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!

FLASH NEWS: Tom’s latest collection, Just a Minute, has just been published by Cyberwit and is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/8119654773.

 

 

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

Double-Edge

The old stories are the best:

they’re usually about a tricky quest

or a mission to perform a task –

 

an apparently impossible ask.

An oracle gives a double-edged

prediction. The saga’s so far-fetched

 

you know it’s true, at some deep level

beyond black and white/good and evil,

where heroes are supermen, if flawed.

 

But afterwards, downsized, ignored

they itch to set out one last time

and never come home to wives and wine

 

around an over-familiar hearth –

it’s not for them to till the earth

or cope with squabbling children who

 

want smartphones, iPads, every new

gadget, but not the restlessness

with which the old bore’s cursed, and blessed.

 

Published in Just a Minute, Cyberwit 2024

Pear-Shaped

‘I find that the earth is not as round as it is described, but 

it is shaped like a pear . . .’ – Christopher Columbus

 

Of course, since he thought India was where

they’d landed, so much sooner than his sums

suggested that they should.  I bet his chums

would have been happy had the world been square:

any firm ground the answer to their prayer –

after long weeks at sea, the flat earth comes

to feel as good as mythical kingdoms.

Me and my crew, however, are up to here

 

with startled landfalls: our jetlagged eyes have seen

whole towns destroyed, men killed and women raped –

mere footage for the voyeur’s TV screen.

We know how horror works: we’ve got it taped . . .

Not that we laugh at him for being green:

his insight was spot on – the world’s pear-shaped.

 

‘. . .like a pear, with a woman’s nipple in one place, 

and this projecting part is highest and nearest heaven.’

 

But that bit’s something else – just think of it,

the seven day world in its pneumatic bliss!

Not something that you’ll find in Genesis . . .

Creation’s high point: one enormous tit,

almost as tall as heaven, a major hit

with passing Martians, evidence that His

artistic bent was sui generis –

sublime erotic flair; a wicked wit.

 

O Mother Earth, bend down and succour me.

I’ve lived too long with sorrow and with pain.

Fold me in your warm arms and let me be

young, and believing, innocent, again.

Then I’ll set sail, as though I could be free

one day, unchanged, to turn back home, to Spain.

 

Published in The Haiku Quarterly 41

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

Spain: A Rough Guide

For those who’ve never heard of Spain

there are one or two facts one must explain.

 

It’s famous for Columbus who

set off for Asia with his crew

 

but landed on San Salvador

and later made three journeys more.

 

But he wasn’t really Spanish at all –

he may have come from Portugal

 

though the general theory seems to be

he was born in what’s now Italy.

 

These days there are conflicting views

on whether CC was indeed good news:

 

he brought back gold but spread disease

and left the locals on their knees –

 

and did such riches start the rot

which was to bring Spain down, or not?

 

For those who want to study more

there are bullfights and a Civil War.

 

Published in Lighten Up Online, December 2018

 

 

The Hope

 

On Wandsworth Common God and I

talked till in the evening shade

He shone like an Anglepoise.

Then I prayed:

 

help me to make it to the top

and a pad north of the river;

sync my mind to contemplate

success, and not shiver;

 

shape me a soul as rounded as

the Circle Line, when in the week

I go down into darkness at

South Kensington or Baker Street;

 

grant me a wife and let’s say two

offspring, one a son;

smooth Time into a tranquil lake

for me to walk upon;

 

bless us as we safely ski

each Christmas in the Alps,

and may our summer holidays

to bliss be catapults;

 

and when, years later, I take stock,

in Chelsea or in Camden

permit me one small moment of

limited abandon –

 

to head back here and meet you for

a session in The Hope,

all drinks on me, that my life’s been

such a rich kaleidoscope.

 

Published in Snakeskin 262, June 2019

The Empty Quarter

(Ar Rub Al Khali, Saudi Arabia)

 

Because there’s no one there, some dream

of crossing it. Perhaps they think

the desert’s question marks will help

them find themselves, or even test

if they’re the right stuff. For the rest

 

it’s simply somewhere on the map

where madmen go – no showers, no loos,

no shopping malls or TV shows.

Why slog across a waste of sand

as though it were the Promised Land?

 

For me, what counts is hope – that soon,

in this dry here and now, we’ll both

scent moisture in the air, and start

a journey too long put aside,

on which, at last as one, we’ll ride.

 

Published in HappenStance Envoy, 2013

Poetry publishers

LINKS

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

Get in touch with Tom here