River’s End

Some nights, I can’t sleep
so, I go out walking
following the river
in my discomfort and anxiety
All too aware
of where we’re heading
winding towards that war
no one can win

I pass bonfires of guitars
funeral pyres of pianos
strings all snapped
Art must be rationed out, now
There’s a faded memory of a song
from long ago
that hopeless refrain, lilts
‘these are our final days’

The cities seethe, swollen and diseased
remnant governments siphon off our blood
all the schools are barracks
hospitals lick flames from every window
Kids wear shrapnel like fast-food crowns
landmines pop like party balloons
Lorries scurry the broken masses
from one smouldering ruin to the next

A hatred crackles between the people
the rusted blade edge of civilisation
I feel helpless and heartbroken
panic surging behind closed eyelids
As humanity divides
the two sides meeting twice
once in their compromise
and again at the extremes

The river rushes ever higher
the floodplain quickly vanishes
I mourn the poetry of seasons
the grave of tenderness is washed downstream
I meet a woman, burying her daughter
From an old matchbox, I offer her
the thin stem of withered hope, I nurture
she waters it with her tears

“These are, these truly are
our final days”

When we reach the river’s end
the night is at its darkest
just then a thousand suns light up
this fractured northern hemisphere

Waking in my bed
I realise my dream
But is all this hell
still yet to come…?

[2023]

Thanks for reading. Happy new year! Don’t have nightmares.

Under The Old Whale Bones

If you can find your way back here
let’s meet
under the old whale bones
this place that we each love
Where we look out to sea
or back towards the sleeping town

One day, we’ll stand together
and unbeknownst to us
it will be
for the last time in our lives

Whichever of us, must go first
let’s make a promise to meet again
under the old whale bones
Hearts filled with feeling
and the beauty of the harbour lights
reflected on the water

The hem of night is chasing us
with its rude goodbye
as it claims its prize
and lays us down
as we close our sleeping eyes

One day, we’ll smile at one another
and unbeknownst to us
it will be
for the last time in our lives

Mum, dad, when you
slip into that endless blue
or if I am gone before you
Let’s find some way back and meet
under the old whale bones

We’ll pose for someone’s photos
ghosts that chatter
or ghosts that silently
contemplate the sea
under the old whale bones

We’ll stand together
and look out across the sand
stretching as wide
as our smiles…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Day of Death

The neighbour’s cat
brought a mouse into our garden
four limbs twitching
And from that jaw, those claws
I performed a rescue
but it was all for naught
and I tucked that little life
on the compost stack
hoping it found a comfy spot
to shuffle off

Out walking that same afternoon
on the pavement, on the path
a squirrel who’d tried to fly
but kissed the curb
such a sad sight
as I strolled on by
I hope it was quick
an instant goodbye

Later on that ramble
A pigeon lay on the lawn
insides brought outside
in the shimmering sunlight
Fallen and discovered
by nature’s tiny accomplices
all busy reducing and reusing
a cycle completing

All that death in one day
Was the universe speaking
or is life always busy ending
Nature is not so sentimental
and we’ll all meet those jaws
we’ll all kiss that curb
and complete the cycle
That day of death
comes to us all

While I still draw breath
there are many ‘thank you’s
so many ‘I love you’s
many ‘how can I help you’s
I still need to speak
and so I pray ‘not today’
like we all pray
‘please, not today’…

[2022]

Thanks for reading.

There Will Be Birds In The Morning

Hit play to listen or right-click and ‘save as’ to download.

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
all the busses look so busy
I laugh quietly to myself
wondering
Do birds even sing
on winter mornings?

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

Oct 2022: Reposting again (sorry) – audio remastered with clearer vocals.

Featured in ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp available now.

Like Someone Who Knows Me

Click play to hear the poem read aloud.

Through the bitterness of winter
life crawls, so lingering and lonely
and hauling your battered heart into
the shelter of some place holy
Your mind swims with the terrible things
those hands have groped toward
The grit of guilt and shame conspire
to serve as your reward

Such troubled thoughts reverberate
as they echo up into the arches
Gathering their mass and falling back
they’ve now swollen to a chorus
It’s to the ivory king atop his wooden cross
your hope will momentarily cling
but in the deafening silence he lets ring
you’ll sigh your stuttered hymn…

“O, hold me
hold me
like someone who knows me
for there must be
one…”

Caught between the ribbons and the frills
of a hired friend in a rented room
Her garments kiss the mottled carpet
as she beckons you from the dimming gloom
You’ve lassoed all your longing
gathered up your greed
but all is tarnished by the arrogance
of succumbing to this need

To feel her fingers, small and slender
as they rouse your self belief
A patron of the pornographic sweatshops
with nothing beyond this fleeting relief
Your hands suddenly feel so cold
There’s much your body is aching to confess
and your tears of lumpen coal merely exist
as you whimper at her breast…

“O, hold me
hold me
like someone who knows me
for there must be
one…”

The dance of waves like hungry knives
metallic in the floodlight moon
This freezing clifftop is haunted
by the remnants of a family ruin
And strobing images of numbered girls
divorced from name and age
You torched everything that mattered
for a compulsion you could not assuage

The trouble swells, you’ve lost control
it’s from yourself you now must flee
Still your wings, they have no feather
it’s a long way down but then you’re free
Soon you’ll slip between the stars
a fragment of that timeless beauty
as the sea rises up to carve your body
you exhale that broken plea…

“O, hold me
hold me
like someone who knows me”

Yet there
were
none…

[2022]

Thanks for reading.

All The Forgotten Novels

I watched you
wrangling those sensations
turning your heart
upside out, inside down
And dipped in ink
kissed the page
I heard your words fall
articulate fictions collected
spelling out the world
filtered through your eyes…

I sat, awe-struck
at those flippant phrasings
pouring from your pen
Truest lies, the lying truths
splattered accurate
clinging to the pages
I believed the textures
you carved in open air
the spoken honey of your prose
a world seen through dark eyes…

All gone and gone
time laughing at us
It’s all forgotten
time mocking us
all for nothing
like rain at sea
Those sparkling lines
those beauties bound
all forgotten
like rain at sea
like rain at sea…

[2013]

Thanks for reading. I have no memory of writing this one but I quite like a couple of the lines so thought I’d share.

University Payphone

From the depths of a damp October
you called me daily
The auburn street outside
so unfamiliar
That new city
didn’t yet feel like home

“I just called to hear your voice
and ask when you’ll come to visit?”
Muted tears falling
on the university payphone
And the scratch of coins loading
asking if I missed you

And every day, I do
of course, I do
Every dusk into the winter
our daily phone calls
It was so hard to hear
those secret tears

Two months crept by
and now there are other voices
I could hear you smiling
and it’s so good to know you’re happy
new friends surrounding
fewer calls, less often

And every day, I do
of course, I think of you
Every iced spring morning
I miss your phone calls
it was good to hear you happy
but sad to know
you no longer needed me…

[2022]

Thanks for reading.

https://linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

Trust

Playing in the garden
watching films together
as you nestle into my arm
learning each other’s language
You trusted me, eventually
became part of my family

I loved to watch you
explore the world we shared
sunbathing on the rug
or endless pats in the living room
Your fur and the quiet purr
of little teeth grinding

What I’ve been dreading
now, it’s happening
You’re still you
but your legs no longer work
yet you look to me
with such affection in your eyes

I’m so happy we were alive
at the same time
I’m so grateful your life
aligned with mine
and I can’t measure
the happiness you brought

As the tears clear, I can see
I’m doing the right thing
and yet it sorely stings
to watch you slip away
Such trust in your closing eyes
as we say our last goodbyes

All I ever wanted
was the best life for you
You’re skipping now forever
through the meadows
and the vegetable patch
of my fondest memories…

[2022]

Thanks for reading.

https://linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

Under This Maudlin Sky

Two lonesome figures
under a maudlin sky
Two friends trying to speak
to understand something
The wind whips up
clouds of stinging sand
It’s so hard to look ahead
both momentarily blind
under this maudlin sky

So many miles, we’ve come
so many times we laughed together
Now, the future feels so small
every outcome seems so brutal
I try my best to steady you
when your steps waver
‘one foot in front of the other’
the only advice I can muster
under this maudlin sky

These moments are dense
with a thousand universes
Thinking feels infinite
limbs so heavy and useless
I can’t put my arm around your shoulder
I can’t manage that quite yet
So, we walk with all our questions
tentative with every step

I wish I could fix this trouble for you
but there are things you can’t undo
Late at night in your lonely room
dark matters at the heart of you
Are you still the friend
I thought I knew
under this maudlin sky

And I want to ask you why
but I know that you don’t know
and I want to ask you why
under this maudlin sky…

Are you still the friend
I thought I knew…

[2022]

Thanks for reading.

This one one of the poems I wrote in August when I forced myself to write a poem every day – unedited and raw.

Morphine

All the faith carried in your soul
and all the morphine
lightening the load
they play a strange sad game
spinning lies in devilish ways

I listened to your doctor speaking
as you read from some ancient tome
yes, you know your body well
but pain isn’t the cause

This belief takes its small toll
the colour and the hope draining away
defeatedly, you feel
you’re failing

But you’re not fading
you’re not going anywhere
I take your hand to emphasize
you’re not slipping from this life
you’re falling into morphine
warm and wide
with those tired eyes

You say to me
‘Son, He is waiting
will you pray for me?
I feel Him come for me’
but even faithlessly
I know he’d not be ready
it’s just the morphine murmuring
as you try to start our last goodbye
I smile, say ‘it’s alright

And you’re not fading
you’re not going anywhere’
I look deep into your eyes
say ‘you’re not slipping from this life
you’re falling into morphine
warm and wide
just sleep tonight’

In this windowless room
you’ll see no blinding light
come for you in the night

You look at me and say you’re ‘sure’
think I’m angry
because I ‘can’t bare to hear’
I’m just frustrated
by those velvet hands
rummaging in your brain
and your absent God

And all that morphine
wet and warm
you’re wading through tonight

I love you, mum
and you’re not going anywhere…

[2015]

Thanks for reading.

https://linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

The Things We Lose

There can be no knowing
there can be no honest understanding
until you are standing there
empty-handed, broken-hearted
Suddenly, all too aware
of all the things we’ve lost

You can try to estimate the feeling
you can approximate a sense of things
The hollowness this ‘now’ rings in your bones
swallowing any beat of happy thought right up
every moment speaks only in shrieks
of all the things we’ve lost

Attempting a prediction will always miss
for the things that cut are too small to see
You never think to gauge
the imperceptible absences;
the smell of her hair, a contented sigh
This silent lack of fragrance screams
of all the things we’ve lost

Sitting there talking of this happening
neither of us could have comprehended
the way this withered world seems to laugh at us
the endless bleakness of glacial lonely nights
All the saddest songs we can find to play, singing
of all the things we’ve lost

You must expect the end to hurt
you much accept no one is spared
yet, there is simply no preparing for this moment
as things you’d never noticed capsize all around
squealing out the saddest sound
of all the things we’ve lost

The truest happiness we’d ever swum in
the deepest friendship we’ve ever known
the warmest love we’d ever felt
the greatest thing we’ve lost…

[2009]

Thanks for reading.

https://linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

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.

Highbury Fields

That sixteen-year-old words 
scratched there in my diary
could bring the two of us here
seems almost supernatural

A spring-evening walk, so like us
the us we were as teens
when you were my first
and still my only kiss
as we walked the peaceful parks of home

Now, so many years stretch across
a wide valley of unshared experience
they squeal and dance between us
slowly and methodically we close the gap
spinning our silken bridge of words

I pull the feathers from your lungs
they’re knotted and tarred
dripping with the bitterness of isolation
they’re catching in your throat

Your silences
and the space between those words
they say much more
they say it all…

Your sorrow is a blanket of leaves
your sorrow is blossom that falls
and covers this park…

Highbury Fields disappears
beneath the tears I know you cry
in your silent room
from your hiding place

Recently, I read again of all you gave me
when the two of us were lost together
so I ask myself ‘what I can do
to help lift you from this place’

What can I do for you
what can I give to you
only my time, only my time to you
the healing warmth of resuscitated friendship
as we walk the adult evening
through this pretty park

And you can say it all
you can speak it all out loud…

[2014]

Thank you for reading.

https://linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

This Poisonous Time

The plan never changed
it was quietly revealed
suddenly, this cell was just mine

Can I still grow?
can I still change?
I don’t want to be my father
I don’t want to live alone

Another evening in
another night, pushing everyone away
All I need is a little space
room enough to think a while
write some lines
a drink or two
me; all too myself

But the more I take
the more I die
of this
this poisonous time

And even on the odd occasion
I go out and sit with other people
there is nothing I can say
to make them want me to stay
I’ve focused every sense within
this cell is me

There should be jokes, there should be smiles here!
I used to be so good at this
There should be humour, there should be such love!
I used to be so good at this

But the more I take
the more I die
of this
this poisonous time

Alone and wading through
such a poisonous time…

[2008]

Thanks for reading.

https://linktr.ee/tomalexwrite

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

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.

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.

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.

Ship In A Bottle

I do it to blur the edges
vignette the haze of night
I do it to shave the edge off
it’s always my round
There’s wonder in the bottle
another glass, another glass
This ship can never sink
can never skim its hull
can never drown
will never go down

And that’s the lie
the lie
that I’ve been living by
for so long

Shattered streetlight reflections
scatter in the puddles
backlit house windows
neatly arranged on hillsides
it’s a painterly view through squinted eyes
so cinematic through mottled glass
Headphones up high
the music video life
It’s fifteen years now
but I could stop at any time

And that’s the lie
the lie
that I’ve been swearing by
for so long

I folded myself so carefully
shoved down the narrow neck
such safety in the numbness
watching all of life’s weather
from the confines, from the inside
Pull on my strings
sails raised and bellowing
my course will soon stop circling
and I never hurt anyone
but my pickled self

And that’s the lie
the lie
that I’ve been telling myself
for so long

The tides that I am carried on
move too slowly
to truly show themselves
but this morning
I caught sight of my reflection
red eyes in tears for what they saw
it’s so obvious
I need to change my course
and would you help me if I ask
help break me out of this

I can’t afford
to buy into this lie
I’ve not enough time
to buy into this lie
anymore…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

Treat yourself to a paperback…

Float

the brightness has died like it couldn’t stand the heat
it left us alone on the beach where we met
the fire is dead and the coldness sets in
I’m wearing the same clothes as the first time we kissed
and further than I could ever go
a smile I want to keep forever
like a beast I couldn’t tame
couldn’t keep control
at the time, until just now
it felt all too much, too big, too bright
it felt much too strong, too overgrown
and like forever, it would last us
and like forever, it would last…

but we were wrong…
and now it’s gone…

fallen down in the snow still miles from home
you drag me down lower than I have ever seen
below the surface you’re trapped in sadness
I’m still wearing a scowl I’ve practiced so long
and deeper than I could ever pull you
a look I want to lose somehow
like a fear I couldn’t conquer
couldn’t over-come
at the time, until today
it felt all too soft, too safe, too bright
it felt much too tall, too durable
and like forever, it would last us
and like forever, it would last…

but we were wrong…
and now it’s gone…

and the waves lap up against your precious face
my tired arms keep us afloat a while longer
and you turn to me and breathe
“there can never be forever”
slowly now, and wholly now
my limbs take on a burning now
and harder now, and breaking now
we sink beneath the waves again
and like forever, it shouldn’t fail us
and like forever, it’s supposed to last…

but we were wrong…
and now it’s gone…

I wave to you, a last farewell
and as I go, I melt inside
and guts all spilt, I sleep so deep
wishing now to never wake
the stench of death, decaying flesh
drifting now, on endlessly
on and on in a lonely sea

another time, another place maybe
another way, another me maybe
ever-lasting soon gives in
soon disappears and dissipates
another time, another place maybe
another way, another you maybe

and we were young…
but now it’s gone…

[2003]

Thanks for reading this very old poem.