You Are Free

Freedom is…
A blank page, ruled with margins for scribbled after-thoughts
Ink in the fountain pen and some new idea to spill
A canvas, with pallet oiled and brushes ready
A quiet room, an acoustic guitar in tune
A sunrise, derelict buildings, wide lens and film ready in the camera
A garden, soil turned and green fingers
Wet sand, a new love and a sharp stick
A science textbook, a biro and a teenage smirk

Freedom is…
Truths to tell, a close friend with a sympathetic ear
White folded card, marker pens, glue, an impending birthday
A concrete wall, spray can in hand, something to say
A ream of material, needle, thread and buttons
An audience, a microphone, a knowing smile
A piano, no music written but itchy fingers
A blog post and a theme as free as freedom itself
Freedom is your life, and whatever story you choose to write with it

Freedom is self-expression
and you are free…

[2010]

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Can You Hear The People Sing? [with audio]

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?

[2011]

Note: Written upon moving to London for the first time.

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Houdini Song

Spitting it out in the hope of releasing
unlocking the cage stifling my growth
burning it all selfishly brightly
and the feeling is back again
pounding my head again
to just let go…
just let go…

Spewing it up with the aim of escaping
fleeing this habitual and too perfect a world
shedding the handcuffs worn in contentment
and the aching is back again
haunting my thoughts again
to just get out…
just get out…

Dreaming it up in the hope of fulfilment
melting again in the heat of the lime-light
always around and forever predictable
and the wanting is mine again
consuming me whole again
to just let go…
just let go…

Welling them up in my shining eyes now
both of them bursting in the wealth of emotion
as red as your face when you listen to these words
the Devil is my friend again
scorching my faith again
Screaming ‘just get out…
just get out…’

My demons are strong again
twisting my arms again
almost convincing me
to just let go…
just let go…

[2003]

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Pocketful of Rain [with audio]

What do we have
at the end of our walk
just the smiles on our faces
and a pocketful of rain

I have learned from you all
I have laughed with you all
I have burned for you all
but always, always you’ll be gone

What do we have
at the end of our walk
just the things we have shared
and a pocketful of rain

So grateful to have seen you
I’m honoured to have met you
indebted to your friendship
but always, always you’ll be gone

What do we have
at the end of our walk
just the sparks that were flung
and a pocketful of rain

All that energy we burnt through
all the ink that we spilled
all the time that we spent there
all those moments left bare

Always, always you’ll be gone again
with nothing to show
but a pocketful of rain…

[2017]

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Raining In Darlington

Every new day brings fresh lethargy
renewed deceit, increased malaise
The tipping-point arrives
the call goes out
but there is nothing
and no one comes;
these ‘friends’ have failed

Every new year brings fresh poetry
a handful of old photographs
and the game of remembering names
Those pretty kids stand so still
smiling on a beach somewhere
Where are they now
in these heavy adult years

Every new life brings fresh expectation
new-born hope, budding dreams
a player joins the game
takes their part in the play
and we share our cheats and scripts
in some duty-bound illusion

But today;
there is no heat in the air
the streets awash with tears
this Northern sky cries every day
for the future, for the past
for the sadness it has seen
it misses us, mourns our departure
and dresses itself in black
for our recurring nightly funeral

Where did we lose our way?
When did we wish ourselves away?
The darling sky begs for answers
they’re sprayed on crumbling walls
they’re compass-point scratches on school desks
and etched with hearts on lonely trees
they’re everywhere
but we don’t always see
They’re everywhere
but we’re just too busy
They’re everywhere
and the rain magnifies them for me…

[2005]

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For Jordan

Out driving our first cars at night
snaking the blackness of North East country roads
I’d flick the headlights off
hear the girls scream
then back on and we’d crack up laughing

In our town, there wasn’t much to do
but wander looping streets
haunt the park outside of college
blow house to house, see who was home
or spend it lying in your bedroom laughing

When you and Chris split, he handled it okay
drank too much a week or two and then
got a little down but everything went on
still way too soon for Mike to tell you
so we all sat as friends and laughed

Back then, I couldn’t think of much else but Jenny
but I loved the way you’d say my family name
still hear it ringing from the depths of memory
standing with you in some sticky bar
and you collapsing into Mike laughing

They were gentle times, good times
before we were scattered wide
I don’t think I saw or thought of you that often
twenty years just paced before our eyes
how I hope you kept on laughing

With your man, your son
your life carved out somewhere…

On a Brighton beach, one weekend this summer
Mike was chatting, said ’the cancer took you’
and nothing more to add to that
just taken – that’s all he knew
there on the pebbles, I stood, winded and weeping

Just taken – nothing more to add to that

Jordan, it was laugher, laughter
of you; that will always be my memory
sweet laughter, laughter
and the way you spoke my family name…

[2018]

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Pillars of Creation

Looking out to look inside
I see you both
the pillars of creation
above me, before me
deft hands
painting me into existence
with hands of love

Across all time
beyond the sky
my gratitude expands eternally
into a space that doesn’t yet exist
hand above my heart
your two hearts all over my art
the hands of love

Should you ever leave
you’ll never leave me
the pillars of creation
I carry, always, in me…

[2016]

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The Truth Is Sadness

Decorated lives
shuffling onwards
towards inevitable darkness
we cloak ourselves
in the hood of love
cover the cage
deny the sky above
the truth is sadness

Tiny movements
helpless gestures
elliptical orbits
around the heart of happiness
an argument
with a river
convinced of our control
tilting the rudder
towards hope
the truth is sadness

Fold the patterned sheet
around your sleeping child
know they’ll close
the carved casket
someday around yours
all you’ve seen
or done or sung
is gone
the truth is sadness

Zoom out, zoom out
and it’s clear
every story is a tragedy
what came of your argument
with the river
did you learn to love
that strange beauty
the truth has always
been impermanence
ephemeral experience
an end
to all things
the truth is sadness…

[2019]

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Why Poems? [with audio]

Poems are my photographs
my diary
my inner monologue
poems are my measurement
my record
the fingerprints of emotions
invisible no more
Poems are my expression
the sum of interactions
they show my working out
Poems are the breath
of lost lovers
against my neck
Poems are my kisses
for family and my friends
the hugs I seldom give

And your poems…
your poems keep me company
a little light
calling to my lost ship
I sip my tea
and slip into your mind…

[2019]

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Been Nowhere, Seen Nothing

Do you remember when we kissed
in the dim bar, beneath the railway arches
that hypnotic smile you wore
the way you demanded to be held
as all hell broke loose between us

Do you remember how you took my hands
as we walked beside the rails
you thrust yourself into my grasp
pushed your body hard against mine
and stopped time

And I felt so alive
that I’d
been nowhere
seen nothing
before that night

I still think about the drunken orange skies
the red tail lights stretching on for miles
as we drifted through the sprawling city
the only heat; that which burned between us
pressing your entire being up against me

And I felt so alive
truly, I’d
been nowhere
seen nothing
before that time

I remember you so clearly
with such precise clarity
I wonder do you remember me
do you still think of me at all

Since then
I’ve been nowhere
seen nothing else…

[2014]

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Is It Cold Where You Are?

All this talk of cut cords, severed alliances
assuming of an adultness of understanding
a rationing of feeling
where one side metes out their emotions
only experiencing the right and sensible sensations

And so I forget to ask
is it cold, where you are?

All this presumption of absolutes, burned bridges
there being no way to return to stir this into a mess
a wall of arbitrary time, slotted days upon weeks
to hide the vision of what once shone so stellar

And so I forget to ask
is it cold, where you are?

All this forward thinking, predictive dreaming
pushing eyes and minds to see something not yet shown
clawing the edges of a still concealed future
an impatient Christmas morning of wild new opportunity

And so I forget to ask
is it cold, where you are?

Selfishly distracted, by the glowing halo of tomorrow
buoyed by a sense of feeling strong and free
my mind gets wiped, all compassion corrupted
when really I still care
and will wonder about you always

Is it cold, where you are?
and if it is, is there anything I can do?

If it’s cold where you are
is there anything I can do?

[2011]

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Only Moments

Remembering dim rooms
hushed conversation
whispering those compliments
almost embarrassed
trying to communicate the reverence
the pure weight of all this feeling
wading so deep in love

Ah, they’re only moments…

Remembering falling rain
buried in each other’s coats
kissing through smiles
desire whilst laughing
being perfectly overwhelmed by someone
the greatness that is all-consuming
swallowed so deeply by love

They’re only moments
so missing
so missed

Today is bright, today is dry
ah, but to feel again that feeling
to feel again
the deepest drowning of love
the greatest feeling

Those moments
only moments
so missed
so missing from my life…

[2011]

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Windmill Hill [with audio]

Walking to the old wooden mill
walking up Windmill Hill

Walking high above the sleeping villages
stomping slow through powder snow
following my friend as he stretches his legs
moving as two faint dark figures
across the dim blue glowing fields

See smoke rising from a chimney
off in the distance, a single building shivers
one light flickers in an upstairs window
I momentarily wonder what they might be doing
huddling for warmth by the fading orange fire?

On nights like this I walk for miles
until my shoes are consolidated ice
and I can’t walk too many steps more
on nights like this I love to drift freely
let thoughts unfold in the clean crisp air
a few pure hours among the hills and valleys

When I free my mind and let all grip swing away
when I am calm and utterly alone
always the things I find, that I dwell upon
are the gratitude and joy I experience daily
it’s the happiness and the luck
that seem to surround and blanket me daily

I know life won’t always be this gracious
won’t always handle me so gentle or easily
I know that health and the blessing thereof
is a passing gift that will soon be gone
and yet to know that times like this exist
renews and amplifies
the hope and happiness
I carry with me

The snow begins to fall again
my furry friend shakes the flakes
from his heaving back
now we must return to the sleeping village
both of us, content and smiling

lost in the endless beauty of the living world
looking for calm amongst the chaos
and knowing that it’s out there somewhere
it’s out there
or in here
somewhere…

[2014]

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A Love Experience

How patiently, how perfectly
with such finesse, you plan our passion
in such exacting detail
you’ve prepared our romance
five years in advance

A spreadsheet for every kiss
lingering looks added to your ‘to-do’ list
flow-charted clothes torn off
a map showing where to lose ourselves
in the moment

But it’s still love
or a version of it…
O, it’s still love
or your version of it…

Did you make a plan for me
to bend that knee
to descend on bended knee
did you even know me then
did you even know me when
you made that plan

A clockwork heart ticks true
a clockwork heart flicks through
a catalogue of love experiences
to tick, tick, tick off

Ah, but it’s still love…
or a version of it…
O, it’s still love
or your version of it…

In the office of your heart
plan us a love event
in the office of your heart
can you schedule us some love

Or a love experience
to tick, tick, tick off…

[2016]

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We Kissed As The House Blew Away [with audio]

Remember when we kissed all night
in taxis
bar booths
theatres
in takeaways
phone-boxes
queues
in fields
on cliff-tops
white sands
in crowds
in ostentatious style
with absolute certainty
standing in rivers
rolling on haystacks
in tents
in love…

To lose ourselves in kisses
was all we ever wanted
‘lose yourself in kisses’
that’s all we ever whispered

Do you remember the last time we kissed
anywhere
anywhere at all…

Calling Wisdom

Calling wisdom…
to see through all the horse shit
of your flimsy words
those jelly-limbed actions
flailing so selfishly and blindly
out in front of me
I’m calling wisdom…

Calling wisdom…
to untangle all the wires
of your dangling contradictions
Cut through the paper masks
of all your posturing
that you’re completely lost in
I’m calling wisdom…

Calling wisdom
to cast a dim light on your thinking
what train of thought
you caught to get to here
these decided sidings
of this line’s end
I’m calling wisdom

Calling wisdom…
to map a human sense of things
the fucked foundation you’ve been building on
is cratered and crumbling in upon us
and burning bricks and buried bones
are all that I can know now
I’m calling wisdom…

Calling wisdom…
to put in place a forest of words between us
brush blooming plants to hide the muddy path
that we spun down; senseless and scared-shitless
and because you never did
I’m calling wisdom…

[2010]

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You’re My Man

Tell me again, my teacher
hungrily, I listen to your story
ravenous, by candlelight
calling from the sooty street

Incisions made with your deep insight
the surgeon stillness
of deftly poetic hands
those wisdoms draped in laurel leaves
infinite movement and such sweet inertia

Shower me, my master
my naivety gladly surrenders
in the wake of your delivery
O Len, sing for me
some story I can disassemble
reverse engineer your experience
give birth to my own interpretation

On a wicker throne in some Grecian harbour
my fountain pen refilling
I sip wine, imagining your women
one; she comes along
with askance eyes pawing over me
and the limits of my vague body
she whispers ‘touch me with your intellect’
but I shiver, stark in its absence

O, it’s the little things
the nuanced way you speak it out
the details and the clarity
the hilarious obfuscation
Christ, that galling crystal ball

I could never reach you
I’d be waving, I’d be waiting
breathing my vanilla thoughts to no one
but my drunk self
Hunched alone at the end of the bar
praying to you…

Spin me a yarn
turn on my table
O Leonard, you’re my man…

[2014]

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30 Steps [with audio]

The city is drenched in gold tonight
the sea is wrapped in silver, like my temples
my hands feel older now than ever
but my mind is so much surer
than back when I was younger

I’ve run from love when it got tough
my hair was bleached in boiling light
I helped as many people as I could
my thoughts were darkened in the wilderness
felt alone in crowds of smiling happiness
I learned to speak, to see, to feel this reality

I’ve understood, been understood
I’ve compromised, been compromised
I’ve judged, been judged
Fairly, unfairly

There has been a heaviness in my limbs at times
and there was a divine light that shone
from somewhere I never knew could be in me
I wronged and cheated with a pathological absence of care
which boomeranged around and sunk me in the end
it’s rough to open your consciousness to reality

Siblings, parents; undulating friendships
the push, the pull of love and life
in trying to align the poles in me
I was blind, but thought I was seeing
I was blank, but thought I was saying something
the painted stones I carved, I threw them out to sea

I’ve deceived, been deceived
I’ve contradicted, been contradicted
I’ve believed, been believed
Justly, unjustly

So; I take off my shoes
take out my headphones
I want this wave to wash all over me
The short hand, the long multiplications
I laid out all my working for you to see
trying to crack the code of something real
the combination of what is me

I’ve been taking thirty steps away
from where they forged my heart
I’ve been taking thirty steps toward the tide line
where I etched my childhood
drew a line beneath it and paused to watch…

The waves of youth lap out
the waves of youth
the waves
the…

[2011]

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[Written on the eve of my 30th birthday]

Then Give Back…

When the song is sung out of me
and all breath wheezes away
When those closing eyes are mine
and that silence fills up my mouth
then I will give myself back

When the turning wheel is staid
and the longest road is walked
When gravity is satisfied completely
and all my poetry has been written
then I will give myself back

I will give myself back
to the ground
to the soil
I’ll lay myself down
give myself back to the earth
from where I came

When the flower’s head is closing for the night
and the worms surface from below
when the tune I’ve been humming is finished
and the daydream of all I’ve known is broken
then I will give myself back

When the trivial moments are beyond mundane
and the steady hand-hold no longer offered
When the night is bruised black and star-less
and every wish is washed clean away
then I will give myself back

And in giving back all I’ve ever had
I’ll fuel another chance for life
I will give myself back
to the ground
to the soil
I’ll lay myself down
give myself to the ground
from where I came…

[2008]

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The Ropes Are Fraying and Soon I’ll Sail…

“The ropes are fraying and soon I’ll sail”
pencilled grey
along the edge of my notebook page
a heart-breaking phrase
sure to inspire, somehow
 
Flicking through, I read it again
and pause to lament;
That boat washed out
its anchorage severed
silently, in the night
no words, no words
 
He’s gone
and into that sad darkness 
so many other ships would follow
The town seems quiet this evening
our town feels colder, somehow
I stand on the harbour wall
no words, no words
 
What can be done
move the hands around the clock
reverse the face
repeal the laws and absolve it all
ah, the ropes are fraying
and soon I’ll sail…

[2019]

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Note: For Wolfgar (David) and the others who left WoL.

Listen to my poems on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/tomalexwrite
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