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18 January 2016

“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-

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).

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