Songs From The Womb

Through my life I’ve collected voices
maybe twice a decade a new singer comes to me
and I can’t let it pass by
without holding tight

Through the years certain songs seem magnetic, somehow
whole albums written in a style I know too well
for it to be coincidence
and I have to hold it close

When Joni sings of ‘skating away’
something jumped out of the speakers
and Leonard says a ‘highway curls up like smoke’
those lines leap out of my headphones

Georgie’s story and the way Rod tells it
grabs me by the lapels
Don’s road trip to the levy
those lines are etched beneath my skin

My mother, my mother played these songs to me
before I even took a breath
my mother, my mother played me these songs
before I ever took a breath

Songs from the womb
songs from before
come back and find me again…

[2019]

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Disorder of My Family

This aimless wander has me wanting
my family haunts me like a ghost
around the table; spirits chat and eat
it’s been much too long
since I heard those voices
saw the smile in my father’s warm eyes
somersaulted in my mother’s complete understanding
laughed and gasped at the speed
of my sisters’ lightning wit

There is a peace there
in the disorder of my family
I’m at home there
in the disorder of my family

These years, I have spun far away
but still we each hold so tightly
my return feels as though I’d never left
that easiness and warmth retained
So, to bathe in my father’s wisdom
or breathe in my mother’s open heart
to relax with my sisters’ friendly tales
as they look to me with such respect

There is an unending bond there
in the disorder of my family
there is always a home for me
in the disorder of my family

This aimless wander finds me wanting
to return, to see my family
to go back, to see my family
so, I go home…

[2010]

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If My ‘Always’ Could Be True

Some dusks, they take too much
and of men, I am duty-bound
to be loyal, to provide…
There should be a shelter
I can create with my hands
so when the clouds revert to water
then she will have some warmth

But I am a coward, sometimes
I am a snake, sometimes
a jackal and a vulture
I dream to take it back
undo my failed moments
so my ‘always’ could be true

Men look at me and smile
some simply see I am like them
drawn to flames and to destruction
other men see me as a joke
not as a man should be
armed to art and to creation
she seems to like my contradictions

But I am uninspired, sometimes
I am a beast, sometimes
an animal and a killer
I long to take it back
undo those bleak mistakes
so my ‘always’ could be true

I have been a knife
and I have slit before
so my ‘always’ will never be true…

[2006]

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Don’t Look And It Won’t Hurt

Five years of cobweb
decorates the hallway box
the urn inside
holds more dust at rest
well, it used to be your father…

Don’t look and it won’t hurt
don’t look and it won’t hurt

Your brother’s drinking
on a fifteen year bender
so quick to lose his temper
if you ask too many questions
that snake prone upon his shoulder

Don’t look and it won’t hurt
don’t look and it won’t hurt

Your man beside you lies untouched
no communion for years now
still the love is strong between you
but something physical has broken
in desperate need of discussion

Don’t look and it won’t hurt
don’t look and it won’t hurt

I’m always here if you
want to talk it through
heaven knows, you need to
I know it’s hard to face it fully
but I’d do my best to help you

That mantra you’ve been living by
it simply isn’t true
the mantra you’ve been swearing by
quietly, it harms you

Don’t look and it won’t hurt
don’t look and it won’t hurt…

[2019]

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Night

So soon it’s night again
the days are short
in times such as these
The sun only stays so long
only lays its light down for so long
then it goes again
we’re plunged into night

O, could you not find a torch
or a candle or a lantern
to bring some light in here
We can’t see any hope
swimming in this darkness

So soon it’s night again
we’re on the same street corner
I’m selling your body again
I’m selling my brain
it gets so dark round here
I almost forget about the light
there is some light, sometimes
but right now
it’s night…

[2008]

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Backwards

There is a place
I’ve kept it secret
where answers come before the question
and what is made must be undone
a place where love will follow heartbreak
a place where life begins in sadness
I go there to forget…
I go there to forget everything…

So, kiss me…
Kiss me in the rainbow calming water
electric lips to shock it out of me
strip the corruption from my eyes
tell me it’s not true, it isn’t real
I go there to unravel…
I go there to untangle everything…

There is a place
where waves lap back out to sea
to go there is to come back regressed
shrunken, out of time
it helps to watch the rain form
and fall into the sky
knowing everything is being erased
I go there to come back…
I go there to come back to everything…

So, drown me…
Drown me in the rainbow fizzy water
burning lips to scold it out of me
scratch the images from my heart
tell me it’s not truth, it isn’t real
I go there to unravel…
I go there to untangle everything…

I get out of joint, dislocate my head
slip out of time
I go there to forget
I go there to forget everything
but I can never, really forget
I can never get away
and I come back
back to everything

unresolved…

[2003]

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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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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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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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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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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…

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

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]

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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