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

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

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

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

 

and Simon: ultra-

white boys

 

from the suburbs, single-

mindedly

 

unmanned, in borrowed

shirts and borrowed

 

make-up: ersatz rebels, erstwhile

saints,

 

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 14 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, David Bowie