Learning Experience The world is filled with rules For making things; and schools Where ziggurats of thought, Erected there, are taught. The language that we use Now hides within a ruse Of passive terms and texts, Protects and disconnects. The work I do is not Perfect and without blot, As that of better students, Who polish poems with prudence. But ornaments I choose Are flexible and loose— They pull me through the air— Come with me, if you dare. How We Live Now Forget great men, their truthful ways: Award them three-day holidays. The only news is jarring sound— Peacekeepers moving troops around. We cherish triviality And monkeys do as well as we. Dreaming of going to the stars, We’re strapped and buckled in our cars But focus on the here and now, Complacent as some docile cow, A bovine who’s more civilized Than we. And still, we are surprised To meet young people who’ve not read A single book, yet been to bed With countless others, in a race To best their teachers’ fall from grace. We’ve squeezed the real from everything, And settled for a high, some bling. Think of the joy the iPod brings! Ten thousand songs, yet no one sings. Where Poetry Lives I find it unforgettable the way My mother read aloud, made sure we’d hear Shakespeare and other poets, from a day When poetry was honored. Sharp and clear Word pictures formed themselves that thrilled me so. I keep within my memory the days When she, on meeting those she used to know, Sparked talk of poems in myriad sorts of ways. Those poems they learned by heart in every school, Recited in a joyful, laughing way Beside the monument; the little pool Seemed like a place where we might always stay; Though you cannot rest in a chosen time, And we did not, but yet it stayed with some, The ones who loved the word, the magic clime Of poetry, the arts, and I was one. Drawing with Words The liquid light that poured across that space Crowned life with golden rays, and gave it grace. Then later, filled with rosy firelight, Left embers, glowing on the coldest night. One chiming clock, one rich red velvet chair Gave presence to this room; a strange affair. Those patterns on the rug, which echoed lace, I reproduced on every parchment space, Where lines turned into words—a mystery, I didn’t know the meanings for a while. Till I began to find a writing style. Some Advice from the Untalented They smugly said I’d never make much money From playing with my words and making art, That it would be a waste to spread such honey So any fool could tear the thing apart. "Forget it! You have always been contrarian. There’s money to be made and you’d be right As an accountant, teacher, or librarian. You’ve got your back, your feet are good, your sight Is sure. Why waste it on this silly dream? A decent mattress beats a lumpy bed With linens coarse and scratchy; when you scream You’ll muffle it in silken sheets instead. They only pay an artist when he’s dead.” I’m far too mean to die—I’ll wait, I said. The Flame Inspired by Jack Ahlers’ Tales of the Erie Road. A flame of knowledge in the night Burns past the dim room and stiff chair— Better to see by than a light Cold, unforgiving, unaware. That flame remains. How can it burn So bright and blue, so steady, sure— Consuming everything in turn: All anger, raw emotion, pure Affection for a simple thing? It burns away your strength, your youth, A blossom, and the patterned wing Of thought that brushes us with truth. Yet it still burns, and always will, In spite of life’s brief awkward chill. A former Wilbur Fellow and six-time Pushcart nominee, Sally Cook is a regular contributor to National Review, and has appeared in venues as varied as Chronicles, Lighten Up On Line, and TRINACRIA. Also a painter, her present works in the style known as Magic Realism are represented in national collections such as the N.S.D.A.R. Museum in Washington, D.C. and The Burchfield-Penney, Buffalo, NY.