Wednesday, 16 August 2017

It is what it Is...or Is it?

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

Only recently, a reader emailed me to ask if I consider myself an agnostic because I am gay and, if not, why not…?

At school, 50+ years ago, we were once asked to write an essay about ‘Secrets’. This was preceded by a class discussion on the subject during which we were all agreed that secrets are hard to keep, especially from family and friends. Someone made an unkind remark about gays not being ‘out’ to which the teacher responded with a wry shrug that “Time outs us all in the end. The trick is to get in first, before gossip and ignorance can do their worst.’ This comment livened up the debate no end, but I missed most of what was being said for dwelling on the concept of Time ‘outing us all in the end.’ It is so true. Gay or straight, it is a rare person that has no secrets; invariably these come out, if not during their lifetime then in the course of events following their death.

I only came out to a few people until a bad nervous breakdown in my 30’s finally rid me of all self-consciousness about my sexuality. Even then, though, I trod carefully through what I had known for years as a minefield of public opinion. The breakdown had lasted several years before I found the confidence to face the world again. During this time, I explored human nature through avid reading and writing poetry, both of which had already stood me in good stead at university.

Being gay is, of course, only one aspect of human nature, one part of a complex whole. It has always been the whole that interests me although, obviously, I have a special interest in the gay aspect. Some gay people seem to find it strange that I write general as well as gay-interest poetry. But…why not? Being gay is a very significant part of who I am, yes, but I can hardly ignore the rest of me, those other parts that make me who and what I am. Well, can I...?

In my 70’s now, I often look back and wish I had done things differently (as in ‘better’) but I guess we are all victims of our circumstances up to a point, and my circumstances have often conspired against me. Yet, I am no victim in the sense that I made my own choices, albeit not always the right ones.

Many who subscribe to a religion have told me I will forfeit Heaven and go to Hell although I suspect we make our own heaven and hell as our lives take shape by our own hand. So is death the end of all things, I wonder? I have no idea, but as a nature lover, take comfort from the way nature nurtures itself, and spring follows winter. Love, too, never dies even as lovers and loved ones pass away. I suppose I put what Faith I have in nature and love rather than in any religion since, from both, I have always taken a strong sense of spirituality. As to whether or not that sense of spirituality is seen as a sufficiently positive force in my poetry  to pass into living memory by way of my readers after my death, only time will tell.

IT IS WHAT IT IS…OR IS IT?

Time running out,
mind-body-spirit left floundering
among regrets
for missed opportunities, rushes
to misjudgement,
and plain, everyday mistakes
with consequences...
for there can be no payback
equal to the task
of making reparation for any flaws
in humankind

No sense of a God
likely to extend any forgiveness
to the likes of me,
unable to relate to any Heaven
(potential safe haven)
throughout a lifetime of struggling
to make sense of dogma
interpreted by Religion’s finest
as leave to preach
a Politics of the Heart making sense
of humankind  

How then to approach
the End of Things in the absence
of any New Beginning
other than as some deactivated spirit
gone to ashes, dust,
someone else’s (imperfect) memory,
there to endure
a kindly ‘eternity’ that sits more easily
on the tongue than ‘death’
while advocating spiritual qualities
in humankind?

I have asked this of poems
that have dogged my every footstep
from child to senior,
no one answer offered (or confirmed)
but a sense of moving
through time (other than growing old)
acting out tales passed on
by ghosts about leaving footprints;
no one left behind
but (together) creating a continuum
called humankind

To each, our own way,
engaging with the greater mysteries
of life and death,
finding such comfort as we can,
pinning our finer hopes
on what’s better, kindlier, said
and done, wiser choices
than less so, promise nurtured
or left unfulfilled
for an indefinable social conscience
to define us as it will

Whatever, it is what it is, and Time
will out us all one way or another…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Monday, 19 June 2017

G-A-Y, News from Bulgaria

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

I have met people from all over the world in London, one of many reasons why I love living here even if is overcrowded and the air pollution is killing people. A few years ago I met a young man from Bulgaria who expressed open amazement at ‘how easy it is to be gay in London.’

“Is, Bulgaria very gay-unfriendly then?” I asked.  “Not openly no”, he told me, “and it is not illegal to be gay in my country. Even so,” he sighed, “It is not easy to be gay in my country either.”

Is it easy to be gay, anywhere, I wonder? Easier here, perhaps, or easier there…but easy…? 

More often than not, gay men and women worldwide invariably find themselves swimming against this or that socio-cultural-religious tide even in so-called ‘liberal’ societies while those that are less liberal turn a blind eye to homophobia or find ways to encourage it without appearing to abuse our human rights to extremes. Some societies, of course, are still living in the Dark Ages and make us out to be enemies of the people…especially where that particular epithet belongs to those in positions of influence and power who just love to work the moral high ground, especially when it pays off so well.

This poem is a kenning.

G-A-Y, NEWS FROM BULGARIA 

I dare anyone to suggest
I discriminate against this person
or that, yet am brazenly
(if diplomatically) selective
about whom I serve
when push comes to shove
on such occasions
as there are reputations to me made
or all but broken

I dare, indeed, well able
to run rings around any opponent
whose first language
is not mine, for none so effective
as the rhetoric of reason,
designed to conceal motivation
while worthy enough
at face value to be well researched
for future reference

I defy anyone to find fault
with how I do my job, taking care
to keep within boundaries
obvious even to less moral citizens
found strutting our streets
as if they were foreign investors
taking us for a ride,
there are a variety of ways
to skin a cat

You know me, always on the case,
appearing to side with justice…


Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Answering Back

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

Regular readers know full well that I do not subscribe to any religion. I consider myself an agnostic, preferring to take a (strong) sense of spirituality from nature in whose life forces I do not discount the work of a greater power. At the same time, I respect all religions, even though few (if any) respect neither my being (actively) gay nor my agnosticism. We are all free to make our own choices in life and should not be so quick to condemn any into which we cannot enter ourselves…for whatever reason. (It has been my experience that many people who insist they are not judgmental, prove by way of word and deed to be among the most judgmental. We are all different and it is our human right to be different.

I have met gay people from various socio-cultural-religious backgrounds who remain in the closet regarding their sexuality for fear of offending religious leaders who cannot reconcile sex and sexuality with religious. My understanding f God is that no God would want these people to suffer as they do, some terribly, from a sense of guilt no God worthy of the name would impose upon anyone.

More than once it has been put to me that I should put aside my gay ways and reconcile myself to a way of life likely to find favour with God as laid down in Holy Books; in my case, the Holy Bible. God, though, did not write any Holy Books, humankind did, and who’s to say how much was lost in translation and/or shaped in such a way as most likely to appeal to select writer/s and readers alike.

ANSWERING BACK

Being gay is no sin
a priest told a gathering
of gay men, women,
and gay-friendly souls;
the sin, it lies
in practising (gay) rites
of sex, even worse
for taking such pleasure
in them as cannot
(ever) be justified in the eyes
of any God
according to any religion
whose dogma
needs must be respected
by all followers,
no exceptions made for a select
minority of gays

Being gay is a life force
in me, spoke up someone
among the audience,
just as that blessed sense
of spirituality
I have (always) taken not only
from my religion
but also such life forces
all around us…
as in nature’s predilection
for renewal…
nor less so in a common humanity
whose needs,
(spiritual as well as temporal )
deserve common respect,
no exceptions made  for a select
minority of clerics

The priest begged
to differ, quoting passages
from Holy Books
that rang hollow for being taken out
of context and century,
even dogma, given its intention
to underwrite  
a sense of peace and love taken
from life forces
common to mind- body- spirit,
bent on reinforcing
a spiritual well-being independent
of any religious dogma,
audience reserving a human
right of reply,
likely to fall on many a deaf ear
in Church arenas

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Friday, 19 May 2017

Compassion, Meaning Nothing to Forgive


A friend of mine is afraid to be openly gay because he is a Catholic. He deserves better from a religion to which he is devoted.

While Pope Francis is a BIG improvement on his predecessors, and a welcome one, the Catholic Church (among others) still has a long way to go as far as relating to LGBT people. For any socio-cultural-religious authority to suggest being gay is OK so long as we are not having sex is not only absurd, but also offensive.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, too, is among those who have made this unrealistic comment about same sex relationships; as an attempt to portray Christianity as showing a more enlightened attitude towards LGBT communities worldwide, it fails miserably. (Whatever else Jesus of Nazareth may or may not have been, he was no bigot. On the contrary, he was an open-minded, openhearted humanitarian from whom we could all learn a thing or two, regardless of colour, creed, sex or sexuality.)

I am not disrespectful of religion although I subscribe to no religion myself. However, is it not high time all the world’s religious leaders got real about the kind of world we live in and imposed less hypocrisy and guilt on followers struggling to reconcile their faith and sense of spirituality with how they live their everyday lives? Homosexuality has long been a thorn in the side of world religions, not least, I suspect, because it forces them to confront an intrinsic hypocrisy. 

Millions of gay men and women among active Christians and other religious-minded people around the world still feel they must remain in the closet, are made to suffer a lifetime of guilt imposed on them by a blinkered religion that cannot relate to a native sexuality and its natural need to freely express itself. Various closed-shop religions proceed to pass judgement on us; many have our blood on their hands.

Thankfully an increasing number of religious-minded people, gay and heterosexual alike, understand that having little or no vision beyond narrow boundaries that pass for dogma does humanity no favours. Religion should be an open door for anyone to enter (or not) as they choose; for those who choose to enter, it deserves better than to be transformed by its so-called 'betters' into an open prison. 

Religious leaders interpreting and imposing a religious dogma that undermines the integrity of LGBT relationships have no real understanding of the very message of peace and love it is sending out to followers worldwide.

The poem is a villanelle.

COMPASSION, MEANING NOTHING TO FORGIVE 

Who will praise His Holiness,
above Earth Mother’s cries of protest
among gay victims of HIV-AIDS?

Let hypocrites gather en masse,
(keen to put their faith to a litmus test)
who will praise His Holiness

Will the Bishop of Rome confess
any blame for a kinder acolyte’s unrest
among gay victims of HIV-AIDS?

In the papacy, he’ll surely press
the devout to place unquestioning trust
who will praise His Holiness

Oh, but among the lapsed, no less
anxiety to have consciences put to rest
among gay victims of HIV-AIDS

Among the lasting parables of Jesus,
a Good Samaritan puts compassion first;
who will praise His Holiness
among gay victims of HIV-AIDS?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010
  
[Note: During the four years this poem was posted on my general blog, I received a number of abusive emails, but am delighted to say that these were considerably outnumbered by emails from gay (and straight) men and women who feel their religion lets itself down by failing to acknowledge the integrity (including sexual integrity) of LGBT people worldwide. Indeed,  the unattached, hot-blooded gay person may well go looking for sex…while the unattached heterosexual person does not?]

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Extracts from a (gay) Poet's Diary

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

This is not a new post but one I deleted from my general blog after receiving several troll-type emails. I usually ignore these, but friends advised me to post it on my gay-interest blog instead while continuing to link to it from to it from my Google + site as previously. Then I though, why should I? So I have re-posted it on my general blog. At the same time, friends are probably right in suggesting it will be of more interest to gay readers...

Now, we talk about 'blind' instinct, but there is a native instinct that know us better than we know ourselves, and it is anything but blind; it has a clearer sense of what to do in situations where any brooding, thinking self hasn't a clue.

In February 1969, I sailed for Australia (as a would-be migrant) on the SS Southern Cross from Liverpool. While it was a huge mistake in many ways, it was also one of my better decisions.

In short, I was running away from the UK - and a family that had no idea of how much of a psychological mess I was in or of share their of blame for it - rather than going to Australia. Gay relationships ‘between consenting adults’ had been decriminalised in 1967  but it would be many years before society as a whole began to accept us, if grudgingly. I had left school five years earlier but saw myself as having no career prospects and was still a long way from becoming truly reconciled with my sexual identity. Apart from a growing sense of isolation, I felt hurt and angry. Significant though sexual identity may be, it is but a part of a greater whole. (Why should the greater part of me be made to feel it needs to apologise for what, after all, is no one else's damn business?)

While I will always have a great affection for Australia and the people I met there, I arrived with neither enough money nor qualifications to fulfill my dream, even in the longer term. During the six-weeks crossing, however, I’d had plenty of time to think and reflect on my motives. I found myself homing in on home truths that appalled me. Was I really such a coward?

So, yes, on the face of it, Australia was a disaster but I returned to the UK not (quite) with tail between legs but as different person, more self-confident than I had ever felt before and determined to shape my life in a positive way. In spite of a severe nervous breakdown in my 30’s, I like to think that, in general, I have succeeded.  (I have battled with depression all my life but any gay angst has only ever been part of the emotional equation albeit a vital one.)

It is up to all of us - gay or straight - to make the best of things, not the worst, and be positive about ourselves, each other and life in general even when the immediate future may be looking on the bleak side. That’s when the human condition comes into its own, now a pussycat, now a roaring lion. Mind you, everyone has lapses of self-confidence in self and in humanity from time to time, including me.

If the journey to Australia nearly 50 years ago was a nightmare, my stay there was an epiphany. My return to the UK marked the kind of new beginning the poet in me had been yearning for without any real sense of either the what or the how, only the why. Moreover, I no longer felt that gay-interest poetry is something for which I should feel any need to apologise; a poem is a poem is a poem just as a person is a person is a person...regardless of sexuality. A long way to go to find myself, true, but well worth it...

EXTRACTS FROM A (GAY) POET’S DIARY 

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left wondering
why it should attack now,
this animal lust
for freedom, open spaces
far, far, away from city faces
and grubby streets

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left wondering why
it should strike now,
this hunger for adventure,
need to prove something
although what or to whom
remains to be seen

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left feeling excited
if scared of a caving in
rather than a pressing ahead
with some heady fiction 
well aware its return thread
so easily broken

Looking to play the hero
or merely wishing
to please myself for once
instead of always
putting head before heart,
doing the ‘right thing’
(but right for whom after
all's said and done?)

Rage, burning, a life-long
learning in flames;
passion, a feisty yearning
to escape this caged-up 
non-life, a Here-and-Now
parody of a lion’s den
where the mouth gone dry,
sweat soaking the brow

Who is it, this other 'Me'
writing up emotions
half killing me to admit
in these early hours
where conscience seeks
respite in its humanity
as if its poetry were indeed
a match for its sword?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2017

[Note: The last stanza has since been added to the original version of this poem that first appeared under the title, ‘A Poet’s Diary’ in  The Third Eye by R. N. Taber Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 8 May 2017

Ode to Brer Fox

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

I have always thought hunting with hounds is a sick sport. Maybe that’s because I have a tried and tested empathy with any animal on the run; having been the victim of homophobic attacks in the distant past, I know how it feels. Some of us get away by the skin of our teeth, of course, as I (usually) did, but not everyone escapes.

In some parts of the world (countries like Uganda and Iran, for example, to name just two) gay people have to hide their sexuality, yet are often sniffed out by bigoted forces and don't live to tell the tale. It is a tragedy that shames the civilised world. Sadly, it is as all too common a tragedy for unprotected species in the animal world as for gay people living in an intrinsically homophobic environment...or anyone else seen as fair game by those who choose to interpret this or that socio-cultural-religious take on life as justification for the unjustifiable.

[Hunters] take unbelievable pleasure in the hideous blast of the hunting horn and baying of the hounds… Erasmus (1466 - 1536)

ODE TO BRER FOX

I hear a horn,
the baying of hounds,
thundering hooves,
need to run and hide
if only I can

Closing in on me,
horn, hounds, hooves;
scarier still,
a stench of humans
laughing

I need to pause
but the only rest for me
will last forever
once laughter catches
up with me

My legs fail,
drag me to a sanctuary
of friendly bushes
but the frothing pack
sniffs me out

The lead hound
pauses, poised to leap
for my throat,
now strikes, and all
I hear is laughter

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Spring, Hymn to Life


In my 70’s now, people often refer to me as being in the autumn (even early winter) of my years. Well, physically, yes, of course I am, but there is a spirit in me (as in all of us who know better) that beats its wings and sings its heart out just as if it were spring…
Gay or straight, we all get old, but never let anyone make you feel old.

SPRING, HYMN TO LIFE or 

Bursting into spring
like a skylark into song
at the first subtle hint
of a new day’s spreading
its wings

Up, up, and away
like that beautiful kite
we flew in a breeze
on a far hilltop, spreading
news of us…
across green fields,
over chuckling streams,
busy, smoky streets,
touching base with others
like us

Demanding heads
in sand look up, take note,
spread the word
to watch out for us settling
nearby…
listen to epic tales
ever worked and reworked
by history,
world taking us to heart
as it may

Bursting into spring
like a nightingale’s lullaby
at the first subtle hint
of twilight at a day’s folding
its wings

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017