The Jealous Writer

You wrote two clumsy lines
a platitude wrapped in cliché
The Coldplay of love poetry
clocked up two hundred likes
and fourteen gushing comments

Then you wrote the same poem
every day, in a slightly different way
The adoration only spiralled
collecting fans and affirmation
how on earth do you do it?

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

Murmuration

A hyper-sensitivity of feeling
your art connects across the senses
The roughness of ancient bark
beneath gentle fingertips
A kiss from rock-pool water
warm against bare ankles

A double exposure
a murmuration
it’s poetry, the sensuality
the sheer never timid beauty
lensed so gracefully
with such assurance and dexterity

The texture, a waking daydream
a cloak of fog, shaft of sunlight
A cinematic freeze-frame
marked by absence
the distance or proximity
of pain and recovery

Point and click, your dark-room trick
it’s as if you have control
over the mountains
the birds, the tides
or consummate authorship
of the nuance you convey

A solo figure in vast expanse
an aloneness I recognise
searching but serene
Lost in the careful creation
of an endless mythology
loudly reverberates in me

The slow creep of new tissue
like quietly vanishing tattoos
it’s at your back and haunches
as your work builds and soars
so far from that place
expressive in its woozy warmth

I hear the touch, witness the aroma
I exist in awe and quiet wonder
A world scatters its knitted beauty
a murmuration
Little charcoal sketches
across watercolour paper

The spine is a map
a breadcrumb trail
we trace with our fingers
but we can’t go back
ephemeral and observable only
in reflection or a photograph

Dusk tides, an evening deer
a crumbling barn, eiderdown snow
A swimsuit girl, the Northern Lights
a neon sign, a broken rainbow
midnight phone booth, stitches in skin
untethered and inspirationally free

Your photography is a place
I love to visit when I can
It’s pure poetry you pen
with the light, with your lens
A lasting comfort, you translate
the message I can’t help but take;

It’s impossible
impossible not to love
the beauty of this world…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

An ode to the exceptional work of one of my favourite photographers; Margaret Durow.

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.

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.

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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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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Listen to my poems on Soundcloud
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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]

Thanks for reading.

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.

Anatomy of Longing

Cutting to the heart of all this longing
is it the vicious tongue you wag at me
or the perpetual mystery hanging from your actions
the contradictions of your possible state of mind

I see the hurt, I feel the pain you carry
and sense your urge to be desired by men
the flirt of all you do rings loudly before you
and against my better judgement
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

With every scar you try to inflict
or accidentally leave on my skin
I drift away for a moment only
then find myself battling the waves
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

I know you didn’t ask for this
I know you didn’t choose me or this adventure
Yet, I brought it to you anyway
and you didn’t quite turn me away

And you’re cute, there’s no denying
you spill out in all my favourite places
and know how to smile with a catastrophic magnitude
that tears the hair clean off my scalp

The bile in your belly, the bitch barely-contained
I never knew how much I loved that rage
your misery is contagious
I feel its cells dividing in my bloodstream

I doubt I am the only one you’ve drugged this way
I know you’re not planning to leave your man
but as long as you keep stoking the engine of longing
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

I dream about you most nights
and when I’m on the bus
or train, or tube, or walking down the street
or when I’m in bed with somebody else
I dream it’s your body
over which my hands journey

And yet you only reach out a paw for me
when you know I cannot be there
you only say you might want for me
when you know we can’t connect

You’re playing me, humble instrument to your vanity
you keep me hanging on for nothing real
I know all of this so well and yet I gladly hang myself
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

Sometimes it seems; maybe you feel more for me than I realise
an ambiguous choice of words and perhaps it could mean more
you say the lovers kissing in the bar, are reminding you of me
I say the denim shirt I wore today was reminding me of you

So, who are you anyway and why do I long like this
I feel a sudden shortness of breath
when I look into your eyes
I feel my chest twinge when you catch me looking

There’s something in your history too
I know you’ve got some good hidden in you
beyond the selfish drive you choose to expose
I know there’s something that I could harness

There’s something in the things you’ve seen
the pleasure I know you’ve experienced
your taste for the beautiful and the sublime
perhaps if I could make you choose me, it would mean I’m beautiful too

You laugh at my jokes…
no matter how ruthless the punchline
the sharper, the more scathing the better
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

I need to catch myself
before I fall much further
slam my pick in the ice
before the precipice

Cutting to the heart of all this longing
I see such complicated shapes emerging
and despite all my better instincts
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores…

[2015]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

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

Great Warmth of a Curious Heart

Lurking in the natural world
there are sentences, unspoken
always waiting to be written
frozen in time
waiting for the great warmth
of a curious heart

Haunting the edges of the living world
are spirits of the unspoken connectivity in people
dead or alive, the as-yet unborn
caught between planes
waiting for the flashlight beam
of a curious heart

There is an untapped seem of precious understanding
running through the foundation of all things
reverberating in the soulful moments
ringing just loud enough
to be heard by the ears
of a curious heart

Melt me
shine upon me
hear me
with your curious heart…

[2012]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Your Poem Is Still Young

Your poem is still young
I have not mastered it just yet
I am constantly revising
still working on the phrasing

Your poem is still young
though its meaning is defined
I only have the final line
those last three certain words

Your poem is still young
each year instils new ideas
your actions suggest more rhymes
and we have many years to go

Your poem is still young
though I recite it constantly
my aim is to perfect it
through every day and night

Your poem is still young
I’d hoped to have found a way to say
to address all of the beauty and joy
there is in you, by now, but no

Your poem is still young
and I am glad to say that
it remains unfinished even now
open on the pages of my favourite notebook

Your poem is still young
still improving with every moment
as we lay together, safe in the flames
until the end of time, I’ll sing;

I love you…

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Storm Chasers

Tyre tracks on dirt roads
storm chasers
looking for the eye
or something on the other side

Peddle kisses the floor
world whips past the window
tearing up the old road
headed North, searching for more

We were happy here
but could there be greater happiness
elsewhere?
The storm is a chorus
always another verse
on the other side…

In some mad way
we’re headed for a greater shelter
through the storm
headed for safety, hopefully

There is danger
there always is
but life is a song
with danger singing along

Windows wound down
radio up high
with our lives thrown in the back
I feel so alive
do you feel alive?

You call it ‘danger’
I say ‘adventure’
well, life is a song
adventure singing along

Storm chasing
it makes no sense
but for the place on the other side
perhaps, where it’s cheap to live
maybe that makes sense

O, but look at that view
didn’t we always say
it’s all about the view
here; we can see for miles…

In some mad way, we’re headed for greater shelter
on the other side
as we dance into the storm
I feel so alive
don’t you feel alive?

[2016]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.