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
like mould on your jam
like the fly in your soup
like your flies left undone
like left out of the loop
like the day that you’re fired
like the day she walks out
like the day your team’s thumped
like the day you first doubt
like a fridge without beers
like a sole with a hole
like being guilty as charged
like being internet trolled
like the friend who betrays
like the friend you betray
like the sister who grates
like the brother you’d slay
like the like you must fake
like when hope goes on strike
like the unlike of dreams
like a second Third Reich
like a headache in heaven
like a double-edged gift
like a stye in your eye
like a fart in a lift
Published in Snakeskin 315, March 2024
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
a room together? Is it dull –
an endless lull
where bored saints stand,
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
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,
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.
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
Some of Tom’s poems have been published in the following online publications:
- Snakeskin online poetry magazine A monthly poetry webzine edited by George Simmers.
- Lighten Up Online The quarterly light verse webzine founded by Martin Parker and edited by Jerome Betts.
Get in touch with Tom here