i.m. John and James Cooke
They are on parade in perfect step
– my father and my father's brother –
strolling down a street in Dublin
where a breeze is freshening
and the nineteen-fifties
are loitering round the corner;
and even if I’ve no way
of asking either how they spent
the day, or what claim
each felt he'd a right to make
on an open-handed future,
they are still sharp in Sunday suits
straight out of the movies.
Beyond that city, I can just make out
a cramped, pre-electric house,
where shadows swarm each evening,
and then the lane unwinding
through a bramble-obscured neutrality.
But these two, like shrewd apostles,
will leave for good a place
they'll later remember as home,
reiterating one simple text:
Self-help and Profit, a need for work
I'd like to think can't own me.
And now they inhabit an abstract
space to become such symbols
as I might choose to make them,
leaving much unanswered:
like who it was controlled
the shutter on that buoyant day.
A brother who left for Philadelphia?
– the disembodied voice
I heard on the phone years back,
who could have been my father,
or my London uncle, through
a hoaxing Yankee accent.