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