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: February-Like



It is early in the morning.
The sky is grey, February-like, and cold.
Last week’s snow lies patchy and dirty on the ground.
The bicycle lies on the ground,
the victim of wind.
Off in the yard, chairs lay akimbo.

You are dressed for the weather.
Sixty-three winters have prepared you
and you know how to dress against the storms.
Your heavy coat hangs on your shoulders.
Your wool cap covers your head.
Your socks are thick.

Still, there is no escaping the cold.
Stay out long enough and it creeps in the fissures.
The only escape is to move,
to raise a sweat from your core
that will keep you warm,
but only until you stop.

About this poem.

About winter. About depression. Reader’s choice.

Yes, that’s my bike.


Poem: Unholy Ropes


Unholy Ropes

The ropes are rolled loosely in the corner.
Binding things, shrugged off late in life, often
replaced by more in some terrible cycle
of bondage.

Most were not your own. You surrendered to them
one by one, too often for the best of intentions,
not even aware of the sacrifice until
your eyes grew dim from lack of air,

your heart bound by unholy ropes
as the best of you slowly withered away.

But you did not die.
You teetered on the precipice of heaven and hell
like a drunken acrobat, dancing precipitously
as the crowd watched, unsure of what they were seeing.

You found your way
to solid ground and your roots dug down,
hungry, ravenous for the faith so lost in the morass
of failure, exhaustion, and malleability.

You found your way, and one by one,
thread by thread, cut yourself free, growing stronger
with each thin string sliced away, faster and faster,
until, beserker-like you could cut through the thickest bonds

like butter.
You became something you never sought
but always believed you were.

The ropes are rolled loosely in the corner.
You keep them there, frayed and sliced,
reminders of how easily we become captives,
and the hard work of breaking free.

About this poem

I keep a lot of momentoes around my house and particularly around my desk. Not all of them are of good times. There’s a reason for that.

The picture was taken in Mystic Village, CT.


Poem: Desert Life

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Desert Life

Your bones are dry.
In vain, your roots seek water.
seek nourishment in the desert sand that surrounds you.

You wonder that you are not dead,
that the arrows flung so recklessly your way
have not drained you of blood.

But they have not.
They have toughened your skin
without closing your soul

And somehow you breathe still,
and rise, drawing strength
from the empty places all around you.

About this poem

Well! This is not the poem I set out to write. But when I carved off all the waste and fat from the poem I intended. This was left.

As an aside, deserts are nowhere as dead as they appear. Stay still and you see they are full of life.

The picture was taken, not in the desert, as the poem implies, but on Cape Cod.


Poem: Inappropriately Optimistic


Inappropriately Optimistic

You can’t fool me. I am old enough to know
that seasons come and go.
I have survived them all, the glorious and gory.
my blood and tears have fed the earth,
and I have danced on the graves of ancestors and betrayers.
I have watched my nearly dead body from above
and I have wallowed in warm sand with sun on my skin.

I have survived them all,
and so this little pittance you throw at me,
a spot of bad weather in the long list of years,
this raunchy dangerous time, will pass.
I know this now. It is the benefit of grey hair
and wrinkled skin, of having lived in deep graves
and climbed out more than once.

So snow away.
Cover the remains of green grass.
Strip my trees of leaves and blow cold from the mountain.
It will pass.
So pardon me if I don’t wring my hands.
If I have the gall to laugh at the latest disaster,
inappropriately optimistic.
You can’t fool me.

About this poem. 

When you become a pastor in the Methodist Church, you have to go through a barrage of psychological tests. I came out fine except what they called an “inappropriate optimism.” A dangerous thing, they told me, making me subject to disappointment and damage.

Oh well. I’m sixty-three. I have people to love and people who love me. The rest will pass. In fact, a lot of it already has.


Poem: Hopelessly



I am old and out of fashion,
hopelessly male.
I have learned discretion,
the ability to close my mouth,
capturing the improper
before it spills out all incorrect
and out of time.

But still,
I am old and out of fashion,
with all its good and bad,
full of manners and
the belief that some things are best left unsaid,
that it is worth the pain of silence
to keep a relationship without bullet holes and blood.
I open doors for the women I precede,
whether they want me to or not.
I use, too often it seems, multisyllabic words,
the right fork, and the right wine glass,
Speak sometimes too directly and others,
too obliquely.

But still,
I am old and out of fashion,
and so I will tell you, perhaps too often,
how I love the way you look,
sparkling green eyes and satin skin,
the tilt of your head and the hint of cleavage,
the promise in your walk.
I smile when you enter the room,
and it is not just because you are good company,
(though you are that and more,
conversing like a courtesan.)
but because me and my wrinkles
appreciate beauty still, and particularly,
the blush on your cheeks when I do.

About this poem.

I could have played on the hopelessly in love thing, but it is in the poet’s manual that we can’t use cliches, even when they are correct. Nearly two years into our marriage, I never expected this kind of love. And yet, here I am. I don’t think I will ever lose the gratitude and wonderment.

And yes, that is the woman I love.


Poem: Traveling Sins


Traveling Sins

Yours are not the only ones.
The small rosewood rooms are like coffins,
full of confessions, banal and badass,
a spilling place of truths
going back generations.

You can feel them when you enter,
a ghostly awareness that your sins
have far less power than you give them.
Yours are no worse than the others,
no less forgivable

The polished rosewood somehow does not make those sins more palatable
They are, no matter the scenery, artless.
wild things, better perhaps to release them outside
where there are horizons and skies for them to fly to,
never to haunt again, dissipated smoke,
and nothing more.

About this poem

We are often bad at forgiving, particularly forgiving ourselves. And so we carry a burden that punishes no one, except, of course, ourselves.

The picture was taken in Rome.