Friday, 29 April 2016


A mystery of bells and the incense of Easter
bring us back from the vagaries of weather
while in my spent country indifference floats
like the breath of foul gas from a marsh.

The isolated beacons flicker like lights
on a runway’s approach, the city laid out
as something that might come close to hope.
I wasn’t thinking back then of much at all,

only around the edges of the familiar circuit,
the sky opened out and each brick, each joint
sat there in the sunlight as sharp and clear
as a recently discovered archaeological find.

In a museum of promises, mermaids busk
and frolick among annotated exhibits.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 22 April 2016


For one moment
I didn’t recognise the hand
that crushed the empty packet.
The brass ring was there
with my father’s initials etched
by his own, but there was a new map too –
as if someone had x-rayed a leaf
or tried to freeze-frame tideline ripples
or a mudbank’s rivulet crevices.

The vegetable age
has been doing its work
leaving me silly and surprised
at its defining marks –
half a century on, with skin
becoming tough and creased
as a gourd’s – now having to admit
that I know nothing so badly
as the back of my own hand.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 15 April 2016

Луковици на Лазаръс/Lazarus bulbs

Every spring they manage it,
having endured another winter
below ground – and no telling which
will deign to show themselves:
variegated, red or black.

It’s just what they do, these bulbs,
these mines, these nubs that sprout
and flaunt themselves out of need
to get noticed and breed.

We are much the same:
hunkering down through
another cold season
until at a touch of sun
we’re out amongst the tulip clumps,
gathering bunches we’ll produce
like magicians from behind our backs.

So many high hopes ride
on the language of flowers
that we trust and the language
of words which we don’t.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Първите принципи/First principles

Home now to a loquacious press
and headlines that contest, refute
or simply ignore the story.
Offshore oil-flares light

a roiling horizon, rusted dereliction,
while the powers-that-be (the ones
that would be ours) stay silent
or rebut a sense of entitlement.

Faces prepared with such care
insist on our acceptance:
they are only human
and have been playing at gods.

These apples sit in a bowl.
They’re here and they’re ripe.
They’re playing at nothing
but being themselves.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips

Friday, 1 April 2016


Sprawled against that, we were looking across
at industrial fieldscapes, the heft and yaw
of mechanical harvesting. Up the end
of the road, the big house stood
like some kind of manifestation
beyond the estate agent’s brief.

It would all be gone too soon.
On the platform of the railway station,
I was folding a ticket down to town:
a world long gone in the footsteps
every morning of the fathers
making haste for the 7.05 to London.

The capital waited at the end of the line
like a threat. My children don’t believe
that moment as the trains came rushing in
and over the all-too-near horizon
the doors swinging back and our getting into place.
Elsewhere in the woodland, the branches
hung and dithered as we have always done.