Friday, 28 March 2014

Young Bulgarian Woman

Head-scarved and pensive, it might just be
That she’s on her way to a neighbour’s house.
There’s been word in the village, perhaps,
And these first few cautious days have passed.

“New-born, he’s already lifting suns.
In our hearts, we’ll see love planted.
Knowing now that, after times
Of beginning, growing, waiting,
Life’s tenacity endures,
All we can say is ‘welcome’.”

With that, perhaps, she’ll move on
To promises affirmed across the generations.

Sunday 30 March is Mother's Day in Britain (Bulgaria's was on International Women's Day: see the post for 8 March below).

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Five storeys up, in that nondescript room
overlooking hospital car park,
tangled thorns on waste ground patches,
you flinched when the sensor
touched and slid across your belly.
On the screen, grey flecks swirled,
coalesced like a mathematical equation
solving itself, a satellite image
of stratospheric cloud formations.

Although later you admitted
stirrings of renascent faith, for now
the lubricant dried in curls on your skin.
‘It’s not exactly the Annunciation,’ you said.
Then the printer whirred, and there it was,
in black and white: indistinct shapes
of bulging head, ribcage, limbs;
the good news of our first unborn.

As you wiped yourself clean,
stepped out of the shapeless gown,
the nurse, resetting equipment
for her next mother, could not resist:
‘My father’s name was Gabriel, you know.’

25 March is the Feast of the Annunciation or, in Bulgarian, Благовещение. In the UK it is also known as Lady Day, the first of the year's quarter days, and was, in fact, New Year's Day until the middle of the 18th century. 

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips 

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Old Crate

Where did he get them from, my dad,
those old wooden crates which he filled
with tools, gloves, engine parts,
light bulbs, tulip bulbs, bulbs of garlic?

They’d be stacked in garage and greenhouse,
propping each other on corner pegs,
contents hidden, for the most part,
by stained and splintering sides –
or occasionally they’d appear in the kitchen,
when it was time to make ready for planting
or he’d picked too many Bramleys from the tree.

It was how he carried things around,
filling a crate with what he’d need for a day
at the allotment, fishing on the canal bank,
or taking chrysanthemums, carrots, onions
to the village horticultural show.

Sometimes one would give way,
or be given away, and somehow
he’d replace it with one just as battered,
bartered for at a market stall
or agricultural suppliers –
and we’d go on living amongst them,
his clutter-box leaning towers,
his cabinets of curiosities.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Old Man from the Village

That age is not a lessening –
time is not a whittling down
until we’re next to nothing –

that somewhere still
there is the boy who played
on the balcony, found
adventure in the forest;
the young buck who sat
late into the night, sang
for love and supper;
the father, the farmer,
the one who endured.

That age is not a lessening
in the face, the eyes
of an old man from the village.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Women's Day & Mother's Day

They sounded like fairytales,
stories that Mum told
of lost fortunes, drunk men
and moonlight flits –
resourcefulness demanded
in those interwar years.

Before then too:
great-grandmother Rose,
jobbing actress, sneaking
babies in baskets
into dressing rooms –
or her mother, Ann,
standing on the dock
in Liverpool, newly arrived
from famine-wasted Ireland
not knowing how
they’d ever make ends meet.

And on the stairs now, pictures –
mother, grandmother, daughter –
here and in the ascendant.

8 March is both International Women's Day and Mother's Day in Bulgaria.

Images: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 7 March 2014

In the countryside

These houses lying close –
to landscape, history,
prudent traditions –
easy to think them
exotic vernacular,
scenery for thoughts
we bring with us –
or hoped to leave behind.

The colours of place –
balconies, chimneys, stone, wood,
precipitate slopes and foliage –
they can’t help but recall
a certain day, with just a hint,
up there in the mountains,
of autumn in stunned air.

Nowhere someone
calls home is remote.