Thursday, 19 October 2017

Further Extracts from a (gay) Poet's Diary

Maybe it was the aspiring poet in me or simply because I have always been partially dead, 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 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’. Having been raised to think being gay was terrible because it was ‘different’ I 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 or even some 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 and even among some intrinsically homophobic cultures. Even so, 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.

Legislation to re-enforce Equal Opportunities and Political Correctness may well be steps in the right direction, but you cannot legislate for bad attitude which, in turn, invariably stems from ignorance of the issues involved (making the case for education) and/or a point-blank refusal to enter into any points of view other than one’s own.

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…?


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 whether they live
or die, much as I would 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 high
on promise, short on detail,
scarcely a mention of any Plan B
as a better option if likely to adversely
affect profits

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 call me a born sceptic
and they could well 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 as the powers-that-be
might well have us make for what turns out
to be their (only human) mistakes
and ours for listening to what we’d prefer
to hear rather than what any mind-spirit
might undermine for being less out of step
with the commoner (if only human) failings
of contemporary society

Let folks say of me what they will,
it is to Earth Mother I’ll answer

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Monday, 9 October 2017

De Profundis

[Update, Oct. 2017]: This poet was on my general blog for a long time but I finally got fed up with homophobic trolls emailing me about it! Many thanks, though, to all readers who have contacted me to say you enjoyed the poem and/ or browsing sections of Tracking the Torchbearer.  Over the years, I have made a number of significant revisions to various (published and unpublished) poems and novels. Eventually all my print books will hopefully have been converted to revised editions in e-format but this will take some time. As I am in my 70's now, I may need to depend on someone else. Publishers - other than anthology publishers and poetry magazine editors - have never shown any interest in my poetry because I have always insisted on insist on including a gay-interest section so I have mostly self-published. Consequently, my collections have only been available in the UK. While costly, I have always more than broken even with sales, and more importantly been very encouraged by feedback from gay and straight readers alike.] RNT

Find below, a dedication poem to Oscar Wilde from my last (and final) print collection collection, Tracking the Torchbearer . I read it on You Tube beside a wonderful sculplture - 'A Conversation with Oscar Wilde'  by Maggi Hambling - that can be found in the Charing Cross area of central London.

Some readers say they often have a problem with playing clips from You Tube  so I am posting it here today as well. [The video is silent for most of the time except where I am reading the poem. Find details about the sculpture, in the description accompanying the video on You Tube]

If you have a problem playing the video below, it may be worth trying to access it directly:

Alternatively, to access my YouTube channel, go to: and search there.
The poem was written 30+ years ago as I began the long haul of recovery from a severe nervous breakdown; I have made few revisions to the original version.




I lay floating in an ocean of misery,
willing myself to drown
while dolphins kept me company
and Apollo lingered on

Sharks, they kept a hungry distance,
an albatross winged by,
while waves lent a gentle cadence
to twilight’s lullaby

Went into freefall to the ocean floor
and would have stayed,
but Apollo demanded of me more
while the dolphins cried

I let them have their way if reluctantly,
screaming for their motivation,
peering into a misty-eyed mortality,
without rhyme or reason

No one answered my question though
I strained to hear,
then twilight let a cloud pass through
and I found a poem there

Body of straw in that ocean of misery,
willing myself to drown,
I read an ode to life, love and a history
of peace after wars hard won

It told how little in life ever comes easy
including death…
such is the fickle nature of humanity
and ways of godmother Earth

I felt a poet’s passion take hold of me,
heard its voice in a seagull’s cry,
swimming me across an ocean of misery
to walk kinder shores, head high

I woke in tears still drenching my pillow,
began (slowly) to recover;
at chinks in the blinds, winks from Apollo
assuring me the worst was over

[From: Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, March 2012]

Tragically of course, for Wilde, the worst was far from over. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

A Sense of Arcadia

I am recovering well from my operation; so far, so good.


Just when I don’t think I have another poem in me…


As I walked in a wood
at twilight, a nightingale sang 
to me of days gone by,
and I found myself recalling
that first time I told the world 
I’m gay, and that’s how it is,
accept or reject me, your choice,
my life

The nightingale sang on,
about the good times and bad
such as everyone gets
to know (be they gay or straight)
so why the big deal
with sexuality? No harm done,
and bigotry doesn’t get to control
my life

Trees began a chorale
of love and peace as a sunset
pinked the sky,
and I found myself recalling
with a heavy heart
how we let prejudice and dogma
have their way with us, promising
a ‘better’ life

An audience of stars
watched as I wound my way
through the wood,
siding with me as I took my past
to task for a present
that only (ever) left me needing 
to feel there had to be a kinder way
of life

An owl flew overhead,
hooting its applause, all nature
(or so it seemed)
thrilled for my having turned away
narrow thoughts
and judgemental jibes, consented
to the sum of my selves demanding
a life

Darkness fell, and silence
no less bitter-sweet than a sense
of being alone
in a magical world where positives
cast long shadows
and negatives are as moonlight
on leaves of grass
creating illusions easily read as signs
of life

Footsteps. Who’s there? Oh, it’s you,
my life…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Monday, 4 September 2017

Resurgence,, the Ethos of Willpower

A mental breakdown can happen to anyone so I am publishing this post/poem on both blogs.

From time to time in the blogs, I have referred to such a breakdown I had in the 1970’s, just a few years after my mother died. I was still in my 30’s, and a psychological mess for all kinds of reasons. It may be an overworked metaphor, but true enough to say I was drowning in a sea of confused and conflicting  feelings that had less to do with being gay than a sense of failure as a person, again for more reasons than I could begin to define. To make matters worse, there was no one in whom I could even begin to confide and there are limits to how anyone in a state of crisis, as I most certainly was, can cope with it on their own.

Inevitably, mind-body-spirit lost not only the ability to communicate in any positive form, but also the will to survive.  I experienced a complete mental breakdown with far-reaching consequences; in the short term, these were pretty dire, but in the longer term they saw me emerge a stronger, more focused person. I lost my job and did not work again for nearly four years. It was a terrible time and I would not have survived but for the support of some good friend who showed me the way back to Hope where all there had been was Despair; the rest was up to me.

Thankfully, mental health issues carry less of a stigma these days. Even so, the mentally ill person has not one battle on his or her hands but a series of battles. We win some, lose some, but practical as well as emotional support is needed before innate survival instincts start to kick in and a glimmer of positive mind-set appears at the outer edge of an all-devouring Black Hole; it is called motivation, and more often than not it is triggered by the return of a much missed sense of humour. 

“If I had no sense of humour, I would long ago have committed suicide.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Fortunately, once rediscovered, I have not lost my sense of humour again since; it has helped me through 6+ years of coping with prostate cancer, inspired me to learn to walk again after a bad fall in 2014, and I dare say it will see me through an impending operation on my infected elbow and subsequent stay in hospital.


Weary of fumbling
through a maze of ugly shapes;
nothing beautiful
to be seen or heard even
by the inner self,
its default to a positive mind-set
left for dead under
a mind-body-spirit anaesthetised
by helplessness, 
as in up against huge waves
of negativity,
no existential surf board, tired
of having a pathetic dog-paddling
pass for progress

World, acknowledging me
party to its ugliness.
bearing down on human senses
day after day
on the early morning commuter run;
a cacophony
of buses, trains and people anxious
to be on time
for places and faces they would prefer
to avoid, but needs must
as some ambivalent ethos drives
the human engine beyond its limits
without fear or favour

World, reconnecting me
(slowly but surely) with the beauty
of Below Surface,
fishes passing by without tossing
judgemental glances,
sharks causing a stir on the look-out
for sustenance,
not a fast buck to line the pockets
of designer gear
intended to impress or intimidate;
splendid rainbows
among coral spewing beer cans
along with other evidence of human
complacency and waste

a so-weird glow of crabs and starfish
on the ocean floor
opening the inner eye to tales
of the unexpected
coursing the blood of living creatures
great and smell,
alerting us to danger, even death,
but also the wonders
of creation among which the greatest
has to be life itself,
its delights as well as hardships
around every corner if only by way
of ‘no pain, no gain’

Lungs bursting
with  no less self-doubt that before
but tempered
with hope of finding a kinder world
than I had sought
to quit without notice like a tenant
in high arrears
or that square peg in the round hole
of a workforce,
unwilling to face the situation
head-on, better
to imagine devils with human faces,
the easier to draw on a fund of excuses 
for opting out of it all

On terra firma,
concerned voices and helping hands
reaching out to me
to clutch, not as one all but drowning
but as someone else
encouraged to restructure a whole
whose parts
had broken loose from each other,
needed reconnecting
and (still) reshaping into a form
less representative
of the weaker links in any human chain
than its strengths

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 3 September 2017

G-A-Y, a Social History

An infected elbow means I am not at the P C keyboard much at the moment, but here's a new poems anyway.

As regular readers well know, I belong to a generation raised in an era that saw gay relationships as a criminal offence; homosexuality was a dirty word and gay-bashing more prevalent a hate crime than even racist motivated attacks. In some parts of the world, times have changed for the better although, as most if not all of us have discovered the hard way, there is no legislating for human nature's being accountable to itself.

Yes, there are now many gay people of both sexes whose families and friends have no problem with their sexuality, but there are also many others who - by whatever means, for whatever reasons – are made to feel they have no choice but to say nothing; a choice all the more tragic for being made not out of any real sense of shame for their sexuality but real love for those unable or unwilling to accept it.

Many people insist ‘blood is thicker than water’. While I have good reason to dispute that, I prefer, in any case, to believe that true love, if not always the stronger, is by far the better and worthier match for hate any time and the more enduring. A favourite quote of mine, all the more profound for its simplicity, springs to mind:

‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ - Martin Luther King, Jr. [A Testament of Hope: the Essential Writings and Speeches]


At home, G-A-Y
was a dirty word (or worse);
at school, G-A-Y
was fuel for bullies and bigots,
for home truths in dark closets;
at work, GA-Y
was something best left hanging 
on staff room gossip

Slowly, but surely,
political correctness entered
the arena,
pro-LGBT legislation, a warning
to any among  
socio-cultural-religious forums
bent on feeding
a feeling for hate crime like milk
to a new-born

Slowly, but surely,
G-A-Y began winning hearts
and minds…
if only among those dismissive
of formative years
teaching poor regard for a common
humanity under cover
of shaping socio-cultural-religious
nemeses to order

At home, G-A-Y
becomes no less of a dirty word
for being ignored;
at school, G-A-Y might well be OK
with (some) parents
but only so long as it stays well clear
of the curriculum;
at work, G-A-Y making the best
of good intentions

On the street, G-A-Y
starting to coming out, get a life,
despite the bullies
and bigots hogging headlines meant
to expose flaws
in any social history while (invariably)
perpetuating stereotypes...
for all Stonewall’s (still) chipping away
at tablets of stone

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Conversations with Mind, Body, and Spirit

Some time ago, readers suggested I start a Google Plus site where I can link to new and historical posts as there are so many poems on the blogs to browse. However, there will be no such links for awhile as I will be admitted to hospital  shortly for an operation on my right elbow. (I am publishing this post on both blogs because not feedback suggests some readers enjoy browsing and don'y always go into my Google + entries if at all.)

Hopefully, I will not need to be an In-Patient for long, but will need daily antibiotic injections for up  six weeks or so after the op so may well be out of action for a time time. especially as I am right handed! I may need to go to the hospital for these injections or it's possible a District Nurse will be able to visit me at home, especially as I have a mobility problem.  I guess it's all in the lap of the gods so will just play it by ear.  

I am not too worried about going into hospital as such or about the operation, but my bad foot often plays me up as does the hormone therapy that's treating my prostate cancer. Days are bad enough but it is hardly worth going to bed some nights because the hormone therapy makes me need the toilet so often. Oh, well,...Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be...[Enter Doris Day in full throttle as in an exciting scene from 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' (1956)] Oh dear, showing my age again...!

Whatever, no worries, folks, and I ask you all to join me in always looking on the bright side of life …as I do since (finally!) managing to rise above the depression that plagued me for many years, not least by way of creative therapy in the form of, yes, writing, especially poetry.

Hopefully, I will be back soon. Meanwhile, feel free to explore BOTH poetry blogs by entering any subjects in the search box: e.g. art, arts, bigotry, childhood, coming out, family, hate crime, human nature, HIV-AIDS, imagination, life, love, music, nature, positive thinking, Princess Diana, romance, self- awareness, sexuality, sexual identity, spirituality, terrorism, time, etc. (General) (Gay-interest)

also (Fiction, gay/general)

and  [My You Tube channel where I read my poems over videos shot by my best friend, Graham Collett.]

I hope you will enjoy exploring in my absence Back mid-September once discharged from hospital.



spiralling me downwards
from cradle to grave…
often when I least expect it,
leaves me clinging
for dear life at straws in an ill wind
raised by a helter-skelter
of events conspiring to drag me
beyond imagination,
test ego (and salvation) to limits
rarely conceived
even by those daily enduring
a world of nightmares

spelling out such promises
as sweet dreams
are made of, offering (for free)
a magical mystery tour
of mind-body-spirit asking only
that I stay true
to the end of a line drawn
not (whimsically) 
in sand or clay, but in good faith
that 1 + 1 is equal,
to the sum of all its frictions
and I can add up

bringing me the best of things
at the worst of times,
moulding the less savoury clay
of human nature
as a potter’s wheel might
its tasks in hand,
demanding the poetry of art
speak up for Beauty,
fair chameleon exposing masks
of the Beast
for human waste washed up
by the tides of life

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

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

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.


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