David Cooke – A Waldorf Salad

A Waldorf Salad
for Paul

The Waldorf was always Grandad’s hotel –
the place he had helped to build but never
got to stay in. From his room in the Bronx,
did he hop on the El to leave his mark

on Manhattan’s skyline? It’s too late now
to check the details, as I try at least
to plot his absent years back from the splash
of its opening to the Wall Street Crash.

Working out his children’s ages, a gap’s
revealed, and then how old he must have been –
a Volunteer with mouths to feed, his goal
something better than the Irish Free State.

His cause in abeyance, he chanced his luck
abroad, where he found the future rooted
in its bottom line. He returned with cash
and tall stories, a few Yankee phrases.

But what did he make of bootleg whisky,
when he had no chance of a quiet pint;
or the well dressed hoodlums and shoeshine boys
who had never crossed fields or dug a ditch?

Above his head the sky’s a chart, criss-crossed
with girders, on one of which two workers
have started tucking in. A step away,
two waiters hover whose aim it is to please.



David Cooke has published three collections of his work and has been widely published in the UK, Ireland and beyond in journals such as Agenda, Ambit, The Bow Wow Shop, The Cortland Review, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Press, The London Magazine, Magma, The Morning Star, New Walk,  The North, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp and Stand. He has two collections forthcoming: A Murmuration (Two Rivers Press, 2015) and After Hours(Cultured Llama Press 2017).

David Cooke – Two Poems

In The Clouds

On the day you have found
your paradise you’ll see it
the way you’ve dreamed it
and think of it as home.
You’ll know you’ve reached it
because you are chosen;
because you have earned it
and suffered enough.
You have trekked, prayed,
or bombed your way.
You have spent your life deciphering
the shadows on the walls
of dungeons, caves,
or bleak ancestral halls.

In that zone of pure forms
the circle’s always true;
the straight line’s unwavering.
A lark ascends in affirmation.
A blackbird serenades
the souls of the slain
for whom the simpering virgins
never seem to pall;
while those who have toiled
imbibe a nectar
only patience improves
on that day they have found
their heaven; on that day
it’s granted.

National Trust

Floor by floor we learn
their histories: upstairs downstairs
knowing their places.

Above our cream teas –
the baby bats fine-tuning

David Cooke was born in Wokingham, although his family roots are in the West of Ireland. He won a Gregory Award in 1977 and published his first collection, Brueghel’s Dancers in 1984. His retrospective collection, In the Distance, was published in 2011 by Night Publishing and a collection of more recent pieces, Work Horses, was published by Ward Wood Publishing in 2012.  His poems, translations and reviews have appeared widely in journals in the UK, Ireland, and beyond including Agenda, Ambit, The Bow Wow Shop, The Critical Quarterly, The Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Press, The London Magazine, Magma, The Morning Star, The North, Orbis,  Other Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp and Stand.  Two Rivers Press will be publishing his new collection, A Murmuration, in 2015.