‘All Are Numbered’ and Other Poems by Sally Cook The Society May 17, 2022 Beauty, Culture, Humor, Poetry 28 Comments . All Are Numbered Moving along the narrow grassy rows Under a sherbet sky, time seems to be The only place where nothing ever grows Or dies, and grass remains, eternally Quite clipped and orderly. It truly shows That someone, somewhere, sometime gave it care. Each blade of landscape preens itself, and knows Whatever it may know. And we compare The picking of the fellow on the stair Playing what he calls oiling music, slow. To lengthening of grass. The mower’s snare Is measured by his song. We’ll come and go, Yet always will this perfect moment stay; A timeless mowing tune, an hourless day. —from Measured by Song . . A Brief Genealogy poem for the 800th celebration of the founding of Liverpool I am a late Plantagenet Without distinction, true. But yet Thomas of Brotherton starts my line, And though King John is not quite mine I won’t complain. Fair Liverpool Was founded by this king so cruel Who got the land in 1207, Then sent my ancestress to Heaven For talking politics or such— Perhaps it was she talked too much. He tossed the key, she met the stare Of dungeon keepers; tore her hair, Moaned and pleaded, wept and wailed, Starved in her cell, securely jailed, Loquaciousness her only crime— Also a tendency of mine. . . Sisters Our playground, both in June or wintry snow, Was now a home to gypsies settled there Upon that shallow creek bank. I could see My sister, in pink curlers, sleeping… oh, I still wish I could fly into that rare Perfumed June night, where sparks hung eerily. I’d drift downhill to where a flickering glow Arose on velvet solstice nights, just where That campfire joined the sunset; I could see Dark figures, dipping, make a fiery show Where every secret song and dance might share, With violins, the sinuous mystery. As dancing figures dignified our wood, I might have danced with them and understood. . . 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. NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets. The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments. CODEC News:Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 28 Responses James Sale May 17, 2022 Wonderful poetry, Sally, especially All Are Numbered – reminds me of the Larkin 1914 poem – a sense of timelessness pervading existence – the absence of the main verb in ‘lengthening of grass’, which I assume deliberate for several reasons. Marvellous – thanks for a great read. Reply Sally Cook May 17, 2022 James, you always look beyond the obvious. Yes, timelessnes is the theme of this poem. Thinking of the speed at which grass grows, it might take years for the landscape to change, and the rippling guitar arpeggios complete their measures. Certain musical notes can be like blades of grass. Sensitive people react to this. Thoughtful people take it one step further. You are one of those people; I thank you for taking that step. Reply jd May 17, 2022 Wow to all three which call for thoughtful reading and re-reading. Thank you, Sally Cook. Reply Sally Cook May 17, 2022 JD — I appreciate your taking my words seriously. My approach can be very different from some others, often requiring a close reading. You are willing to give this, and I thank you Reply Shaun C. Duncan May 17, 2022 These are fantastic, Sally. I particularly like ‘Sisters’ – I have not come across a sonnet composed of tercets before and the abcabc rhyme scheme combined with clever use of enjambment gives the piece a more subtle sense of musicality which gives the closing couplet extra punch. The language is gorgeous too. Reply Sally Cook May 18, 2022 Dear Shaun – Do you have teaching or reveiwing in your background? I ask because of your clear analysis of my work. After reading what you had to say, I left quite impressed with myself! Thank you so much !! One question: do you consider writing poems a sort of game? that is to say is it only a game with (w/o rules,) or is it more than that to you, and if so, more in what way? Would truly like to know.’ Reply Shaun C. Duncan May 18, 2022 I’ve never taught or written criticism but I do try to offer substantial comments here, rather than just saying “good work!” Analysing what I like in someone else’s work also helps me to improve my own. I do think of poetry as a sort of game. I often liken it to solving a puzzle. The primary pleasure I take from writing poetry is in satisfying the requirements of form and any desire for self expression is a distant second – I’m perfectly capable of expressing myself verbally to the people around me or on social media if there’s something I desperately need to say. I honestly have no idea why someone would want to write free verse aside from pure ego and I find it very telling that the pioneers of free verse tended to be narcissists (*cough* Whitman). None of this is to say I don’t value content – a poem must be worth reading, after all and I’m obviously a person with strong opinions, like many others here. I’ve had a pretty rich creative life outside of poetry though as a writer, musician and photographer so for me the joy of creating art lies purely in the exploration of form. There are other pleasures to be had too, but I try to not look for anything more as it easier to keep creating every day, whatever my mood, and it helps me to focus on improving my craft. David Watt May 17, 2022 All three poems readily transported me to their distinct place and time. Although choosing a favorite is a difficult task, the imagery, interesting form, and poetic flow of ‘Sisters’ makes it my personal pick. Reply Cynthia Erlandson May 17, 2022 Sally, I especially enjoyed the captivating imagery of the campfire joining the sunset, and the dark moving figures of the dancers in that light, in “Sisters”. I also found its rhyme scheme lovely, and was fascinated by the interwoven nature of the rhyme scheme of “All Are Numbered.” Reply Sally Cook May 18, 2022 Dear Cynthia, You always catch some detail others might miss. That bit about the sunset and the campfire melding; — it so often happens in real life, does it not? And yet all of us tend to take it for granted most of the time. But you tend to search out these things. Isn’t that what makes poets? Thanks so much, Sally Reply Joseph S. Salemi May 17, 2022 Sally Cook never disappoints. Reply Sally Cook May 18, 2022 Dear Joe — Nor do you, my friend and mentor. Even when I have felt the lash of your sharp tongue, it has always been honest. This makes your praise mean more. Reply Paul Freeman May 17, 2022 I think Joe mentioned Cautionary Tales the other day. ‘A Brief Genealogy’ struck me as such. It galloped along and I found it very humorous. Thanks for the reads, Sally. Reply Sally Cook May 17, 2022 Paul, I am so happy to hear you enjoyed “A Brief Genealogy” Believe me, it is not easy to write something funny about one of your ancestors who was locked up and starved to death, especially when it was because she spoke out ! Yesm its all true. Thanks for stopping by. Reply Sally Cook May 18, 2022 Dear David – If you enjoy poems about Gypsies, then you might also like paintings about them. Evan kiindly placed a link to a virtual SIUNYAB exhibition which was canceled by Ex-Gov. Cuomo two hours before the scheduled opening It is out there in many formats, here is one: https://www.buffalo.edu/content/dam/www/art-galleries/images/2019-20/sally-cook-1960-present/UB-Art-Galleries_Sally-Cook-1960-Present_Final-Catalog-Web.pdf It is a self portrait titled: ‘Gypsy At The Carnival Of Life” Reply Jeff Eardley May 19, 2022 Sally, I had to read the first a few times to get the rhythm to what could be a beautiful song. The second was a fascinating tale of one of my favourite cities. The third sent me into pure Thomas Hardy territory. This is all wonderful, thoughtful poetry. Thank you. Reply Sally Cook May 19, 2022 Jeff, thank you for your considered words. It may be that the things that “get in the way” could be those things which are there to keep the idea timeless. I would like to hear more specifics. The idea of rational exchange between poets is something I find very valuable; it is not based on race, sex, or political opinion. If you have time or are interested in getting deeper into the topic, please do. Reply Sally Cook May 19, 2022 Shaun, I must apologize for bombarding you with those myriad questions. You and I seem to agree on most everything! I’ve been working on something in which I try to define what makes a poet. You were kind enoutgh to answer all I asked. I am pretty sure now that a knowledge of music precedes an interest in poetic form, so thanks for that. I also started early with music; at age 4, on piano — I like to say the piano drove me crazy ! If I have more qeuestions, may I come back to you? – you have been a big help, and I am sure any furthyer response frome you will interest me. Reply Shaun C. Duncan May 19, 2022 These aren’t subjects I get to talk about outside of the SCP so I’m more than happy to answer any questions you care to throw at me. You can email me any time via scduncan AT protonmail.com or via my website (just do a search for my name and you’ll find my business site). I think an interest in music can certainly help refine your understanding of poetic form, particularly helping to escape the plodding metronomic quality which can result from taking a simplistic approach to meter. It’s also a great benefit in reading poetry, even if you don’t write. Reply Margaret Coats May 19, 2022 Sally and Shaun, you might be interested to know that the Victorian factory-worker poet, John Critchley Prince, wrote sonnets structured in tercets. You can find “I pause and listen for the Cuckoo’s voice” by putting that first line WITH THE AUTHOR’S NAME into an online search engine. Without his name, the results will all be birdsong articles. For more, you would have to looks at his books in an online library, and sort through all his sonnets, as he uses various forms. A tercet sonnet here at SCP is my “The Cimmerian Sibyl” in the post “Sibylline Sonnets for Advent.” The rhyme scheme is aab ccb dde ffe gg (easier than Sally’s abc abc abc abc dd in “Sisters”). Sally also sews her four tercets into a pair of sestets, using the statement “I could see” twice in the poem. Interesting technique to prepare for a freely frolicking couplet! Reply Shaun C. Duncan May 19, 2022 Thank you, Margaret. I’d not heard of Prince but have found a collection of his poems on a site called “Minor Victorian Writers” which sounds like it might have some other gems too. I remember reading your Sibylline Sonnets when they were published here last year and the quality and depth of the work nearly frightened me off submitting any of my own to the site (which was my new year’s resolution at the time). I hadn’t noticed one of them was composed in tercets. I’m looking forward to trying myself some time. Reply Brian Yapko May 19, 2022 Each of these poems is an exceptionally evocative gem, Sally. Thank you for a wonderful, thoughtful read. Reply Sally Cook May 19, 2022 Brian, yoiur comments always carry exceptional weight and meaning. Thank you so much ! Reply Julian D. Woodruff May 20, 2022 Sally, I find Numbered and Sisters mysterious though enticing. I am bedazzled. What color (flavor) sherbet, betokening what? Time as a place. There is a mower, yet each blade preens itself. And especially, can one access the complete poem (or collection?) online? Both/or (Sisters, line 1). I might have danced (but didn’t, so don’t understand the secret song and dance?). How to read the pointed instances of enjambment in both. Maybe you don’t have time to address all of this (I’ve been selective myself), but for any points you might care to make I’d be grateful. Reply Sally Cook July 24, 2022 Julian, pale orange sherbet, As for “secret song and dance”, don’t gypsies always have secrets, expressed in song and dance? The poem may be found in my book Making Music, available on Amazon. Thanks for taking an interest. Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant May 20, 2022 Dearest Sally, you always tap into the magic of words to create images that come alive and slip beneath my skin with their wonder. I especially like “sherbet sky” and “velvet solstice nights” – the sexy sibilance appeals. Your wisdom and humor shine in the first two poems, but it’s “Sisters” that moves me the most… the mystery, the magic, the intrigue… you paint a linguistic picture that enthralls and delights… the mark of fine poetry. Thank you, my friend! Reply Sally Cook May 22, 2022 Dear Susan — You’ve done it – you have caught me out in my adjectival mode. And about that sherbet sky ! I know you’ve seen it – just before a late June sunset – the sky turns from pale yellow to a tint of faintest tangerine. Thanks for noticing ! PS – Oreo has been replaced by a new Orphington — Best — The Dame Reply C.B. Anderson November 14, 2022 Though every phrase and image is crystal clear in “All Are Numbered”, the poem is a masterpiece of understatement and indirection, and the undercurrent of mood drives it along as much as the narrative. Passages such as “Moving along the narrow grassy rows” and “eternally/Quite clipped and orderly” are so perfect in every prosodic dimension that I felt like I was reading something by Richard Wilbur. I’m sure I’ve read it before, because you sent me a copy of that chapbook, but this time it came on to me like a thunderclap. You must know by now that memory, time and death are in my wheelhouse, and I think you have just taught me what a poem imbued with such subjects should look and sound like. The other poems were quite fine as well, but that’s only what I’ve come to expect of you. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Δ This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.