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

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

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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-



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 14 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, David Bowie

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