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David Cooke: a poem


It wasn't the music that drew him,

not at first, but the shape it made

on a stand and the way it took

the light, staring back at him

from the pawnshop window.

And so he decided then and there

he'd learn to play it, taking

for granted his gift and the right

he'd have to cradle it

once he had mastered the keys.

Those first uncertain months

it honked and squawked

like a goose, its strangled plea

the voice of a victim until at length

he tamed and soothed it.

Breathing his warmth

and a whisper into the silent

metal, its song became his story,

recognisable and true

beyond its blank harmonics.

Night after night in clubs,

his eyes closed, and swaying

gently, he lifted his horn

like a golden orchid

above the smoke and shadows.

David Cooke won a Gregory Award in 1977, since when his poems and reviews have appeared in Agenda, Ambit, The Cortland Review, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Times, The London Magazine, Magma, The Manhattan Review, The Morning Star, The North, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Stand. He has also published seven collections, the latest of which is Staring at a Hoopoe (Dempsey and Windle 2020). He is the founder and editor of the online poetry journal The High Window.


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