Friday, 26 September 2014

Grandmother with Apples

Orchards were an Eden
just beyond the end of our lane –
a temptation for boys with scuffed knees
and memories of last year’s crop
as a daredevil scurry over railings
and a clandestine feast.

Come autumn, pickers turned a blind eye
to our impertinent raids:
what were a few scrumped apples to them?

Fruit trees are generous. Had we known it,
apples are gifts to be offered over fences.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Independence Day

A grounded constellation in the distance
I’d like to think is your city –
but threaded onto radio beams
we’re coming in to land
in another country.

Not that anything’s far in time and space.

Crossing another decided border,
I’m handing over my passport with one hand,
texting news of arrival with another –
 then watching plimsolled shoes
measuring out paces along the yellow pavements.

In this swirl of whistles and vuvuzelas,
plash of fountains and shrieks from the tramlines,
I’m making for what I know,
I’m making for somewhere
which feels like home,
which doesn’t feel like a missed target.

20 September is independence day in Bulgaria - the anniversary of the 'de jure' declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire in Veliko Turnovo in 1908.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips 

Friday, 12 September 2014


Beyond the orchard and plain church,
escaping some fury of my own invention,
I’d be crossing the road to the railway station
to the edge of a wide, familiar view:
uncut wheatfield extending to stands
of remnant Victorian planting –
oaks and cedars which at one time lined
the driveway of those misnamed Towers.

How to decipher mechanised pastoral
under Luton Airport flight paths
might well have proved distraction –
in another emptying village, pale blues
and yellows in an overgrown courtyard
are plants which, had I given attention
to what was growing among the cornstalks
I might have been able to name.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips 

Friday, 5 September 2014

For 6 September

As the sudden dusk mellows stone distances,
crowds shuffle down, find spaces to regroup
below the citadel on this poised thoroughfare.
We’ve been walking all afternoon
through suburbs and past the blue house
where that war artist lived – in the heat
our son complains, is demanding a drink.

The crowds are a memory from this time last year,
how they gathered into this space,
and if I listen, I’m sure to hear them again –
those exultant whispers, that ripple
at the furthest edge of history that we’ve reached. 

6 September is a national holiday in Bulgaria and marks the anniversary of the unification of the northern and southern parts of the country in 1885.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips