Google Play:


Its sequel, ‘Sacrilege’ will follow shortly; both are complete novels in their own right although originally planned as parts of a trilogy of which the final part, ‘Redemption’ has yet to be completed if at all. My other novels will follow on Google Play in due course, and I will announce them on my fiction blog at: 


A RAW VOCABULARY or G-A-Y, SPEAKING OUT FOR LOVE

Find G-A-Y speaking up for peace and pride
against the language of bigotry
till the language of hate has no place to hide

Wherever so-called ‘betters’ presume to decide
(and judge) on matters of sexuality,
find G-A-Y speaking up for peace and pride

Challenging holier-than-thou types sure to side
against love perceived as immorality
till the language of hate has no place to hide

Among voices debating Convention as guide
and role model in a token reality,
find G-A-Y speaking up for peace and pride

Questioning laws passed to incriminate, deride
and silence any significant minority
till the language of hate has no place to hide

Defining all humanity wherever cultures collide
in the course of world history,
find G-A-Y speaking up for peace and pride
till the language of hate has no place to hide

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

MY NOVELS

DOG ROSES; a gay man’s rites of passage
(Gay-interest)

BLASPHEMY: a novel
[Crime/Gay-interest] - No longer on the fiction blog, but now available as an e-book on Google Play:



SACRILEGE
(Crime/Gay-interest; sequel to Blasphemy, continues the adventures and misadventures of Laurence Fisher)

LIKE THERE'S NO TOMORROW
(Crime/Mystery)

CATCHING UP WITH MURDER
(1st Fred Winter [crime/gay-interest] novel)

PREDISPOSED TO MURDER
(2nd Fred Winter [crime] novel)

MAMELON (Book One):
(Fantasy)

Book 2 has been delayed by unforeseen circumstances, and will hopefully be serialised sometime in 2016 but possibly early 2017); an e-version will follow; for a glossary of names and terms used in Mamelon: http://rogertaberfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/mamelon-glossary-of-names-and-terms.html





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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Rights of Way or G-A-Y, Making Sense of Dreams


Now, each and every one of us has equal rights of way in life regardless of colour, creed, sex or sexuality. Never let anyone tell you differently. As for people like me who do not believe in a personified God, be sure any ‘Heaven’ connects with Earth Mother just as surely as spring follows winter.

Today’s poem first appeared on the blog a few years ago especially for ‘Helen and Max who emailed to say, 'We are devout Christians, but we love our gay son no less for his sexuality or our religion. God is Love, and to reject our son would be to reject Christianity...’ Oh, but how refreshing to hear of Christians being Christian!  There are plenty of them, of course, good people with open hearts and minds regardless of their religion, but we gay men and women seem to have more than our fair share of encounters with the worst kind.

This poem is a kenning.

RIGHTS OF WAY or G-A-Y, MAKING SENSE OF DREAMS

At the Gates of Heaven,
an angel gave me no choice
but return, for better
or worse, make good mistakes
yet to be made, watch plans
fall apart still to be laid, chance
whatever good it takes
for anyone of my disposition
to make a right decision

At the Gates of Hell
a devil all but defined the art
of choice as heads he wins
tails I lose, my head on a block,
or neck on a line where blind
to eyes flashing warnings,
lips preferring to play lackey
to consensus, V-signs making
sense of bad decisions

At the Gates of Love
an angel gave me a choice;
seize the day, no excuses,
or play out sad mind games,
prefer the stars to the sun,
go baying for the moon alone,
never waking to a sharing
of body heat for fear its joys
but fade too soon

Find me, passion, where I wait
on choices, this or that gate…?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2016


[Note: This poem is a revised (2016) version of the original (with alternate title) as it appears in 1st eds. of A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised edition in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 4 July 2016

Flotsam and Jetsam OR G-A-Y, Among Tales Told By Seashells


Today’s short poem is deceptively simplistic; it was written in 2004 and was first published in my collection the following year. I say ‘deceptively’ because I had to reach deep within myself to work out why I was feeling so incredibly restless; at times dispirited, yet also optimistic, rather like someone clutching at straws in a deceptively calm sea, unable to find the strength to even try and swim… [How can I be sure it is how I felt? The poem reminds  me.] 

I suspect most of not all of us have a sense, at some time or another, of being tossed about on the eternal in-and-out, to-and-fro tides of time; it can be very wearisome, to say the least.

Well, all I can say is if we are but flotsam and jetsam in the Sea of Life, may it be along the ever gay-friendly shores of love…

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM or G-A-Y, AMONG TALES TOLD BY SEASHELLS

Love hadn’t touched me
for many years;
I’d let myself drift freely
on a sea of tears

Chanced to find peace
(or did it find me?)
and sought to anchor us
in that same blue sea

Sea of sadness, no more;
blue, only the sky;
soul, once bruised and sore,
bright as a swallow’s eye

To shore, at last, homing in
on your heart’s outline

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005

[From: A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised ed, in e-format in preparation.]


Saturday, 2 July 2016

The Zen of Being Human OR G-A-Y, All in it Together


National Theatre head Rufus Norris and artist Jeremy Deller were behind a project taking place across the UK yesterday with men dressed as World War One soldiers. Each carried a card with the name of the soldier they represented and his age - if known - when he died. This ‘living memorial" involved about 1,500 voluntary participants appearing in public spaces across the UK; the project, entitled We're Here Because We're Here, was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK's arts programme for the World War One centenary.


Sadly, this brilliant project has nothing to do with me; even so, you will see that my poem relates to it if only incidentally; gay people go to war, too, of course. Now, I do not believe in a life after death as such, but neither do I believe in some eternal nothingness. Nature tells me there is a never-ending sense of renewal. My own feelings assure me we live on in the lives - not just the memory - of others. So what of those who never knew us and what will happen to those memories when family and friends who shared them are all dead?  No one knows, of course, and although I do not subscribe to any religion, I envy those who do if only in the sense that it must be very comforting to feel assured that this life is not all there is for us.

Ah, but we are all influenced by other people; in turn, we, too, influence others by what we say and do. In this way we create a ‘presence’ that even death cannot wipe away as if we were but a smudge on the temporal landscape. In this way, at least, we continue our paths through ‘live’ time and space if only in spirit.

As for gay men and women being assured of a place in some kind of hell because of our sexuality,  
I say bollocks to that! It is not only bigoted speculation but also typical of humankind’s darker side.
Nature does not discriminate so why should human nature...or any God, for that matter?

Thie poem is a kenning.

THE ZEN OF BEING HUMAN or G-A-Y,  All IN IT TOGETHER

Death caught my hand one day,
tugged me into to a cold, dark place 
and a part of me wanted to stay;
the cold, it stripped my pain away;
the dark, it hid tears on my face 
for a part of me so wanting to stay;
temptation, an end to endeavour,
but sure to make me suffer for a part
of me that’s come to nothing?

Nothing, giving it to me straight
while peering over Death’s shoulder 
at that part of me wanting to die;
suddenly, a welcome light appears,
inciting a rush of heat to the body, 
sufficient to allay even secret fears;
I succumb to a familiar embrace,
hear a loved voice reciting the poetry
of that part of me I cannot face

Enter, the life force of humanity,
its responsibility to liberty, equality
and fraternity, no excuses
(in any socio-cultural -religious name)
for undermining the principles
of democracy by silencing its voices
among which sexuality has no less
right to be heard and heeded as any other
in a world found wanting

Call me Freedom, a living, oral history
passed on by ghosts, century to century

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2016

[Note: This poem has been considerably revised since it first appeared on the blog in 2010 and again fairly recently.]

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Sky Movies OR A Natural History, Inclusively Gay


Regular readers will know that I do not subscribe to any religion. Even so, I hate to see gay men and women, boys and girls made to feel their sexuality and religion are mutually exclusive.
Socio-cultural-religious dogma has much to answer for and still has a long way to go before it can even begin to redress the wrongs and pain it has inflicted - and continues to inflict - on gay people worldwide.

Religions would have us believe in a God of peace and love. So why should sexuality matter to any God? And if it doesn’t matter to God, why should it matter to anyone professing to be a God-fearing person? Oh, and if sexuality does matter to a God who created all living things, how come the natural world is inclusively gay…?

Incidentally, several readers have asked me to repeat the link to my favourite You Tube film about homosexuality in the natural world:

This poem is a villanelle.

SKY DOCUMENTARY or A NATURAL HISTORY, INCLUSIVELY GAY

Subject of a cloud movie one day;
the inner eye researching
a natural history, inclusively gay

Apes in captivity, humans at play,
world shaping up, reshaping…
Subject of a cloud movie one day

True audience participation by way
of focusing on an all-embracing
natural history, inclusively gay

Signs of a storm well on the way,
as if the heavens protesting…
Subject of a cloud movie one day

A lark rising, its bitter-sweet lay
an ages-old theme, reworking
a natural history, inclusively gay

Imprints on the heart sure to stay,
though a hard rain falling;
subject of a cloud movie one day,
a natural history, inclusively gay

Copyright R. N. Taber 2008; 2016

[Note: This poem has been revised since first appearing on the blog in 2008 under the title G-A-Y, Movies in the Sky]