THE ICE HOUSE
Lost in growth – and like an abandoned
burial mound you’d never notice,
but for the sign that names it,
taking your eye toward the planks
of a door into the earth.
For years it housed its glistening hoard
before technology passed it by,
making miracles ordinary.
Paid a pittance, until redundant,
servants stoked a glassy furnace.
Imagine stepping from endless
summer into that compact
lifeless core; and the way you’d
stoop to gain some purchase
with your pick and spade,
leaning in to the harvest
of its sullen, grainy crystal –
its dead leaves, dead seeds and insects –
savouring, too, its squelch and give,
its rasping slither into pails.
Lugged across that sweep of lawns
and past the lightsome gestures
of their pagan sculpture,
it is left down with a breathless
grunt onto the pantry floor.
In a room where all is brightness
they are laying out fresh linen;
will adjust to the nth degree
of seemliness a table fit for the quality –
the talented mistress of their king.
The closest my dad ever got to poetry
was when he savoured some word
like pugilist, or the tip-toe springiness
he sensed in bob and weave,
his unalloyed delight at the flytings
and eyeball to eyeball hype
that went with big fight weigh-ins.
I, too, might have been
a contender when I did my stint
in the ring, my dad convinced
I had style and the stamp of a winner.
But in the end I just got bored.
You had to have a killer’s instinct
to do much better than a draw.
In the gym the lights are low.
It’s after hours. I’m on my own.
The boards are rank with sweat
and stale endeavour. Shadow boxing
like the best of them. I will show
him feints, a classic stance,
trying always to keep up my guard.
'Shadow Boxing' appears in David's latest collection, Work Horses.
David Cooke won a Gregory Award in 1977 and published Brueghel’s Dancers in 1984. His poems and reviews have appeared in many journals such as Agenda, Ambit, The Bow Wow Shop, Critical Quarterly, The Frogmore Papers, The Irish Press, London Grip, The London Magazine, New Walk, The North, Orbis, Other Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp and Stand. His retrospective collection, In the Distance, was published in 2001 by Night Publishing and a further collection, Work Horses was published by Ward Wood Publishing in 2012.