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: The Care and Feeding of Windows

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The Care and Feeding of Windows

The windows grow with age.
With understanding and time.
They grow as you foster the repairs caused
by other people’s blindness.
They grow in grace,
yours and his,
in the listening to truths that were there all the time
but covered with vines of fear and neglect.

As you do the work and cut the vines to their roots.
as you paint the shutters and Windex the windows.
They grow
with age.

About this poem. 

For most of my youth, my father and I had a love-hate relationship. As we both aged, there was more love than hate.

For a time after my divorce, my kids didn’t think much of me. Today our love is strong. I am blessed by them more than I can express.

The change in both instances came because truth was discovered, on all sides. And more than that, because all of us allowed ourselves to believe that truth and understand the other. Our windows grew and light grew brighter. Not perfect, but always brighter.

Happy Father’s Day,

Tom

Poem: A Messy Kind of Beach

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A Messy Kind of Beach

The sand on the beach is mottled,
lines of black sand overcoming the light,
its pattern shifting with each tide,

Come here, day after day, and you will see
that the darkness never ceases to color the beach.
but the light sand never quite disappears.

That is the nature of it. Light and dark.
A messy kind of beach. more like life
than the postcards in gift shops and hotels.

About this poem

Less about beaches than life with depression or anxiety, or mourning or…..

Tom

Poem: Where It Begins

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Where It Begins

Too often it begins with the demolition.
Pulling out the parts and pieces that have fallen.
Examining each one to see if there is life left in them.
Carefully sorting the useful and the rotted pieces
that caused the fall.

Demolition, done well, is not easy work.
It is slow. It is tedious. It requires an eye for truth,
an admission that even the most precious may be dangerous,
and the most prosaic may have value.
It is slow, often tearful, hard as reality.

And yet, it is where it begins, the rebuilding.
It is where the foundations are revealed,
and the beams still able to hold floors, walls and roofs are discovered.
There will be surprises, beautiful things buried in the rubble
that you had forgotten.

And when the work is done, you are ready to begin again,
to create something new, built on the best,
the survivor pieces
that give your new creation not just structure,
but soul.

About this poem

A bit autobiographical. About builds, lives and souls.

The picture was taken at an abandoned factory in Athol, Mass.

Tom

Poem: Places You Have No Reason to Be

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Places You Have No Reason to Be

The light that cuts through the windows is foreign,
an intensity and color not known in the northern places where you live

So too is the space from a different world, a different time. strange
and yet. as your blood races, strangely familiar, as if

this is where your soul was born, in this renaissance place
so far from the land you were raised.

This is the story of your life, finding yourself in places
you have no reason to be, and being, somehow, home.

About this poem

I am a creature of habits and routine and process. Now and again, however, I have lept into strange worlds, and found myself.

I have no idea how that works.

Tom

PS – The picture was taken in Rome.

Poem: Too Simple

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Too Simple

I am too simple for this world.
I know just a few things.

God is God.
Love is love.
Most of us are broken.
Love, properly applied, heals most things.
But never quickly.

We can survive more than we think,
but only if the bones are good.
We can become more than we believe, but
fear holds us back.

Hate destroys.
Love builds.
Hate destroys.
Love endures.
Repeat as needed.

Most of us are more loved than we know.

Imperfection is beauty.
And most of us are wonderfully beautiful,
if we ever stop to listen.

I am too simple for this world.
I know just a few things.
The rest is fluff.

About this poem.

Yes, I really believe this. All of it.

Tom

 

Poem: Better than Coffee

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This morning, I have too much going on in my head.

I am a calmer, simpler person than most. That’s what people tell me. And it is something I work at. I am more effective when my mind is calm. I am a better person when my mind is calm.

It takes work. Strong emotions overwhelm me. That can be paralyzing. A lot of people are good at putting their various emotions in boxes and only opening the one they need to deal with at the time. Others are like a juggler, able to constantly add and subtract an array of plates, bowling pins, balls and anything else you throw at them, and keep them in the air with aplomb.

I admire those people. I used to be one.

But I became so good at putting things in boxes that I lost my ability to feel properly. There was always a box to put things in. In time my life was all boxes, with very little emotion. Safe. Neat. But not very human. And not very healthy for me, or the people in my life.

Finding a place between the two extremes has been a long journey, and rarely an easy one. I don’t think I will ever get past the place where too much overwhelms me. But I have also come to a place where that’s OK. It’s part of being human.

I am in one of those places this morning. I am full of joy, and sadness and anger and a mix of emotions that were never meant to be so strong all at once. It will take me a while to sort myself out.

But sort myself out, I will. That’s part of what my writing is about. Sorting out. Letting the whirlwind die down. Letting the silt settle.

My ex-wife used to say I was a hermit. And there is some truth to that. I am an introvert’s introvert. But I also know isolation is the enemy. People, in small doses, are healthy for me. I love going out with our friends, having dinner with others, talking to strangers. So I refuse to be a hermit.

If I were a real hermit, I’d likely hunker down with my collection of boxes and stuff everything in them. I’d be a hoarder of emotions, piling them up, but not actually living with any of them. I did that for a while after my divorce. I can tell you, it is not a healthy thing, even if it feels safe.

So I go out. I don’t do my writing at home, but I go out. I sit in diners. I write in coffee shops between appointments with clients. I talk to strangers. I remind myself that life is not about looking out of windows, but going outside.

And I write. I don’t actually accomplish much in my writing. Those of you who read me regularly know I have a dozen or so themes that show up again and again. Those are the themes that have driven and still drive my life.

No, I don’t come to huge, wonderful and wise conclusions or solutions when I write. I just let the simple act of writing calm me down. It’s part of my zen.

I had breakfast with a dear friend of mine, Jeff Anderson, yesterday. Jeff, among his other many talents, repairs and makes guitars and other musical instruments. He was eloquent in talking about the zen he felt when he works with the wood to fashions a part of a guitar.

I get it. Writing does that for me. Life is a complicated mess sometimes. Even when it is good (and all in all, my life is very, very good right now.). It is like counting to ten, or a hundred, or whatever it takes to calm myself down. That’ is what the writing does for me.

I got out this morning. I wrote this. I wrote a bad poem that won’t show up here unless I can fix it (I have a collection of 90 some odd bad poems that sometimes I go fix.). I had a good talk with the cook at my favorite diner. A new friend wandered in just to say “hi.” and we talked for about 20 minutes.  I am at peace. Ready to face the world. Or rather, to face the world sanely.

There’s a difference.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

Poem: Careful with the Pruning.

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Careful with the Pruning

This is what happens.

Storms.
Or weight
or wind
pull down the limb,

almost,
but not quite, separating it
from the trunk that gives it life,
that connects it to its roots.

By all rights, it should die.
A slow death,
a slow starvation
punctuated
by deep and violent scars.

But this is not what happens.

There is a hidden miracle in its veins.
And slowly, it’s hunger reaches groundward.
New growth, spindly at first,
then season after season, stronger.
New roots find new ground
and dig deep for water and food.

and the broken limb,
wounds and all, becomes a new thing.
Somehow still attached to it’s broken trunk
even as it reaches skyward to new light.
Still attached.
Wholly new.

It takes time.
It takes a gardener who is not fast with his pruning,
Not eager to shed the wounded.
It takes time, but,

This is how it happens.

About this poem.

A poem about trees. The picture was taken at the Vanderbilt mansion in Hyde Park and this is what happened to that particular tree. I’ve seen it happen with other trees as well.

A poem about lives. I’ve seen that happen as well.

Careful with the pruning.

Tom