Friday, 27 May 2016


She swirls the thick rich dregs
then deftly upends our cups
as if she’s about to ask which hides
the wooden ball, token of some prize.

Against the wall’s nail-thick varnish,
the mother-in-law who taught her
stands by her uniformed husband
in a fading hand-tinted photo.

Did she foresee, back then,
how evenings now she’d lean in
at a laptop screen, swapping gossip
via Skype with a son in Detroit?

Or that, in next to no time,
this room, this open window
will be boarded up, the lease
relinquished, the whole farm gone?

For the moment, we’re in her thrall.
Fate intervenes (or doesn’t)
and she’s turning up each cup,
each future, one by one.

We will travel, we’ll spend etc, etc,
until there it is, that look
and, half-smiling, she says:
‘This is his release.’

Somehow, in the shape of cast dregs,
his future shapes up –
between the walls of this elsewhere
we’re happy with her predictions.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 20 May 2016

Една кратка история на къри/A brief history of curry

For Tom Shakespeare

It would have been in the galley kitchen
at the top of stairs and when, with our fingers
drenched with onion, we crammed docked leaves
and other detritus between folded newspaper pages,
that we cracked a recipe we’d use again and again:
the patent lentil dahl with whipcrack chillies.
If we were chefs, that would be our signature.
If food were a soundtrack to friendship,
that would be our ‘Eat Yourself Fitter’.

We lived on it for years, way beyond
those brief times of necessity and desire
when weekly essays had us up all hours
and we’d be out of the library and into the market
where vegetables looked like trophies
and bulbs of garlic hung like chandeliers.

There was never any recipe. We made things up –
and we still do – improvising with what we’ve got
to hand while the regimented cookbooks sit idle
on the shelves. There was never any plan.
We’d be hungry and that was it: onions,
garlic, chilli and our reading list –
and those open invitations to whoever might be around.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 13 May 2016


Those early morning stints in winter
give way, as they usually do,
to fly-pasts and congregrations.
Crows squawk and finches tweet
while a solitary heron beaches itself
in mud-flat edges, ready to fish.

Circumspect road crossings
announce a few clear seconds:
the rattle of cars over cattle grids,
students plummeting in
to their education – though,
once again, I’m sitting on a bench
before class, hands up
around franchised coffee.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Първа светлина/First light

Dawn burns at the horizon, coal-fire orange
shooting glare at the clouds’ underbelly
and the flat pre-sunrise grey recedes,
letting silhouettes assume their form –
rooftops, outcrops, forest – until
a promiscuous cone of light expands
over city edges, silverback ridges,
and the cusp of sleep eventually withdraws.

Whatever is taking shape is ceasing to be
half-dreamt speculation. The long doubts
foreshorten to a swung-open bathroom door
and a row of air-conditioning units.
Not so very far below, flip-flops slap
on paving slabs as families lug picnics,
towels, inflatables towards the beach
along a shaded, pastel-painted trench.

Up here on the balcony, the tubular steel
of the railing is already warming to the day.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips