Monday, 15 January 2018

G-A-Y, the India No One Sees


As in certain other countries around the world, LGBT relationships remain a criminal offence in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, punishable by imprisonment at the very least. Every now and again, I hear from gay readers in these parts of the world and am asked to write a poem. Only recently, I found myself chatting to Viraj, a visitor from a city in India where he and his male partner are forced to give the appearance of living separate lives.

At  72+, I suspect my Muse (like me)  is less able these days, but have produced the following villanelle for the likes of people like Arijit and his secret love, wherever they may be, living in fear of reprisals by the less enlightened who remain immovably entrenched in one form or another of socio-cultural-religious dogma.



G-A-Y, THE INDIA NO ONE SEES

Fine temples casting a long shadow
on centuries of human history,
River of Time running, oh, so slow

In vain may Winds of Change blow
(wake-up call to the 21st century?);
fine temples casting a long shadow

In truth, we came ourselves to know,
(as birds to a tree if never openly)
River of Time running, oh, so slow…

Hunters, a tiger’s tracks surely follow,
(child of Earth Mother, born free);
fine temples casting a long shadow

Where same sex lovers afraid to go
(says the Tarot of social misery)
River of Time running, oh, so slow

Underwriting an ages-old status quo
disrespecting homosexuality,
fine temples casting a long shadow,
River of Time running, oh, so slow

Copyright R. N. Taber 2018











Friday, 12 January 2018

The Zen of Sexual Identity

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

No longer a young man (in my 70's now)  but still a shameless romantic, I was thrilled to discover a  Doris Day album called My Heart available on cd with songs from 1985/1986 that I had not heard before. Doris was in her 60's then (turned 80 now) her voice as magical as ever.

Ah, but it's GOOD to know  this clinical, sceptical Age of Technology has not killed off love and romance, and hopefully never will....

Now, readers sometimes get in touch to ask why I don’t publish my poems on a gay theme separately rather than include them in broader collections. ‘Mark’ complains that I am ‘letting down the gay minority by pandering to the straight majority.’

Oh, and how...?

As a gay man, I hope gay readers will enjoy many of my poems, and not just the gay-interest ones. I also hope that many straight readers will enjoy some of my  gay-interest poems as well as those on other themes. We are, after all, a common humanity, so why publish a volume of gay-interest poems that will only be read by gay people? There is, surely, a greater need to educate the gay-unfriendly among us then preach to the converted?

As for the poem below, it is a poem about the spiritual as well as physical nature of love for which neither the gay minority nor heterosexual majority worldwide can claim to have a monopoly while those that condemn gay relationships plainly know little or nothing about love anyway. I am posting it here simply because feedback suggests many gay readers (all ages) who visit this blog (still) adore our Doris. Hopefully, though, it will be likewise enjoyed by the mixed gay/straight readership following my Google+ site.

THE ZEN OF SEXUAL IDENTITY

Your body engages with mine
in a purposeful embrace destined
to last a lifetime

Your tongue paints over graffiti
daubed on my flesh by other lovers
for the hell of it

Your lips promise nothing less
than a fine re-working of passion’s
greater artistry

Your hands re-work my body,
exploring its potential, overlooked
by amateurish brush strokes

Your desires make new inroads
where previously only sex has left
muddy prints

Your love re-writes the bible
of sex passed down to me by lesser
mortals

My body engages with yours
in a spiritual embrace destined
to last a lifetime

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

[Note: First published under the title 'Engaging with Love' in On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books 2010; rev. version in e-format in preparation.[












Friday, 29 December 2017

Extracts from a (Gay) Nature Lover's Diary


Maybe it was the aspiring poet in me or simply because I have always been partially deaf, but even as a child I was easily contented with my own company, especially with my head in a book or communing with nature. While my mother was OK with this, my father was critical of what he considered to be unbecoming for a boy. Thankfully, my brother was more ‘masculine’ so that took the heat off me a bit. Needless to say, my relationship with my father was never a good one; there was no father-son bonding, probably due his being a product of a generation scarred both by war and even more misleading and misguided stereotypes than my own would see.

Children, of course, only come to understand such things in time. Meanwhile, they can but rely on adults to point them in the right direction; what is right for them, that is, not, the mentoring adult. Fortunately, my mother was cut from a very different cloth to my father and I survive to tell the tale.

I grew up with very mixed feelings about how I should approach the world, family life and (not least) myself. Perhaps that is why I love everything about the natural world; for all its unpredictability, it exudes relatively less than its human counterpart. On the whole, nature also suggests a greater sense - for me, anyway - of being on one’s side; at least, not against anyone simply because he or she has a mind-body-spirit of their own that may not be in sync with some socio-cultural-spiritual ‘norm’.

I grew up, too, believing that being gay was abnormal simply because it was ‘different’ and was never more glad of the sense of spirituality nature has always inspired in me. While my mother could not have cared less, the same could not be said for the rest of my immediate family nor even some people I looked upon as friends.

As a gay man in my 70’s now, I am so glad attitudes towards homosexuality continue to change for the better in many countries, even among the more discerning within intrinsically homophobic cultures. Alas, there is no room for complacency; more education is needed about how -, whatever our colour, creed, sex or sexuality - we are all part of a common humanity and all, each in our own way…different.

Reports of further legislation to re-enforce Equal Opportunities and Political Correctness may well suggest steps in the right direction in many respects, but you cannot legislate for bad attitude which, in turn, invariably stems from ignorance of the issues involved and/or a point-blank refusal to enter into any points of view other than one’s own. Enter, Education… if  only to show that what is often taken for liberalism is, more often than not, plain common sense in the absence of which any real (as in worthwhile) communication between certain people, peoples and cultures  is likely to prove but illusory.

As for my scepticism, that remains part of who I am, too, and most likely always will. At the same time, I am also a very positive thinking person; a contradiction, some will say, but then what’s one more contradiction in a world whose elected (or self-appointed) spokespersons  contradict themselves for much if not most of the time…?

EXTRACTS FROM A (GAY) NATURE LOVER’S DIARY

I’ve heard folks say I should get real,
and I do as needs must…

Yet, I love to talk to flowers,
let them know I am here for them
and care if they live or die
much as I, too, could have someone
care for me, watch out for me
as I make my way through passages
of time and space among crowds
jostling to be first in line for whatever
best is yet to come as rumoured
by those assumed to be in the know
if only because it would appear
they have the ear of someone said
to really count for something
in a greater scheme of things as full
of promise as sparing on detail
nor so much as a mention of any Plan B
lest investors in social conscience despair
of profit margins

I’ve heard folks say I should man up,
and I do as needs must…

Yet, I love to spread wings, fly
among (all) birds over cities, towns,
and dreary suburbs top heavy
with killer-by-stealth pollution,
escape to the countryside,
take off with ducks, swans and the like
on its waterways, nature’s answer
to frantic airport runways…
comment on city carbuncles, enthuse
about country cottages, get angry
about global warming, especially where
powers-that-be in denial refusing
to put it on various agendas just in case
they lose votes (or face) among any
who couldn’t really care less so long as
they don’t miss out on rewards of a (very)
pecuniary nature

I’ve heard folks take me for a sceptic,
and they would be right…

Yet, I’ll believe a sunset’s promise
of sunny (or stormy) days in the wings
before I’ll trust a politician’s word
that the shape of things to come is safe
if not (quite) secure in party hands,
preferring to take my cue from such cloud
and bird formations as nature inspires
from time to time by way of suggesting
we make appropriate preparation, less need
for reparation  the powers-that-be
may well have us make for what turns out
to be their (only human) mistakes,
ours, too, if only for hearing what we want
to hear than what mind-spirit
would  take us to task for, a falling in 
with the commoner (if only human) failings
of contemporary society


Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Friday, 22 December 2017

Climate of Fear, a Chechnya Diary

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

Whatever Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s visit to Russia has or has not achieved, it is good that he has focused world attention on Human Rights abuses against LGBT people in Chechnya.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Chechnya have long been a cause for concern among human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. As a part of the Russian Federation, many of Russia's LGBT laws apply. However, Chechnya is a semi-autonomous republic within Russia's borders, with its own legal code, and the state imposes the death penalty (officially suspended) for men in homosexual relationships. In addition, there are few protections for LGBT citizens, and the government encourages the killing of people suspected of homosexuality by their families.

There are, of course, other countries where LGBT people continue to be persecuted. Here in the so-called ‘liberal’ West, even pro-LGBT legislation is not enough to prevent homophobia from raising its ugly head, especially among some families and communities where various religions professing to be all about peace and love prove – time and again - to be unfit for purpose where LGBT people are concerned.

CLIMATE OF FEAR, A CHECHNYA DIARY

We live and love behind closed doors,
afraid to fling them open wide
even to family in case they might guess
our secret, become accessories
to the fact that we are gay, criminals
in the eyes of lesser gods

We live and love as every chance allows,
stealing precious moments
in secret places, away from prying eyes
and faces that would paint
us as demons in a world of humans
who seek to know no better

We live and love as nature reassures us
we may, day after day,
concealing our dread of discovery by bigots
who would see us dead
rather than acknowledge our place
on the world’s greater stage

We live and love, meant to be together
as sense and sensibility
collude to wish us well with our every blink
of an eye, twitch of a smile
daring broad daylight until darkness falls
on kisses worth dying for…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017


Friday, 1 December 2017

Snowfall


Snow is a mixed blessing; fun for kids and skiers, treacherous on untreated roads. Life , too, can be a mixed blessing, fun and treacherous at the same time…

SNOWFALL

It snowed that December Day,
(I remember it well);
precious moments, frozen in time
(wasted on braving it out)

All smiles, jokes and laughter
(camouflage for pain))
among ashes heaped like snowflakes
on a once-upon-a-love-affair

We shook hands, shared a hug
(as old friends might);
snowflakes like kisses on our cheeks
(life’s heat fast turning cold)

We’d agreed needs must we part
(where first we’d met)
a shutting down of blinds on sunshine
as snowfall to any hint of spring

As you turned and walked away
I glimpsed tears falling;
for you, for me, for us, I’d ask myself?
No answers, only more snow…

For years, I’d put on a happy face
(if always hurting inside)
until a day a sparrow called me O-U-T
and I (finally) dropped the act

Yesterday, the first snow of winter
left me vividly recalling
that other snowfall, and two gay lovers
scared to come in from the cold



Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Thursday, 30 November 2017

O-U-T, Leaving a Winter of the Heart for its Spring

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

Winter can be an especially desolate time of year for lonely people.  Ah, but if we promise ourselves another spring and do our best to keep that promise, well, who knows…? Luck is a fine thing, can strike anyone anywhere BUT we have to be in the right frame of mind to recognise it or it will more than likely pass us by.

The world will not come to us, we have to go out and find it. Yes, there are a lot of mean, nasty people out there BUT there are also a LOT of good, kind people too.

O-U-T, LEAVING A WINTER OF THE HEART FOR ITS SPRING

In its bleak midwinter
a frosty spirit did moan,
life not the worth living
heart turning to stone;
no one I could confide in,
no one I dared say
that I had discovered
I am gay

A lonely Christmas over,
New Year out of sight,
what’s the point of living
where there is no light,
but a tunnel stretching
where no angels go…
in the bleak midwinter
long ago?

I heard someone calling
though no one there,
so dropped by at a bar,
and grabbed a chair,
found myself confiding
to a man in grey
how I had discovered
I am gay

I couldn’t stop talking
once I had begun;
a heavy load grew lighter,
tunnel all but run;
then my turn to listen
to how the man
in grey came to discover
he is gay

We chatted until closing,
agreed to meet again,
two hearts overflowing
as we parted then;
though the snowfall heavy
I gladly made my way,
cheering angels telling all
I am gay

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2017

[Note: First published in 1st eds. of On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010 under the title, 'A Feeling for Midwinter'; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Friday, 24 November 2017

Love, Make or Break

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

We all experience degrees of  loss, despair and disappointment as we progress through life; many have more than their fair share of all three.  Yet, life goes on and we have to move on with it or let our emotions leave us dragging behind. I have known people who have succumbed to the latter and become very resentful and bitter individuals. While there is no easy route to ‘getting on with life despite everything…’ we all need to find one that is at lease manageable. It will often require courage,  determination, and a LOT of positive thinking.

Most of all, we need to rediscover hope, and re-invent ourselves along the way.

When a love affair ends because two people fall out of love with each other...well, it happens and moving on isn't too difficult. But when both partners love each other but one partner wants to tell family, friends and just about everyone while the other - for whatever reason - doesn't...well, that's a really tough one. There's a lot to be said for staying in a closet relationship if two people truly love each other; easier, though, when neither person feels he or she has a choice. The alternative scenario, though, will more likely than not prove too much to bear.  Moving on may well be a necessity but so, too, is the fact that love never dies...however much it may make us feel better to think otherwise.

I have been on both sides of that particular divide. I had realised I am gay by the time I was 14 years-old. To my shame and regret, though, I didn't have the guts to tell the world I'm gay for a good 25 years; I moved around a lot, was in/out of the damn closet like a jack-in-the-box, and only ever told a few people at a time. Once I'd finally come out to the world and stayed out, I couldn't face going back again, not even for love; pretending to be 'just good friends' with a lover was never an option even though I understood only too well where they were coming from.

LOVE, MAKE OR BREAK

Came a time, ties that bind
lay broken, the last star snuffed out,
harsh words spoken in anger
stubbornly refusing to be put to rout
by an army of emotions
demanding I stay, put things right
where (without meaning to)
I’d said only what was right for me,
all but forgetting you

Came a time, ties that bind
lay as corpses under the same sheets
where we'd come together,
planning our future, listening out
for a dawn chorus
we never really heard for words
spilled on my pillow
from lips kissing me, oh, so tenderly
but couldn't say, "I love you."

Came a time, ties that bind
ran barefoot into a low, misty dawn
without care or thought
for their salvation, crushing them
among dead grasshoppers
in a frenzy of shamed retreat after
hearing you answer, ‘No way!’
to letting the world in on the secret
that we two are gay

Ah, yes, but ties that bind
once broken can yet be repaired
with the patience and skill
brought to lovers the world over
since time began
by those called in with a will to craft
their reconstruction
with people skills handed down,
generation to generation

Yet, none so blind that will not see how
(for playing deaf to the Here-and-Now)

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010