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UNTIL THE ROOF FALLS IN
Tom Bryan was born in Canada but has been long-resident in Scotland.
He is a widely-published poet, fiction and non-fiction writer, and has won both the VER and Essex International poetry competitions.
Tom has held writing residencies, currently Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the University of York.
He lives in Kelso in the Scottish Borders.
This is his fifth poetry collection and he has also published a novel and collection of short stories. His work has appeared in print for over three decades
UNTIL THE ROOF FALLS IN
Indigo Dreams Publishing
Publication 19/03/ 2012
138 x 216mm
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“...clarity of perception and vigorous imagination...a clear-eyed evocation of a way of life-often with a jaunty humour. Tom Bryan's poetry doesn't simply describe people and places, so much as integrate them-and himself...distinguished by subtle shifts of syntax and rhythm....”
Stewart Conn, Northwords magazine.
“...so naturally a poet modest in approach to the subject yet drawing from it imaginative, economic phrases... and touched into life in poem after poem -- landscapes of towns and their people.”
George Bruce (1909-2002)
“...responds imaginatively to the North East...his images are arresting...a zest for life which abounds in the book. I would strongly recommend the series (Scottish Contemporary Poets, Scottish Cultural Press)”
Iain Crichton Smith (1928-1998)
I go to the woods like a leper,
an escapee from a bloodhound trail,
a Vietcong sniper.
I fear Poles and Italians,
who knowingly tread at dawn.
I dodge behind beeches, set
mental snares for these rivals,
think up booby traps.
In my prime, I could pluck six morels from
the fangs of a copperhead,
their poison strikes harmless
at my heels.
Chanterelles, those orange trumpets
sprinkled by a fairy hand
over the birch moss of Sutherland,
like discarded apricot horns.
Penny buns, birch mushrooms, boletes
and ceps. I spy them as I write,
near the drystane dyke, along a south-facing
May I offer you magical psilocybin tea,
will it divert you from my religious stroll?
My pilgrimage, my madman’s folly.
Water, cloth, knife, willow basket,
midge repellent, nearly done.
Later, doubling back, I erase my footprints
BAKING A B-MOVIE
I would lay you on this kitchen wood,
knead your flesh into frothing yeast,
proving your sweetness.
Smooth the dough into something good.
Let the postman ring twice,
or go to hell for all I care.
I want to tongue more butter
on that first warm slice.
Let glass bowls hit the floor then break,
fling the fruit around the room.
A good loaf needs its baking time
(and we might just need another take)
FISH AND MEN
It was an armful of fish, my biggest ever.
It fought for twenty minutes or more,
doing tricks old big fish do. None worked
including snagging my line in cottonwood.
Behind me stood a crazy man who talked to trees
whilst drinking wine from a brown paper bag.
“I like carp, could eat one raw just now.”
The fish swivelled his eyes from man to man,
to green river.
“Take it then” I said
the golden bar of fish held above the eddy.
I watched him stagger, drop the fish twice,
swear fuck and fuck again.
But that’s how it happens,
how things are taken from us, how we let them go.
Sheet rain through
cataracts of middle age.
Phone booth, restaurant, streetlight,
cars like boats in a heaving swell,
silver-grey, wet and lost.
Tall in the draining night,
down stone step waterfall,
slipping into a current
He was found not much later,
his suicide a careful revision
requiring many drafts.
his tall shadow
against frantic neon,
no raft or life preserver
in that final harbour.
Far beyond any lighthouse
or guiding star.
He knew where he was going,
wrote his own dark chart.
HOWL IN BIGGAR
Ginsberg once sat where I now write,
as gales clap the cottage slates.
The hills are chittering white.
That June, cows in one field,
ponies in the other. Yellow broom
in spate, gilding the path. He hurried,
but was late. The yapping terrier kept him poised,
outside either gate.
Like detectives who lift fingerprints I would
prise their conversation from this faded room,
from that expectant summer.
Two communists, two poets,
both short of cash,
one hard of hearing, one talking too softly
one on whisky, one on stash.
“Beats? Cosmopolitan scum, birds without wings.”
“But Burroughs and Trocchi were friends of mine!”
The long day chuntered on, more smoke and wine.
One poet talking over the snoring dog,
of Yevtushenko, Babel, poet as prophet,
dunting his pipe’s ashes on the hearthstone log.
MacDiarmid in tweed, Ginsberg in flannel and overalls.
Bees drowsy against the window.
It went well, we think, down to the last
cup of tea.
The older couple waved the poet out the gate
and down, Ginsberg smoking, stroking horses,
sauntering into the longest day of the year,
turning left, then gone.
Today, I squint into cold fog, where Winter
concedes those poets (like summer)
are not dead, but merely underground
CALGARY KITCHEN, 1955
Gutting yellow perch at the sink,
her smile came from another age.
She had enough soul
for me, for fish, for a lineage
of creatures back to bison times.
For men who once came to her homestead door
asking Where have the woolly creatures gone?
When will they come back? What have you whites
done to them?
Now we must wear the Ghost Shirt
to force their return.
Her skin and eyes as dark as theirs,
like them at the mercy of greed, drought
or lightning fire.
She gave me the perch heads and tails
for my prairie skeleton “museum”.
Smiling as I buried them for later scientific study.
Still smiling, who had seen it all. Had seen enough.
Past Lives: One
I was not afraid of the red men;
I wanted to touch their brindled ponies.
I heard the animals snort and wheeze.
Vanishing sideways like spilled molasses.
They say this was not my memory but from my grandmother’s time.
You may have been there child,
In those days the times were blurred
like old wagon trails.
You may have been there.
Past Lives: Two
We didn’t outrun the bullets
but it seemed that way.
Wood splintered in front of us but we laughed.
They took us to a lark-song forest
(They kill in spring to enhance the terror)
Let you see the others executed
until your own blindfold is fitted.
They set me free. Stay of execution.
Then we ran, calling the secret police
perverts and cowards, calling the Czar leech
The eyes of the people were big like icons.
How they loved us, urging us on,
how we laughed and ran.