Sunday, 24 February 2013


Perfectly flat source
of glass-half-empty wisdom
(You never gain without you lose),
these drains and fenland ooze;
unbroken horizontals
bred smallholders quick
to silence, feuds.
Cousins, not on speaking terms,
learnt allegiances, who was who,
precise degrees of indifference to use
in the family’s every orbit.

A lack of generosity in nature, then,
accounting for a hardness of heart?
Well, yes, there was that – breeding fruit
and veg from plots that felt the brunt
of poor winters, North Sea winds,
relentless, giddying skies.
No wonder they took the dim view,
were adamant they knew what they knew,
distrust of water, close observation
of changes, levels and rules,
the fragile treachery of things,
a closed world better off for keeping closed.

From here, though, also, eccentricities of will:
great-grandfather who made do
and the most out of left-overs,
sticks, old hat. Always on the loose,
ditch-strider, habitual trespasser,
or, back home, his having to explain,
if anyone should ask, why the swan
he’d killed was better called a goose.
Such stamina for living on the hoof:
as if each morning, bent-double and running,
he was tempting snipers to shoot him down,
which on such open ground they could have easily done.

'Fenlanders' appears in the collection Recreation Ground (Two Rivers Press, 2012), available here

Friday, 22 February 2013

Balkans Peace Park Project 2013

It's still not too late to volunteer this summer ... teaching English, teaching cricket, making a community play .. . Details here: and films from summer 2012 here: and here:

Friday, 15 February 2013

Iraq: ten years on

Here's the poem written for '100 Poets Against The War '(Salt/Nthposition) on the occasion of the Blair/Bush decision to invade:

Life After Wartime
Some things never change.
The garden bushes wag their beards
like arguing theologians while the orange fists
of passion fruit take cover in the leaves.
The sky aches with unmapped distances
and the sun hides nothing.
At dusk, it surrenders to the moon.

When there’s small-hours muttering in the street
remember it’s only someone deciding to go home or go on,
pushing the night for the last of the great good times
and into a shell-shocked morning after.

At least there’s coffee again.
It takes our minds off the radio,
the smooth-voiced reassurances,
the metaphors encrusted like barnacles
on every announcement, your almost
imperceptible jump at the sound
of a pamphlet shoved through the door.

Things never change.
People wear their silence like a caul.
To bring them luck against drowning.
They were parents. Or siblings. Or both.
They are the ones that nothing surprises,
the ones who no longer look up
when a jet comes roaring in above the city,
framed against the orange sky,
picking its way among the towers. 

Tom Phillips 2003