A Holy Picnic

A small child had a vision in the light
Of day, while sitting square upon the rug.
It seemed as if she rose to a great height,
And there, her senses gave a mighty tug
As if to warn her there was more to come.
And so there was. Two men, both clothed in white
Addressed her spirit, talked and laughed at some
Occurrences that waited out of sight
In future time. Her mother saw her stare,
Her silence, shook her, cried out Where are you?
You look as if you’re floating in mid-air!
Except for what it seemed, there in the dew
And wide expanse of Heaven, fear seemed odd
When she was only picnicking with God.



Erasing Me

As I could not do things that had to be
The practical began dismantling me.
They started with my edges; I could see
Each greyed eraser scrubbing silently.

They kindly asked if I would choose from rare
Possessions, one from each pile jumbled there.
They boxed my fur-lined slippers up with care—
Red pumps, that tapping taradiddled pair.

Some searched to find more stuff; then one fine day
My mohair shaved soft silk just blew away
In plastic bags. There were no words to say.
I took the rump-sprung robe that thought to stay.

My mind lay limp and scoured; I was a mess
Until they scrubbed me clean and clipped each tress.
I did not care for work or diet, dress—
My mouth was hollow, mute. But I digress.

As outline faded into memory,
Those myriad things that wove a life for me,
Like moonlit shadows from a branched-out tree,
Could not be grasped by those erasing me.



.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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31 Responses

  1. Margaret Coats

    Very visionary, Sally. “Holy Picnic” looks like a child’s version of the Transfiguration, interrupted of course by a concerned mother, but well-explained (at least to the reader) by the child. “Erasing Me” perhaps forefronts the practical critics who don’t believe in your style of magical realism. Both here and in your paintings you make magic out of the not-quite-everyday things that can become rare possessions to us, as long as our minds don’t go limp or get scoured by erasers. It’s nice to see that the rhyme sound for the first quatrain comes back in the last, where the word “me” actually comes back TWICE. Nicely done.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Margaret
      You hit the nail on the head, so far as Holy Picnic is concerned.

      “Erasing Me” is about people that think they know best. You know now many THEY are, of course. Everything I have is part of the fabric of my life. If I want to give it away; that is one thing, not to be confused by some clod deciding I SHOULD give it away.

      I am always cursing at furniture and such. My husband is always admonishing me – YOU AREN”T VERY NICE TO THAT chair, table, lamp, cane he will say. I do notice that when I take into consideration the feelings of a silver spoon or a grapefruit, it responds in kind. My glasses have received a lot of abuse over the years; always wandering off as they do.

      People don’t come off very well, either; and you know how I feel about computers. That’s why I value People like you so much — those who love the moon, as I do. Thank you for totally understanding my Magic Realism.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Sally’s written a number of poems that deal with paranormal experiences (of which she has had quite a few!) “A Holy Picnic” describes a child’s rising up on what seems to be a magic carpet to a great height, where she encounters two men in white who discuss future events with her. I’m not sure if the poem is purely fictive or autobiographical, but I’d bet that it is the latter.

    • Sally cook

      Autobiographical, of course. Life is so much stranger than we think. After listening to those white robed men, I re-named all my toys Paul and began a campaign to get my as yet unborn sister named Paul. No one listened to me.
      Another thing; I refused to speak until I could communicate – no baby talk for me. My poor parents ! They thought I might be mute !

  3. Monika Cooper

    I like these poems, reclaiming experience from imposed interpretations and misinterpretations: reclaiming the life of the visionary child and of the perhaps “impractical” and mysteriously afflicted person, who has been rendered so terribly passive. What was beautiful, in the life and in the experience, triumphs.

    • Sally Cook

      If there is one thing I know, Monika, it is that you have to keep fighting. Everyone will want to take credit for you or disparage you, steal your music, shout to the heavens that it is incorect, and generally erase you, well before you are done. Do not let them ! It is the worst thing; more so than the most horrific murder, because it kills truth, withers spirit.

      Keep yourself to yourself and believe in your own spirit. God will reward you for it.

  4. Paul Buchheit

    Very thought-provoking poems, Sally. I’m not clear on who’s doing the erasing, but I enjoyed thinking about it.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      I think “Erasing Me” can be read as something in the voice of an elderly person, whose strength and faculties may be declining, and whose lifestyle and possessions are being chipped away by relatives or neighbors or social-service vermin. These are the well-meaning but insufferable types who tell you that “you can’t live alone anymore,” or that “you need to de-accession” most of your beloved things, or that “you have to simplify your existence.”

      They think that they’re helping you, but in fact they’re erasing you.

      • Sally Cook

        Yes, Joe, I find that people younger than you think in terms of what you cannot do; not what you are. I see this so much.

        I have told Bob, “If you choose to go to a nursing home, GO. But you will be going without me.”

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Paul —
      Who? Why anyone who thinks they know better, of course, and you know the world is full of THEM. Glad you enjoyed the poems !

  5. Paul Freeman

    Two poems that demand more than one read.

    The topic of ‘erasure’ came up in an article I read recently about becoming ‘invisible’ to society at large as you age (i.e. become less formidable / imposing in appearance and less energetic).

    I’ll be making this the topic of the next short story I write.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking reads, Sally.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Paul –
      Try to be as obnoxious as you can for as long as you can. That’s the best I can come up with. Rage against the night!
      Oriental cultures used to value wisdom; no more and it is a shame.
      I would be very interested in seeing your new story — perhaps Evan would provide you with my e-mail – would you send it?

  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    Sally, the fight of all genuine artists is against those masses of goddamned conformists who think they have the right to tell you How to live, What to believe, Who to respect, When to speak, and Why you should always be following their advice.

    Frequently such persons are your friends, neighbors, loved ones, religious counselors, and close colleagues. But no matter who they are, there is only one way to deal with them: Tell them to bugger the hell off!

    • Sally Cook

      Joe, it is always the fight of the individual against the grey impenetrable mass. In most instances, we lose, but the winners shine down the centuries.

      Some of us will win, but not that many. That’s why I love biographys; because each one will provide a piece of the puzzle. I don’t think many people realize that this world is a testing ground. Somehow there are a few that can see it and are naturally good, and I think of them as minor saints. Sometimes I say to God “Im such an idiot ! Would you make me more acceptable in your sight?”

      I think that those of us who try (and there are a lot who gravitate to this site) feel that pull. I cannot say, write as I do — that would be stupid. But I can say, write the best you can in your own way and I will respect that.

      Yikes ! Now I’m getting carried away.

  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Dear Sally, I love these poems – they sing to my soul! They both carry a beautiful message. For me, that message is – in this cold, technocratic world, we are not “hackable animals”, we are spiritual beings with a divine connection to our Creator. I believe children are more receptive to such wonder. I also believe that the older and wiser we get, the more we have to offer… sadly, today’s society doesn’t see it that way. The superb words in “Erasing Me” are so sad and so strikingly exquisite I am hypnotized by them. Sally, thank you for your wonder, your wisdom, and most of all for always being you.

    • Sally Cook

      Susan —
      Each in our own way is experiencing the flatness of our formerly limitless universe. None of us likes it. But the enforcers are better twisters of reality, higher up on the Ladder of Prestige… better liars than we.

      In our own individual ways we strive to fight the many headed gorgon of foolishness and perverted fancy.

      When I read your poems I take comfort in the thought that you are out there, fighting against those things I also detest.

      Thank you, my dear friend.

  8. jd

    I enjoyed both these poems even before I
    understood them on reading your explanation and agree that they ask to be read again. You had me by the 2nd line of the first poem – “while sitting square upon the rug”. I just love that.

    Your voice is unique and you use unusual descriptive words such as, “tapping taradiddled” and “rump sprung” which took me a while to figure out but is hilarious if I’m correct in my assessment.

    Thank you, Sally. I would love to see one of your paintings if you could direct me somewhere they
    are displayed.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Just go to Google and look up Sally Cook, 1960-Present. There you will find a few places where selections of her paintings are shown.

    • Sally Cook

      JD, thanks for your interest in my work ! Yes, I imagine your interpretation of the term “rump-sprung” is correct — is there a woman alive who hasn’t had a rump-sprung robe? I know I’ve had my share of such inelegant garments !
      Please, enjoy the paintings !

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        You know, Sally, when I read the term “rump-sprung” it reminded me of a similar compound word from Shakespeare. It’s from Macbeth, where the witches are talking. One of them says “Aroint thee, witch! the rump-fed runyon cries…”

        I always assumed that the witch’s word “rump-fed” meant “overweight in the hips,” or fat-assed, to put it vulgarly.

  9. Jeff Eardley

    Sally. I love these two, particularly “Erasing Me”
    This should never happen to you. I have to keep re-reading this, which is the Hallmark of a great poet.
    Please keep raging against the dying of the light with your always, thought-provoking work. Thank you for some wonderful imagery today.

    • Sally Cook


      I am so happy to know that my imagery calls you back for more reading, and that you are kind enough to tell me so.

      Those choices in “Erasing Me” haven’t yet been offered me. But I have seen this sort of thing happen to so many others ! My imagination, when up to snuff, is likely to take me almost any place , hence the term “rump-sprung” to describe a bathrobe on its last legs, misshapen and unattractive but loyal to a fault and too good to throw away.

      And to even hint at greatness !! YIou are one out of many !!

  10. C.B. Anderson

    Thank you, Sally, for two new glimpses into the Twilight Zone of your own devising. Sometimes you work in magical realism, but at other times what you do can only be described as real magic.

  11. Sally Cook

    Dear Kip —
    What a neat twist to entwine magic and magic realism ! You certainly have a way with words, CB., and I appreciate this compliment, given in your own unique way.

    A question –don’t you think the onus is on the true poet to be simultaneously as personal and as all-encompassing as he can? (Yes, I am still using the universal “he” and yes, what I suggest is a very difficult task.) But without such high aspirations, we confine ourselves to mediocrity.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Let me get back to you on that question. At first take, I’m not really sure what a “true poet’s” burden is or even if any such burden exists. But I do know that many approaches are possible, even if they are not expressly articulated. Am I a false poet if what I write is impersonal and narrowly circumscribed?

      • Sally Cook

        Kip, we all have burdens, and most poets may or may not have more than other sorts of people. Just asking for an opinion.

  12. Sally Cook

    To Joseph S. Salemi – Joe, I have no idea what a rump-fed runyon is -Your guess is as good as mine, I have looked for a definition of the term with no result !

    If you can define “Runyon” for me it would help.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Sally, the usual definition given for “runyon” or “ronyon” is “an animal that consumes trash.” This usually refers to pigs. So I assume when Shakespeare writes “rump-fed runyon” he means “fat-assed pig.” This is how one of the witches in “Macbeth” describes a farm girl who refuses to give her chestnuts.

      “Runyon” is dialectical, and Shakespeare probably is remembering it from his rural days in Stratford.

      • sally cook

        Thank you Joe for the definition. I had looked in every dictionary I could think of, but no one seemed to have it. Somehow I knew you would !

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