Hyde Park Winter Rink

We circle as sharks
on the Hyde Park winter rink
our eyes like lasers
I audibly bleep when they meet

We both go forwards
not getting anywhere
we pass with differing intervals
I only breathe when we pass

Some laps are flawless
some laps are clumsy
some laps I nearly take some sucker down
some laps I kiss the ice

I feel your eyes lift me to my feet
I feel them brush the slush from my skate
would I have fallen if you hadn’t been watching
would I fall if we linked arms

You’ve got some new moves I see
a graceful pirouette by the bandstand
another pair of eyes
hold you tight from the sidelines
another pair of eyes
brim with that familiar glow

Sometimes we have to let go
sometimes we have to help someone up who’s gone down
sometimes we just have to skate past
sometimes we can’t risk looking back

We circle like sharks
on the Christmas market ice rink
then you take off your skates
make for the big wheel
you’ll be too high in the city
to see
my heart waving below…

[2019]

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Things Half Said

Looking back
over everything
I committed to the page
There seems to be gap
between the truth
of what was felt
and what’s recorded

The words came
while I was still
questioning the validity
yet, what I
then went on to feel
was always with such certainty

There is a space
between
There is a space between
you and me
filled with things
half said

Sifting through the sketches
of painted scenes
I tried to show
There are great swathes
of missing detail
I deemed too complicated

My vocabulary
was much too meagre
to convey
with any accuracy
and what I left
scratched for all time
was never entirely honest

There is a space
between
me and you
between
the story and plot
filled with things half said

Will I ever be skilled enough
to tell my story, completely
Will I ever have the talent
to fill that space
with something other
than things half said…

[2011]

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Fulfilment

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

Senses softened in the dark afternoon
This year is charring in the fire grate
So, I pour out into the haunted fields
looking for loneliness, for lines, for clues
to get a handle on all that’s happened
to make predictions on where I am headed

All around my body, the world’s covered by a sheet
life’s decorator is preparing to paint the new year
This land spills on for snowy miles
my past reels out somewhere behind me
in those paths taken, in those choices made;
there are glimpses of the shape of my future

The Grecian islands, the Cornish coast
Those petty milestones, those brave goodbyes
from swollen ankles, to exploded minds
Portuguese walled-towns, to Derbyshire hills
From a decade planted, then uprooted and moved
the letting go, the keeping a hold
Surprises; surprising, plans made and fulfilled
much falls away, much more presents itself
weddings, worries, work; with friends
consciousness glides across the ghostly fields
comes to rest behind my smiling eyes

So, now I have the things I’ve always wanted
the peace I chased, the love I imagined
the tools I’ll need are all within me
and Kate is waiting, with her key, somewhere

By the gate, I pause, look up into the nothing
time stands still, my eyes adjust…
the pitch black night is full of stars
(when did I last see those?)
My gaze breaks, my footsteps in the powder flow
time moves, I need for nothing else…
I go back into the house

Toss my wondering on the fire
pour a drink, talk to my family
I’m satisfied
and warm…

[2011]

Happy Christmas & thanks for reading/listening.

The piano track on the audio recording is “The Book of Jen by Tedosio“.

Got an Amazon voucher for Xmas?… ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

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Then Give Back…

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

When the turning wheel is staid
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 done
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 a 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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Our Home Cannot Be Here

I lit a fire on the beach
you were feeling beaten by the wind
no, we can’t hear anything in this weather
but the waves and the crackling wood
you don’t speak anyway
we have nothing we care to say

Our human silences amid nature’s screams
fill me with a loss so unforgettable
Our human silences amid nature’s screams
fill me with a void so inescapable

The sky goes dark and the sea slides away
time is huge and our movements tiny
I wrote my address on the back of your hand
but you reached into the water and it vanished
I can’t imagine a life not anchored here
as you turn slow to dive from me

The answers come only with soft punches
a milked stone, I lie folded and bruised
how could we ever know this lost romance
your whirlpool eyes cry tears of understanding
I dust the sand from my baked face and frown
there’s no warning of love’s swift decay

Our human silences amid nature’s screams
fill me with an ache so all consuming

Moon reveals the night’s black heart
you say you love me, as you leave me
you say you care for me, as you go down on him
there’s no favour you can grant me anymore
there’s no connection to the blood in my heart
just open your palms, expose our withered bonds

The rain rages fast and hard across the sand
we tussle as broken wings on some sick bird
finality comes to me, its decision absolute
your hand slips away and swings clear for all time
I fall back into the water, exhaling slowly
‘Our home cannot be here…’

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

I have a new book… ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

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]

Thanks for reading.

This poem is featured in my new book! ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

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]

Thanks for reading this very old poem.

Buy my new book! ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

N.B. I’ve since decided I should NEVER use the word ‘just’ in a poem if I can possibly help it.

There Will Be Birds In The Morning

There’s a girl in tears
upon the cathedral steps
as I walk to work
the rain
a mist that swallows us
leaves blowing by
I want to wrap my scarf around her
and say

There will be better days
there will be lighter times
there will be happiness again

And there will be birds in the morning
singing for you and me
singing for you

There’s a boy in a phone box
framed behind glass, he sighs
as I’m passing by
his call has ended
the last call of that friendship
I want to get him a beer and say

Don’t forget the love you have
don’t forget those faces
it will be bright again in time

And there will be birds in the morning
singing for you and me
singing for you

And the rain comes down
and leaves blow by
and the busses look so busy
I laugh quietly to myself
wondering
Do birds even sing
on winter mornings?

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

Featured in ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Available Now!

I did a book!

Somehow, amongst the madness of 2020, I found little slivers of time to collect and polish up another 80 of my poems. The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp contains many of my more recent poems as well a chapter dedicated entirely to poems written about 2020’s Covid lockdown.

All 80 poems were written between 2010-2020. Reflecting on romance, desire, life, lockdown, friendship and writing. The perfect stocking filler, wonky table leg leveller or double-fisting beer coaster…

Buy the paperback edition from Amazon now.

Here are a couple of poems from the book:

High Tide, Low Life

Chalk-White Moonlight

Between A Blue Night and Dawn

Bonfires

Renee By A Thread

Thanks for reading/listening.

Tom Alexander, 1st Dec 2020.

This Leaving Feeling

Below the boards I hear the water rushing
a stray dog strolls by and says hello
he doesn’t stop for long, keeps moving on
across Port Meadow the horses roam

I’ve got this leaving feeling
breeding in me…

The sun above sheds its strength with the season
trees undressing, will soon stand naked
arms held up but not in questioning
the bridge at Magdalen wheezing smoke

I’ve got this leaving feeling
coiled up in me…

Abandoned nests descending in the gales
I’m shedding possessions, lightening the load
too many treasures to take with me
decorating Cowley with my life’s bright litter

I’ve got this leaving feeling
biting down upon me…

After everything that has to be done, is done
can I return?
Once everything that has to be done, is done
will I return here?

Will this feeling ever leave me?
Once I leave
will this feeling be gone?

[2011]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

A Thousand Lovers

There is quickly surging in here
a rising stream of what has been
A thousand lovers now, to write about
their pursuit is my only want some nights

Another night of over-driven charm
another taxi ride of careless kisses home
A thousand lovers, they soon add up
too many names, too many faces come and go

A life is lived the wrong way around
I’ve grown up to grow down…

That amiable and likeable image is soon in tatters
stains all over the character and the name
A thousand lovers negate it all
phrases repeated too many times to be true

In this dark chamber, pretty birds linger
some circle so wantonly around here
A thousand lovers just for the taking
I forget how to simply speak a ‘no’

I’ll become a notch on a thousand bed posts
I missed the point of what I miss the most…

Can’t let them think there’s something more to this
or soon enough I’ll find myself too deeply in
with a thousand angry hearts to answer for
A thousand lovers all of whom so badly hate me

Bleak lists form on scraps of paper
in dirty bedrooms, on sweaty sheets
These thousand lovers do not ignite me
there’s no inspiration in these unfeeling flings

A thousand lovers; there may soon be
the more they add up
the less there is left of me…

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Broken-down Place

(Click play for audio reading, right-click ‘save as’ to download)

Our sentences are short
perfunctory statements
serving a purpose

Our brief embrace is feeble
lacks the backbone
the spine of years ago

Your easiness with everyone is gone
my insight into everything is gone
in this broken-down place

We built ourselves a fire
but who will be the first to admit
it’s stone cold now…

Time is a ticking machine
household tasks are an escape
will sleeping ever come?

A phone call to someone else
like a glimpse of some sweet beach
the image lingers on
long after they’ve gone

Your diamond eyes are dulled tonight
my wit is simplified tonight
in this broken-down place

We built ourselves a fire
but there’s no strength in us to go on
and no strength in us to admit
it’s stone dead now…

[2009]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Oxford In The Autumn

As autumn’s rusty fingers begin
to push their way through tired trees
So, the early dimming light
and spectral chill conspire
to gently sweep me back in time

It’s Oxford in the autumn
nineteen; with eyes opening
A new life unfolding
cycling through the leaves
and sighing under bridges

Oxford in the autumn
that brick so old around me
broad streets, illogical lanes
busses and puddles
gang up against my dryness

Oxford in the autumn
looking up into the trees
as they’re burying the pavement
or caught up in the railings
my whole life ahead of me

It’s Oxford in the Autumn
Black n’ Red notebook
poking from my back pocket
All the words collecting
I was yet to wrangle

It’s Oxford in the autumn
for a split second, that I’m returned to
by the dipping light of afternoon
yellow leaves upon ancient stone
those deeply imprinted memories

Oxford in the autumn
flowing scarves and knitted hats
of the girls who passed me by
to fight the cold of endless rain
from the depths of gloomy rented rooms

It’s Oxford in the autumn
and dust motes slowly dancing
in the air above the heater
Fog lit by orange street light
outside my cracked window

Every autumn I’m reminded
of those magical new beginnings
standing tall, for the first time
letting go of all my leaves
my whole life ahead of me…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Song

The gulls above me, wild and free
my song begins to echo theirs
squawks of tuneless noise
as I try to make some sense
or to release something

Watching the breaking waves
from a distance and then up close
I’ve been nowhere
but up and down the stairs
of this hollow and lonely year

It’s hard to remember the good I do
keeping other ships at a safe distance
as I patiently await the promised boat
that will return me to the world
and the smiling faces of my family

I fear I’m losing my peace of mind
I sense the loosening pieces
as my happiness erodes
My song goes round and round
like the light I tend

Wild and free, used to be
the way I chose to live
Wild and free, an impulsive sea
the way I chose to love

I wait so patiently
on that coming boat
that will return me
to the world I used to love…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Rooftop Reverie

The sweetest memories hang
like negatives
in the dark room of my mind
I develop them occasionally
picturing again
more exciting times

Yellows and browns begin to wash
across the leaves outside my window
I haven’t seen you in the flesh
since those shoots were new
it feels so long ago

We ran through those streets
as if we owned them
spinning endlessly from bar to bar
from joke to joke
in our abandon

Our last night in the city
some nameless rooftop bar
we watched the buildings making love
to their reflections on the water
A stranger took our photo
sloshing glasses tucked behind our backs
arms around each other’s shoulders
smiles wider than the frame

I hope there will be other times
another chance and soon
to lose ourselves together
in conversations deep
in the bowels of dimly lit bars
or the roof terraces decked with lanterns
on endless summer evenings
down bustling cobbled alleyways
a community of revellers

O, these dusty memories
bring me close to tears
these dusty memories
chase me round the house
dreaming of a time
when we can crawl out of our bunkers
spend another night
getting lost in the city
finding each other…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Ghost Café

Our Halloween masks reflected back
as we peer through that dusty glass
into the quiet gloom
of the Ghost Café

If only the ghost waitress would take our order
‘large or small?’ she asks
well, I’m a medium
ghost chairs dragged across the ghost floor

And the clank of local steel
as it’s set down
on delicately painted porcelain
bustling echoes bounce from peeling walls

People starting or restarting their little days
someone is eating
someone staring into space
someone there in spirit only

The tangled bead curtain splashes
each time the burly ghost chef passes
Chip-and-PIN fickle again
as always

Unopened letters collect behind rusted shutters
a thick dust settles on every spout
Ghost landlord longs to collect
the ghost rent

We keep our distance, don’t touch a thing
we stay at home
say ‘what a shame
nobody in the ghost café again’

The Ghost Café serves a passing trade
ghost shops, ghost pubs
ghost banks and ghost galleries
all the local haunts

The Ghost Café looked alive for a moment
spectres flickering in the gutted ruins
another empty space
now up for sale…

[2020]

Thanks for reading. A repost of a recent one, as it’s the only spooky poem I have 😂

All my poems.

The Winning Hand

In the dimming garden
beneath the belt of Venus
fingers grip a bottle
a nightcap alone

Finally, I belong
finally, I belong to someone
how I’ve run from this
for so long

Now, nothing makes me happier
nothing makes me feel more sure
of anything
than knowing that you’re waiting

There were so many jokers
in the deck
the two of hearts, too many cards
and still dealing, still dealing

The night air’s tinged by a new chill
September’s signature
autographing my bare arms
but I barely feel it

Let me stay by your side
through winter months
and country walks
through rain and sleet
and fog

I used to hold nothing in my hand
look at the empty shape it made
wondering if there was something missing
something
that should have belonged
only me
I should have belonged
to something
to you

I sit down into the wicker chair
look across the valley below
the sky is closing in the distance
darkness gloves the globe again

How could I
even for a moment
have doubted
I held the winning hand
all this time

How could I
even for a second
doubt that
I held the winning hand
all along…

[2019]

Thanks for reading. Repost from 2019.

All my poems.

All My Love In Our Goodbye

The cliché of a midnight station
two trains
waiting to depart
I hold you for the final time
then we lock eyes
the knot in me just tightens
for all the words
I keep in my mouth…

What isn’t done now
will never be done
What isn’t said
will never be said
All my love
in our goodbye…

The limitless black of sky above
haunts our last encounter
as absolute as my choking sadness
I dip my eyes
Can you read my mind?
all hope of a reprieve quietly dies
with all the words
I keep in my mouth…

From another platform
across the tracks
I watch you make your slow, sure way
with each footstep my passion boils
my eyes, they widen
the fear grips me harder
We cannot end in such silences
with all these words
kept in my mouth…

Across the rails my shouts explode
the desperateness
in these dying moments
I scream of my love for you
My burning, bursting want for you
the aching, beating, magnetic pull of you…

And you call back to me
you thank me for my ‘honesty’
but you ‘don’t know what to say’
So, you don’t say any more
and your train slips you home
my train drags me home

The story over
the chance now passed
an oil-black sadness
is all I swim through
all my love
in our goodbye
but all my love
was not enough…

[2010]

Thanks for reading. Another old one…

All my poems.

Broken Promises

That first kiss was our last
and all the promise I was so sure
there was to be found in you
it never came to be
Such a bad taste left behind
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

That first kiss was our last
You burnt so brightly in front of me
there was no way it could work
when we wanted it that much
come so quickly, then gone again
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

That first kiss was our last
We fool ourselves that we’re above this
we tell ourselves we’re not affected
in truth, it hits us worse than anyone
so sensitive, so susceptible
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

So quickly they come and go
comets through the night sky
I wonder what is left behind
nothing but
broken promises

So quickly they come and go again
explosions of magic in the darkness
I stop to wonder what is left behind
and find nothing
but broken promises
broken promises
on both sides…

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Kimberly

We move slow
in time with our slipping youth
We don’t rush, no
we were slow
to go home

Passing the coffee shops and bars
I would later make my home
I couldn’t have ever known
they passed by, a blur, unseen

Her hand
held loose
in the heat
There’s no need to push things
we’ve time…

Then one night
on a sofa in the kitchen
at my mother’s house
She turned slow, smiling
and said “we should”

I could have laughed
I must have beamed
and all at the same time
I was cautious

We moved slow
tip-toeing down to the car
I didn’t know
if I could take another one
another person’s innocence
away

So, I paused…
and time slipped away…

In a daydream I had
more recently
in a bar, when I was feeling particularly old
I thought back
and couldn’t remember
why I didn’t have her
If I could do it now
I would do it now

Then it hit me
I was honest then
I was decent
O, I was a real man
back then…

[2007]

Thanks for reading this tatty old poem.

All my poems.