Friday, 25 July 2014

G-A-Y, Eyes Wide Shut OR Running a Virus Check for Cloning

It took me years to shrug off the worst stereotypes (still) perpetuated by the less enlightened among the heterosexual majority.

One day, a straight friend accompanied me to a gay bar because he ‘wanted to understand gay people’. Later, I asked him what he had learned. He shook his head and replied,’ What can I learn from a bunch of clones?’

I was angry and upset, but began to wonder if I wasn’t replacing one set of stereotypes with another…?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the argument, I began to realize that I was not (as I’d thought) reasserting my personal identity, but going along with a social identity that threatened to take away the personal freedom I had longed for after years of growing up in a gay-unfriendly environment. Sexual expression is only a part of who we are, and I was risking the rest of me.

Now, I am not knocking the Gay Scene; it gave me some good times, none of which I regret. At the same time, it was a learning curve for me, and in the end I turned my back on it. I am a gay man, yes, but I do not need to make a public statement about it; I am just an everyday Joe who also happens to be gay and people (gay and straight alike, whatever their socio-cultural-religious persuasion) are as free to accept me or reject me as I am free to accept or reject them.

Life is about being who not what we are. We cannot expect everyone to accept or even like us any more than anyone can or should expect others to accept or even like them simply because of what or whom they represent. We can, though, respect others for who and what they are and for whom and what they represent.

Well, can’t we?


I met a (very) ugly man
in a trendy gay bar, and confess
I wondered what on earth
he thought he was doing there,
but we got chatting,
and after a while I realized
he had a lovely smile,
his voice (a dreamy lilt)
returning me to days long before
I lost faith in love songs

He offered a firm hand
and told me his name, his touch
sending electric shocks
through me as (shyly) I gave mine;
his conversation was fun,
no dull small talk or the usual
chat-up lines although…
he grinned (winking) as he asked
if I’d care to come back to his place
for a coffee, or whatever

Later, sex as pure art form
filling my sad self with a passion
I’d never known before,
this ugly-beautiful man I met
in a trendy gay bar,
sense and sensibility colluding
with feisty frog-princes,
re-working happy endings,
and reminding me why I so missed
listening to love songs

Eyes wide open advised to shut down,
and run a virus check for cloning

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; revised (e-edition) in preparation]

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

G-A-Y, Winning Hearts and Minds

Fortunately, there are more people in the world with open hearts and minds than most socio-cultural-religious bigots would care to admit.

Of course, we will never win over everyone to an enlightened view of same sex relationships. The hope is, as history suggests, that even in those societies where obsessive, repressive, leaders continue to undermine and threaten our personal and public freedom, gay men and women are likely (in time) to win the war, transgender folks too.


Branded a child of Satan
(just for being gay)
I felt myself drowning in sin
but (finally) managed
to master the breaststroke
and swim away
to a (far) safer, kinder, shore
where the bigots
can have their say (of course)
but any person
of any colour, creed, sex
or sexuality
is more likely to take a pride
in a humanity sworn
to uphold the finer principles
of true democracy

Declared a child of Satan
by ‘betters’ who know
no better (it’s their nature)
than hounding folks
left free by (far) better people
than they to walk down
everyday streets anywhere
without anyone turning
to stare or pointing the finger
at how I walk, talk, dress,
don’t even practise a religion,
invariably given to mean
no sense of everyday propriety
or even spirituality,
presumably a suspect sexuality,
but not necessarily…

Copyright R., N. Taber 2014

Saturday, 19 July 2014

I, Legend OR G-A-Y, Centre Stage

I am appalled when I think back at how I used to see myself as a youth and young man, growing up during a period when gay relationships were a criminal offence here in the UK.

A civilized society should be above such bigotry and prejudice, surely? Yet even in the so-called ‘liberal’ West young gay people are still growing up and having to fight their corner in gay-unfriendly home and ‘educational’ environments. As for those societies in the world where various socio-cultural-religious antagonism towards gay people persists, they are a disgrace to those same socio-cultural-religious origins.

History belongs to the past; we all need to learn from its lessons, move on, and make a better future for everyone. Now, that’s progress.

There is nothing unnatural about being gay, of course, any more than there is (or ever was) anything extraordinarily ‘liberal’ about either being gay or feeling positively disposed towards gay people; we are all born with a sexual identity which is as natural as breathing.


G-A-Y is sinful, I was taught
during formative years,
inner self preparing me to out
a bully ethic to its peers

I used to hate my reflection,
for exposing all I’d see,
engaging me in conversation
about life and sexuality

I’d confess shame and guilt,
couldn’t help how I feel,
world shoveling me its dirt
for being me, getting real

No need, said my reflection,
you’re as good as them;
bigots posing every objection
to being gay, their problem

I came to love my reflection,
for showing me to you,
engaging in a conversation
about nature running true
Now, no longer feeling guilty
or a loser from the start,
but love to inspire me, legend
on my gay lover’s heart

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears under the title ‘Mirror, Mirror’ in 1st editions of Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; 2nd (revised e-edition in preparation.]

Friday, 11 July 2014

G-A-Y, A Fix Between Friends

I once had a friend who became a heroin addict in his late teens and died from an overdose in 1980. 

My friend was 22 and happened to be gay, but drug abuse is a tragedy for too many young people – gay, straight, male, female, from all kinds of backgrounds - and there is still too little help available. To be honest, I was more than a little in love with him although he only ever saw me as a friend.  I still dream about him sometimes, how once life was so good for us both.  I felt compelled to write this poem if only in remembrance of a great guy who took a wrong turning and was found lying in a gutter one day...

I have known (and still do) people to whom taking hard drugs is socially acceptable, a trait encouraged by a drugs-friendly celebrity culture frequently in the media spotlight and setting an appalling example.

Under a halo of sudden light
a familiar figure beckons;
looks, sure to win the Devil over;
designer gear angels would give
their wings for

Laugher lines in the classic brow,
enigmatic poise teasing me
even now as into the clinging dew,
I run barefoot,
ug anew this pouting saint
to a sobbing breast…
Laughter, through tears for years parted,
Catching my breath, no nearer it seems
to this golden haired god
in jeans I’ve borrowed times before,
reaching out a hand,
indulging me a bitter-sweet smile
that means so much I’d give my all
to touch…

Lark into dawn skies, vanished;
a bitter-sweet song,
no listener (ever) left unpunished;
lives as fresh and hopeful as spring rain
till you tried heroin

[From: Love and Human Remains (under the title, Between Friends) , by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001]

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

No Place Like Soho OR G-A-Y, Thanks for the Memory

I have lived in London for many years, nearly thirty in Kentish Town (London Borough of Camden). I would often go to Soho when I was younger and its Gay Scene second to none. Like me, it has something of a jaded feel now, and gay friends in the know tell me the Gay Scene has shifted to Vauxhall (South London) although I reckon Soho can still give its rivals a good run for their money.

In my late 60s now, I rarely venture on to the Gay Scene these days, but have plenty of lively memories to feed me some wonderful dreams in glorious colour…

For me, there really is no place like Soho.

This poem is a villanelle.


Wherever in the world I go,
gay bars far and wide,
there’s no place like Soho

It’s G-A-Y in San Francisco
but I’m on a Soho ride
wherever in the world I go

Though a club in San Diego
sure puts the ‘i’ in Pride,
there’s no place like Soho

Some folks, they hate us so
(blame a cultural divide?)
wherever in the world I go

Vauxhall loves a drag show
but if history be my guide,
there’s no place like Soho

Its streets exude a pink glow
(icons sorely tried);
wherever in the world I go,
there’s no place like Soho

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Closet Heart

Gay people, of course, do not have a monopoly on secrets of the heart. For me, though, as regular readers well know, one of my darkest secrets was once my sexuality. I had acknowledged to myself that I am gay by the time I was 14 years-old. In those days, same sex relationships were a criminal offence here in the UK. Throughout my teenage years, I told neither family nor friends. I was not ashamed, just scared. 

It had so been drummed into me during my vulnerable formative years how being gay was something dirty if not perverted that even as a young adult, it would take a severe nervous breakdown in my early 30s before I’d find the self-confidence to come out once and for all. 

Those of us free to be openly gay should never forget that there are many, many gay boys and girls, men and women worldwide still suffering the awful fear, pain, and loneliness of a closet heart.

This poem is a villanelle.


Secrets of a closet heart,
like claws of a trapped bear
ready to tear us apart

Under threat at the start,
nature’s soul stripped bare;
secrets of a closet heart

See truth’s unerring dart
sent flying through the air
ready to tear us apart

No sweet a fruit or tart
than words we cannot share;
secrets of a closet heart

Tools of a far subtler art
than Medusa’s stony glare,
ready to tear us apart

Endgame, a poison dart
(anytime, anywhere);
secrets of a closet heart
ready to tear us apart

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears under the title, Dark Secrets, in On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Book, 2010

Saturday, 28 June 2014

G-A-Y, Table Talk OR Quality Time: A Basic Human Right

It is Gay Pride Day in London. Those of us unable to join the march and celebrations for one reason or another will be there in spirit, glad for UK society’s (generally) acknowledging Gay Rights; hopeful, too, that those societies where bigotry, in any shape or form, continues to have the upper hand, may yet learn to respect the fact that we all share a common humanity, and humanity turns on peace and love not socio-cultural-religious prejudices.


My love and I sit at a table
toasting us in red wine,
pledging peace in our time

My love and I sit at a table
laughing over bad jokes,
enjoying this quality time

My love and I sit at a table
reliving the bad times,
society pandering to bigotry

My love and I sit at a table
remembering gay folks
denied quality time together

My love and I sit at a table,
haunted by times past,
bigots refusing to move on

My love and I sit at a table,
always making the most
of any quality time together

My love and I sit at a table
toasting us in red wine,
pledging peace in our time

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010