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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Poetry Readings: Listen Now

Give your tired eyes a rest, take a long bath, go for a drive in the countryside and fill your ears…

Below is a playlist of 30 of my poems read aloud. Some have been injected with added ‘atmosphere’ and a couple are set to music. If you’ve not listened before, maybe now’s the time? If you have, there are a couple of new recordings dotted throughout. It’s free to listen. If you make it to the end, there’s also an hour-long interview discussing writing, music and fountain pens…

What better way to spend the next hour of your life… 😉

Thanks for listening.

P.S. If anyone is interested in collaborating on setting words to music (and can provide the music to accompany my words) please get in touch! tom.alex.write@gmail.com

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Renee By A Thread

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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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 borrowed from: http://margaret-durow.com/

I Will Literally Pay You To Abduct Me

The static crackles
in the living room
and in the hallway
I lace my shoes
and go out walking
tonight, I am out walking

Tree-shapes calm me
raindrops kicked from blades of grass
maliciously
This act cleanses things
I feel my fangs receding
feel the silence
breathe back into me

Imagine the TV glow, dimming
imagine the hatred in her eyes
retreating
I dream of the bad air clearing
but climbing the driveway
back to our place
I spy those red eyes waiting
and know things are worse now
since I went out walking

On nights like this I cannot win
on nights like this
I call out
into the saucerless black sky
and scream
‘I will literally pay you to abduct me…!’

[2016]

Thanks for reading.

Note: I saw the accompanying image on a meme website and it made me smile. I wondered if I could turn it into a poem somehow. This is what came out… 🙂

https://linktr.ee/tomalexwrite


As The Power Lines Crackle Overhead…

Too long, too long
I’ve been too proud
to belong
To let myself lay open
and love
to open myself to love
and follow the flow

But the power lines crackle overhead
as we walk below
I reach my fingers for yours
feel the sparks fly
the way they always have

Too long, too long
I’ve been too scared
to belong to one
Too envious
too greedy
to let myself just love
chase the current

But the power lines crackling overhead
told of the same story
I reach my hand towards yours
feel the sparks fly
the way they’ve always done

I can’t hide from the obvious
from the most fulfilling dream
I’ve been pretending was not mine
was not my desire
all this time
how I strove to deny my love
so foolishly

The power lines crackle overhead
it’s no shock to me at all
You reach for my hand and hold it
we feel the sparks fly
the way they always should
the way they always will…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

Note: Written into my phone in a tent at Glastonbury music festival in June 2019.

Photo credit: https://www.larkinweb.co.uk/miscellany/fluorescent_tubes_under_power_lines.html

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This Window

This pain is a jigsaw
This bond is a handcuff
This place is a death-trap
This window… is closed

This moment is endless
This feeling is crushing
This heart is failing
This window… is filthy

This love is spent
This union is ending
This sweetness has soured
This window… is painted

This want is obsessive
This change is approaching
This peace is shattering
This window… is cracked

This journey is over
This air is stagnant
This pressure is critical
This window… is shaking

This decade is wasted
This effort is thankless
This ‘us’ is in tatters
This window… is hinged?

This shoelace is tied
This suitcase is packed
This pocket is full
This window is…

This window is opening
This window is a door

This one is leaving
That one is staying
This window is a door
and I am walking through…

[2009]

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Somewhere Beyond The Graveyard

She stumbles blindly down the steps
meets and greets the coming traffic with a wave
Falling into this new day with a crash
our dusty lady, of the railway tenements, almost smiles
bruised and beautiful, she sways
left to right, into town, clutching her head tightly

Limp and vinyl shining hair, a shelter
the burning sun neutered by thick glasses
and treading on her hem, she crosses the street
Our heroin girl, of the bed-sit spoons, almost smiles
wired and beautiful, she turns
face to the floor, queuing up, clutching her ticket tightly

The rattle of the train, hypnotic, into the moors
through forgotten, unloved places, and to the sea
Tears barely perceptible, in her faint reflection
our haunted figure, of the candle-lit fish-dinners, almost smiles
re-composed and beautiful, she inhales
eyes on her hands, hands on her knees, she clutches tightly

A red lamp and the bitter end, the slowing coaches
the evening falls to show her breath before her face
It’s almost weightless in her pocket, but weighing on her mind
our anime child, of the emotional apocalypse, almost smiles
diffident and beautiful, she hesitates
Decisive metal, the off-switch in her pale palms, clutched tightly

Doused in black…and drowned in white…
A vampire for sensation’s bite, she used to say
‘If I had faith, I’d take my own life, I swear…
Somewhere… somewhere out beyond the graveyard there’

O, isn’t this what she wished for, isn’t this why she came?
somewhere, just behind the grave yard grass
high above the white and salty crashing waves
her drained and lifeless, body caught up in the barbs
a tangle of black lace and bloody metal
blowing in the wind, in the shadow of the Abbey

Dressed in black and lit by fading light
a picture in her hand, she clutches tightly
His indifferent, almost smiling face, stained red
and that sacred heart, drowning in her own wine
Saved? Is she saved? In many ways she is…
Saved, she’s saved, In many ways she is…

[2004]

Note: Written one afternoon in early 2004. My first office job was as a call centre worker and this poem was composed as an email to myself between phone calls. I have no idea where it came from and never knew quite what to do with it. I’ve always had a soft spot for it though; despite its obvious flaws.

Thanks for reading.

Image Credit: Nightwalker Magazine

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Poems Read Aloud…

In the mood for a poetry reading?

I had the opportunity to record a couple more of my poems this week. I’ve added them to the poetry playlist on my Soundcloud page. Feel free to have a listen.

Thanks for listening.

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Bite The Bullet

The planets above wink down to me
‘It’s now or never’ they’re implying
I feel her hand brush mine
as we’re walking side by side
her house is just around the corner
I’m leaving town tomorrow
it’s now or never…

A deep breath, I take
I breathe deep
stop my walking, suddenly
she stops and turns to face me
it’s now or never
I tilt my head, crack a smile
make a joke, stall a while
and asking if I’m ‘okay?’
she steps one step toward me
it’s now or never…

I take her warm hand in mine
draw a breath deep down
Think of all that could come of this
she looks at our hands still holding
then back up at me
and for a moment
we share a moment…

But I break our gaze
walk her home
hug her perfume divine and close
as I walk away, alone again
I concede, it’s never
now; it’s never…

[2010]

Photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/nightwalkermagazine/

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Tears of a Bitter Man

Just like your father
you sing that fearful song
spelling out your anger
in seven shades of bile
peeling back the hate
of the bitter man

Just like your father
constant exclamations
in the lexicon of loathing
vague and barbed
the angry poetry
of the bitter man

How saddening to hear
you singing your father’s song
How sad it is to hear
you singing his bitter song

Yet, here I find myself
cold-eying old friends in new photographs
nerves twisting
at a stranger’s conversation
silently debasing the happiest gestures
nurturing the hateful hollow

Here I find myself
clinging onto glaring disapproval
Ready to beat up on the helpless
misguided in my sense of sureness
everyone else’s fault but my own
becoming the bitter man

How saddening
to watch my grip slide
find myself crying
the hot tears
of the bitter man…

[2012]

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The Garden

I’ve been remembering
the garden we once tended
I’ve been thinking of the petals
that fell each autumn
I’ve been working through the list
of things we said but never did

And the rains that fell upon our garden
and the snow that covered all

I’ve been remembering
the garden we once enjoyed
I’ve allowed myself some moments
to reflect with clarity
I’ve been feeling sadness for the trees
that have since been felled

And the sun that fed our lawns
and the snow that covered all
and when it thawed
you were ready to be gone

And all the seasons since…
Now you’re with another’s child…

I’ve been remembering the garden
the flowers but not the thorns
I’ve been reminded of the feeling
when spring was all we knew
I’ve allowed myself some hours
to wander through those flower beds once more

I can remember how that snow felt
even now; I can smell the rain
I accept that all things end
that’s just the way of things
that’s just the way
of all things

And all the seasons since…
I hope your new garden
is blossoming now…

[2017]

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Thrill of The Compass Spin

Can I claim it as the artist’s curse
the love for new adventure
the pleasure of magnetic hearts
freshly spinning so close to us
whipping the iron filings of our creativity
into some explosive blur
a manifest bright energy

This fizz, the ghostly drag
invisible hands guiding these wanton bodies
I feel my compass spin
drawn in endless circles

Is it a curse at all
happily getting lost
the thrill of the compass spin
drawn off course by that force

So confusing, so all-consuming
and fizzing on my tongue
I want it here
I want you
fizzing on my tongue again…

[2015]

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oskay/4581193346

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Shadows Climb In My Cold Room

How I long to sleep tonight
forget these thoughts
and rest
Ease my body free 
of anxiety and worry
but the more I try
the more I fail
I fidget fast, roll in frustration
cursing my debt
and conversations that won’t end
Where are those waves of darkness
when will they wash my brain
Where is that tide of sleep
of empty-headedness 
of ignorance
and bliss…

Six hours now
I’ve studied ceiling cracks
A new day hangs two hours away
when creeping up in me
come hunger-pains from hell
itchy hair and sweaty palms
I drop so close to sleep
then jolt back into the room
a cushion spared to shield my eyes
from that solar-flare
that blinking clock
And shadows climb
in my cold room
now the sun, it rises
soon so do I
not blessed with dreams
or ignorance
or bliss…

[2006]

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Return To America

Lit by the distant sun 
in a backyard beer-garden 
overlooking the meadow
my swimming brain spins out
through adventures of the past
forgotten journeys 
by coach, by plane
through unfamiliar landscapes
to the desert 
in California

We rode the Greyhound 
between the sun-drenched cities
your head lay on my lap
and when we could tear 
our eyes from one-another
we’d watch the world pass by
in technicolour, all new

We stayed on Sunset Boulevard
you lay naked on the hotel bed
while I stared hard at maps 
and planned
before turning my gaze to you
we ran down Long Beach
never questioning our love

So, this evening I wonder 
if you will ever 
return to America
will you share those moments
with someone new
can he afford to hire a car
so you don’t have to 
ride the Greyhound
stare out of the window
laughing at the wind farm…

[2006]

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You Are My Priest

Is it not the beads you count?
Is it not that blessing?
Is it not your seated position
on the far side of the screen?

It’s here I come to spill
twisting myself as rope
endlessly unknotting
in constant confessional

And through the cracks
behind the mesh
I feel your furtive eyes
licking my salacious lines

Dear reader
you are my witness
you are my priest

Is it not the way you briefly kneel
when you step beyond the booth?
Is is not the cross I bore
through every line
I could not make rhyme?

Is it not the lies I profess
while carving out my perfect story?
Is it not the way I leave, relieved
lightened in my daily load?

Dear reader
you are my witness
you are my priest

Let me be yours…

[2019]

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Image borrowed from: http://margaret-durow.com/

Idle Flame

She came to me with pride
and her sealed conditions
said she wanted someone she could trust
with a rousing proposition
to ease her cobwebbed lust

It was cold out there on the avenue
I’d been walking lonely for some way
it was the idleness of her greeting
it was the hint of warmth within

There was little choice to make
and nothing smart in my reply
‘just come inside, keep it between
the universes of you and I’

It was an idle flame that we both tended
its very dimness was the whole idea
but standing up to leave one morning
I must have knocked 
a pillow into the flame…

[2019]

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Image borrowed from: http://margaret-durow.com/

Restless (Sequel) [with audio/music]

Writing in circles again
I’m chasing your tail
self-referential
to edge of pointlessness

The nihilistic streak in me
vibrates at the thought of you
It’s like I take my pulse
while getting your name tattooed

You’ve got your phantom hook in me
just deep enough to tear
welcome back
o, welcome back…

The most concise statement I ever etched
the most desperately impassioned verse spilt
it’s emblazoned with your image
it squawks for your attention

That devil on my shoulder
lights a cigarette when you smile
it’s like an ache
and all the pills I can take

You’ve got your phantom hook in me
just deep enough to burn
so welcome back
welcome back…

Be gentle with me
say as little as possible
to me…

It will never be as good as it was
it will never feel like it did at the start
but welcome back
welcome back…

[2014]

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[A sequel to The Sea At Night Does Not Rest, written 4 years later]