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18 January 2016updated 27 Jul 2021 7:11am

“Berlin, January 10th, 2016: Kooks“: A new poem by John Burnside

"A midwinter spring, of sorts, / the day you died. . ."

By John Burnside

Don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cads
’Cause I’m not much cop at punching other people’s dads

A midwinter spring, of sorts,
the day you died,

meltwater glazing the trees
at Schöneberg, the U-Bahn

hurtling beneath my feet as I crossed
to Innsbrucker Straße – and Klaus said

Hast du das nicht . . .? while my mind went back
to Louis and Pip

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and Simon: ultra-
white boys

from the suburbs, single-

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unmanned, in borrowed
shirts and borrowed

make-up: ersatz rebels, erstwhile

but none of us much cop
at punching; though, till then, we hadn’t guessed

how weak we’d have to be
for that to matter.

John Burnside won the 2011 T S Eliot Prize and the 2011 Forward Poetry Prize for Black Cat Bone. His most recent collection is All One Breath (Jonathan Cape).

This article appears in the 13 Jan 2016 issue of the New Statesman, David Bowie