Week 268: When Tommy Cooper died on Stage, by John Mole

John Mole (born 1941 and happily still with us) is a prolific writer of verse for both adults and children. John plays the jazz clarinet, but let’s not hold that against him too much – he does also write entertaining and sharply observed poems of which this piece on the death during performance of the English comedian Tommy Cooper is a good example. If you haven’t seen Tommy Cooper in action, rest assured that this captures his particular style beautifully.

When Tommy Cooper Died on Stage

All he’d ever had to do was stand up there
with that pillar-box grin, gauche heavyweight
of legerdemain, his manic stare
a bewildered glaze, his two left feet
tripping the board, so that when he died
it seemed the perfection of his act
in exquisite slow-motion, a long slide
into himself, such absolute control, the exact
moment recognised for what it offered
as the risk to take, a chance to bow out
on the wave of the applause he heard
from stalls and balcony, ignore the shout
of panic in the wings, his last breath
taken just like that. It was a poet’s death.

John Mole