Ashes Blow Over All Things

Audio Reading: https://soundcloud.com/tomalexwrite/ashes-blow-over-all-things

For every happy thought
for every smiling friend
for everyone who thanked me
I let the ashes blow

For every hand I lent
for every promise made
for every declaration of love
I let the ashes blow

For every moment of understanding
every instant of communion
and every apparent good deed
I let the ashes blow

Somewhere, there is a garden
overgrown and wild with weeds
one brown bench book-ends it
and there I spend my days
as I turn myself inside out
in the incessant search for meaning

But every shard of hope I find
any glimmer of talent or humour
quickly disappears from view
as I let the ashes blow

So much love I’ve had and been given
so much trust pinned upon me
so much that just gets buried
as I let the ashes blow

Somewhere, there is an attic room
shadowy sanctuary of scribbles
with scalpel nib I carve apart
the body of a life ‘just lived’
dissecting its every organ
in the wild-eyed search for meaning

My burning words of questioning
they scorch all things
and I let the ashes blow
my burning words, unstoppable
they scorch all things
and I just let the ashes blow…

[2011]

Thanks for reading.

Note: I was looking at my writing in 2011 and was struck by how full of questioning, uncertainty and sadness it seemed to be when taken as a whole. The poems always seemed to come when I was at the start of something, never once I’d gained the wisdom. And only ever written in times of sadness, never reflecting on times of joy. This was sad poem all about that realisation – and a turning point in the way I choose to organise my thoughts.

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(Photo credit: http://www.marybethheffernan.com/skills/ashes)

Technique

The way I write…
I brainstorm twenty titles
words or phrases
that sound good to me
that subconsciously
already feel like parts of me
then I refine them
and refine them
pile them up around my feet

And when I’m in the mood to write
I’ll either start writing
(with aim or aimlessly)
until I get stuck
then I grab a title
work it in the lock
release whatever’s hidden
(and it feels good)

Or I choose a title
poking from the ground
reach for my shovel pen
and begin the excavating
find the poem that’s buried beneath
(and it feels good)

Those phrases, those titles
feel like friends I haven’t met yet
that sense you get
when crossing paths with someone
and feel you already know them
or that there’s a story between the two of you
and you just hope that it gets told

The stories we got to tell
are ripe for poems
and the stories that slipped through our hands
can be riper, can be richer sometimes

So, I’ll begin
gathering my titles
and choose one for you…

[2019]

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Mind Tides

Those chemical seas
wash you closer and closer to me
on the chemical seas you ride closer
and then closer again to here

O, how I’ve held a small part of my breath
kept a little air inside for your return
part of me; patiently poised
as your waves wash through my closing fingers

O, how I’ve quietly tended a small flame for you
landing lights aglow along this heart’s runway
expectantly, with a constant hunger
for that desired descent back to me

Those chemical seas sweep you past my port
pulling you away from me
Your fickle thoughts, your fickle heart
strip you of decency
rip you far away from here

The restless movement of the moon
caught in my saucer eyes
The polished mirror of the moon
a wet silver across all your photographs

I’m still helplessly recoiling
at the wave of hurt that levelled me
but just as I see you, so the tide turns
and as I reach out for you
so your mind blurs

And then you’re gone again
for good…

[2016]

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Moonlight

I casually looked up
from flicking through some book
I saw the way you stood
Hell, we’d better look alive
while we’ve got the time…

You met me by The Globe
the whole world waiting with bated breath
you were purring ”are you in?”
O, I’m in…

We blew along the Southbank
for one night only
kissing by the wheel
I kissed you deep within the shadows
a thousand lights tied in the trees

My hand reaching, slowly, for yours
as the tower struck out its chimes
and the moonlight on the Thames
never looked so fragile…

If there is any kind of magic
it is between two bodies
that understand and share
something elemental

The taxi driver asked
if you were my wife
I turned
looked into your eyes
and I lied

And your plane’s leaving in the morning
its engines ticking in our bloodstream
for tonight; there’s no tomorrow
we’ll just indulge this feeling

In some other world
it would be alright
in some other life
this lasts a lifetime

A little kiss of magic
brightens the edges of our lives
it was a little kiss of magic
lighting the edges of our lives

But the moonlight on the Thames
never felt so fragile…

[2017]

Thanks for reading.

Note: repost from Dec 2019.

Photocredit: https://www.trevorsherwin.co.uk/london-at-night

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Jetty Song [with audio]

Her fingers tracing mine
Lily danced me out of the garden
those green eyes brimming lively
with purest abandon
Then barefoot on the boardwalk
her summer dress riding high
she leapt onto the jetty
and gestured to the sky

We let our tanned legs hang below
as we bottomed up the bottle
the air was hot and heavy
the sea around us peaceful
There was lust upon our minds
as a veil upon a bride
the deepest searing truths
politely shot between our eyes

And no man could deny us
loose and open all the time
our hands and fingers; wanderers
tongues locked in a rhyme
By the spit between those kisses
our burning lips were sewn
her dress was barely there
my body carved from stone

With each nail driven into skin
I felt a clapping thunder
the temple tapestry was tearing
as she pierced my thin armour
A melody sung upon her voice
a lyric loudly grows
I’d have gladly turned my back
on all that I held close

We could have traveled every sea
taking turns to lead the way
if only
if only she’d have asked me
if only I’d thought to stay…

Dusk light falling on the harbour
the day became a dream
with toes curled round the boards
she danced me to my feet
in one movement I was shirtless
in another she was naked
a smiling glance was shared
as we leapt with fingers knitted

Our kisses painted salty
lungs burning between breaths
the solution we had longed for
as our bodies coalesced
We swam until our limbs ached
then floated side by side
in the moonlit wideness of her eyes;
another world, I spied

I was so thirsty for the moment
and drank it all too quickly
my mind got blurred and cloudy
my greatest drunken folly
Too naive to know the value
of the treasure in my grip
like sand through careless fingers
I stood and watched it slip

There was water on three sides
and only one path back to land
but somewhere on that journey
I somehow lost her hand
Now, I wonder if she thinks of us
a moment spared for all we shared
does she ever sit upon that jetty
singing of a parallel despair

We could have traveled every sea
wild adventure every day
if only
if only she’d have asked me
if only I’d thought to stay

If only
I’d had the wisdom
to stay…

[2020]

Extra special thanks for reading, I know it’s a long one. 🙂

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Forest

I was lost in a forest
the cold night swaddling me
calmly, it was whispering
“Love the ones who love you back
and all will be revealed”

I found a stone, it caught my eye
heart-shaped and out of place
I picked it up and kept it
that was fifteen years ago
it sits on my window sill

Don’t pity me, don’t laugh
I know I lived, as if asleep
throughout my wasted twenties
And then lived like a wild man
while I was supposedly in love
but the forest is overgrown
and I don’t always know where I am going

Still, I’m heart-shaped
and out of place

I wouldn’t want it
any other way
getting lost in the forest
and finding things…

[2014]

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In The Light of The Evening

I work hard most days
hands all rough by six
ah, but it’s worth every callous
whatever’s needed
and when I’m done, I walk
right down the sea-front promenade
sip on a cup of something
so warm and so sweet
with those boats sailing in and out
in the lazy light of the evening

There forms a shape in the foam on my coffee
I see the outline of your nose and eyes
looking up at me
I wonder just how easily
all my hard work here could be dismantled
with just a few whispered words
wagged by your smiling tongue
just the softest touch of my fingers
along the youth of your skin
in the drunken light of the evening

There is infinite potential
of an infinite damage
in the arch of your eyebrow
in your heart-shaped pout
to capsize in your curves
would surely undo everything
so utterly
as you push your hair behind your ear
in the sticky light of the evening

Those ships keep coming in and going out
I tip the cup back, stand to leave
I work so hard to keep from writing letters
telling how much I long to have you
but I do what it’s right to do
I do what is right for you
button up my coat
walk slow and long across the sand
in the mournful light of the evening
the light that you loved

Walk you off
in the sorrowful light of the evening
the light that you loved…

[2016]

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Friday Night, We Walked Along The Beach…

Friday night, we walked along the beach
talking over a static sea
through all we wearily witnessed this year
still we speak in riddles
the way men often do
it only gets harder as you get older
weighed down by expectation
You didn’t turn to face me
kept your eyes fixed on the horizon
said ‘she’s pregnant’
with a pregnant smile

Black boots kicking stones across wet sand
choking out my congratulations
the selfish gene loudly screaming
‘another friend gone’
and all the drinks we shared, all that crazed fun
the possibility of our youth
all the talk for very different futures
slowly chipped away or in fruition
slowly eroded or made good somehow
Friday night we walked along the beach
as you drifted a little further from me
I wore my catastrophic guilt
all the way to my quiet home

Friday night, we walked along the beach
for the last time in a long time
drinking cans and cracking jokes

Sunday night, we passed upon the high street
you leant in close and stammered
‘she’s no longer pregnant’
and we wept in each other’s arms…

[2017]

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One of Us Was Right To Leave

One of us will lose our head
that’s what I always feared
and when the night finally broke
on us, as we clung to the road
it was obvious; the poetry of certainty
conclusive proof of our mortality
the water fell like some swelling sea
and I drowned in tears of deep disbelief

One of us was right to leave
though heaven knows which one it was
we pushed hard and for so long
when the rope, it broke, we didn’t see
just scuttled hard, to find our feet
a dance of letting go, a balancing act
that pushes us down separate tracks
some hollow lane, an unknown road
where derelict houses line the path

One of us will surely return
the pleading of my heart demands
but stubbornness and ignorance of will
prevent me from succumbing first
the angry air that now divides us
speaks of the fear that loneliness delivers
in words so thick and unrepentant
they recoil so quick, back down our throats
choking the chance to ever repeat

One of us was right to leave
I keep reminding my sad heart
the way these changes must play out
will always make retrospective sense
no matter how unfathomable they now seem
once time has passed, the answers come
the fog of clouded judgment thins
and a happiness so resolute and defined
reveals itself before us as a golden field

And whoever it was
who was right to leave
may they go in peace
and come back peaceable…

[2006]

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(Reposted from Sept 2019)

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Hush Little Nightmare

Quiet, quiet
calm and still
closed eyes can rest
sleepy head can drift

Quiet, quiet
gentle thought
no more mess to address
no more questions to molest you

Finally cut free
spill out, drift on
into a new sea
palms laid on fresh skin

Fretted for years
worried for a living
guilt; it breaks your heart
the quietest of all
let it go, let go
they’ll never know

Reborn, reborn
the duty is renewed
don’t ruin, don’t wreck
just hush your wondering

Quiet, quiet
free from white noise
no more hate to abate
no betrayal to wade through

Let your senses roam
let your hope bloom
no fray in the rope of love
you cling to, now

You’re free, you’re free
the creep can sleep
but must not repeat
don’t speak
just hush
little nightmare…

[2010]

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A Little Place I Know…

Cobbled streets, thin passageways
snaking pipes embrace the buildings
in the shadow cast by evening sun
standing with good friends

We all hate the government
but what can you do 
just drink in the evening sun
talking with old friends

A little place I know
when our graft is done
we go…

Six to nine these gutters fill
chattering smoke and cheers
the amber kiss of evening sun
mixing with great friends

Who voted ‘leave’, not one man here
I’ll stake a bet on it, let’s get
another round in the evening sun
believe the same as our good friends

A little place I know
straight out of work
let’s go…

A little place I know
race to Soho
we’ll go…

The Cock, The Champion
Horse and Groom
drinking in the evening sun
The Crown, Glasshouse Stores
Duke of Argyle
hanging with great friends

A little space I love
a little place to unwind
a little time for our drunk politics
a little laugh
a little joke
a little love, sometimes

A little place I know
a little place I love…

A little place I knew
a little place I loved…

[2016]

Thanks for reading.

Note: I miss pubs 😦

Image credit: https://www.thediscoveriesof.com/best-soho-pubs/

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How To Be Alone

Waiting for a friend
sipping tea, sunglasses on
passers-by double and disappear
as reflections in shop windows
everything lit golden
then dimmed behind my lenses
I stir the drink some more

Waiting for a friend
they’re half an hour late now
I barely notice
just watch the people
let my mind wander
the liquid turning in the cup

And it hits me, squarely, there
on the corner by the crossroads
these moments
left to my own devices
find me so contented
thinking, writing, dreaming
drawing, planning, scheming

Have I just mastered the art
of how to be alone
or am I just happy
Maybe…
I’m just truly happy
finally…

[2019]

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Renee By A Thread [with audio]

Down the corridor, comes a scream
Was it physical pain
or the horror of finally learning
the way this game is turning
They took your clothes
gave you a gown
there was nothing to do but lay right down
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

Faint flashes behind tired eyelids
recalled moments from a busy life;
the night before your wedding
barefoot kisses by the Seine
The tentative first steps of Child Two
A shaking hand, a ‘thank you’ card
from the family of one you saved
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

The ache, it came and spread like water
the fever burned, the cough, it worsened
they hooked you up, you knew the drill
the butterfly, the slow sure drip
and then it seemed to ease a while
The bed you took, brought guilt at first
your hands no longer helping
Then suddenly; your quick decline
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

There’s a feeling in your chest
and that sixth-sense you sometimes get
the dawn tomorrow, you will not witness
Nurses come, their voices hushed
gloved hands hold, always too briefly
you don’t like the letting go
The room is quiet but for the wheeze
as the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

In the chair beside you, that loving face
waiting at end of every nightshift
You know that he will raise them right
Ah, but which patient was it
which desperate hand you gently held
which reassuring words you shared
with no fresh mask to wear
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

The family grieves
a nation grieves
for you
gone
needlessly soon…

[2020]

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Adrienne

There exists a God in your body
a deity in you, somewhere
All who look upon you, they become
detached from what they thought they knew
from what they understood before
And so begins the free fall…
into a deep and glowing love for you

You are a carrier, spreading the seed
of this great ailment throughout
With each bat of each lash you do
and with that smile and slow sure dance
your words are bursting in my ears
And so begins the free fall…
into a deep and shining love for you

[2008]

Thanks for reading.

Note: written into my phone in a club in Oxford early 2008.

Image Credit: Image is a still from the excellent film ‘Victoria‘ 2015.

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Love Is What You Need

If you love it
it will be what you wanted
if you give it
you will find it’s what you lost

There is something waiting
something beautiful, waiting
if you’re patient
if you love it

You say you want to see
scenes that feed your eyes
they’re waiting, they’re all around you
if you love them

There is something happening
something beautiful, happening
if you’re open
if you love it

If it’s beauty that you want
then love it, it’s all around you
if you love it
it will be beautiful

It’s all around you…

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

Note: this poem appears in my book ‘One of These Years: Selected Poems 2003 – 2019’ available now on Amazon (link below).

Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/nightwalkermagazine/

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G.S.O.H.

I would not say this heart is hungry
I dare not say this heart is heavy
I only know now, a surer sense of all I want
a clearer description of what will fire
the drive, the rush, the love in me

If we’re not going out at night
then can we just sit and giggle
at each other, at the TV, at the others
Can she laugh with me, make fun of me
until there are tears in our eyes
and can’t breathe

Trying to order a takeaway
I want her to crack me up
have to hang up the phone
recompose myself
In the saddest, dimmest
funeral procession
I want her to puncture my grief
with the warmest humour

She may not be a model, I don’t care about that
she may not be a mother, I don’t care about that
as long as she keeps me laughing
I know that I will love her, I only care about that

If one thing never leaves us…
(the sex can go fuck itself)
our looks all lost to scowls in changed winds
bodies crippled, aged with the years
but let us keep the laughter lines

We’ll sit in soiled, wooden chairs
side by side; in stitches for all time
on my grave can be the set-up
on hers; a killer punch line

Let us be the double-act
that light up people’s evenings
wise-cracks, sharp lines, quick-wits
Me, in awe of her gymnastic tongue
I’ll put that sparkle in her bright eyes
Oh, the jokes; just let them flow
let us never be too old

She may not have ambition, I don’t care about that
she may not be a mother, I don’t care about that
as long as we keep each other laughing
I know that I will love her, I only care about that

I am not saying this heart is hungry
I won’t say this heart is heavy
I’m just surer now, more certain
a clearer definition of what will make me live happy
the smile, the joy, the laughter in her…

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

Note: Another old one. Be careful what you wish for 😉

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Trespassers

Does this trip start with you
or spring somewhere in me
there is an urgency of need
I can’t seem to abandon

My fingers on the button
clawing at your door, heart thumping
will you answer all this longing
let me cross the line, trespassing

Calling by, I’m calling by
that ancient question in my eye
and you can tell, you can smell
that I’ve been drinking 
you know me
I don’t act without reason
a song as old as time
sung by my insides

You don’t close the door
you don’t tell me to go back to her
just study the mat for a full half-minute
then shake your head, crack a smile
‘we’re trespassers’ you say
and lead me up the stairs

I’ve been longing for this thing
I’ve been looking for what’s been missing
I’ve been down a few roads now
you’re the only way that works
you’re the only way I know

Sunday morning
there’s no escaping
it’s written every way I turn
trespassing, this foreign skin
how madly I wanted it

Trespassing
the only road I know
trespassing
you’re the only road I know…

[2017]

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Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/margaretdurow/

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Cooling Towers [with audio]

Parking the car
out by the cooling towers
I breathe the quiet in
lit by the moon
not going anywhere

Thinking on
all those sad miles behind me…

Remember when we were nineteen
kissing in the back seat
tucked into the kerb
lit by our lust
not going anywhere

Thinking on
all those mad miles behind me…

When we were nineteen
everything was a fire
everything was flame
but everything evaporates
like steam rising

I’ve driven up this road
and come back down again
not going anywhere
not the silver in my hair
nor the lines around my eyes
not going anywhere

Thinking on
all those bad miles behind me…

Sitting in the car
flicking the headlights on
and off again
when did everything evaporate
like steam rising

Not going anywhere
forehead against the steering wheel
tears bursting on my knees
whispering
‘just kiss me
just kiss me
in the backseat of my car…’

[2017]

Thanks for reading.

Note: a repost from October 2019, I just wanted to add the video with the audio reading and subtitles you can read/listen along.

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A Song of The Wind

Attic window open on the night
a dim wash of light
as hinges creak
From the page, I raise my pen
is that your laugh, your voice I hear
blowing through the years

Is it you, is it real
or a song of the wind
it is you, is it real
I’m never sure

I see the miles of white tiles
that infinite airport floor
where you left me statuesque
our future time without a date
that never came

The shredding of our story
lost, somewhere in the night
amidst the terminal and the air
somehow I wanted to imagine more
that never was

Is it you, is it real
or a song of the wind
it is you, is it real
well, I never know

I checked my post
fifteen times this week
was that you I heard
addressing me with a howl
or a song of the wind
the only tune I hear these days

Thank you for the kisses
the love and warmth you brought
all the jokes we shared
and your fingers in my beard
how could I forget

It’s you, it’s you
a song of the wind
always it’s you
such a sweet melody to have known

And on the wind
I hope your memory
will always blow
beside me…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/nightwalkermagazine/

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Breathless [with audio]

Let’s make a pact
let these shadows hold us
swaddled in secrecy
and breathing quickly
I see you draw in close to me
sense those lips loosening
my foundation questioning
the forcefield of your sly grin
and the delicacy of those fingers
upon me
exploring

Let’s make a pact
let this moment be our blueprint
to not accept a fading
or a softening of this urgency
I feel that magnetic pull strengthening
see the bond between us as pure light
drawing my every cell back into you
the atmosphere of your swelling heartbeat
and the longing in those murmurs
you’re whispering
expressing

Let’s make a pact
as these shadows hold us
close the night in around and bury us
breathless
breathless and beating hard…

[2015]

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