About Tom Atkins

Part poet, part broadcast engineer, part marketing expert, part professional creative, photographer, mentor and entrepreneur - I've never been able to tell people what I do in 25 words or less. Raised in Virginia, I now live in Vermont where the New England countrysides and towns sing to me each day, while technology lets me work with clients anywhere and everywhere.

Poem: Ice Walk

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Ice Walk

Frozen fog coats the trees.
The snow has turned to ice,
victim of a partial thaw before cold sets back in
to stay.

The ponds are mostly frozen,
a small patch of water remains,
a resting place for late-flying geese.

The stillness is foreign, strangely wonderful.
Sane humans are locked away in their warm houses
while you walk,
while you stop.

Thinking is easy here.
Nothing competes with the flow of thoughts,
nothing interrupts or sways you.
You can see your breath.
You can feel your thoughts,
painful and joyful both,
raw as the cold.

Underneath your feet, sticks and ice crackle,
break,
and announce your coming.

You see the geese. They grow alert. Wary. Watchful.
one step too close and there is a flapping of wings,
a flurry of primal fear and they fly,
wings moving air, moving sound as they soar skyward.

You smile as you wave your arm, wizard-like,
sending them your blessing and your pain,
both finally flying south, leaving you alone,
your mind quiet as the landscape,
ready at last to turn homeward.

Poem: Fleur

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Fleur

Foreign in its simplicity,
the flower blooms in the quarry,
a rebellious thing,
almost stifled by grey slate and fallen stone.
A color less strong
than persistent.

About this poem

The demons live. The battles go on. I am less strong than persistent. Prosaic perhaps, less heroic, but all in all, effective.

I live across from an abandoned slate quarry. In the warm seasons, wildflowers abound.

Tom

Poem: Another Ignoble Death

 

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Another Ignoble Death

The old truck sits in at the edge of the woods,
a thing of history, barely recognizable for all its rust and decay.
Little of the paint remains untouched by wear.

Someone has taken potshots at the remains.
bullet holes scar the windshield.
One headlight has exploded from the impact.

The truck was once a beast of industry.
Built strong, it carried burdens too heavy for others,
its steel and iron seeming invincible

Until of course, it wasn’t. When neglect and wear
left it broken, its value no longer enough to warrant care.
Abandoned. Replaced, it’s corpse hauled to the edge of the woods

to quietly disappear.

About this poem

A poem about an old truck in a truck graveyard near Petersburgh, NY, and about people.

Tom

Thoughts: Icons and Strange Light

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Last Friday, the woman I love and I took an artist’s date and went to Clinton, Mass to visit the Russian Icon Museum. It is a place we have been before, but there is something about these hand-painted panels (typically painted on wood panels) that have always sung to me.

I actually have a Russian Icon in my house, and the discovery that both the woman I love and I have an affinity for icons was one of our first connecting points.

It’s an odd little museum. Outside it is a small industrial building, the sort of thing you see in New England towns. Perhaps a small factory or warehouse from the turn of the century (1900’s, not 2,000’s). Inside it is remarkably modern and airy, with lighting that changes color every few minutes, from reddish to blue-ish to greenish to purplish and back.

Personally, I find the ever-changing light colors a distraction. The lighting changes the way the rooms, and more importantly, the icons appear. Being someone who likes to study, not just look at, paintings that touch me, the shift in color makes it hard for me to fully see the artwork. I am constantly trying to see past the hues of the lights to the colors of the paintings.

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There is likely a reason for the colors. Perhaps the colors of the light replicate colors from the stained glass windows of churches where these icons may have hung, and the lights are designed to let us see the paintings in context.

At times I found myself looking closely at this icon or that icon. At other times, I stood back and looked at them, noting how they changed as the light changed.

It is, after all, all about the light.

Most artists will tell you that. So will most photographers. Light changes how we see everything. And the light changes throughout the day, taking any landscape or vignette and always, subtly shifting how it’s seen, how it’s experienced, how we end up feeling.

I am a strong believer (and brain science is starting to catch up and verify this common belief.) that how we choose to see things in our life, the light, and color we choose to paint the events in our lives, change how our live actually are, just as light on a landscape changes how we see the landscape itself. The same section of farms and mountains can be alternately washed out, harsh, warm, inviting, hopeful – all according to the light.

Which is right? Which is true? The dark? The hopeful? All of them? Yeah, you can get all philosophic on this one – generations of philosophers have filled stacks of books wrestling that puppy down, or at least trying to.

I downloaded some of the pictures I took at the museum this morning. Each icon was bleached with the color of the moment. I spent some time in software trying to bring the image to the way I believed they would look in uncolored light, trying to wrestle them down to how I saw them. That’s what you see in the top image of an early 1700’s icon.

And we do the same with our words and thoughts in real life. We choose the colors of the life we live. We choose what light to see things in. It’s not that there are not things in our life that suck and things in our life that make us rejoice, but even at the extremes, we have a choice of the crayons we use, the light we apply, and in the end, how we see things.

I’ve wrestled with that at times. Bouts of depression paint a pall on how I see things. Some days the depression light is a faint one, easy to “photoshop” out with positive thoughts and actions. At times, it’s a black fog, with everything seeming negative and ugly. On those days, it takes more work.

I’ll do the work, just as I did the work on the top picture. I want to choose how I see things, I don’t want an artificial pall, or the rest of the world, or you or anyone else to choose how I see. I did that too long.

Photoshop is easy. Carving away the artificial light we all carry around with us is hard. But it’s worth it. I like the way I choose to see, even it takes some work.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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Poem: A Slow Attempt

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A Slow Attempt

Vines twist up and through
where once glass and structure stood, 
a slow attempt at murder. 

But that is it’s saving grace, 
the slowness, with its plethora
of second chances,

time to prepare the counter assault, 
to unleash the fury
near death always brings. 

About this poem. 

I was going to call this poem Kudzu, but I didn’t have any pictures of that insidious vine. I guess I have been away from the South too long. 

A poem about the things that tear us down. And the battle back. 

Tom 

Poem: A Broken Man’s Love Poem

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A Broken Man’s Love Poem

And there I was,
nearly undone,
the inside chipped away,
the weaknesses unseen
even by those who lived there, secure
in the belief that I was immortal,
that bits and pieces could be pulled away forever
without effect.

And there I was,
unaware myself just how close I was
to becoming ruins,
the work so long done coming
undone in almost invisible increments,
waiting, dreading, sure of the final wind.

And there you were,
more aware of my foundations that even I could be,
your gentle hand strong,
your touch, healing,
your words God-breathed, an unexpected,
grace-filled inspiration,
no less than a miracle
in this old man’s life.

About this poem

A love poem. Years into my relationship with the woman I love, I am still astonished and grateful for her presence in my life.

For word nerds who perhaps are not steeped in faith words, inspiration comes from a base word meaning “God Breathed”. Grace means the “unmerited favor of God.”.

Tom