David Cooke – three poems

Le Petit Parisien 1952
after Willi Ronis

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

that lights 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.


La Nue Provençale
after Willi Ronis

She is like Eve in exile,
awakening each morning
when the sun has risen
then rising herself,
shackled to the day’s routine.

She opens a shutter,
and the light sweeps in
across the uneven stone floor –
her summons to the tasks
that lie before her.

But first a strip-wash,
the astringent purity
of her ablutions. Leaning over
a basin, the chill water
unseals her eyes.

Still only half awake,
she takes in the tarnished
mirror, a chair; and sees how little
is needed to live
on the far side of paradise.


Les Amoureux de la Bastille
after Willi Ronis

By the time they have reached
their vantage point they know
for certain that this is the day,
fixed in their memory
as their image is fixed in mine.

Across the city’s foundering
skyline, its chaos of roofs,
they see how in wintry light
Notre Dame is holding out
like an island under siege.

For a few moments longer
they’ll stay, as one by one
beneath them shutters close
and the day’s work ceases
in shops and ateliers.

Groomed for the afternoon
he has spent with her, he leans
over and whispers something
he has maybe said before –
some foolishness or a vow.

All we see of her is her back
in a tailored suit, her stance
and its hint of purpose. Knowing
the world for what it is
she will seek her place in it.


Note: with his poetic photography, Willi Ronis (1910-2009) was responsible for some of the most celebrated and iconic images of France in the mid 20th century.


David Cooke won a Gregory Award in 1977 and has been widely published in the UK, Ireland and beyond. His most recent collection, A Murmuration, has just been published by Two Rivers Press. After Hours, his next, will be published in 2017 by Cultured Llama Press.

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