Wednesday, 10 February 2016

G-A-Y in Old Lisbon OR Making Peace with Time

Regular readers will know I have posted several ‘place’ poems on the blog, some recently. In part, this is because I have somehow become a diehard realist while remaining an incurable romantic, and in part because there are gay men and women the world over and it can do no harm for my poems to reflect that. There is romance and realism a-plenty in many of the stories true-life people email me and which, more often than not, I subsequently try to weave into a poem.

My thanks go to everyone for sending, reading or both.

Now, time passes, times change, people change, too, while love - if fundamentally the same - adapts to all three, while, with any luck, simultaneously developing a new self-confidence and discovering something of that the ages-old wisdom necessary for self-fulfilment.


In old Lisbon one frantic June,
the Tango long since over,
we sang a love song to the moon

(A gypsy once told my fortune,
predicting I’d find a lover
in old Lisbon one frantic June)

Street musicians on to our tune,
the sun already ran for cover,
we sang a love song to the moon

Once young, you and I, too soon,
we gay men ran for cover…
in old Lisbon one frantic June

Years on, chanced to meet again,
the Tango spilling us over,
we sang a love song to the moon  

Older now, to prejudice immune,
once weak, now stronger;
it was in old Lisbon one June,
we sang a love song to the moon

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

[Note: Tango - verse 1, line 2 - refers to Lisbon's annual International Tango Festival.]  


Monday, 8 February 2016

Gay in Beijing OR Letters from an Open Prison

It is the Chinese New Year of the Monkey and a (closet) reader in Beijing has emailed to ask if I would write a poem for Chinese men and women in China. He says he cannot 'come out' due to family obligations; understandable, but sad.

As always, my poem could relate to anyone, anywhere, unable or unwilling to be openly gay in a predominantly gay-unfriendly society.

Although openly gay for many years, I will never forget tough, closet days as a teenager and young man. Nor should we openly gay men and women ever presume to be be in the least judgemental towards any who feel unable to announce their sexuality to others.  As always, too, the heart will have its reasons.


Waking to an open prison every day,
hidden bars haunting me,
(no psycho, just gay.)

The family is everything, they say,
must always take priority;
waking to an open prison every day

Loved ones, friends, come what may.
my true self, they will not see.
(no criminal or psycho, just gay.)

Ah, but we will never turn truth away,
but let our (gay) love run free,
waking to an open prison every day

Only a fool will keep true love at bay
for the sake of local propriety;
(no criminal or psycho, just gay.)

Loving sons and daughters, we stay,
paying lip service to The Party;
waking to an open prison every day,
(no criminal, no psycho, just gay.)

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Sunday, 7 February 2016

G-A-Y.Down Mexico Way OR Tuning In to the Heart

As a general rule, it is true to say that LGBT rights in Mexico have kept pace with modern legal trends. Yet, just like so many other places in the world, some people and communities are less willing - if at all -  to accept change, leading to backlashes against those whose sexuality does not conform to so-called ‘normal’ behaviour. No surprises there, though, as I guess there will always be people and communities over whom various socio-cultural-religious prejudices will always have the upper hand.

A Mexican reader emailed me recently and gave me the idea for this poem.  I invariably write in the first person to give a greater sense of immediacy, at the same time leaving the reader space in which to move and make up his or her own mind as to whether the poem ‘works’ for them or not. Even so, I can’t deny that something of me finds its way into every poem I write,  not least in this case because I once crossed the U.S.- Mexican border into Tijuana years ago when staying in San Diego, and made a good friend there…


Down Mexico way
one cloudy sun afternoon,
I met up with a man,
humming along out of tune
to a love duet
playing on a distant radio
tugging at my heart

We chatted away
about everything and nothing,
had plenty to say
as anyone might when trying
to reason and decide
what’s with a total stranger
homing in at your side

Not a handsome man
nor ugly to outer or inner eye,
somehow in tune
with a watery sun in the sky
boding stormy weather,
contriving a smile as if to say
we look good together

Just as it started to rain
we arrived at a red brick house,
time to make a decision
(if asked in, accept or refuse?)
resolved what to say,
no denying a mutual attraction
as one, in tune, and gay

Ah, but this was Tijuana,
where Progress may wink its eye,
being gay not the horror
where some would yet see us lie
for ‘polluting’ this Earth
(though its betters do their best)
like a hypocrite’s oath

Someone tuned the radio
into another station, playing poplar
Mexican pop duo
Jesse and Joy (brother and sister)
seeming to approve
our entering the house together
and (later) making love

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

G-A-Y, Under Puerto Rican Skies OR Never Confuse Seeing with (Just) Looking

A warm welcome to new readers visiting my Google Plus site. In case you wondered, the reason I regularly add (and remove) historical as well as new posts/poems in in response to requests from regular readers of my gay and general blogs who asked for a shortcut to browsing the many poems there. I never post comments, but feel free to email me any time. (I never take offence, either, and don’t expect everyone to like everything I like or agree with everything I say.) I have even met up with some readers visiting London which is always fun.

Recently, I got chatting to a Puerto Rican gay man (in a bar) and asked if gay relationships were illegal in Puerto Rico. ‘Not illegal, no,’ he said wryly, ‘but tough. Believe me, it takes a lot of courage to be openly gay where I come from…’ He proceeded to tell me how he met his (male) partner, and - as my conversations with complete strangers (invariably in bars) often do - it inspired a poem. [NB I am social, not a heavy drinker.]

As it happens, the young man was from Puerto Rico, but could just as easily have been from anywhere that (in part if not predominantly) continues to think the worst of us gay people simply for the sexual identity with which we were born.


We met in pouring rain,
waiting for a bus that never came,
and in my mind’s eye
we made love then and there,
the rain washing us clean,
passers-by pausing now and then
to observe (askance)
raindrops performing a pretty dance
on bodies joined as one,
a watery sun, grinning, oh, so wryly,
world applauding shyly,
but afraid to let on openly for fear
of powers-that-be
likely to err on the side of bigotry
if only for the sake
of the heterosexual (voting) majority,
disapproving for sure,
and (after all) keeping them in power
so can’t afford to offend,
better to let hypocrisy have its way
in the end…

Walked home in the rain,
no tears for the bus that never came,
got to know him
well enough to guess my inner eye
was not deceiving me
nor would he want to be leaving me
at my front door,
expecting (for sure) to be invited inside
where we’d not need
to hide our deepest feelings any more,
but let them run free
of an ages-old socio-cultural history
of homosexuality left unsaid,
its heroes left for dead or in misery
for a life they dare not lead
among heterosexuals whose ignorance
forestalls real progress
among those giving religion priority,
interpreting its dogma
to stigmatise, demonize, dehumanize
LGBT identity

Sometimes I hear rain
singing about a bus that never came
and two strangers
becoming so much more than friends
for trusting inner eyes
to senses honed on years of loneliness
and pain for hiding away,
not for any shame of sexual identity,
but fear of persecution
by those fiercely protective of a history
of socio-cultural-religious
conventions boasting the best intentions
while doing their worst
by good men and women (everywhere)
for refusing to see
how no one socio-cultural-religious ethic
has a monopoly
on a natural born responsibility to do right
by humanity

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Monday, 1 February 2016

G-A-Y, an Affinity with Seashells OR Everyman's Odyssey

Regular readers well know how I love wandering along the seashore at any time of year, especially where I can travel through time and space to relive and enjoy happy memories.

When I was a boy, and as a teenager, I would listen to sea shells and hear things no one else ever told me, reassurance I would not find at home or school as I struggled to come to terms with life, love and an awakening sexuality. 

It was a habit that would never leave me and one I enjoy to this day.  Now, of course, I am growing old, although I suspect the need for reassurance is rarely far away for any of us.


A collector’s prize seashell,
pretty on the outside, empty within
but for nature’s restless swell,
warning the world of its potential
for ruin…

I came, listening intently
to the shell’s graphic storytelling,
a fast growing empathy…
with twilight’s tides swirling
on the eye, magical tales
about everyday lives on the sea
as brave as Odysseus of old nor less
every one, a hero than he

Stirred by the sheer presence
of gay folks negotiating life’s tides
come storms or whatever forces
may see us to harbour or our graves,
I replaced the shell, oh, so gently
for others to find, hear all it has to say
on living life to the full, proudly,
echoes ringing in my ears to this day

Heart lost, now navigating
its tides’ rise and fall, no empty shell
but fuller, bolder, for hearing tell
how nature defines and redefines us, 
one and all…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2016

[Note: This poem a revised version of a poem that appears as ‘Researching Seashells’ in 1st eds. of On The Battlefields Of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; revised ed. in e-format n preparation,]

Sunday, 31 January 2016

G-A-Y, Ballad of the Cafe where Dreams come True

Sometimes, just when it seems dreams can only ever be just that, love demands that life take a turn for the better…


I was gazing at the sky,
creating day-dreams out of clouds
so far, far, above,
friendly faces mouthing my secrets
telling the world I’m in love
and passing birds flapping wings
as if to approve,
reassuring me I have nothing at all
to prove to anyone
that I am any less of a man or person
for loving another,
yet as I looked away, sipped my tea,
I despaired of loving someone
so far, far, above me in every way,
has no idea I’m gay

In the shiny steel table top
I could still see the sky, day-dreams
determined to stay,
but a fingertip away, so near yet so far,
as you were to me
only an hour ago when we chatted
over a coffee, laughing
and joking about, well, no matter what
since just the sound
of your voice, the light in your eyes,
the turn of your smile
left me reaching for the sky, heart
like the wings of a bird,
beating, oh, so madly for trying to say,
I love you and I’m gay

I half rose and made to leave
my day-dreams behind, pay the bill,
get real…
when a distant roll of thunder took me
by surprise, and I sat down
just as it began to rain, and I had no mac,
wearing a tee shirt
and jeans since the day had started fine,
no reason to suspect
a storm, so I rose again to take shelter
in the café
when I felt a tap on my right shoulder,
turned to find you there,
an, oh, so queer expression on your face
as you moved in for a kiss

I’d had no idea you had guessed
my day-dreaming of our being lovers
all the time,
waiting for me to share the, come clean
about my feelings
instead of sculpting them with clouds
sharing with the birds,
winging to, oh, so far, far-away places,
where the only faces
I ever saw were yours, its shy smile
just like the one
you gave me just before you kissed me
in the pouring rain
and I kissed you back, no need to say
I love you and I’m gay

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Friday, 29 January 2016

Time in the Garden OR G-A-Y, A Boy's Own Story

I was born in the county of Kent, often referred to as the Garden of England, although the part where I was born - Gillingham, in the Medway area, so-called after the river Medway that runs through it - was more like a backyard. Its salvation is nearby Dickensian Rochester, and I still get a thrill whenever I spot its castle and cathedral from the train as it crosses the Medway on approaching Rochester station.

It was a very gay-unfriendly place when I was a boy, youth and young man; gay relationships were a criminal offence. 50+ years on, I can’t say as I have noticed much difference in attitudes towards gay people there, and I know for a fact that numerous gay groups have folded (or never got started) due to either lack of local support or plain hostility. So much for Progress...

Whatever, I confess I will always have a special place in my heart for Gillingham, and don’t bear it any grudges.

There are many places in the world where gay men and women are made unwelcome; so much so that many feel they have no alternative but to live out their lives in some anonymous closet as it is not always possible to uproot and move away.

There is always an alternative; we just have to find one that’s right for us, and then act on it.  Life is too precious to waste, and sexual identity too much a part of us to neglect. If it takes time, as it often will, so be it.

This poem is a villanelle.


My battlefield, England’s fair Garden,
self-esteem in freefall.
nature pleading peace for everyone

Listen. Hear the cries of a generation
denied freedom’s call;
my battlefield, England’s fair Garden

For homosexuality, no brief or pardon
branded a criminal,
nature pleading peace for everyone

No one to ask, confide in, place to run
or peace at home, school…
My battlefield, England’s fair Garden

A new spirituality here among my own
finds me walking tall,
nature pleading peace for everyone

To let love, like the Medway, freely run,
answer dawn and sunset’s call…
My battlefield, England’s fair Garden,
nature pleading peace for everyone

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2016

[Note: This poem first appeared as ‘Time in the Garden’ in On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]