Thursday, 29 June 2017

До морето/Beside the sea

A ship’s bright lights against low cloud –
it’s almost as if summer is ending too soon.
And it has done, or felt like it did, one year ago.

On long promenades where kids jump
and monuments are distractions
or remnants of sagas best forgotten,

we’d be walking out of the tunnel
that links the old town and the new.
I’m familiarly displaced in long trousers,

that shirt. That curt farewell
was everything that we had coming.

In the aftermath of another unexpected turn,
I’m the one who’s having to trace my way
above a seaside resort’s beckoning lights.

Newspaper splashes do their best to vie
with rolling-over waves at the shore.
We were out here, at some point,

escaping fierce, unfamiliar sun,
the news, a decision that came to us,
reported from all directions.

That shirt. That curt farewell.
That was everything we had coming.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Saturday, 24 June 2017


We are snuck in deep – that’s the hope.
The beds of exotics strive towards the sun.
Banana plants, orchids, the geraniums
that you didn’t know the word for –
and our grasping at language too.

This is where we are making our home
because the other one is being taken away –
not by those who come here,
but by those who insist on the differences,
who think they have a monopoly.

Maybe I am too dull to understand,
but I think I know what it will feel like
when the cases are unpacked
when we’ll be off to the shops
to buy milk and bread and cheese,
when the pot plants are out on the balcony.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 16 June 2017

Малките вещи вкъщи/Little things around the house

She’s already begun, sifting through
what we’ve taken for granted: the beasts
and other ornaments from the years
we’ve been together. She’s stern –
or trying to be – with our memories.
It has to be done. These shelves
which we hardly even noticed
are to be cleared. We’re moving out.

She’s already begun but I can’t imagine
how I’m ever going to get started.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 9 June 2017


                                                Not so long after dawn, the looming light
                                                is nostalgia for the sea in a landlocked country
                                                until there it is across the tree-studded field,
                                                returning colour like repaying a debt.

                                               The line advances, it’s pushing back.
                                               Things change overnight and the sun hits
                                               straight across the building sites.
                                               But then, at the end of the lane,
                                               there is always some hope,
                                               some shop that’s always open –
                                               the prognosis for other futures.

                                               Beyond the doorway and the window,
                                               life sprawls exactly as it’s always done
                                               and there’s the kettle and this is the view.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 2 June 2017


                                                    The decanters locked in the cabinet
                                                    with cocktail sticks and duty-free cigars
                                                    were the perks of the job, my father’s,
                                                    finally getting to fly at thirty-five.
                                                    They came out for parties, those nights
                                                    when friends came round to drink gin
                                                    while he ran through his latest slides –
                                                    New York, Nairobi, Tehran,
                                                    skyscrapers and street markets
                                                    under the same pellucid sun.

                                                    Never good to think how the years go by.
                                                    They’re not like turnings off a street
                                                    we didn’t take and can now revisit.
                                                    Those were his moments as each click
                                                    brought up another photograph,
                                                    and the decanters went round
                                                    and the neighbours talked and laughed
                                                    and the world looked just slightly larger.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips