DAVID COOKE was born in the UK but his family comes from the West of Ireland. He won a Gregory Award in 1977. His retrospective collection, In the Distance, was published in 2011 by Night Publishing. A new collection, Work Horses, was published by Ward Wood in 2012. His poems, translations and reviews have appeared widely in the UK, Ireland and beyond in journals such as Agenda, Ambit, The Bow Wow Shop, The Cortland Review, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Press, The London Magazine, Magma, The Morning Star, New Walk, The North, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp and Stand. He has two collections forthcoming: A Murmuration (Two Rivers Press, 2015) and After Hours (Cultured Llama Press 2017).
One class at a time they let us out –
Miss Reilly and Mr McCormack
whose hand we had seen her holding,
and Mr Murphy whose wife she became.
In the days when grown-ups
were still in charge they always knew
what we needed: fresh air
and a space to let it off as steam.
Drawing blood on a regular basis,
the flint in the walls was lethal,
salvaged from an abbey
whose ruins loured above us.
To play the game of Chariots
you only needed a friend –
your arms locked behind you,
you’d skim the corners like Ben Hur.
The first shrill of the whistle
stopped us all in our tracks.
The second shuffled us into Years.
Any time we stepped out of line
was like a venial sin.
The mortal sins were dealt with later.
The day I floored Mick Kavanagh
defending my granddad’s interests,
we had crossed fields to reach the shambles
at the end of the big man’s boreen –
a morning’s adventure together,
if I helped fetch the sucking calf.
The deal sealed with spit and a snifter,
they were making the most of the visit,
when talk turned to boxing
and my half-hearted career.
I must have missed a wink
between them – when it seemed
the giant was set to renege –
just as he saw nothing coming …
However the calf skittered
across the squelching fields home,
my grip on its halter was iron,
my gum booted stride transcendent.
He has a way with a pint that hints
at who he is. It starts as the ale is drawn,
his eyes moving from the barmaid’s chest
to her grip on the polished wood
of the pump. Along the tilted side
of the glass, the liquid rises
as if spelling danger, or re-establishing
an equilibrium, while the over-lively froth
gushes forth like loose talk
before it drains into the slops;
and when the measure’s attained,
with a small headspace left,
she sets it up on the counter
for him to assay. He pauses briefly,
holds it up, then gives it a quarter turn,
staring into it like a talisman,
or the dark mirror that shows him
what he needs to see.
If you wish to read the poems in page view, the following link will take you to a PDF – David Cooke Poems
All works published by the Glasgow Review of Books are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and the journal reserves the right to be named as place of first publication in any citation. Copyright remains with the poet. http://www.glasgowreviewofbooks.com