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.

by Tom Phillips

This week’s poem from Tom Phillips and last week’s from Kate Behrens both come from Two Rivers Press, and are scheduled to coincide with an exciting reading by these two poets and the Press’s editor, Peter Robinson, tomorrow (Tuesday 19 March) at Oxford Brookes. You can read a sample of Peter Robinson’s work here. The reading will take place at 6pm in Headington Hill Hall, and all are welcome. There is no charge, and refreshments will be provided! For more details, visit this page.

‘Life After Wartime’ is copyright © Tom Phillips, 2012. It is reprinted from Recreation Ground by permission of Two Rivers Press.

Notes from Two Rivers Press:

Tom Phillips‘s first full-length collection navigates terrains which range from Eastern Europe, Australia, and the Home Counties to his own back garden in Bristol. From the different perspectives these vantage points offer, it unearths connections between chance meetings and ‘big history’, family stories and the state we’re in. It also looks at poetry itself as a ground on which to recreate – and negotiate with – one thing that nobody can change: the past. Read more about the collection at Two Rivers’s site here.

Tom Phillips is a writer based in Bristol, and the author of two pamphlets of poetry: ‘Burning Omaha’ and ‘Reversing into the Cold War’, and the full-length collection Recreation Ground. His plays include ‘Man Diving’, ‘Hotel Illyria’, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ and the solo show ‘I Went To Albania’. Tom is also currently studying for a PhD in creative writing at Reading University.

Two Rivers Press was founded in Reading in 1994 by Peter Hay (1951–2003), an artist and enthusiast for the town and its two rivers, the Kennet and the Thames. In nearly two decades of publishing and with over seventy titles since its inception, it has been described as ‘one of the most characterful small presses in the country’. It focuses on local poets and a significant part of its work explores and celebrates local history and environment. Bold illustration and striking design are important elements of its work, used to great effect in new editions of classic poems, especially ones with some Reading connection: for example, Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and in collections of contemporary poetry from local poets such as Reading Poetry: an anthology edited by Peter Robinson. It has recently published A Mutual Friend: Poems for Charles Dickens, an anthology with a very distinguished list of contributors, also edited by Peter Robinson. The Press is strongly rooted in the local community and has close links with the University, Poets’ Café, RISC, Museum of English Rural Life and other local groups. Its contribution to Reading’s culture won for it a Pride of Reading award in 2008. You can find more information at the press’s website, and on its Facebook page.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.