Ascendants

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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.

 

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Comments

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john short

Thu 17th Sep 2020 15:00

This is a great poem David and reminds me I've a tin box full of family photos to go through. I liked 'through a bramble-obscured neutrality' and their sharp suits, straight out of the movies. That generation were so influenced by Hollywood it seems.

Robert Haigh

Sat 12th Sep 2020 19:32

An interesting and well-articulated piece.

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