Making All Things Orderly

Stare at grey clapboards in unbroken rows
That seem to follow the unceasing sound
Of thrumming traffic, with no vibrant red
Or swaying leaves to soften sunlight’s blows.

Poems of air and chlorophyll’s repose
Have gone; the smallest traces can’t be found;
Destroyed, as some fool’s sense of order fed
On massacre of hollyhock and rose.

For you and I know there are always those
Who come to slash and dig and curse the ground
Where fantasy has bloomed, and plant instead
Their awful dragon’s teeth. And I suppose

What grows from them is vigilant, and toes
Its dull unthinking line, but pound for pound
Cannot compare to one small flower bed
Of buds, rough stalks, and silken furbelows.



Wood Sprite

In memoriam “Saints Rest”

Grace, Victorian harridan that she was,
Served out some sherry for a little buzz.
A votre santé was her toast of choice,
And I, before I’d found my style and voice,
Delighted in her dim pink walls and candles
Stuck into bottles, jardinières with handles;
Some in bronze sconces flickered, while paté
Was served; I thrilled at velvet, and the way
Her hair kept falling down, electric, red—

I can’t accept such spirit now lies dead.
As candles wane, the lovely scent retreats,
And with it, glamour, canapés. Defeats
Now strike me daily—sometimes I say “Ouch!”
Or, quoting her, go “to my downy couch,”
For all the style that I have gained since then
This laughing saint engendered in her den.



Elegy for a Man of the Arts

for Tony Decorse

He talked too much, repeating tales twice told—
And wouldn’t leave, though welcome was long past.
Eccentric in his youth, he had grown old—
We thought that we were rid of him at last,
This man who had annoyed us all for years
Left recently, to look for better ways
To lift his spirit. Do not let your tears
Bind him in place, or dampen this new phase.

His ghost remains, a weight upon our minds.
In dreams, I’m shamed to hear our laughter still,
And every pearl I make from sand reminds
Me of that one who irritated, till
Self-serving grains of sand formed pearls for us.
Purpose fulfilled, he went without a fuss.




An Education

One fractured hillside, houses spilling down
Both sides, in two irregular white rows
Into the center of the little town,
Where sidewalks lined two-storied shops where we
Bought trifles, cheap perfume, a pink nightgown
For someone’s mother, shiny rayon, throws
For baby showers, made of eiderdown,
Tin toys and teddy bears. Eternity
Is filled, I think, with all the junk we bought;
The gifts for friends and teachers. Every song
Saved up till we could buy a single sheet
Of music for it, verse and words, complete,
To carol out the windows of our homes,
Much sharper and more sweet than dusty tomes.



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.

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25 Responses

  1. Michael Dashiell

    I’m pleased with your poetry that formal verse isn’t necessarily old-fashioned. You’ve taken it to the next frontier. I wish other free verse magazines would recognize this.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Michael,
      This is one of the most important points one can make in
      contemporary poetry; especially in the realm of free verse,
      Yet we do not see it deiscussed.
      Why? Because free verse is “woke”, and Alice just won’t discuss it — so there!
      Thanks for raising a crucial issue..

  2. Margaret Coats

    Sally, “Making All Things Orderly” is a wonderful poem about “the ground where fantasy has bloomed”! I think of the house where I grew up. When we moved there, the “poems of air and chlorophyll’s repose” were indeed gone from the entire neighborhood, but the builders had supplied a tiny planter box in each yard. My father looked into ours and found a cement base with not a scoop of soil. He decided that eventually he would bring some dirt there, suited for my mother’s most intensive-care flowers, but first he made a trip back to the shady town we had moved from, asked for cuttings, and dug up some likely seedlings in overgrown vacant lots. Someone gave him a tub with a fast-growing item that became a children’s climbing tree in the middle of the new back yard. He was a fantasy planter. Ultimately he had dozens of trees and flowering bushes on one little lot, and a collection of orchids trailing down from the limbs of the earliest-planted trees. They were the “silken furbelows” that completed his work the way those words so beautifully and surprisingly complete this poem of yours.

    The other three poems here seem to tell of different ways that nature’s own order grows and flourishes. Good group!

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Margaret —
      I love the way you think – swift and to the point ! You had, I think, the best of fathers, proving yet again the need for a father in the home.
      He must have been very like mine, who would study where the sun fell, and plant there. In this way he was able to make a single flower flourish in a small spot in a wooded area. I like to think I might be one that he planted in that way.

  3. Paul Freeman

    You encourage me to write character sketches in sonnet form, and as Michael says, to jazz them up for today’s audiences.

    Thanks for some extraordinary reads.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Paul –
      Glad to know I was able to offer encouragement ! Please let us see some of these very soon.

  4. lionel willis

    Your work is a pleasure to read, Sally. Thank you for the time and thought they took.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Lionel —
      Thank you for letting me know of your enjoyment ! As to time and effort, well — one only gets back what one is willing to put into a creative effort. Ever notice how effortless the great musical performances are? How many ever think of the countless hours of practice that have gone before”

  5. Brian Yapko

    Each one of these poems is a masterful delight full of keen observation, vivid imagery and gorgeous language. Truly a joy to read!

    • Sally Cook

      That’s high praise coming from one as
      accomplished as you. Such a response makes it all worthwhile. Dare I say we speak the same language?

  6. Jeff Eardley

    Sally, from England, great to read these. You are a very talented poet. Thank you so much.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Jeff —

      You are very kind. More than that, you have enjoyed the poems. The Shakesperean sonnet is my favorite form, and I have lots of English, Irish and Welsh antecedents, so it is probably in my bloodstream.
      Additionally, I’m very proud to say I am a legitimate
      descendant of the Lord of Limerick.
      So thanks, cuz, for the compliment ~

  7. Joe Tess (itore)

    What a beautiful voice you have, Sally – totally unique and so atmospheric!

    • Sally Cook

      What a lovely compliment !
      Is that you my friend Joe Tessitore? Or is there someone on the site called Joe Tess? Perhaps you were typing and got tired?
      In any case, I’m glad to hear from you! And what a lovely compliment.
      Never mind – whomever, I thank you for your encouraging words. I try to let my ideas flow from the painterly to the
      written word, and back again.

      • Joe Tessitore

        Don’t know what happened there – Joe Tessitore.

  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Sally, this superb set of poems seduces the senses and paints linguistic images so vivid and vibrant this reader breathes in the wonder of each descriptive stanza. I also like the musicality of the language. Lines such as; “… Tin toys and teddy bears. Eternity / Is filled, I think, with all the junk we bought…”. I love them all, but my favorite is “An Education” – it’s exquisite. Thank you, my friend. Your words never fail to inspire me.

    • Sally Cook

      Different as our work is, we share the same attitudes and goals. Know that I appreciate and deeply value our exchange of ideas.
      The way things are today, this is a rare thing.

  9. C.B. Anderson

    These were especially nice, Sally. There were moments when you seemed to flirt with darkness, but the dirt you work with always comes up flowers.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear CB —
      So glad you enjoyed the poems ! I do not flirt with dirt; would not even though it makes a rhyme. It is the flowers that flirt, and they with earth, in the most positivc way..

      • C.B. Anderson

        I only meant, Sally, that you get right down to the nitty gritty of our lives in this world.

  10. Julian D. Woodruff

    Ms. Cook,
    Thanks for all 4 of these. They’re all very fine. “Education” is almost like the summary of a memoire, almost like the most lyrical of prose passages, so natural is the flow, the vocabulary, and the ease of the phrasing.

  11. Joseph S. Salemi

    The use of enjambment in these poems is expert and fluent. Cook maintains a controlled rhyme scheme while making the tone of each poem conversational, and idiomatic.

  12. Sally Cook

    Dear Dr. Salemi —
    I do try hard, but it would be much more difficult without your sagacity.
    Thanks for everything.

  13. David Watt

    Sally, your three poems have the attraction of providing us with much more than mere glimpses of your recollections. Thanks for sharing these with us.

    • Sally Cook

      Thank you, David, for looking below the surface. Everyithing has levels; especially art of any kind; you know this– and looked.


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