A Reverie

Some days in August there’s a summer hum
Of distant outboard motors, or a plane
Relentlessly pursuing a puffed cloud,
Echoes of past revelers, and then some

More silent moments, full of what’s to come.
Waves I will see crash shores, cold driving rain,
Fast traffic on the highway—droning, loud,
Insistent in its unrelenting thrum—

The acquiescent sere chrysanthemum.
It’s then I ask if summer can explain
Or lift from everything the brittle shroud
Which now has fallen on it. Still, in sum,

I see the cartwheel of the seasons roll—
Know they are but the backdrop for the whole.



Tailoring Life

A wrinkled coat of skin cannot relieve
Us of the cold that hangs upon the air.
Like animals, we take a sniff, perceive
The world won’t suit our purposes. For show,

We stumble right along, and when we leave
Each person, place, or thing, then we compare
What happened there in order to deceive
Ourselves; as far as consequences go,

All lives are such a strange and varied weave—
One’s instincts get turned upside down, and then
There’s nothing much left for us to retrieve
To make a better cloth, when we can’t sew.

previously published in American Arts Quarterly



Sally Cook is both a poet and a painter of magical realism. Her poems have also appeared in Blue Unicorn, First Things, Chronicles, The Formalist Portal, Light Quarterly, National Review, Pennsylvania Review, TRINACRIA, and other electronic and print journals. A six-time nominee for a Pushcart award, in 2007 Cook was featured poet in The Raintown Review. She has received several awards from the World Order of Narrative and Formalist Poets, and her Best American Poetry Challenge-winning poem “As the Underworld Turns” was published in Pool. 

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19 Responses

  1. Paul Erlandson

    Thanks, Sally!

    Especially for “A Reverie”. I’ve always felt that way about the droning noises of Summer (planes, truck tires on a highway, even lawn mowers). But even though I’ve always loved them as the soundtrack of Summer, I hadn’t understood it as deeply as I do now, after reading your poem!


    • Sally Cook

      Dear Paul,

      What a lovely and profound compliment you have given me! You must be very sensitive, but then , look who you married !

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Notice that Sally has a tendency to employ unusual rhyme schemes in her quatrains. The quatrains in her first poem are ABCA, with the same rhymes maintained throughout. In the second poem the scheme is ABAC, also maintained in the same manner. This kind of intricacy does two things: it ties the poem together like a complex stitching pattern, while softening the force of rhyme by making the rhymes not too prominent.

    The more common rhyme schemes in quatrains (ABAB or ABBA) sometimes can seem heavy and throbbing, especially if the poet uses trite or cliched rhymes that are end-stopped. Sally’s rhyme schemes avoid this, and by enjambing many of her lines she gives the feel of free verse even when the poem is perfectly formal in its structure.

    About the thematic matter — Sally Cook is a painter, and her work always has a “painterly” quality about it. The poem “Reverie” is very much like a landscape, where imaged sounds dominate the first two quatrains, while silence and the movement of the seasons are the subject of the closing sestet. The line “The acquiescent sere chrysanthemum” is brilliant.

    The second poem “Tailoring Life” is a very deft and striking extended metaphor of life itself, in all its aspects, as an act of weaving and sewing. And those first words “A wrinkled coat of skin…” are truly dynamic, since right off the bat Sally connects a cloth garment with the actual skin in which a human being lives. These three quatrains are absolutely beautiful in their craftsmanship, and in their wistfulness about our earthly existence.

    Sally Cook lives in a small town in upstate New York. But she is one of the most accomplished poets writing today.

    • Mary Gardner

      Joseph, thank you for the technical analysis of Sally’s “Reverie” and “Tailoring Life.” I love the science of poetry, but few people can discuss or explain it well.

      • Sally Cook

        Dear Mary —
        For me , science in poetry is so deeply embedded it has become intuitive; like a dowser finding water.

        Glad to know you enjoyed the poems in a multi-leveled way.

    • Sally Cook

      Right on all counts, and many thanks, Joe.
      I would only add the following, and refer the reader to my bio on this SCP site (which I believe is still available)

       In addition, my grandmother Aunt Maud (too young, according to her, to be a grandmother) and her gifts of words instead of toys during my childhood. Add to that my rigorous early musical training starting at age four, before I could reach the pedals, all of which resulted in such a confusion of symbol, color and sound as could never be otherwise achieved. Words now had color,
      and so forth Enough — go look up the bio.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        To those who would like to see Sally Cook’s biographical sketch, just go to the search engine box in the upper right of the screen here and type in:

        Gypsy at the Carnival of Life

        It will take you directly there.

  3. Cynthia Erlandson

    I love the sounds you depict in “A Reverie”; summer surely has its own distinctive sounds. In “A Tailoring Life”, the fabric metaphor is fine. And I love the rhyme schemes in both poems.

  4. jd

    Enjoyed both poems very much, Sally, and also its fine points pointed out by Joseph Salemi. In addition to the phrases pointed out by others I also like the “cartwheel roll of seasons”. There’s so much to savor in both poems.

    • Sally Cook

      I always try to give as much as I can, which sometimes results in revision. When U hit it off the first time I count myself very lucky, or very blessed, or both.
      This, I think, is the sacred obligation of every creative person and to see a careless effort hurts me, doesn’t it you?

  5. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Maintaining an unusual rhyme scheme in two poems for three verses in each is a quality best pursued and portrayed by a masterful poet. I cannot ignore the innate depth and intrinsic points of view in each poem. Your works are always enchanting and give us sensory images that reward us for our reading them over more than once.

  6. Margaret Coats

    Sally, what an unexpected foregrounding of the backdrop in the final word of “A Reverie”! The “whole” must be there the entire time, but at last you lift up the “brittle shroud” and pay attention to it. That’s what needs to be done, it seems, to roll past noises, motorized and natural–without neglecting echoes of the past or silent moments. A very full time and place.

    • Sally Cook

      Margaret, it seems as if only you, or someone very like you could come up with such a response,, How seldom do we hear the purpose of a poem discussed, and yet. without purpose, why write? The question seems to answer itself, no? Am I being too oblique? Probably.

  7. Paul A. Freeman

    I read ‘A Reverie’ yesterday in a somewhat unreceptive mood and am so glad I came back to it today.

    The reverie that unfolds holds describes such universal themes that it felt like it was written for the reader. My favourite image was ‘I see the cartwheel of the seasons roll’, which solved a problem I was having with a current poem I’m working on – whether to use ‘view’, ‘watch’ or ‘see’. The passivity of ‘see’ is the perfect choice, reinforcing the narrator’s detachment from the inevitable.

    The metaphor and philosophy in Tailoring Life demand coming back to. My fave line here is ‘All lives are such a strange and varied weave’. Did you consider starting the line with ‘Our’? I felt this would compliment the line above rather than be repetitive. Either way, a masterclass in extended metaphor.

    Thanks for two memorable pieces, Sally.

  8. Sally Cook

    Roy, thank you ! You never fail to give an intelligent, well thought-out response.

  9. Sally Cook

    Paul, I don’t recall what my word choices were at that time, but even animals and plants have strange and varied lives, so I suppose either would have worked. Thank you very much for your interest in these poems..

  10. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Dear Sally, your poems never fail to take me by surprise. They always engage my mind and my senses, but more than that, they have graceful whispers of wisdom running throughout. I’m especially enamored by “Tailoring Life” – it’s a beautifully crafted conceit that has a tangible honesty about it. I particularly like the lines, “Like animals, we take a sniff, perceive / The world won’t suit our purposes.” The closing stanza has tugged at my heart… and made me wish I’d learned to sew with the finesse of those who tried their hardest to teach me. Thank you, my friend.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Susan —
      We seem to be in the grip of an unusual poetic relationship. One becomes used to seeing poets compete to be the best at some form of poetry; other times poets simply can’t stand the way each other writes.
      We are in the enviable position of appreciating each other’s work for what it is.

      I knew the minute I first read your work that it had a unique quality, and you felt the same reaction to mine. We were fast friends on the spot, and have remained so. What an unusual thing to have happened!
      Real friendships are few and far between in this world. Thank you, Susan for yours.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Dear Sally, thank you for these beautiful words, every one of them is a delight to read. You capture our friendship perfectly. Although poems are fictive artifacts, they still brim with the essence of the poet’s spirit… and your wonder shines through in the words you weave… I am always drawn to your work, and I love your wise, creative eye. Thank you for all you are and all you do. It’s wonderful to meet a poet with a unique voice in a world where being extraordinary is frowned upon. It’s an honor to be your friend.

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