Saturday, 30 December 2017

Кратък разговор в кухнята/Brief conversation in the kitchen

It’s as if I’ve been here before,
sitting on this chair beneath
your painting of red peppers.

It’s as if I’m meeting again
people I knew in some other life –
as if you could ask me to pass
a particular plate or fork
and, without so much as a thought,
I’d reach for the drawer
where it’s always been kept.

It’s one way to explain
this atmosphere, this ease –
and, of course, we’ve spoken
via email, and I’ve seen on Skype
your painting in this kitchen
where friends, not guests, are entertained.

It’s only as you make to leave,
to cycle across the city,
it’s as if I’m doing a disservice.
There was no other life,
nothing pre-ordained.

It’s as if I’ve forgotten the word
in my own language – although,
as we’re saying our goodbyes,
I’m not so sure it ever had one.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Весели празници/Happy holidays!

Warm wishes for Christmas and the New Year from all of us at Colourful Star!

Thank you for visiting our site and continuing to support us. 

We hope that you have had a rewarding year and that you've enjoyed our ongoing collaborations.

We'll be back with more new posts in a week or so.

Much love,
Marina, Vasilena and Tom

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Това отдалечено място/That distant place

It’s tipping down and I’m off to Rakovski,
with that newly learned joke in my head:
‘White wine, white wine – why aren’t you red?’

Beneath NDK, we’re doing our best
to keep up, to say what we can, to drink
from the right bottles – it’s Malta

he’s talking about, that distant place,
and we’re here, in our apartment,

and she’s taking on folded paper with shears.
Everything’s written. Here is the weather forecast.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Музика през нощта/Music at night

                                                   Beside bottle clusters and salad plates,
                                                   exchanging intimations of time
                                                   we’ll be spending together, here
                                                   amongst moorland and mountain,
                                                   these stories we’ll share like fables,
                                                   we’re on a last glass of rakiya.
                                                   Except, of course, that’s never “good night”.

                                                   With instruments drawn from bags and cases,
                                                   they’re tuning up for songs that speak
                                                   of other histories, other causes –
                                                   and it might be I’m remembering
                                                   glimpses of tracks and yards where lives
                                                   are routinely, uniquely led
                                                   and fed the soaring rapture of his song.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Временно топене/A temporary thaw

                                                  Breath redoubles my cigarette smoke.
                                                  The city trees are creaking with snow.
                                                  Crystalline drifting under the branches
                                                  is not a new fall: it’s yesterday’s weather
                                                  beating a passing retreat, diffusing.

                                                  And so now here beside shopfronts
                                                  we’re dodging tumbling ice
                                                  from cordoned-off buildings
                                                  as cloud cover clears, reconvenes,
                                                  and early winter mist gathers
                                                  its skirts across our mountain.

                                                  A new gratitude for being at home
                                                  forms in the light trapped in our foyer
                                                  against a melting soundtrack.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Тих момент/A quiet moment

                                                And I suppose you can hear traffic on Slivnitsa,
                                                but for most of us it’s a pause with nothing in it.
                                                The dog across the street wanders dully along.
                                                Imperceptibly, the line between sunlight and shade
                                                slips across an apartment block’s ochre façade.
                                                A few late fig leaves drop into our path.

                                                An ordinary afternoon, towards four o’clock –
                                                a man in winter jacket, cap, lets himself out
                                                through a stern iron door, makes his way
                                                with the household waste to a corner dumpster.
                                                And yes, this may well be the kind of day
                                                when an Icarus somewhere rises, then falls,
                                                or a woman watering plants on her balcony
                                                looks down and, yes, sees something amazing.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Вечерята с кафе/Dinner with coffee

                                               There’s a table when they make room
                                               beside where a family’s gathered
                                               for a birthday: it’s late-season
                                               and there’s hardly anywhere open.

                                               Conversations lose their way
                                               between the generations
                                               until children skip from chair
                                               to chair, deflecting our attention.

                                               Now that the taped music’s cut,
                                               a couple are tuning their guitars
                                               while below us in the stairwell
                                               they’re lighting a single candle.

                                               There was hardly anywhere open
                                               but generations that had lost their way
                                               deflected our attention, tuning up
                                               for conversations on a birthday.

                                               And now that they’ve made room,
                                               there’s a table where we’ve gathered.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Сезонни пристигания/Seasonal arrivals

                                                      Hot spring water steam, like our breaths
                                                      around this late tram’s pantograph,
                                                      marks autumn’s sharper beginning.

                                                     Taps thrum into plastic bottles
                                                     and orange light falls across
                                                     the orange layered brickwork.

                                                     Other changes are on their way.
                                                     The cobbles on Dondukov
                                                     are slotted into place and the shops
                                                     are doing their best to seem familiar.

                                                     It’s like looking, then, into the future
                                                     or on some distant land – this snow,
                                                     with its fresh-fallen promise,
                                                     sitting pretty there on the mountain.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Пазаруване за подправки/Shopping for spices

                                            Pursuing modest adventures,
                                            the shopper commends the shopkeeper.
                                            Slatted sunlight brightens labels
                                            on an excess of choice.

                                            Vegetables hold colour
                                            like that hyperrealist painting
                                            of an industrial complex.
                                            The shopper might be
                                            the hyperrealist worker
                                            in his suit of silver foil.

                                            We’re buying cumin and pepper.
                                            In the aftermath of small change,
                                            there's no need for usual anxieties.
                                            That’s it. The deal is done.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Сняг на слънце/Snow in the sun

                                                     The old man accepts a Lucky Strike. 
-                                                                                                                   ‘At the Fishhouses’, Elizabeth Bishop

                                                These finds, with no effort, such as
                                                rectangular painted grille faces,
                                                or how you’d be under leaves
                                                turning now from green to gold,
                                                are forming into a view.

                                                Downtown, we’re beyond
                                                corrugated fencing, at the lights,
                                                waiting for traffic to disperse
                                                along this city-centre boulevard.
                                                Intent, a man and his son
                                                are attacking folk songs
                                                on acoustic guitar and accordion.
                                                We’ll read our books,
                                                too early, in the event,
                                                for where we’re due later.

                                                A translated ‘Hamlet’ quote
                                                painted on a junction box
                                                is further evidence
                                                of disjointed time.
                                                We’re in shirtsleeves,
                                                smoking Lucky Strikes,
                                                under the mountain’s
                                                offer of orientation,
                                                these early strata of snow
                                                laid across its shoulders.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 20 October 2017

Улични истории/Street stories

Planes crossing a web of stars.
It's early morning.
I'm out on the balcony
and, today, there's work
being done. It shakes
the floor. So what?

I'm in pyjamas
and our neighbour
in the purple top
is changing a tyre.

We didn't take a walk,
but opposite the school
the bakery did good business.
The women came out to smoke
at the laser dental clinic.

We've all got the same cups
in our hands, the same notes
from songs we remember.

Nobody knows the name
of this street, but like streets
in every city in the world,
it's got its stories. Here's one.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 13 October 2017

Уличният цветар/The street florist

We’re making our way, as you do,
back home from the Women’s Market –
though not up to speed with vocabulary,
we’re empty-handed turning out
onto Boulevard Slivnitsa.

Except that beyond a fishmonger’s
late-season catch blued with ice,
a sharp, sweet smell of chestnuts,
belts, plates, German accessories,
you’re taken with bucketed bunches
she’s brought from her garden
beyond the edge of town.

This one or that, it will sit
on our kitchen counter
through an Indian summer
we’ll be told another name for
as we piece together a language
and the words falling into place
will bring new things home.

Beside the carriageways
directing traffic east,
you’re squinting into sunlight.
We’re nearly there, as always.
At the crossing, you hold up
what you’ve exchanged
for the coins in your pocket,
these migrant flowers,
these transplanted blooms.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Реставрациите/The restorations

                                                            A square of late sun holds still
                                                            just long enough as here,
                                                            beneath incoming flight paths,
                                                            renovations progress.

                                                            Stripped-out furniture loads
                                                            a flatbed truck: tables, chairs
                                                            in use till yesterday –
                                                            their inherited possessions.

                                                            And down the stairs he emerges,
                                                            hands ghosted with plaster,
                                                            hair flecked with white paint
                                                            from newly pristine walls,

                                                            to fetch new lampshades
                                                            piled like hats from a car
                                                            pulled up beneath the balcony –
                                                            the balcony where we’ve put

                                                            potted autumn flowers:
                                                            a first small sign of our own.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Sunday, 1 October 2017


                                              A bafflement of carrier bags in the corner shop.
                                              Peeling goalposts on what I took to be a swamp.
                                              Wolves that slink through the dusk the streetlights
                                              recast as pet dogs. Gunshots are fireworks
                                              and the lime-green depth charges of summer
                                              are horse chestnuts ripening under my balcony.

                                              Amongst cubist monuments, apartment blocks,
                                              light spills from doorways, crackling radio voices.
                                              A kitchen chair left out on the pavement
                                              as if for a tired passer-by. Tilted stones
                                              cracked open by weather extremes.
                                              Magpies squatting rooftops. A look of home.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips
'Accommodation' was first published in Raceme magazine.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Моментът на пристигане/The moment of arrival

                                        On that small kitchen counter at 4am,
                                        I’m looking at packets and equipment.
                                        It’s dark outside still, the dawn
                                        a promising stripe across the distance.

                                        Already neighbours are stirring:
                                        patchwork window glows, first car
                                        in the street, a cough, a door latch
                                        only just audibly lifted …

                                        When does transit end? Beneath
                                        folded boarding card print-outs,
                                        an unpacked rucksack leans
                                        into the shadow of a table.

                                        An idea of home is coming together.
                                        In this flat where I will be for now,
                                        there’s coffee on the sideboard,
                                        first trace here of shaping a life.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Saturday, 16 September 2017

В градината на баща ми/In my father’s garden

                                                        Flutterings by the back door:
                                                        what might have been petals
                                                        lifted away in a scatter of colour.
                                                        I hadn’t thought he’d plant
                                                        particular species to attract
                                                        Peacocks, Cabbage Whites,
                                                        Red Admirals, Common Blues.

                                                        His butterfly enthusiasm
                                                        lasted a summer – although
                                                        the flowers returned each year
                                                        with their diligent attendants,
                                                        he moved on to migratory birds,
                                                        then slow-worms that seethed
                                                        through his compost heap.

                                                        Nature still surprised him –
                                                        the resilience of flora and fauna
                                                        while rocks the sea fretted at
                                                        smoothed and crumbled
                                                        or lumpish tar beached on shingle.
                                                        His garden was never tame:
                                                        it frayed into the wild.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Черен чай с лимон/Black tea with lemon

                                                    Afternoon quietens along the valley.
                                                    The last of the hay’s been cut
                                                    and here comes our host,
                                                    scythe shouldered, up the lane.

                                                    His wave dispels premonition.
                                                    He’s not Death, but Life –
                                                    and a life long-lived on this land
                                                    that occupies him with its tasks.

                                                    High contrails might reattach us
                                                    to ours – although they disperse
                                                    as quickly as they form above
                                                    these knuckled granite peaks.

                                                    On the balcony’s half-gutted sofa,
                                                    we’re waiting on the sunset
                                                    and firefly hour, star patterns
                                                    unfamiliarly bright …

                                                    And she cuts up through the orchard,
                                                    a tray clinking with cups.
                                                    ‘Before tea, there is tea,’ she says.
                                                    ‘Black tea with lemon.’

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 1 September 2017


                                                         It is not entirely necessary to be modern.
                                                         I was in amongst the seedlings
                                                         and she was explaining
                                                         how she used techniques from way back
                                                         to graft rootstock for hybrids.
                                                         There were flowers she hadn’t yet
                                                         found a name for in that shed.

                                                         Time opened out. For a moment,
                                                         its metronome insistence pulsed
                                                         into silence. That was a lie.
                                                         What endured were the seeds
                                                         and the soil marks in pots
                                                         like the highest tides had reached
                                                         along rhynes that saved them.

                                                         We are well drained.
                                                         Tired out, we’ll be sitting,
                                                         silhouetted by fountained water,
                                                         and that will be what we have –
                                                         a sense of where we are
                                                         spelled out in changeable waters.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Споразумения за вечеря/Dinner arrangements

                                                          It was crouching at the big clear sheet
                                                          which protected the latest excavations,
                                                          the passage of feet and the smell
                                                          of rose oil in the underground –

                                                          it had me shouting into a mobile
                                                          about where we should meet and how.
                                                          And, of course, it would all be fine
                                                          and, next thing you know, here we are,

                                                          with those playful cats and the view
                                                          across darkness between blocks.
                                                          There’s a mountain out there
                                                          and a dilemma on the table:

                                                          your hospitality thwarted
                                                          by an absence of the right glasses.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 18 August 2017


                                                     That open view from the kitchen
                                                     and my mother coming through
                                                     from the tiny hall with her bag
                                                     of shopping from the Co-op
                                                     and about to unload apples,
                                                     fish, that type of bread we liked
                                                     and her memories of her mother
                                                     who got them out of flats
                                                     where they couldn’t afford
                                                     to pay rent in Richmond
                                                     and in Barnes – or the river
                                                     that looped down below
                                                     before it got ambitions
                                                     and spread out
                                                     to the city and the estuary proper.

                                                     And there was
                                                     a kind of clarity then,
                                                     in the light that came through
                                                     the kitchen windows
                                                     because it came through
                                                     from the sea – and she was
                                                     sure of herself in her own way
                                                     after all those years and knew
                                                     how things might be arranged
                                                     on the table that’s now in storage
                                                     or on the windowsill
                                                     of a house that’s been pulled down,
                                                     straightening the cloth
                                                     and placing fruit in a bowl.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips