TOM VAUGHAN inspiration

About the poet

Tom Vaughan is a former British diplomat. His novel No Second Prize, based on his experience in post-colonial Zimbabwe, was published by Andre Deutsch in 1993.

In the words of Helena Nelson of the HappenStance Press, which published a short selection of his poetry in 2010 and a longer collection – Envoy – in 2013, Tom’s poems demonstrate that ‘elegant formalism and contemporary style can still go hand in hand’.

Tom’s poems have been published in several magazines, newspapers and anthologies. One of his poems, Proposal, first published in Orbis, was included in the BBC series/anthology Essential Poems (to Fall in Love with). Beltway Blues, from Tom’s Envoy collection, was included in the Songs of Love and Loss cycle by painist/composer Sir Stephen Hough, premiered in a Wigmore Hall concert on 2 January 2023, sung by Nicky Spence

You can find a longish ‘anti-poem’ by Tom, entitled Your Views Matter to Us, in the May 2024 edition of the poetry webzine Snakeskin (https://www.snakeskinpoetry.co.uk). Please feel free to express your views!

Some Poems of Tom Vaughan

 

La Collégiale, Guérande

Whatever’s going on outside

it’s peaceful – sun streaming through stained glass

like a message, though of course that’s what

I once was taught

to imagine. I watch believers pray

 

intrigued too by the sudden way

tourists fall silent as they leave

the tangled, bustling, shop-lined streets,

the summer heat,

awkwardly making the sign of the cross

 

in what looks to me an almost lost

habit, taking off baseball caps,

dark-glasses, glancing around as they light

candles, not quite

at ease with themselves for doing so

 

and would indeed prefer to know

nobody’s watching, although of course

should their all-seeing god exist

He certainly is.

And after all, why am I here? –

 

not for confession’s brief All Clear,

or faith (to find, or mock . . .). Maybe 

even while sitting on the fence

there’s still a sense

belief’s not merely a man-made

 

comfort blanket, or band-aid,

but it’s worth the time to sit and wait

as if such moments might provide

a detailed guide

to – coded in our DNA –

 

a hard-wired longing which, today

at least, hints at a possible

deeper, shared identity,

and claims to be

a link to something somehow ‘true’

 

which these stones yearn to rhyme with too.

 

 

Published in Snakeskin 318, June 2024

Shoelaces

My shoelaces are in a knot –

I’m tired, and want to be in bed

but must sit here and tug instead.

Is this a skill my hands forgot?

My shoelaces are in a knot.

 

I should be wearing Chelsea boots

or Moccasins – or go barefoot

about the world.  But now I’ve put

down deep and complicated roots.

I should be wearing Chelsea boots.

 

To take a knife and cut right through

would save me time, and I’d soon be

sleeping beside you, tangle-free.

But it’s too late for me, or you,

to take a knife and cut right through.

 

Things fall apart, or so they say.

Well, not these laces – they’re entwined

in a compact double-bind.

How long until they just decay?

Things fall apart. Or so they say.

Published in The Haiku Quarterly 41

Rhyme-crime

Does rhyme matter –

     however occasional?

 

It used to be

     considered vocational

 

a must for verse’s

     inspirational

 

impact, even

     educational –

but these days, it’s a

     generational

 

sign your stuff’s just

     recreational.

Published in Snakeskin 318, June 2024

Tempted

It’s such a tempting thought  –

to chuck it in right now,

duck out of anecdotage

and wading through the slough

 

of illness and decline

and nodding off post-lunch

and watching daytime tele

and bingo with a bunch

of fellow geriatrics

in some old fogies’ home

where offspring rarely visit

but social workers roam  . . .

Perhaps I lack the courage

to slit my wrists, or swig

down sleeping pills, or set up

a self-help hanging rig

 

but I think it’s more a question

of clinging on as long

as I can to consciousness

if when we’re dead and gone

 

we’re nowhere and there’s nothing . . . 

Yes some infer that’s fine

since sense-bereft non-beings

won’t miss the warm sunshine

 

though in my view that’s the problem –

should this world be all there is

I’m in no rush to quit

such unique premises.

 

Published in HQ Poetry Magazine, Number 63 May 2024

 

Exposures

From your quietness I know that for you too

they summon up memories which question 

our procedures now –

 

though if a friend were here, and took

a photograph of us bending

in unison over our mingled pasts,

 

lean years from now that image might discover

this easy happiness we touch,

but did not then, not knowing that we lived it.

Original version published in Smiths Knoll 13, 1996

Zeno

His ship went down, but he survived

and made it to Athens, where he later joked

in stripping him of his worldly goods

Fortune had played a masterstroke . . .

 

Hallelujah for him!  But what about

all those who drowned when his bark broke?

You can’t say Fortune smiled on them:

for one to wake must many croak?

Published in Light, Winter/Spring 24 issue

 

 

Humble Pie

I’m so humble

please admire

the extent to which

I don’t aspire

 

to your lifestyle

your success,

how I say no

when you say yes.

 

I walk around

with a body cam

to film respect

for who I am

 

from those my goal

is to impress

by wanting more

of less and less.

 

To seek your grudging

imprimatur

while you swig wine

I’ll sip tap water.

 

Breakfast? Mine’s

cold humble pie . . .

You savour your

full English fry,

 

smearing thick butter

on your toast –

but deep inside

who smiles the most? 

 

No pleasure beats

renunciation

and turning down

daily temptation

 

while crass consumer

society

has you enslaved

but leaves me free –

 

so if you write

me off as smug,

are you sure you’re not

the bigger mug?

Published Lighten Up Online Issue 66, June 2024

Crime Scene

I left a window open

all day, but no one came

to steal my laptop or my books,

my passport or my name.

 

Nothing has moved. Nothing has changed,

the flat looks just the same

as when I walked out this morning –

no tampering with the shame

 

of my unmade bed, my un-ironed shirts,

the plate-piled kitchen sink,

your farewell letter on my desk

listing my faults. I think

 

when I go to work tomorrow

I’ll play a bolder game –

take the front door off its hinges.

Fuck the insurance claim.

 

First published in ‘The Haiku Quarterly’.

Poetry publishers

LINKS

Some of Tom’s poems have been published in the following online publications:

Get in touch with Tom here