The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Literature from Mexico City

David Cooke: 4 Poems Published

Poems by David Cooke (UK)

Published in issue 39 of The Ofi Press




for Anna 


How strange when I, who inherited faith

and kept it like a shabby gift, outgrown,

and then abandoned, see how on your own

you have discovered a different path –


Islam, which in the language you’ve studied

so well and love, I’ve learned has the meaning

surrender. You have seen light shining,

where I must shape my own less certain code.


Your daily prayers and recitation flow

serenely from the prophet’s desert well,

a stream where each resonant syllable

is a pure sound whose music I’ll allow,


noting again with pride the stubborn skill

you show in tracing its delicate script,

a calligraphy that’s now implicit

in all you do, gracing the habitual.


And you showed courage, too, these troubled days

when you set yourself apart, your blazon

a scarf, which for some affronts their reason,

while extremists claim the airwaves.


It was not always so.  Beneath the glare

of a Moorish sky I have looked to see

a formal garden, where geometry

and tempered light harmonize with water.














So there we were in Camden, my mother,

my wife and I, on the day of our daughter’s nikah

when suddenly memories surfaced

and Mum was back on the stamping ground

she’d known just after the war,

a migrant girl discovering life,

blown in from the back of beyond.


Those days austerity seemed a lark,

when all the others from home

had made the journey too –

the men on buildings and roads,

while she and her favourite sister

skivvied in a plush hotel,

kept going by the weekend’s dances,

where they jitterbugged

until they both found husbands.


I thought how with good luck

each life may find its true beginning

as on that day we approached

the flat where another marriage

would soon take place.


When the father welcomed us in

I answered wa aleikum salaam

and, as we moved into separate rooms,

I remembered the Mass

at Swinford,  how years ago

the men would sit on the left

and the women filed off to the right.













for Ziyad, Tamim & Rafiq


When the day has come, 

you will make a journey

to the city of Mecca.


Each of you a pilgrim

dressed in white,

you will cast the stones


that set you free

from Shaitán, the evil one.

Circling the Ka’aba


you will feel around you

the crowd surging

like a river in spate;


and though it’s a distance

I cannot travel,

the scallop shells


on my school badge

made me a pilgrim too

like those who had tramped


to the far-flung shrine

of Santiago

de Compostela















The creed we’d inherited, it was unambiguous

and always claimed us as its own

in a far-fetched calculus of chances.

Aspersion and charms

were tokens of our election.


And when our foreheads

were smudged with ash, it taught us

the word mortality, like a chapel

I’ve seen in my afterlife

built with cement and bones.


At the age of reason

peccadillos stamped with guilt

could be absolved in a box of whispers,

and purity of thought

reinforced in threadbare rituals,


spreading over our lives

a drab brocade.

Behind it all were generations

who had prayed like us and chanted,

professing faith in our creed.


Sustained by desperation and the certainty

that human ties will cease,

they had sought continuance,

their dreamscapes

shimmering through isolation.



NOTE: "On My Daughter's Conversion to Islam", "Beginnings" and "Faith of Our Fathers" were first publish in Work Horses, 2012, Ward Wood Publishing.


About the Poet

David Cooke’s retrospective collection, In the Distance, was published in 2011 by Night Publishing.  A new collection, Work Horses, was published by Ward Wood in 2012. His poems and reviews have appeared in journals such as Agenda, The Bow Wow Shop, 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).

Image by Hamed Saber.