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Sally Cook

Both painter and poet, Sally Cook’s work in both disciplines may be described as idiosyncratic, representational and colorful. She has received several scholarships and awards for both her painting and her writing.

She started out writing poetry on her own; a natural result, she says, of her painterly interest in color and form. She says “I want a poem to have vigorous form, original thought, fresh language, and to be eminently readable.” She is strongly drawn to William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and Dorothy Parker, and admires contemporary work by T. S. Kerrigan, Joseph S. Salemi, Gail White and Leo Yankevich, among others.

Recent accomplishments include third prize in the Best American Poetry Challenge II for her poem "As The Underworld Turns" and several prizes and honorable mentions in the 2007 World Order of Narrative and Formalist Poets Contest. Her essays and poetry have appeared in publications such as The Barefoot Muse, Bumbershoot, The Chimera, Chronicles, Contemporary Sonnet, First Things, Iambs &Trochees, Lucid Rhythms, The New Formalist, Pivot, The University Bookman and others. The featured poet in the fall issue of The Raintown Review, she was nominated by that publication for a 2007 Pushcart Prize.

Sally Cook is married to the political cartoonist Bob Fisk, whose collaborations with Dr. Joseph S. Salemi appear on in the "Gallery of Ethopaths" section of Dr. Salemi's poetry page. More of her poetry may be seen at

A Tale of Innocence

Now, once again, a vision died a bit.
Not very much—it hardly hurt at all.
Lost Innocence watched at the edge of it,
Then climbed aboard her vessel; seemed to stall,
To capsize on the smallest sea of tears.
Drifting to shores so empty, and so dry
That rocks were shattered, much like brittle mirrors,
Arriving, she found refuge in a lie
Reflected in the watery surface there.
Gaining some strength, she rose and made away
With blazing spotlights, stars in darkened air.
Lost Innocence sat on the deck all day
And smiled, sailed past the coast’s ambivalence;
Steering to further shores that made more sense.

The World Arises

The world lies sleeping on a lumpy couch,
Wrapped in some well-used inconsistencies.
Lacking a fleeting kiss, a warming touch,
It dreams a vision of no rest, no ease,

Yet morning always comes. The world gets up,
Brushes the sands of reverie away,
Gulps down some coffee and a little sup,
Walks out to face the cold impassive day
As if its fears for that new day were gone.
Dark and monotonous, the tasks it faces
Have no good end, cannot assure bright dawn,
And but for brilliant shards, some streaks and traces,
Occasional assertions of the right,
Have no expectance of a coming light.

Originally published by Contemporary Sonnet

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 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.

Originally published by Lucid Rhythms

If Only

If Henry James had been at all paternal,
Married and fathered little Jameses, what
Adventures might have spiced his daily journal
Instead of other people’s feelings. But

At least he didn’t starve within a garret
As that poor painter Vincent did for years
Without a bit of sirloin, or a carrot,
Or even a sharp blade to slice his ears.

Our Emily spent hours in contemplation,
And agonized about the great Unknown.
Some kids, the PTA, a station wagon
Would have ensured she’d never be alone.

Then there was Mozart, hounded by a chorus
Of those who told him “Trust! We know what’s right!”
Some penicillin might have saved him for us;
There could have been more music of the night.

So many artists turn out to be not as
Productive as they might have been, and fade—
Just think, we’d have a dozen more sonatas,
If Beethoven had worn a hearing aid!

Originally published by Trinacria

Home Away from Home

for Ruth

Someday I’ll be so wrinkled, weak, and old,
My face will scare the kids on Halloween.
My jewelry and my art will then be sold
For pennies, when I cannot intervene.

When doctors, damn them, deem me nearly dead
They’ll drag me off to those infernal places
Where broken bodies lie within each bed,
Or stagger round the halls in slings and braces.

My nicest clothes all shrunk to shapeless rags,
I’ll drag my bathrobe on the dirty floor.
And as my body droops and spirit sags
I’ll wonder what the many years were for.

They’ll serve spit in the spuds, and fish with bones.
The ice cream will be lumpy, tasteless, pale—
And everyone will speak in loud flat tones
To tell you “Honey, hang on to the rail!”

When I’m awake I’ll think of what the Druids
Did to the ones they didn’t like so much.
Technicians say they only want my fluids,
But late at night I shiver at their touch.

This place, where bowel movements get acclaim,
Is where you’re stuck. And no one comes to say
“I knew you when you were a sexy dame!”
What can you do? Just bite your nails and pray

Another comes with wine and cheese, a pear—
Who talks of stars and poetry, a band
That plays faint music on the scented air,
And says “This hell is over—take my hand.”

As It Is Bent

So cold, so hard, you own all you survey—
At least you think you do, though I recall
The times we dreamed of, some far, future day
When we’d be older. In the drafty hall
The Virgin Mary watched, we’d see her face;
Madonna of the Chair was present where
We made our dash across that frigid space
With stones hot from the coal stove squatting there
In the square dining room, where we had studied;
Wrapped up in newsprint they would warm each bed.
I think of careless clumsy boots, flung, muddied,
And of the simple, even lives we led.
I wonder where that child in glasses went,
And how the twig grew twisted, old, and bent.

Originally published by Contemporary Sonnet

Battle of the Sexes, Revisited

Rude, raucous boys threw my books from the bus
When I was young. My mother made me go
Walking the route the bus had taken us
To reach my house. I cried, and made a fuss.

My papers blew across a sodden field,
A deep and muddy ditch spit up my books
And I bent to the power all mothers wield,
No longer challenged adolescent looks.

Today an unknown rash or some malaise
Would keep me from such adolescent trysts.
The boys would lose their college funds, and craze.
We’d meet again at the psychiatrist’s.

Harassment suits eventually would be filed,
Scholarship money for the victim child.

Originally published by Contemporary Sonnet

The Opal Day

Evening daylight, reminiscent
Of a place, no hour assigned,
Beneath a sky so opalescent
Thoughts of time are out of mind.

For all who may have felt this presence
In the past, when pendulums,
Stilling themselves, revealed the snow’s dense
Fragile thrum on distant drums,

Who now sleep frozen underneath a
Heavy quilt of satin snow
Pillowed by stone; they now bequeath a
Kiss to hours long ago,

And perceive this heavy storming
Imitates a later day;
Holding in it gusts of warning,
Meant to shut us all away.

That day is now. In snowy beds
We dream of days in fragrant bowers
While granite holds our weary heads
Encased within these opal hours.

Originally published by The Raintown Review

In Praise of Still Life

Now it's decreed that art must give
Some cold directive just to live—
Just painting still lives isn't thought
To be what art departments taught.
Forget the breadth and majesty
Of each tomato, pear, or bee.

The buzzing round a bowl of fruit;
Those dialectics just don't suit.
Oh, that we could be freed from this—
The cold, ironic sneering kiss
Of those who worship the perverse
And run the arts, and make them worse;

Who miss the revolutionary
In a bowl of ripe red cherries

Originally published by Chronicles

Fruit in His Future

Based on the life of Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton had a bent
For legal things, so off he went
With countenance both fair and sunny,
To search out England’s funny money.

The laws of motion moved him to
The Royal Mint, where he would do
His best to find the funny stuff;
And presently, he’d found enough

To sentence every counterfeiter
To death exotic, and quite bitter;
By rope and also by the blade,
Yet from his goal he never strayed.

Tired, he lay ’neath apple branches—
A scientist, he took no chances
With too much stress; in sweet repose
He rested, took himself a doze,

Woke briefly as the gallows tree
Dropped down its crooks quite evenly,
Confirming what he thought he knew—
That gravity controlled them, too.

Sir Isaac watched the round, red sun
Descend; his work had just begun.
Then in his reverie, a sphere
Fell fast upon his noggin here.

Though only one small fruit bonked Ikie,
Shaking his entire psyche,
Rebooting his mentality;
It changed the world for you and me.

Enlightened, apple tree beneath,
His basic law he did bequeath
To us, because it bopped his brow!
Sir Isaac said “I don’t know how

I could have been so awfully dumb—
One Mackintosh—one cranium—
Deductive reasoning shows me
That I’ve discovered gravity!

How wise he’d been to sit beneath
That tree, and to his heirs bequeath
Pomona’s promise to guard fruit—
With gravity, he followed suit.

And now he knew that lowly fruits
Could show us universal truths!
Still, Newton, had he been aware,
Might better have napped in his chair.

For fruit which in the garden fell
Announced the wide, wide road to Hell
Through knowledge. It was Eve who bit,
Though she knew Adam wanted it.

First Prize winner, Gutenberg to Heisenberg category, Dr. Alfred Dorn’s 2007 World Order of Narrative and Formalist Poets Contest

When a Locked Door Opens

for Dorr

Knowing you was to gaze into the face
Of strangeness, talent and perversity.
You staked a claim in our own human race,
But had to be the worst we’d ever see.

That gold tooth, diamond-set; leftover food
Which others threw away, you took and ate.
Bizarre were claims you made—you never could
Be clean, write, spell, work, empathize, relate.

You, clothed in rags that smelled, were out of size
Seemed lazy and fantastic to most others.
Yet sometimes uttered, as in sharp surprise,
One brilliant thought that bonded us as brothers.

So, too, your voice was lovely; knowledge full
Of things we didn’t know. We felt the pull. 

Originally published by Neovictorian/Cochlea

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