Poetry Blog by David Cooke

Recent Comments

Greg Freeman on For John Coltrane (3 days ago)

Philipos on FOR HOWLIN’ WOLF IN HEAVEN (9 days ago)

Tim Ellis on FOR HOWLIN’ WOLF IN HEAVEN (9 days ago)

poemagraphic on FOR HOWLIN’ WOLF IN HEAVEN (9 days ago)

Adam Whitworth on The Way We Were (10 days ago)

Moon.girl on The Way We Were (10 days ago)

Philipos on The Way We Were (10 days ago)

MortimerBlooming on Getting It Taped (11 days ago)

David Cooke on A New Shirt (11 days ago)

Greg Freeman on A New Shirt (12 days ago)

The Way Art Pepper Tells It

entry picture

In San Quentin prison the psychos,

thieves and junkies exchange

desolate tales, and each one’s

a variation on a theme

that ends the same. Breathing in

and breathing out

to keep his panic at bay,

the man with the sax

is no exception when he tells his

in a different way.

Reinventing where he’s been,

one shimmering note

at a time, the way ahead’s unclear.

Stuck ...

Read and leave comments (0)

Horace Silver

entry picture

Feeling no urge

to ransack harmony

or play more notes

when a few were enough

– burnished

and buoyant

as waves that wash

the Cape Verde Islands –

he hunched down

over the keys

and dug in deep

until, at last,

he made out

his old man’s features,

smiling back

contentedly,

and smoking, as ever,

his rank cheroot.

 

Read and leave comments (0)

For John Coltrane

entry picture

As over and over the same chords churn

your notes pour forth in spate –

sheets of sound erupting till harmony

 

is wrenched awry; and when you sweated

smack to cleanse your system,

you were hell-bent on an afterlife,

 

a body refreshed, believing.

You could call it Love, but sombre,

that force that drives you on.

 

Hearing you now, I feel reproved

for all the...

Read and leave comments (1)

Miles Davis

entry picture

Your barest whisper at first suffices,

expanding slowly to an arc of sound;

each reticent phrase the horn releases

freights the air as a theme is found.

 

In dapper suits, expensive shoes,

you stand, your back half-turned to a crowd,

giving no more than what you’re paid for –

the music you make and time.

 

Read and leave comments (0)

Miles Davis in Paris

entry picture

I remembered someone saying

– with first-name familiarity

but too young to have known him –

Miles would never

have stooped to a moonwalk.

 

Looking back through a nicotine haze

to the husky chic of the fifties

and then beyond, I might have added

or a Bojangles shuffle.

 

The first time he played in Paris

the habitués of St Germain 

queued up to see him bac...

Read and leave comments (0)

An Elegy for Charlie Parker

entry picture

I can see you sitting outside the Reno

where the Mob’s tight hold makes dollars spin.

You are scuffling the dust, then homing in

whenever Lester launches his solo.

 

Or I see you breathe at the music's source

through a taped and battered alto. Through scale

after scale you soar, egotistical,

obsessive, chasing sounds no ears endorse.

 

Later on the hipsters hailed you...

Read and leave comments (0)

Chasin' the Breeze

entry picture

la petite phrase  Proust

 

Back home and married

after our year abroad,

the heat was on all summer

as mortgage rates

and temperatures soared.

Recording it now,

the memory’s triggered

by the music a DJ plays –

which happens to be

George Benson’s Breezin’,

the track that eased me

into jazz, clocking on

in the council yard

to get one step ahead.

 

An...

Read and leave comments (0)

FOR HOWLIN’ WOLF IN HEAVEN

entry picture

I surf and click, then raise his complex shade,

the presence and the poundage of a man

who took care of business, transcending his name

along the road between White Station,

Mississippi, and the juke joints of Chicago.

 

A diminutive screen contains him,

as he expounds the meaning of the blues –

a patriarch and mason, who had grasped his letters

like thorns, until his la...

Read and leave comments (3)

The Way We Were

entry picture

for Joni Mitchell

 

Cactus Tree was our song, the one

that lit a flame, when I heard you sing

and taped you, bruised and plaintive,

on John Peel’s Top Gear. Straight off

 

your gift possessed me, too young

in sixty-eight for you to even notice

how I tagged along: the one face

in the entourage who really got you

 

and realized that other men

would leave you wa...

Read and leave comments (3)

Getting It Taped

entry picture

For Martin

 

When I couldn’t keep up with the cost of music,

I found a solution: the second-hand

reel-to-reel I picked up at a snip –

a Philips most likely or maybe a Grundig,

some brand I thought would last.

 

Its clickety counter gave no insight

into the digital age. It couldn’t remember

or shuffle a thing. Pre-CD and pre-cassette,

it lacked a remote or any inkli...

Read and leave comments (1)

A New Shirt

entry picture

In the Shangri-La of San Francisco

they called it The Summer of Love,

 

tuning in and dropping out

to a soundtrack of spacey guitars.

 

Bookish, shy, and too young

for a droopy moustache and sideburns,

 

I was hothoused instead by Hayes

for the maths I was taking early,

 

but got a hint of something else

in Scott Mckenzie’s anthem.

 

Against her better ...

Read and leave comments (2)

When Smokey Sings

entry picture

To get past the door to the Top Rank

disco every Saturday afternoon

you needed a suit, so mine

was a lifeless grey, a cast-off,

with narrow lapels that even then

I knew had never been fashionable.

 

Once in, you were lost to darkness,

until your eyes adjusted,

bumping around the outer tables,

where you searched for mates

who talked big and smoked,

nursing Pepsi ...

Read and leave comments (1)

John Martyn

entry picture

i.m. 1948-2009

 

In the picture-perfect scenery of Challes-les-Eaux

in seventy-five, locked in private darkness,

I played your lost indefinable music

on a tired loop of tape: Solid Air –

its title track an elegy for a friend you couldn’t save,

while you were destined to survive.

With a brawler’s zest for living,

you absorbed the booze and heartbreak.

 

When I heard...

Read and leave comments (1)

For Robert Johnson

entry picture

The King of the Delta Blues

 

The hellhounds always trailed him –

for that’s the drift of legends.

Fuelling spooks with shots

of malt, he wailed out blues

across the Delta.

 

Between us now the record

crackles bleakly, his scratchy voice,

a conjured ghost, sings clear

as barrelhouse belles who fleeced him

strut across my sight.

 

In the rattling dives he p...

Read and leave comments (0)

Aretha Franklin

entry picture

Your father could hold a congregation

in the palms of his hands raised to heaven;

and when he spoke of Daniel

at prayer in the lion’s den his words

were a song. His wayward daughter,

with your gift, like his God-given,

were you a sinner or sinned against

the first time you weakened?  

 

It takes you years to find an answer

and years to find a voice

beyond polished ...

Read and leave comments (0)

Stereogram

entry picture

for Peter Robinson

 

I was listening to Dylan’s Time Out of Mind,

his late renewal after wasted years

– all simmer and wry despair –

to find that maybe he was rated again.

The voice was a wreck on a burnished track,

the songs a palimpsest of antique blues.

 

In the end the words will come

if they have to, like music that’s ghosted

by echoes stored in a phonograph’...

Read and leave comments (1)

Milesians

entry picture

They were matter-of-fact and mercantile,

their deities stockpiled in lumber rooms,

containers, or the air-conditioned acres

of a state-of-the-art clockwork hangar.

Too good to clear away, they laid them up,

just in case, alongside incense and charms,

the stacks of cheap libationary bowls.

It didn’t take that much – distant thunder,

a tremor, or the rumours of a quarrel

b...

Read and leave comments (2)

Staring at a Hoopoe

entry picture

'joyful, slandered bird'

Eugenio Montale

        

Caught in the moment,

there is no way of knowing

who might have blinked first –

the old man or his visitant,

the bright, crested

ambivalent bird. A few

scattered objects

implying a workspace,

the room is otherwise

unfocused beyond

the reciprocal stare

of two survivors.

The eyes of one are stoical,

but...

Read and leave comments (0)

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message