Getting it Taped
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 inkling
of the bells and whistles to come.
To make a start you wound the tape
onto the empty spool, then let it
run to take the slack. Engaging
its five sturdy controls
required decisive pressure.
And once you’d hooked it up to the radio,
you only had the space of a song
to change your mind and reset it,
ready for the next one, your dithering clunks
recorded in that seamless stream.
So I gave up on Pick of the Pops
and ‘Fluff’, its pop-picking deejay,
but left it purring quietly to the John Peel show,
his musical taste consistent,
his mumbles, yeah, laid back.
In Search of Lost Time
From the north of France to Mayo’s a stretch,
but in the way that often one thing leads
to another I got there reading Proust –
or, if I’m honest, by failing again
to read him beyond his hero’s bedtime.
Buttoned up, fretful, a delicate child,
he had never dammed a stream with sods
or pulled up a ladder into the hay
where he had his lair and listened to rain
clattering down onto a hayshed roof.
Accumulating his endless pages
– an invalid and a scribbler, cooped up
in his cork-lined room – it wasn’t the smell
of bread, baked in a pot in the embers,
that took Proust back to his earliest years
but a madeleine soaking in a cup
of weak tea. Free-falling into the past,
he never mentions creamery butter,
eggs with shells streaked in dirt, or the sizzle
and spit of sausages seasoned in smoke.
Lights out plunged him into creaks and shadows
and, on the nights he missed his mother’s kiss,
an agony of sleeplessness. Voices
climbed the stairwell. In a three room cottage
I awakened when the craic was mighty.
David Cooke’s poems have appeared in many journals, including Agenda, Ambit, The Cortland Review, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Times, The London Magazine, Magma, The Manhattan Review, New Walk, The North, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Stand. His most recent collection, After Hours, was published in 2017 by Cultured Llama. He is co-editor of The High Window.