Wednesday, December 19, 2012

poetry snapshots revisited: david cooke


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.

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