Sunday, 20 May 2018

Натюрморт с вази/Still life with vases


Always having to start
from here – notepad, sketchbook,
crumpled torus of a metro ticket –
to find definition in a frame
where the long world’s connections
might be allowed to fade away …

Saying I’ll keep my eye on things
scrupulously forms up
into a premise. These vases,
for instance, are clearly
without precedent
in their particular arrangement –

albeit in recessional focus,
the unreal real of representation.


A horn’s distant croak can’t help
but be a lorry in the mind’s eye –
we’ll take that as read: some
situation unfurling on the bypass
in changing afternoon light,
an unarticulated insignificance.

It is not the discovery of form
in the scrupulous observation
of the actually existing
components of the real
so much as … what?
These unfiltered things.

John Coltrane plays himself out:
endless variations on the air.


I’d hazard a guess
that observation occurs
in the interim, the pelter
of blossom that cascades
between apartment blocks –
and, yes, these vases that hold

something resembling light
in their momentariness,

in those emotive chords,
that arrangement of fingers
on a fretboard, unnoticed
until now. That’s art,
he said shruggingly –
the collector during the storm.


Nothing’s fixed.
Except, perhaps, this.
The solidity of chemicals.
Another ideology

that the mountain invites.
Rivers have no such concerns.

Denial is something you might shout
in the street. There’s a confusion
of pronouns at the crossroads.
It’s not so bad. We’re learning
to live with everything that changes.

Like a prototype villanelle,
the recurrence of thoughts
stakes its claim at significance.


On a Sunday morning,
the aftermath is summed up
in a very few words.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Monday, 14 May 2018


                                                     Two green flecks of light –
                                                     they're spring finches –
                                                     flit and dart above the heads
                                                     of kids out dancing the xopo
                                                     in the shadow of Vitosha.

                                                     It’s May –
                                                     and a conflict
                                                     of anniversaries plays out
                                                     against the logic
                                                     of the weather.

                                                    Who’d predict
                                                    that, in saving his skin,
                                                    I’d be hit
                                                    by some anonymous force,
                                                    laid up by it?

                                                    You can’t always see
                                                    everything coming.

                                                    Least of all, fists
                                                    or the pink spray
                                                    of flowers put out
                                                    to gather up
                                                    these flecks of spring light
                                                    that are ripening
                                                    our neighbour’s cherries.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Monday, 7 May 2018

Вид на очакване/Air of anticipation

                                                        Gleaning a broken road surface,
                                                        pigeons hold out
                                                        until it’s almost too late
                                                        to escape a taxi turning into the street.

                                                        As if it’s torn loose from a different sky,
                                                        a square of blue moves through
                                                        the deepening overcast.
                                                        Pathfinding for echeloned jets
                                                        rehearsing for tomorrow’s parade,
                                                        it passes from east to west.

                                                        On the face of it, we’re in for change –
                                                        or more likely a recurrence –
                                                        as the old guard practise their footwork
                                                        and the rain, when it comes,
                                                        brings green back to the trees
                                                        and washes out all consequence.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Завръщането/The return

                                                        Adjusting to an elsewhere again,
                                                        it's not easy when the price of beer soars
                                                        from two leva fifty for two litres
                                                        to five pounds a pint
                                                        and the temperature drops
                                                        from the twenties to the teens.

                                                        Here’s a street scene from one city:
                                                        a blustery gang blows in,
                                                        all swagger and slang on the cobbles.
                                                        They’re out for a good time
                                                        and a late taxi home.
                                                        The language is recognisable.
                                                        I know its games.
                                                        I can speak it unplanned.

                                                        Now here’s one from another:
                                                        consonants blur from an intercom
                                                        as a couple outside an apartment block
                                                        negotiate their way in.
                                                        Dogs bark and the supper plates
                                                        go down on outdoor tables.
                                                        It’s a street where memories collide
                                                        like these two women with dyed hair
                                                        who do their best to avoid each other.

                                                        I’m doing as much as the guy
                                                        from the house opposite
                                                        who’s moseying down to the bins
                                                        to have a look at the day’s detritus
                                                        not to have any opinion at all.

                                                       With only an expected effort,
                                                        it seems that we have come home.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Прикачване/An attachment

                                                  Stealthily the trees have come into leaf
                                                  on Екзарх Йосиф and Искър
                                                  and each day now our mountain is greening:
                                                  its lighter burden moves up and off its shoulders.
                                                  You’ll see it when you come over the brow of Левски.

                                                  I can meet you somewhere nearby –
                                                  outside the Art Academy, say,
                                                  or the university metro bookstore.

                                                  We could walk then to Орлов Мост
                                                  and on into Борисова.
                                                  The banks of yellow tulips will be out
                                                  and we might spot frogs amongst the lilies.
                                                  It depends on how much time you have –
                                                  and what you say we need to talk about.

                                                  Maybe we’ll sit on the grass
                                                  where the jugglers and rope-walkers train
                                                  or couples practise samba steps in silence.
                                                  If you like, we could buy iced peach tea
                                                  and find a bench that’s shaded by lindens.

                                                  I can’t know what you think
                                                  but I will wait for you
                                                  somewhere you can watch the snow
                                                  melting from Витоша
                                                  and if you wear that bright blue шал
                                                  I will know you in the crowd.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Monday, 16 April 2018

Друг изглед от един стол/Another view from a chair

                                                  Magpies screak as they stake out the rooftops.
                                                  Time passes, unbeloved. It’s Sunday afternoon
                                                  and we’re letting it slip by. The hours hang
                                                  from hooks like unused human implements
                                                  or drift at the threshold like fruit trees’ confetti.

                                                  A chair is a brute fact in the world. It asks
                                                  to be nothing more than what we find in it –
                                                  or place on it as we bring it into use:
                                                  metaphorical composure, a stillness,
                                                  a comfort, a vantage, a point of view …

                                                  Nor are the magpies clamouring for attention.
                                                  Nor is love arguing for a place outside time.
                                                  A chair sits undisturbed in the yard opposite,
                                                  its frame and seat flecked with white blossom.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Ритуалите на сезона/Rituals of the season

                                          While the rain’s holding off, we’re walking back
                                          the other way to the old rowing station
                                          where, several years ago now, we ate,
                                          then watched a harvest sunset sheen the lake.

                                          With gifted flowers for health and luck,
                                          we’re newly absolved from sin,
                                          and I’m thinking how, here, that sound
                                          might signify both ‘blue’ and ‘son’

                                          and what I might have passed to mine …
                                          Only now, at lake’s edge, is not the time
                                          when there are finer details to discuss –
                                          the words for ‘crocus’, ‘cactus’, ‘sloe’,

                                          stork legends, rituals of a green season,
                                          that solitary rower crossing the water below.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips