Zhivka Ivanova

Poems by Zhivka Ivanova


From her anthology Tuesday is Green published by Faber 2011

Translated by Christopher Buxton

Day and Night


Like a shiny beetle smeared

on the pavement

the day softly darkens

under footfall of the hours;

your silence

loses its spark –

it doesn’t stab me every time

when my telephone turns

deaf and dumb.

Again the dark slips on

its black overcoat,

but I pin

white solitude in my hair

so I can dance barefoot


the well beaten dance floor

of our love.



Drama of stairs and two people


It’s not my gift

to unravel the words,

to cast them higgledy piggeldy

into a rolled up ball

and later to discover

in its deepest centre the end

of the thread, and in one sharp tug,

disentangle them.

But I can illuminate them:

so I see how

my slimmed-down balcony

nightly gathers up

the violet quiet,

but at daybreak turns it

to a pale pink murmur,

with which it partners the sea.

And I know that the roof

is cross with me,

I haven’t treated it in years,

and it no longer talks to me,

only in the autumn,

it softly weeps.

The walls are scolding me

every day and litter me

with cobwebs,

and the kitchen floor

has a screw loose,

but the stairs –

they quietly play jazz,

when they feel us,

stepping together in a hug..




Tuesday is green

I say that Tuesday is green,

and my brother insists, that it’s yellow,

and we argue to bright red,

Mummy enters, shimmering blue,

(Mummy is always a glow of blue,

but Daddy is a warm orange),

reads us a story, so it pales to white.

but some of the words are so vivid.

that I want to repeat them,

till my world turns upside down;

when it starts to turn grey about me

I know that it’ll get bad,

the doctor who told Mummy,

that they had to send us

to the psychiatric clinic,

was froggy, dark grey,

while the other, orange, like Daddy

insisted that it was simply



In love


She walks

and her thighs sing,

and her breasts,

doves with pink beaks,

flutter in rhythm,

and join in chorus,

the wind plays

the harp in her hair,

men’s beaming looks

are reflected

in her mouth, strawberry,

they plait her halo

she walks

and doesn’t even realize

that she’s a heavenly



The Sea



The beach got sick

from mistrust –

categorically refused

to be the sea’s

favourite lollipop,

sprouted a rash

of drinking dives,

cheap tunes,

fag buts

and empty coffee cups.


Baffled, the sea

Withdrew a tide’s length,

But then continued

To kiss

so tenderly,

so painfully,

because this was

the only beach

to be had.


Without it

There’d be no sea.



“Life’s a fragile pact”


“Life’s a fragile pact”

No, I didn’t make this up –

The quote just slid off the screen

And I seized on it:

It smelled of fine tobacco

which agreed with your lips,

which agreed with my lips.

It smelled of sea breeze,

Which agreed with your hands

Which agreed with my hands.

Finally it smelled of eternity

Which agreed with your body

Which agreed with my body,

When they touched.


Good and bad


Do you realise how I don’t want

to play the goody,

for you to water me out of pity

and duty like that

lousy flower in the pot,

forgotten on the margins

of your glowing eyes

when you dream of the bad!

I want, I want…you not to scrawl

Red biro

Over piles of tests

And my attention seeking!

I want, I want…to leave

my socks on the sofa

and a wound in your tender soul,

when you wait up for me till late!

I want, I want…to not use

the bloody flipflops in the bathroom,

condoms and the grey

pleasantries after bed-time!

I want, I want…to con you,

that you’re protected, and when I withdraw

Watch you how you cope

squeamish and sweet…

I want to be that baddy,

determined at any price,

even if you don’t want it

to be