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Tom Atkins Jul 2021
It is a constant temptation,
to get in the boat that brought you
and row again, not home
but to the river, to the sea,
to take this vessel, small as it is
and take it to places it was not created for,
foreign places with baroque towers
and ancient marbles, strange trees
and words you can not understand,
but left there long enough, will.

A Constant Temptation

It is a constant temptation,
to get in the boat that brought you
and row again, not home
but to the river, to the sea,
to take this vessel, small as it is
and take it to places it was not created for,
foreign places with baroque towers
and ancient marbles, strange trees
and words you can not understand,
but left there long enough, will.
About this poem.

A touch of wanderlust in a rainy day. The picture  I used on my blog was taken in Cornwall England, where my son and I had rowed to a small island to explore, as children will.


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Tom Atkins Apr 2021
The thing is, the lesson is, I survived.
Never mind the rust or the abandonment
or the sabotage or the self sabotage,
or the wandering in the wilderness,
bars and hitchhiking in the night,
the wrong turns and the right turns unrecognized,
or the helpers and healers, the jacklegs,
quacks, shamen and priests.
Never mind the things that came undone,
and the constant rearranging of fate
or God’s insistence in letting me stew
in my own juices. Never mind
the arrows or thorns or innocent bystanders
content to watch me bleed, those who
see me as entertainment or suspect.
Never mind the constant need for maintenance,
the broken parts, the ones I could fix
and the ones I could not,
the depression, the fear, the fight,
the checkered past, a perfect target
for any who care to shoot.
Never mind all of it. The parts that recovered
and the parts that never will.
The blood shed! So much of it.
So many tears. So much lostness,
darkness and fire. The wars. The surety
that you were never made for the world you live in,
the anger
I felt, uncomfortable with it every time it rises, and
the anger
aimed at me, a thing more comfortable to you,
more familiar,
but no less weaponized,
Never mind all of it.

I survived.
I found love. I gave love.
Some things I did, mattered.
At times, there is joy.

Don’t tell me there is no God.
I know better.
I survived.
About this poem.

Not the poem I expected to write when I stumbled on this picture of old pipes in an old abandoned factory in Massachusetts that is posted with this poem on my blog, and decided to write on it. But the muse is often more honest than I am, sees things I don’t see. Says things I’d rather not.

Tom Atkins Feb 2021
It is a strange thing, brass, half compass, half sextant.
No one in the antique shop knows exactly what it is.
A fascination, surely an instrument of navigation,
it belongs on the deck of wooden ships,
not here in the byways of a small town in a small state.

It has made its own journey, certainly.
Was it stolen, lost, moved?
Did it come here of its own intention,
or is it the debris of a life come undone?
Your mind is full of questions
and there is no one to answer.

You sigh. Its polished brass curves sing to you
and it is a sad song, a mournful song of lostness,
of too much time spent floundering in a sea
far more kind than you deserved, for you survived
as you were cast from wave to wave,
from foreign land to foreign land, and in the end

it was grace that brought you here, not navigation.
Time and currents and wind, conspired to bring you home
when you could not find the way yourself.
About this poem

Life’s been good to me, even when it wasn’t. God’s been good to me, even when I wasn’t. In the past couple of years in particular, I have drifted more than I like. And yet, here I am, at home with myself and healthy again, mind (mostly) and body and spirit (mostly).

Faith will lead us home. Not directly perhaps. But home nonetheless.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom Atkins Feb 2021
Sun cuts through the slats of the fences,
light and shadow on the sand.

The ocean is calm today.
Soft waves wash against the shore.

A serenade. A lullaby.
A hymn of thanksgiving.

It is enough to sit here. To feel the sun.
Time disappears. You disappear in the landscape.

You have come to understand what you are
and a few of the whys. It is enough.

You are content to know less, feel more.
Know less, experience more

without the luggage of a life lived spottily, strangely,
too often lacking answers.

In the distance, gulls cry out.
In the distance, clouds nudge the horizon.

Wind ruffles your hair. You smell the salt.
And you wonder at how long it took you

to lose yourself. To find yourself.
To understand the meaning of enough.
About this poem.

Less has made me more. ****** if I understand it, but it’s true.

Tom Atkins Feb 2021
In the markets of Venice, snails writhe,
not merely fresh but alive, clambering
one over the others as if they know
their garlic and oil-infused future.

Fish lay on the tables, tails whipping,
eyes open and aware. Shrimp, legs dancing
a jitterbug in wooden bins in the morning light.
It is all a bit disturbing and fascinating

to someone like you accustomed
to shrink-wrapped perfection, every thing you eat
packaged and perfect, safely dead and cleaned,
no momentary discomfort in the actual act of dying.

Ah, but the taste that night! as you sip your white wine
and dine on scallops freshly pried from their shells,
the snails sauteed. As if the rawness itself
drew created a whole new perfection.

This is what you have learned in your years
of allowing strangers into your life. Broken strangers.
The dying. The inconsolable. They are less pretty,
none destined to be a perfect Instagram vision.

They die. They struggle.
They flail like snails in the market, determined to live
when the world around them prefers shrink-wrapped perfection.
They are uncomfortable to be around

and yet, strangely beautiful, Real. Raw.
The few who survive are always scarred.
And yet, you feel a strange allure, somehow made more
in their brief flicker of survival.
About this poem

I had no idea where this one would go when I began. Feeling flat, I simply took a photograph, yes of snails in the Thursday marketplace in Venice, and wrote to it.

One of the things that the woman I love has given to me is a higher tolerance for being uncomfortable. Another thing she has done is increase my compassion.

Other than that, you are on your own to find meaning in this one.

Tom Atkins Feb 2021
Outside the rail car is untouched.
Seventy years old and it appears ready
for the next journey
as it languishes in this graveyard
of steel and aluminum.

Inside it is different.
Graffiti and abuse.
Seats ripped from the floor
and piled one on the other.
An old mattress lays at one end.

This is what happens
to travelers like yourself,
left too long in a single place.

When you dated the woman you love, you would drive
two and a half hours for coffee and conversation.
Folks thought you were mad. Perhaps so,
but it is a madness that has plagued you all your life,
this hunger to go, the place never mattering
as much as the journey

Not made of steel and aluminum,
the stillness has left you rotting from inside.
It is worse and more deadly than rust.

It is time to leave this place. To go
before your weaknesses and demons write graffiti,
break the windows and crawl out
of the darkest recesses of your mind.

It is time,
to travel east, towards the sun,
towards the sea, the destination a second thought,
the flight towards light the first.
About this poem.

I have traveled my entire adult life. For work. For family. For some, travel is a burden. Not for me. I thrive in the traveling, often more than in the destination. So this past year of quarantine has been like a prison.

Next week I travel to Portland, Maine to spend time with a dear friend. It’s only for a couple of days, but it is the first long trip in a year. I am so ready.


PS: The picture I used on my blog ( was taken at an old train graveyard in Bellows Falls, VT. Probably the last trip I made, a couple of hours from here. Last spring.
Tom Atkins Feb 2021
Poetry fails you.
A season of too much sameness
has left you flat, a creature more of habit
than enthusiasm, pushing through,
spitting your words out helter-skelter,
lacking grace and light,
You have little to say. Waiting for inspiration.
You need roads, strange walls and windows,
new light, the roar and rustle of waves,
museums and mansions
and strange hotel rooms in new cities.

You have spent the year plunging your own depths
and there is little new there to discover.
You are thinner than you believed. Simpler.
Your needs for survival more than met,
you need new food. You need to get lost for a while
and find your way back, always looking for fire escapes,
not to flee, but to enter through windows like a thief,
somewhere, anywhere, new.
About this Poem

I don’t think, until the past couple of years, that I realized how much new places played in my life and creativity. And thus how much the lack of them has worn me down.

The picture I used with this poem was taken in New York City. Until all this I often found some business to do there a couple of times a year, and scheduled some extra time just to wander. I love the city, most any city actually. Not as a place to live but as a place to recharge.

I wonder sometimes, if I could live in the city. Moving to a new place late in my life. has taught me something I always I always believed: That I could probably live anywhere and still find places of peace. It’s something inside us. The landscape only contributes.

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