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

Some Poems of Tom Vaughan

On the Twilight Mountains 

(Jeremiah 13:16)

On the twilight mountains

leopards change their spots

distributing their cast-off coats

to helpworthy have-nots –


lions and lambs and lynx lie down

and tell each other tales

of how at sea the seals now go

for walks with killer whales –


lovers linger hand in hand

promising to be

truthful, faithful, thoughtful, kind,

supportive company –


and peace seems deep and peace seems long

until the morning sun

wakes us from our ancient dream

like a starter gun.

Published in Snakeskin 316, April 2024

Well Meant

Well-meaning people

make me so MAD

although this confession

confirms I’m a cad –


after all, they comfort 

the sick, the depressed,

and many will claim 

they’re our kind at its best


but I cringe when I see

a well-meaning smile

coming my way

and yes, it’s a trial


to sit down to share

Digestives and tea

with a well-meaning person

trying to mean well with me.


Please leave me alone –

go and find someone who

would welcome your well-

meaning Hi! How are you?

Published in Lighten up Online, Issue 65, March 2024

A Hint of Heaven

What do people do in heaven?

Are there seven

days a week – and 

in that strange land

would you be you, would I be me?

Would we be free

to share unplanned

evenings, demand

a room together?  Is it dull –

an endless lull

where bored saints stand,

sinlessly bland?


I stumbled on what’s holy, here,

with you.  No prayer

solves the contrast

between that past

and what remains as we grow old.

Were we fool’s gold?

What cannot last

leaves us aghast –

but leaving paradise, which breaks

the heart, yet wakes

each lone outcast

to love’s broadcast.


First published in Originally of Clapham anthology, 2014

More or Less

I’m more or less me, and for most of the time

I’m mainly and mostly more more than less fine

but I’m out of my head about one day in nine


I’m sound as a bell for the bulk of the week

and can look in the eye most people I meet

but one day in seven I’m knocked off my feet


largely each month I don’t merely survive

I’m thrillingly, fillingly, glad I’m alive

but I wish I were dead about one day in five


much of the time I’m delighted to be

the person I am and the person you see

but I want to be you about one day in three


yes more or less deeply I don’t doubt I’m someone

most people would cherish and no-one would shun

but I can’t stand myself about one day in one


Published in Dream Catcher 42



when you dismiss

as dreams, your hopes

when sex is lust


when you come back

from years and years

because you’re lost


to find your home

bulldozed, your past

peopled by ghosts


when you can’t sleep

and ache for hours

in self-disgust


when nations break

like waves on rocks

when what’s unjust


parades as law

when there’s no god

you dare to trust         


when the heavens are bronze

when the earth is iron

when the rain is dust


know that you’ve seen

things as they are

know too you must


even while you mock

his old-school If,

remain steadfast


Published in HQ Poetry Magazine number 61, June-August 2023


John bagged a First and was grabbed by Reuters –

Mary’s in publishing, Joan on the stage –

Freddy, the City, making bundles of boodle –

Mark’s a High Flyer of Sir Humphrey gauge –

Brenda’s still at Corpus, breaking new ground

on meter and matter in Ezra Pound –

and Patrick, yes a place as a Beeb trainee!

Oh and thank you for asking, but don’t worry about me . . .


John drinks like a fish and his wife’s just walked out.

Mary? Long remaindered.  Joan? Bit parts, lightweight.

Freddy’s inside for insider trading.

Mark’s dead: motorway accident: senseless.

                                          Brenda’s second-rate

thesis now rots on a shelf in the Bod:

she’s at Oxford Brookes in their Admin squad.

Patrick dropped us all once he starred on TV

though he tweets to thousands in a daily spree –


and friends don’t count much anyway – oh don’t worry about me  . . .

Published in HQ number 62, January 2024


In Memory of Albrecht Haushofer, author of the Moabit Sonnets, killed 23 April 1945


I’ve never had to stand up to some fascist

bully, or to camp out in a square

protesting against the blood-soaked dictator

who runs my country. No cocksure imperialist


controls my state; no simplistically earnest

missionary insists I learn a prayer

to another god than mine; no doctrinaire

ideologue has me on his blacklist.


I’ve never waited in a cold, damp cell

for the dawn when faceless men will drag me out

to the noose, or the firing squad. No brutal lout


has tortured me for days until I tell

the lies he wants to hear. I merely scout


the freedom of my chosen prison: doubt.


 These days, who’s at the country’s helm? The bland

leading the bland . . .  Dull politicians whose

bedtime reading is opinion polls,

so spin-controlled and focus-grouped they blend


into a compound breed. Their foes, the closed

minds of ISIS; the bureaucratic fools

who’ve messed up Europe; Putin. Each day’s news

threatening their imagined Disneyland.


But then, I’ve never tried to argue for

my own invented world, or made a stout

defence of my beliefs, or sought the clout


to shape my people’s destiny. Unsure

of all such certainties, I merely scout


the prison of my chosen freedom – doubt.

First published Acumen 84, Jan 2016


What prizes are there for the also rans

who cross the line when the crowd has long gone home?

The water’s cold by the time they take their shower.

Their task’s to clap when the cups are handed out.


They’re the cannon fodder in the general’s plans,

the hero’s minor, overshadowed chum;

the girl whose best friend exercises power

by a put-down, or a present, or a pout.


Will the day come when they rise as one to claim

the right to be recognised for their bit part

in the epic film in which they’re bound, and wait


as a trap to lure the star whose Oscared name

will be up there in the credits? Has the world no heart? –

They also serve, if only as the bait.

First published in Snakeskin 234, November 2016

Poetry publishers


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

Get in touch with Tom here