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Tom Phillips: a poem

In a time of fragility

The porcelain town

barely survives.

Its crowds are banned.

It lacks bells and cars

and footsteps.

Even a dog's bark

is threatening.

Why carry on

this way?

Look around!

The houses are brazen

with the sheen

of comfortable things.

How many distractions there are!

Every corner presents the unexpected

as if this were a warehouse

of unicorns and centaurs.

Here are the gleaming walls

of a frozen waterfall;

the pale handles

of impossible clouds.

But since childhood we have been

careful; modest; skilful.

It's normal: our porcelain town

is one of reconciliation.

Our most serious sin

is to make a noise.

We covet nothing other than

to play the piano silently;

to dance silently, without moving.

Look at this:

how softly,

how smoothly,

how shallowly

everything reflects


Tom Phillips has been living and working in Sofia, Bulgaria, since 2017. His poetry has been published in a wide range of magazines, anthologies and pamphlets, and the full-length collections Unknown Translations (Scalino, 2016), Recreation Ground (Two River Press, 2012) and Burning Omaha (Firewater, 2003). He translates contemporary Bulgarian poetry and his own work has been translated into and published in Albanian, Bulgarian, Hindi, Italian, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian and Spanish.


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