Friday, 24 June 2016

В килера/The larder

A half-dark lined with cooling tiles,
her larder’s lowered temperature
had a feel of spring throughout the year.
A sliced ham hock’s moon face
among cheeses wrapped in paper,
onions pulled only that day
from their patch behind the house –
and the smells of the place like a kind
of promise. To be sent in there to fetch
and carry was to step back through years
of graft and preservation – those seasons
of bottling, pickling, salting.

It will have gone now, taken out
by those who’d improve the place
sold on probate not so long ago.
No room for a larder in the modern house –
although you might find traces of it again
in a fruit and veg shop’s ranked fennel bulbs,
the slick shuck of leek leaves, the tang
of vinegar from a newly reopened jar.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 17 June 2016

Временен отдих/A momentary reprieve

Grey clouds muscling in on higher sunlit banks
accumulate like signs of uncertainty now
we’re hurrying home across a makeshift bridge
and unable to face catching each other’s eye.
The rain holds off for only so long –
until here we are, drenched by a deluge
we should have had the sense to see coming.

This might be the season’s hope dispersing
in petals washing down through storm gutters
and somewhere a shrill finch silencing its song.
Only clearing now, the sky’s mood has gone
and ours might lift too at each flower left intact
on the rosebush cascades, a ripening sheen
emerging into view, spreading out along the street.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 10 June 2016

Географията/The geography

From another side of Europe,
intimations of how we might
fit in. And there, yes,
the suggestion of sap rising
and rain coming down.

In the early nineteenth-century,
John Smith, picture dealer,
took ship for St Petersburg,
spent guineas he’d earned
from sales of gilt.

For him, the continent
was an opportunity.
He took it – and thrived,
named his house for the town
in Holland where he apprenticed.

And then on to Russia
and The Hermitage,
ahead of his time
and the geography.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 3 June 2016

Дървото на череши в Hamilton Road/The cherry tree in Hamilton Road

The lopped branch has put the tree in a sulk.
That’s the technical term we learnt
from the arborealist who came to treat
the exuberant cherry he would cut.

They’d built our houses on orchard land,
terraces ranked – for all their ideals –
according to social status. Ours was in
the mid-range – though these days
it’s not so hard to be priced out of the market.

Every year we still get fruit from it,
but the cherry tree’s not so happy with us now.
It sulks – that is the word – by the fence
and lets the finches in there first.

On summer mornings, perhaps,
we’ll get up early and catch it unawares.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips