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





ISBN 978-1-907401-59-6


Indigo Dreams Publishing


Publication 19/03/ 2012






138 x 216mm


74 pages


£6.99 U.K





















Tel: 44 (0)845 458 9910








UK  inc P&P






inc P&P


“...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.


 “ 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

hardwood lea.


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









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)







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

of rush-hour.


He was found not much later,

his suicide a careful revision

requiring many drafts.


I recall

his tall shadow

pulsing upstream

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.







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

and stirring.





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.

She said:

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

and bloodsucker.

The eyes of the people were big like icons.

How they loved us, urging us on,

how we laughed and ran.













Tom for York 006 amend 9781907401596 9781907401596