David Cooke, of light’s alchemy -poetry



after Willi Ronis

A small boy running, but not for his life,
as all can see in his fearless smile
and the gleam of elation

that shines his eyes. This is the day
he will always remember,
important only because of an errand

and the small coin he didn’t drop,
holding it up on tiptoes
across the counter of a baker’s shop,

disregarding for once
the glass-fronted shelves of pastries
laid out on a lower level.

The still warm, unwieldy baguette
stowed beneath his arm,
he races homewards.

At his feet his shadow,
foreshortened, inscrutable,
can only just keep up, one step behind him.

Shape-shifting, a demon,
it seems momentarily a cat –
its back hunched, its dark pelt bristling.


That was the day your shutter
stopped time and when, unaware
of how you do it, you pulled it off again.

And That was the day
was all you’d say, drawing us in
to stories that mean nothing to us

or the girl on the overhead train
beyond the fact
of light’s alchemy

and the way it makes her face
a mirror because she is looking
towards us

while others are turned away,
their shoulders bearing the weight
of mundane shadows.

for Ian Parks

High on its promontory the Grand Master’s city
seems to be carved from living rock,
its curtain walls rising from undressed sandstone
that heaves them clear of water.

Secured against past enemies,
their wind-scoured surfaces are embattled
against mere blow-ins: the indigent shrubs
and bushes that cling improbably to crevices

in a wilderness of hewn stone –
the riddled maze of limestone blocks
where lizards and heat-crazed insects
pursue inscrutable wars.

Etched on sky that’s buffed
by a soft drift of cloud, the finer detail dazzles –
the teetering balconies of citizens,
the arcaded gardens, where visitors share

in a view across the harbour
that draws a line against unruly surges,
its creeks divided between dry docks, silos,
and yachts whose crews unwind raucously

beyond the founder’s pious gaze –
his vision of strength graced by geometric streets,
palaces, the baroque churches,
where true believers sing praises to Alla.


©David Cooke
photo©Stratos Fountoulis, Leros island 2008

David Cooke won a Gregory Award in 1977 and published his first collection, Brueghel’s Dancers in 1984. His retrospective collection, In the Distance, was published in 2011 by Night Publishing and a collection of more recent pieces, Work Horses, has recently been published by Ward Wood Publishing.  His poems, translations and reviews have appeared widely in journals including Agenda, Ambit, The Bow Wow Shop, The Critical Quarterly, The Irish Press, The London Magazine, Magma, The North, Orbis,  Other Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp and Stand.

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