Friday, 29 May 2015


"Shucks, books," said the unexpected visitor,
a sort of suburban man from Porlock,
flicking his eyes and fingers across the shelves.
"They sit there like threats, like promises.
Like some kind of antediluvian technology.
You have these books in your house?"
And so he’s clocking titles, clocking names:
"Hemingway? Pound? This’French bird’"?

He’s after the weight of it. The tomes.
The ‘French bird’ is Marguerite Duras.
And apparently now I have too many books.
It’s what I do. Pile them up, build cases.

I usher him out between almost everything
that he and the rest might think unnecessary.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Надежда (за Левски)/Hope (for Levski)

On the one hand, crowds by a trolley stop
celebrating victory in ‘his’ stadium; on the other,
your hesitation translating a word as we walk past
the National Academy of Arts towards his monument.
No absence here more felt. The bronze face looks out
on the streets of Sofia where we walk through
divergent legacies and begin unexpected stories.
Perhaps in an underground church beside
the metro station we’re closer than we think.
Like Yeats, he became his admirers –
and not so far from the scene of that regime’s crime
linden trees paint light across their upturned faces.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Синьото езеро/The blue lake

Over just so many hills and round so many corners,
the blue lake flashes like an iris. We’d be thinking
we’re so far from home. And we are. On paper.
At the track’s end, we’ll get out and walk.
Love seems to be a kind of occupation.

In this vast space, our feet come down
on routinely overlooked marram grass patches.
I’m sure I’m not alone. And you tell me we aren’t.
Your presence shudders like the skim of birds 
across the water. Then we go into the restaurant and eat.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Сезонът на лалета/Tulip season

I will not, I can’t apologise
for architectural geometries,
that spring you came to visit.
It was the world we found
ourselves in, even now
a difficult one to imagine.

The cornices of privilege
glared over our not really
understanding the bedrock
that was being laid down.
In the garden, I took your hand.
You pointed out the colours,
the variegated tulips.

Friday, 1 May 2015


On the porch overhanging a back garden
where, sauntering from his studio,
he’d be tinkering with the folds and burrs
of resin for a reconstructed ship’s figurehead,
we were contemplating half-empty bottles
of imported beer, thinking them
a rarity in 1987’s patchy summer.

It’s the smell of cut onions does it,
acid-sweet as our prospects in that house.
Someone standing at the kitchen-counter
with knife poised and oil spitting
might have shouted through the doorway
about something they’d heard on the news.

We had no idea. By the gas fire,
we’d scoop vegetable stew, lay cards
in a game of canasta, assume
history was nothing more than repetition.
We wrote words, words, words,
as if they might save us.

It was 1987 and in the kitchen
we chopped onions forever.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips