Can You Hear The People Sing?

Click play to hear me read the poem or right-click and choose ‘Save As’ to download the MP3.

They dwell in strange rooms
the murky recesses of affordability
barely buildings, bedrooms with sinks
chair pushed up against the door
flakes of lives flung everywhere
a curtain, a quilt – who can really say?

A bare bulb hangs in an open window
no shade inside from day or night
Still lives go on; the rudimentary,
ramshackle, clutching at homeliness
the need for shelter unites us all
a hotel, a shed – who can really say?

In bleak electric heat, so many sing
it’s a different song
all sing a different song
Some higher, happier
some lower, more desperate than mine
flowing on through these days and nights
a verse, a chorus – who can really say?

The lawless, surging, movement of cars
the self-possessed trains below the buildings
so many pairs of eyes journeying on
the things they’ve seen, things they still see
those minds, all varied, wrapped in their own stories
a tragedy, a fairytale – who can really say?

Market stalls, street-sellers in threading gloves
the inside world spills out, a necessity
pavements become malls dressed in winter veils
motorbikes slip ghost-like in and out of sight
drunks stumble in high-spirits from bar to bar
a wall, a urinal – who can really say?

In tall towers, in basement bunkers
so many singing their different songs
some sing of the joy of things
some sing only of the difficulty
the tunes flow through this city’s veins
a love song, a death’s lament – who can really say?

But can you?
can you hear the people sing?
the miserable, the quietly ecstatic
can you hear the people sing?


Thanks for reading.

This poem is taken from my first collection of poetry: One of These Years. Available now in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon

It also appears in (and lends its name to) the Palewell Press’s second poetry anthology. Available now!

Published by

Tom Alexander

"Art is a lie that tells the truth"

11 thoughts on “Can You Hear The People Sing?”

    1. Again, thanks for reading! I wrote this a couple of weeks after moving to London. The size and strangeness of the big city seeped into me and this poem came out… 🙂


    1. Tell me about it Peter 🙂 I can still remember the walk in mid October 2011 where the title came to me and the poem came soon after. 12 years ago this year. It’s hard to believe but there has been a lot of life crammed into those years. Thanks for taking the time to read again.

      Liked by 1 person

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