Sally Cook


The Unspeakable

Our mother taught us to be nice, polite.
Go to the lady’s room, send thank you notes
On time. Be kind to others, eschew anger, spite—
Wear gloves at teas, and brush and sponge our coats.

After we marked her grave, we searched, and sought
A lady’s room; that genteel, private spot.
Our haste drove us behind some trees. Uncaught,
We daughters took a whiz, far from her plot.


One Professor’s Response

Blazing in Gold and quenching in Purple
Leaping like Leopards to the Sky
Then at the feet of the old Horizon
Laying her spotted Face to die
Stooping as low as the Otter’s Window
Touching the Roof and tinting the Barn
Kissing her Bonnet to the Meadow
And the Juggler of Day is gone

— Emily Dickinson, Poem 228

What is this stuff about Leopards in blazing sky?
Leopards and Jugglers do not often mix.
Otters are windowless, safe in their burrows lie,
They are not Pooh Bears, and do not do tricks.

Ask the Astronomers just where the sunset’s at.
Say what you mean about how species meet.
Who wears the bonnet, the juggler or cat?
Explain to me just how horizons have feet.


Sally Cook is both artist and poet. Her poems and essays appear with regularity in many national print journals. Often inspired to relate human vagaries to those in nature, she gains inspiration from her somewhat reclusive life in the country. A recipient of numerous scholarships and awards, her imaginary paintings of a mature Emily Dickinson have been extensively reviewed in the Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin. Recently Cook was one of two finalists in the 2013 Aldrich Press Poetry Book Award judged by Marly Youmans. The resulting book is The View From Here. Both Cook’s written and visual works have been described as idiosyncratic, representational and colorful. Whether writing or painting, she keeps a sharp eye out for the psychological portrait.