Feels So Far Away This Evening

October shed its skin
across these pavements
Now, November does its best
to wash the mess away
We glide down
the lonely streets of night
lost in appreciation
for the moody glow that guides us

You carry such a heavy heart this season
what was taken
brought you this blackness in exchange
and so I do
whatever I can
to lift it up for you

This dance of conversation
jig of gentle humour
all my attempt
to paint a more hopeful picture
Ease the crush of grief that’s levelled
by a cruel unfeeling world
And gratefully
I’ll give whatever part of me
might dull this pain for you…

There is hope
(I know you know this)
There is a hope
waiting to be held again
in those gentle, loving hands
(I know you know this)
yet it feels so far away this evening

You are loved by so many
(I know you know this)
There is nothing
but a pure, real, love and respect
flowing through my veins for you
(I know you know this)
but I wanted to remind you
in the hope
that you might cease to feel
so far away this evening…

[2013]

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Whereabouts

What strange gravities compel you?
Which strong seasons
manipulate the focus of your mind?
What forces are at work
governing your silences and interactions?
What are the properties of magnetic north
that keep you so firmly held there?

Which habits formed into crippling routine
Which once-cradled ambitions did you let burn away?
What hope, was it you had, for all of what you started
when you laid yourself beside her?

The peeling back of quiet moments…
The giving birth to living memories…
The quelling of hostile emptiness…
All these
oiled by flasks of brewed liquid…

What source of buried passion exists?
What reason for the unbridged distances of family?
What cold and clear window protects you
from the warm interactions of flesh and blood?
On what throne
beyond the claws of love exposed
do you stay slumped?
And what reasoning hangs from these vague choices?

The flame is weak and distant
the light is dim
The star that shines in you kept hidden
by clouds of distance and disinterest

What do you feel when you see me expanding here
growing into your shape on this reflective surface?
What do you think when you see me flexing skills
that must have been learnt from you?
Do you worry that shared talents means shared failings
Do you think to warn me against their dangers
give the gift of wisdom, just an insight or two
is there more that I could learn from you?

There is still some hope for healing
the withered roads that link our homes
There is still some hope for forging a bond
that will carry us into the future

O, but where are you
and where am I to you?
Where are you
and where am I to you?

[2013]

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Between A Blue Night and Dawn [with audio]

[Please click above to listen! Right-click and choose ‘Save as’ to download the Mp3]

Two lovers traveling
two lovers
meeting in the East

Their affair
was letters inked
and photographs
Now here embodied
will they know what to do?

She wakes him one morning, saying
‘let’s take a boat to an island
we’ll rise above the Bangkok smog’

Bike beneath them spluttering
her arms knitted around him
they race from bay to beach
chasing the burning sun
with hair wet and smiles wide

Their shoulders lapped by waves
she was beautiful
sitting on his knee
they felt married, waist deep
straw hats wilting in the brine

He thought ‘I could hold you here forever
I would kiss you
until the stars pepper the sky’

Between the music
from the bars off in the distance
and the love
dripping warmly from her words
a song composes itself over the ocean

Orion’s Belt above them
sand dancing between their toes
they rest upon the rocks
and she knows that she could love him
he wishes this night would never end
it’s one chance in their lifetimes
between a blue night and dawn

In a stilted shack on sand
her black hair spreads
like ink across the bed
longing dialling up their eyes
as the air between them boils
bodies’ voices blending

Two lovers traveling
two lovers don’t know if they’ll meet again
this could so easily have been
the love of their lifetimes

This could so easily have been
yet it existed only
between a blue night and dawn…

[2019]

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Reposted from February, now with an audio reading set to the track Green Arrow by Yo La Tengo.

A New Beginning

Leaves of brown and green watching
as the fire reveals a destiny for us
flames licking their lips at the change
of solid and tangible into smoke
On a beach of melancholy teenagers
destroying themselves for something
that they can’t explain or focus on
the big picture that is still being drawn…

Bottles of green and brown offering
their joyous and deceptive contents up
ready to infiltrate our consciousness
convince us that the weight has lifted
a sea of liquid to baptise our brains
then we dance and talk of this rebirth
forgetting all about thoughts of maths or progress
the new beginning we’ve been dreaming of…

Leaves of brown are falling in the sunrise
but day reveals that gravity has won again
our heavy heads are hard to lift now
and the breaking waves outside sing loud
A song of measured secrets that expose
themselves a beautiful harmony of movement
the moon under which we slept last night
brings them to us with it’s strong will

Bottles of green bloom in the sand
empty shells left behind from the war
we fought the best we could all night
and momentarily there was a surrender
a decoy that we fell for too easily
now, in the morning light, it’s obvious
the horizon arcs itself out before us
a new beginning comes every day
a new beginning is ours every day…

[2005]

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Ellipsis [with audio]

I don’t write them like I used to
they’re not carved out of my bone
the way they used to be

I don’t bleed over the carpet
in some mouldy rented bathroom
like I used to

They used to say it was the angst that drove me
some mild flair for painting what had pained me
but you have to make peace eventually
I don’t know what is driving this anymore

At the end of that final line there’s an ellipsis
at the end of all I said there’s an ellipsis
saying so much more than I

Now, I don’t sweat it out in twisted sheets
with cramped heart and cracked beliefs
surrendering my barbed emotions like a flag
the way I used to

I don’t tap that vein of pure unfocused bile
don’t let it gush across the front row of my imagined audience
they don’t say much about my unbridled verse these days
like they used to

At the end of every poem there’s an ellipsis
at the end of all I said there’s an ellipsis
dragging on and on

It speaks louder than I ever could…

[2014]

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Cinema Child

Standing on the sand
I watched the boats afloat
I thought to myself; I must look good
cinematic, brilliant, deep, mature
all eyes were on me, because I stood out
how they must love me…

As those ships drifted by
I’d be thoughtful
roll my eyes, look to the ground
with all the girls watching my ticks and style
I was sullen, moody, sexy, smart beyond my years
they’d love me…

And standing by the water’s edge I’d smile
those girls would find me in my tent that night
strip me down and pick me up, I’d be lost
I’d be so ready for the feelings I imagined
I’d be lovely…

Standing in the surf
I stole the show, all the people loved me
they loved me, even if they never said
or never looked… or never came…

And as I grew, I learned to see
I was just a boy, staring at the sea
a head of daydreams, ideals and fantasies
my image really; just childish, introverted
completely unapproachable

The girls, they didn’t come to me
I just stood on that shore by day
and ran through tall grass and summer rain by night
watching the waves from rocks and heights

My pretence, my best defence
the only way I ever felt okay
trying never to admit
I was young and lonely
I was so young and already so lonely…

[2003]

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Sewing It Together

Our footprints in the sand veer off
two different paths they’re treading now
you go on and live your life…

I’ll be here, I’ll be sewing it together
working the thread you taught me to weave
I go on and live my life…

You go on, for we both must grow
push the boundaries of all we can be
I’m grateful for the years in your love
I pray you’ll remember me the same

Even when the brightest spark had faded
and we both knew our time was ending
still you were my best friend
still you gave to me so much

Your fingerprints on my heart will linger
I hope they never fade, a gentle reminder
Now, you must go on and live your life…

I’m sewing it together, here
I’ll go on, as you’re sewing it together too
and I wish you only love…

[2009]

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Ghosts On The Platform

The early evening rain falls hard
treading the yellow line, I’m solemnly waiting
a little drunk, a little lost again
all too aware of where I’m not going
haunted by the ghosts littering this platform…

As she draws him in so close to her
he dips his head, accepts those smiling lips
begging, no, they’re beating to be kissed
as phantom hands journey all across her body
curves pushed tight on this freezing platform…

Now, thicker rain spits from a pitch black sky
lit orange, my face winces, squinting hard
twisted by the warmest dreams of last winter
all too aware of what remains trapped back down my tracks
haunted by our ghosts parading on this platform…

She holds the back of his head so firmly
his eyes open looking into hers so deeply
words shoot between, saying ‘I’d leave her for you
ask once and we’ll make this passion permanent’
as those ghosts merge like puddles on the platform…

Clattering lights approaching, shattering the moment
six empty carriages sailing down towards me
inside there’s shelter, some drab imagined safety
but no curves pushed close, no fingers locked tight
haunted by the ghosts on the platform of my mind

Journeying onward, journeying home
but haunted, always, by the ghost of you and I
and all we could have been…

[2016]

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Such Strange Light

Such strange light
washing out
into the long night

Generous with pigment
volcanic reds and stella blues
you see that damp look
on the snapshot of my face

I wish someone had told me
wish someone had just shown me
dad, you could have warned me

O, how it burns
how it hurts to see yourself
suddenly, with that clarity
kept reserved for other people

In the rear-view mirror
in that mirror

Cold slate evenings
rudely cut in two
and poking through the gaping night
such a strange, strange light

Fickle thought
fickle life
fucks all
fickle thought
fickle life
forgive me…

[2016]

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This Infinity [with audio]

I will never learn from my affairs
they bake within my heart but nowhere else
see, she looks at me
she may speak to me some short time
then suddenly and so completely
it’s all I feel
a love that is not real
all I can do is hang from her every movement…

Yet again, I’m helplessly hopeful for that breath
already feeding myself on the bliss of kisses promised
but those suggestions
don’t emanate from her
or anywhere but in my spiralled mind
as it fills with love for some ideal
all I can do is hang from her slightest smile…

The purity of beauty is a trap for me
my mind is weak and falls so quickly
before I can blink, it’s all that I can see
I twist until the heartbreak of this infinity…

If only obsession didn’t roost inside these bones
if only my mind knew some subtle patience
I’ll lay myself down in that spinning room
try to think of something else or someone other
but no thought can form while she has not spurned
all I can do is hang myself on her polite decline…

The purity of beauty is a trap for me
I build myself a cave so homely
lie scheming on the hope that she embodies
and twist until my heart breaks
in this infinity…

[2010]

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The Prettiest Music [with audio]

The heat shifts between rooms
from the front of the house, to the back
on the bed, your curled form is laid
I watch the sky as it cries in the street
blowing my nose, counting the people
they carry bags of food to their cars
filled with treats and sweet desserts
As I move to the kitchen, you stir for a second
this day is turning dark in the light from the loft
shadows dance, from the candles you lit

By the stove, I pause to warm my hands
not sure what to do, I don’t want to wake you
I sit back at the window, take up my book
but there are no new words to read and I place it back
if only the story would change of it’s own accord
O, I think it’s time for some movement
a raising of the silence, let the music in
just some small tune to warm this room
and your sweet progression of chords kissing my ears
I lie down beside you, cup your face
whisper some sickly greeting as you focus up on me

Come on love, we should make a song
you are the music and I am the words
you are the music and I am the words
we should make a song, my love
we should make a song
you are the music and I am the words
you are the prettiest music
and I am the most grateful words…

[2004]

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Bonfires [with audio]

I was living certain and sure
of the future I desired
A house by the water
sea air kissing my eyes
before I brave the morning paper

A figure framed in a gaping doorway
watching freighters skim the horizon
Rest my coffee cup on the fence
slide a nail down this foreign envelope
draw the perfumed letter from within

The paper see-through
like her summer dresses
My fingers beneath it
don’t do justice
to the gentle tan of her skin
or the constellations
of those freckles

“They’re building bonfires
down in the city park” she writes
“I’m jealous of that fire
and that flame
I think of the fireworks
that only we saw
I recall those fireworks
with a dampness in my eye

The realness of the fantasy
we’d be painting daily
between the thighs and sighs
and all the magic we brought forth
our bodies so alive”

Signed off with red lipstick
and the creases of her mouth
it’s suddenly not so obvious
why I made my home here
It’s suddenly so unclear
why I made my home here

And I look out to see
they’re building bonfires
down on the beach
O, I’m jealous of that fire
and that flame

How I long to feel
the creases of her lips
pushing hard
against mine…

[2020]

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The Sea At Night Does Not Rest

Too tired to rest
I only care
are you out there somewhere
A glass of cheap wine
on the arm of some expensive chair

And do you…
could you
think of me sometime
maybe…
while I’m still alive

The gravity of your movements
swells the tides of my emotions
and you’ll probably never know
You drag me to ecstasy
then to lowest ebb
and you’ll probably never know

You amaze me
with your vagary
I could fall in love so easily
but you won’t let me

Could you
think of me sometime
could you
think of me sometime
maybe…
while we’re still alive…

[2010]

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Tunnels

Tunnelling in the dirt below my feet
I’ve been digging for weeks
carving this hollow so deep
Today, I hit bone

This is heavier work than I imagined
we surveyed the ground from beyond the fence
both agreed that this was right
but now this toil
is breaking me apart

As a new day rises
I’m crying in the shower
never knew I could feel this low
crying in the shower
with the taps turned up to ten
never knew this pain was in me

She works elsewhere, broken too
she rests elsewhere
with someone new

This is the lowest point
promise me, please let this be
the lowest point

She will undulate and warp
she too will dig her way through
and when she climbs out of her tunnel
she’ll be who she’s become
and the person I loved will be gone…

She may smile the same way sometimes
she may shout me some echoey ‘hello’
but the person I loved will be gone

As I hack away the earth
I pause, wipe my brow and grieve
mourning the person, the love, the way of life
that will be buried when this work is done

Everyone’s heart gets bloodied sometimes
I never thought I’d choose this path
never understood the way
the pain could grip you in your bones each night
as you work your way through the tunnel

Promise me
it’s on from here
out of this tunnel
my work complete
and back up again
towards the light…

[2009]

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A Most Comfortable Prison

The jailer, he’s invisible
yet we’re reminded, daily
he still stalks these corridors
a violent crown upon his brow
turning folk to dust
My marker-pen tally on the wall
begins to eats itself
time moves differently here
it’s a snake, a valley
a constellation
in this most-comfortable prison…

The weather has a mainline to my mood
there’s a shadow in my mind
it blooms or it recedes
with the strength of that sun
The days fluctuate
resizing, bipolar
claustrophobic
or giftedly free
to walk newly discovered lanes
in this most-comfortable prison…

The smiling faces of old friends
glimpsed, as if backwards
through a telescope
so far removed
and blurred around the edges
Our conversations stilted
on satellite delay
How I long to crack
my usual sarcastic comments
and not be inter-
(timing is everything)
-rupted
in this most-comfortable prison…

From my favourite armchair
I’ve been glued to screens
feeling like a dog
killing time until my next walk
wondering of the world beyond these walls
it all seems so dangerous
but such a beautiful memory
in this most-comfortable prison…

There are no other voices here
yours and mine alone
it goes to show how well we fit together
I feel we’re closer now than ever
Looking in the mirror this morning
you remind me of that mantra
we’re both repeating daily
‘you’re one of the lucky ones
you’re one of the lucky ones
in this most-comfortable prison…’

[2020]

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The Lighthouse

There are some nights
like clockwork I find myself
ticking up the stone steps
of the lighthouse

There are some nights
cloaked in melancholy
staring out, wide-eyed
across the freezing seas of time

There are these nights
I sit, quietly, by the lens
wondering of all the other nights
I have sat quietly wondering…

A thread of light stretches backwards
through all my life
sewing together
these contemplative moments
connecting me with my younger selves

We all sit there on different steps
looking out to sea
with our lifetime of bad haircuts
and our silver fountain pens
each one more expensive than the one before

We all wonder in an echo
we all wonder
‘Am I right? Is my aim true?
do I have any aim at all?

Where am I going?’

I long to reach out a hand somehow
send out a boat to them
I worry for those lost souls
adrift on wild seas
rocking in churning waters
without a lot of hope

Through the thick blanket of night
I sense
the face of a future me
he looks healthier, happier
richer somehow
looking back
across the freezing seas of time
fondly and encouragingly
he’s smiling back at me…

[2015]

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Beneath An Island Sky

Months, then years, flow in
like waves, they lap against our lives
washing ground up dreams along the shore
Dreams of all we had to leave
upon the shelf
So much darkened distance now
from certain past experiences
on which I, so longingly, need to draw
How I pine
for a single drop
of cob-webbed wisdom…

Day to day moments we share
they walk the blade-edge of pleasantness
I feel my nerves tingle with distaste
my head corrects me
says ‘love love love’
and I back down again, staring out of windows
but the anger, the impotence
where do they go
Sinking into the water-table of frustration
running beneath the surface
searching for an ocean

Perched upon the bonnet of a car
I’m watching the sun set through a heat-haze
rising from the tarmac all around me
the beauty is filling me, I don’t want to leave
Don’t want to return to that cage we’ve made
where you and I sit
in tortured silence for all time
thinking of things not to say
and things we’ll never do

And you say
‘I am blue
like the sea on winter days’
And I say
‘I am red
like the fire raging in the forest’
and we’re both green
like allotments, overgrown and wild

And yet
all the things we could have had
we could still have

Split the atoms
beneath an island sky
I’m so close to splitting atoms
beneath an island sky

O, how I pine
for a single drop
of cob-webbed wisdom…

[2009]

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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]

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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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