Great Ocean Road

How good it must feel
as you stretch out in the sun
The relief of open-handedly letting go
Said your goodbyes
moved to the other side of the world

Now, you unwind
top down
a breeze coming off the sea
the sun on your back
driving up the Great Ocean Road

How I know that you deserve this
the unfolding grace of living free
no longer working to repair something
All new, all you again
with fertile thoughts
blossoming
as the past is blown away
charring in the sunset
and life has you smiling again
hurtling up the Great Ocean Road

Such vast happiness at last
lit by the campfire light
at the end of the day
the two of you together
under canvass
And what joy is lurking there
sparkling in your mind
hand in hand
as the sun rises again
and you’re flying up the Great Ocean Road

How powerfully
the image of your happiness
comes to me
The horizon stretching out
that beautiful blue expanse beside you
speeding up the Great Ocean Road

I think of you smiling
and I smile too…

[2014]

For Alex

https://linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

One of These Years…

One of these days I’ll get it all together
gather up my debts and gather up my thoughts
One of these days I won’t have a choice
there’s be no other way, just a fading day
I always say
one of these days…
that’s right
one of these days…

One of these days I’ll write to my family
tell them all, I love them, always have and will
One of these days I’ll start giving to charity
go out and help my brother/sister man along their way
I always say
one of these days…
you watch
one of these days…

One of these days I’ll fix that creaky stair
change the bulb in the darkened hallway
One of these days I’ll start a band, write a book
put something away for the time when I can’t work a day
I always say
one of these days…
I will
one of these days…

Ah, the days they go, slipping by
I just let them go, slipping by
as they build themselves into a tidy month
build themselves into a neat year
build themselves into a pretty lifetime

One of these days I’ll take stock of what I’ve got
sit down with a pen, and calculate the cost of everything
One of these days I’ll stop talking, speak in actions only
like I’ve been promising myself I would for so long
I always say
one of these days…
you just wait
one of these years…

[2007]

Thanks for reading.

I named my first poetry collection after this poem. It felt fitting after finally doing something I’d always said I’d do. You can buy it now on Amazon

Young Family In The Sunshine

Over by the river, a young family
painted by the sunshine
So comfortable in their skin
so happy
Little baby, beautiful mother
loving father
smiling

Pulling silly faces
the three of them
laughing
He looks strong and clear minded
blessed
by the truth of honest purpose

Life seems simple, warm
they wear their love
like a tattoo
Working together
to overcome the daily challenges

They share a small beer
eat fruit from a paper bag
they look fit
and pure
and peaceful

And for a moment
I wish I could feel that way
I wish I could be that dad
for a day…

[2022]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Books of Blake

You saw me, even then
you knew me
back when no one saw me
I kept no one around
who might know me
I, too, was in my infancy
twenty-something
and far from knowing much
in any real way at all

Still, somehow, you found me
brought books of Blake
to the shop we worked
we’d sit and read together
on the varnished wooden counter
your summer dress
hanging from you like a sail
we’d admire the crazed paintings
taste those verses on our tongues

Books of Blake we stood before
and poured our minds all over
you said I ‘didn’t know how to do what I was doing’
I ‘didn’t know how to love who I was loving’
the cheek of it!
the incisiveness…

And you’d tell me
of the bottle of wine you drank
in the bath, the night before
as the water grew cold around you
cleverly planting images
that I’ve not shaken to this day
(all these years on)

You were a lush and tranquil island
in the sea of my stupidity
you were the first mind
I truly connected with

And I still rue the day
you slipped through my fingers
growing cold around me
then gone forever…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

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

I’m Not Here

Conversations float like dandelion seeds
drifting on some tumble-weed breeze
the words are soft and out of focus
bouncing quietly off hazy walls

Invisible vibrations pass unnoticed
no effect, no eye turned, no ear piqued
was that my name, something I should recognise
or just another wave in this sea of endless ambience

I’m not here
I’m not here at all

I’m back at that table
our legs entwined below the cloth
I’m down on that station platform
my hands holding your head
I’m reclining on that sofa
our bodies charged with static arcing
your begging smile just inches from mine

I’m not seeing
I’m not feeling
anything immediate
I’m not here
No, I’m not here

I’m standing on the train
with your hand sliding towards mine
I’m sitting too close to you
our shoes discreetly clunking
I’m at my desk watching you across the office
your body floating in that summer dress
you’re shooting me that covert smile

I’m not seeing
I’m not feeling
anything around me
I’m not here
I’m not really here

I’m daydreaming of your seductive voice
I’m waiting for your call…

[2015]

Photo credit: A still from Under The Skin (2013)

Thanks for reading.

https://linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

Old Flame

Think the improper thoughts
think them through
to quivering conclusion
to nakedness and molten skin
shimmering in the moonlight

Think those improper thoughts
about friends’ lovers
about co-workers, old flames
about passing strangers
but please
think them about me sometimes

Thinking the improper thoughts
to fill boring afternoon meetings
and lonely mornings driving
scarce moments of serenity
always I…
think them about you

[2009]

Thanks for reading.

linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

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

Your Light, Our Youth

The strength of your light
catches me off-guard
how brightly you shine
blooming brilliantly
how welcome
how confusing to me

The confidence of your glow
magnetic from all angles
I’m softened in the shadows
but your light does not permit them
it’s so welcome
so challenging to me

Brighter than in our youth
brighter still than photographs
we talk and take a new one
twenty years since the day we met
how welcome
how perplexing too

I’m reflecting, always reflecting
your light, our youth
the memories hang pristinely
the good and the bad we shared
the good and the bad we did
to one-another

It’s easy now to gape open
so natural to reveal everything
an absence of thought
crouched behind our actions
even now you mine a shiver
even now you well a tear

The candle on the table extinguishes
but the light does not dim
our night of talking softly ends
but the light does not dim

It’s so confusing
I want you even more
than I ever did back then
I want to help you shine
more than I ever have before…

[2017]

Thank you for reading.

linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

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

The Upside Down Girl

Her skin is pale in the early evening
hanging upside down
from the foot of an unmade bed
feeling weightless
watching the world beyond the window
where Autumn rain falls upward
and lights divide

No appetite in this dark room
no appetite for days
friends all kept at bay
no rubber masks, only patches of ice
no fireworks, just fallen leaves collecting
passing headlights flood the room
then scan across the ceiling

Blood is pounding in her ears
‘I’m losing weight’ she thinks
As puddles form in the street outside
the shops all wear their shutters down
She reaches up, closes her eyes
pushes two thumbs into the carpet
and whispers

‘With every second slipping away
we become strangers
with every second sliding away
I cease to belong
to anyone, to anything
and strangers we will always be…’

The endlessness of loneliness
the faceless prison guard
rattles their keys
but there is no release
as she hangs upside down
doing all she can
not to break into a thousand pieces

And, strangers, we’ll always be…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

To Be Adored…

One day, I would love to sign my name
be wildly proud to autograph a volume
My words printed there in glorious black ink
Type-set, spell-checked and bar-coded
head-shot just inside the hard cover…

And the girl opposite says she loves my work
the way it resonates with her own feelings
gives a voice to what has gone unsaid
she and her beau read them at night

I’d be one step closer to meeting my potential
achieved something of worth
So, when my child wants to know me
they can be proud of what I made

And though, at times, my emotions ran so cold
my self-worth, some nights, practically sub-zero
I managed to focus my thoughts long enough
to shape them into a tidy poem

Illustrate each feeling I have wrestled through
let others know they’re not alone
Give language to annunciate their hurt
in return, all I want
is their respect
and to be adored…

[2004]

Haha, well, that young man didn’t want much… 🙂 Thanks for reading this very old poem.

All my poems.

A Longing Less Refined

You say you love my mind
the sensuality of all I say
how you long to craft a reply
answer all the longing I’ve raised
You lie awake wondering of my words
‘A glimpse is not enough’ you say
‘I want conversation deep
I want to memorise your soul’

Still I shiver for that burning connection
a longing less-refined
can’t you boil for an inch of this
can’t you itch for my lips
to be held in these thin arms again
You’d sweat and burn at night
for our next physical encounter

Your fingernails should mark my skin
There should be bruises left like sonnets
In the meteor impact of our collision
You’ll see the spark of my soul there
As I shiver up inside you

You bite your lip as I show my strength
and repeat until we melt into one
Forget the reading, forget the speaking
bite my shoulder
prolong this feeling
Away with words
Cut this talk
let me at you

Away with words, fuck these sentences
I want silences split with kisses
Sucking sounds and bitten skin
Trade intellectual for the sexual
As we do those things we do
So, away with words
Cut the talk
let me at you

[2010]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

I’d posted an extract from this one on Twitter last week and people seemed keen. This is actually part of a much longer poem but I’ve robbed all the best lines from it for other poems over the years. These are the remaining (previously unshared) parts.

Greenland

The bell clatters ‘Time’ on another quiet night
tucked off the shore front
In the precious warmth of a Sisimiut tavern
I take another jar, tilt it back and drain
but still there are no answers waiting
Slouching on the bar stool
and licked by shifting shadows
lulled to doze
by the constant comb of a shuffling sea
An absent-minded shiver washes over
and, suddenly, so softly
your pale arm around my shoulder
You put your hand on top of mine
My fingers splay
and for the briefest moment
yours warmly slip between them

How did you find me
I’ve gone as far as I can go
and still you reach me
I’ve run as far as I can run
yet still you’re haunting
In every cell of me
there lives an apology
always longing for release
I’ve got a skull full of sea
and the sting of that thing, it lingers
squid ink, blotting out my smile
A cloud of darkness, I always carry
And like the sci-fi turquoise skies above
your patient ghost won’t let me hide here

Through the coloured houses
spilling warm light on the snow fields
The endless beauty of this country
does its best to ease my soul-ache
I stand by the winter-beached boats
as the ice shelf cracks and sheers
ten ton tears crashing hard into the brine

And I wonder
which will be the first to end
the frost of our faded friendship
or the world…

[2022]

Thanks for reading.

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.

Bury Me At Sea

With no deity could I shake hands
and with no children at my feet
who will tend my grave
when all is said and done

Something sublime smiles back at me
from the music I lose myself in daily
but who will tend my grave
who will know that I was here

‘No children at our feet’
we were in agreement then
but will we always be
You would have been
an exceptional mother
and I had some stories
I wanted to pass on

O, bury me at sea, bury me at sea!
Print out all my poetry
and mummify my body

Let them take a chunk
from the soft skin
at my rump

Fill the six gill shark with searching words
an army of shrimp tuck into the sweetest memories
Some busy lobster, a canny swordfish
come on, take a piece of me
and another
and another piece of me

My creativity
my laziness
my empathy
my cynicism
my passion
my bad spelling
my caring
my obsession
my gentleness
my duplicity
my desire
my naivety
my love of family

I’ll feed the fish
and they’ll give birth
I was here
now they can be
We’ll go on and on and on
into the blue…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

Lifted

You blew across the sky
a bird, black against the cloud
your wings beating hard
the way I was beating too

And for a moment…
I felt so alive

You slipped through
grazing my sooty skies
these pearly stars 
squealing in your wake

And for a moment…
I felt so alive

Was there something more
that we were supposed to do
some other experience
we should have expected to share

Lifted in your talons
my heartrate soared
lifted in your talons
those saturated colours…

Some moments are confined in life
to one instance only
some of life’s greatest moments
permit themselves to exist
for one instant only
then disappear
then they disappear

Was this the only moment
in these lives of ours
or is there a hope for more
I feel my heart lifted
by the thought
I feel my pulse lifted
by the hope for more…

Don’t disappear…
don’t disappear from me…

[2015]

Thank you for reading.

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My Heart Is A Level Crossing

Does your heart stop
momentarily
when confronted by beauty
unexpectedly

Out walking on some autumn evening
a train intersects the low setting sun
crossing a bridge over the swollen river
our world’s perfection is exposed 
so clearly

And my heart stops
like a level crossing
my heart stops
in that moment

I take a breath
a deeper breath
reeling in that moment
let the beauty in
let the beauty fill me

Sparks crash down
from atop the arches
snow is falling onto cold wet lines
as the train slips back
into thick night
the dark of winter
lit by the flash-bulb of arcing beauty
and in that moment

My heart stops…

When this sea recedes 
and that wreck’s revealed
we stand below in wonder
the unburied spectre towers above
that always-waiting awe
returns to us
and in that moment

I take a breath
a deeper breath
drink the magic in
let the beauty wash over
let the beauty fill me

And my heart stops
like a level crossing
my heart stops
in that moment
as all the world
rushes through me…

[2014]

Thanks for reading.

Since writing this poem, I discovered this song which says what I was trying to say much better than I could:

Murmur Love

Don’t be scared to put it out there
Don’t be scared to speak
sometimes what you choose to make
is pure gold

Don’t be afraid to paint what you love
Don’t be afraid to create
some things are bigger than you ever knew
eternal beyond our lives

I say go
and keep going
go and keep going
murmur love, if that’s all you’ve got

I love the way you carve it
I love the way you write
I love the way you’ve made something
birthed yourself with such perfect phrasing

I say go
and keep going
go and keep going
murmur love, if that’s all you’ve got

And while you do
I’ll sing my praise
for you…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

Take a look at one of my poetry books on Amazon.

Small Victories

Taking to the ocean
distance put between
my flippant will
and things to conquer
heart beasts
tugging at my sleeve

Turning, turning, turning
from that incessant chasing
the bay recedes, city lights 
swallowed by the horizon
heart beasts
circling overhead

Test me, am I strong enough
I try not to be broken
daily trials so choking
can I survive them?

At night, rocking in the waves
dreaming of returning
my fingers whispering upon them
my fortunes reversing
heart beasts
tangled all around me

Rising in the morning
telescope to my eye
mistakes reflected back
I reach for my pen, plot a course
heart beasts
following my wake

Some days, I have to wonder
is the chart the right way round
is this a map or just an outline
is this a tide to follow
heart beasts
snapping at my feet

Will I be strong enough
could I still be broken?
daily trials to navigate
can I survive them?

Here’s to the honest ground 
I’m scheming on
here’s to heart beasts tamed
each day; another day without them
here’s to small victories
here’s to heart beasts tamed
here’s to living
without them…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

One Last Affair

I’m wearing blue, you’re dressed in red
lit by the dancing candle light
in the depths of some back table
at a late night poetry evening
Our only hope to stay safe tonight
is to keep this table between us

Some wily orator spills their guts
before the hallowed microphone
but all I care to know now
is do you smell as good as you look
Each of us wills the other to go too far
with a ‘what’s the worst that could happen…’

You hold my eye as I sign your book
then you take my pen and fix my poem
before I fix yours
and we write a few as one
That story was complete but you seem certain
there’s another chapter waiting to be written

Do we turn the talk back to our art
or just devour each other whole
I’m caught between all that’s right
and all that we might do tonight
You purr ‘if we’re going to hell, let’s go together
it’s one last affair, one last affair, I swear…”

Your wrists wrap behind my neck
as my fingers knit into your hair
with wine stained lips we close the circuit
A pulse of poetry rips right through me
spread your pages, dip the nib
let’s immortalise this feeling

Words swim in the air above our heads
they mix and tangle, knotted with emotion
It’s no longer clear whose poem is who’s
where yours ends and mine begins
And who can honestly say
where this night will take us

Like all affairs, we find ourselves
a mess of hearts and words
But if we’re going to hell
we’ll go together…

[2022]

Thanks for reading

Across The Fields At Dusk

Hours spent listening to your voice
disembodied
carefully controlled
precisely chosen words
with expert intonation

I’ve laid with headphones on
naked and imagining 
there is no separation
no distance
that you’re beside me speaking
as my knuckles snake your thigh

You tell the story of your life
you’re telling my story too
How strange, how similar
manifestly different
but emotionally in tune

Walking through the fields at dusk
I hear your voice blow close
chasing me across the land
promises and nothings
sweet and divine

Coming for me
I’m coming for you
across the fields
at dusk…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

Love Is What You Need

If you love it
it will be what you wanted
if you give it
you will find it’s what you lost

There is something waiting
something beautiful, waiting
if you’re patient
if you love it

You say you want to see
scenes that feed your eyes
they’re waiting, they’re all around you
if you love them

There is something happening
something beautiful, happening
if you’re open
if you love it

If it’s beauty that you want
then love it, it’s all around you
if you love it
it will be beautiful

It’s all around you…

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/nightwalkermagazine/