Monday, June 20, 2011


TowsonPatch June 8 2011: “Council Majority Supports Repeal of In-state Tuition for Illegal Immigrants. Opponents of the ballot initiative say effort is representative of the county’s difficult history with racial issues.”

Emma Lazarus wrote give me your tired, your poor
Kathy Bevins of the 6th District, says send them away -
especially if they graduated high school

Lady Liberty announces huddled masses yearn to breathe free
Chairman of the County Council John Olszewski (7th District), says
Unless they are doing my lawn, I don’t give a shit

Lady Liberty pleads, send the homeless, tempest-tossd to me
Fifth District’s David Marks says, the homeless and the tempest-tossed
are not part of my constituency

Don’t turn away the wretched refuse, Lady Liberty pleads
Third District’s Todd Huff says, they are human garbage!
They get no sympathy from me

Lady Liberty announces, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Lemming Vicky Almond (2nd District) signs on, says nothing, and by that,
snuffs out the Lady’s lamp

Hatred is not a line item in the county budget
Oh, yes! says David Marks
Fear-mongering is not a line item in the budget
Oh, yes! says John Olszewski
Denigration of high school graduates is not a line item
Oh yes! says Kathy Bevins
Cowardice, facing racism, is not a line item
Oh Yes! says Vicky Almond
To demean innocent moreno kids is not a line item
Oh Yes! says Todd Huff

My Baltimore County, you have given us Spiro Agnew
and now these five . . .

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Just kids, we knew or thought we knew our friend,
Solemn as a stag in the gazettes.
On Saturdays in summer we’d drop in.
He’s smile, place childish fingers on the frets.

The hint of age, a shuffle as he’d rise
to cross his room, when the Victrola’s sound
Seemed suddenly to intrude. Our surprise
was new each time he shut the volume down,

Then lift the needle and bang down the lid.
He’d turn. Get out! He’d curtly us command.
The inner voices not so quickly rid
Unloved companions of our aged friend.  

Before crimson effusions were released
Requiring the prompt presence of police.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Was Fit, Joe Rentfro's House for Sunday Prayers

Was fit, Joe Rentfro's house for Sunday prayers.
To English and their slaves, readers read verse.
King James Bible, not Kings' or Queens' but theirs.
One hundred forty years, blessings and curse

Flowed over colonists. The K J B.
Its cadences, their phrasings, lyric chimes
Had marked them plainly English to a tee.
No priest on hand, changed prayers to pantomimes?

The Jew invites the English, self select.
One goal, one law, one Lord, and Him, "of Hosts"
In certainty, saw frontier paths correct
By God, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Joseph and Mary Rentfro's practice gave,
Hope to the English, solace to the slave.


Today, May 2, 2011, is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, the KJV.

Joseph Rentfro and his wife Mary Owens, ancestors of the poet, opened their home in the the Blackwater region of Virginia Colony (old Lunenburg county) to Sunday services in the Anglican tradition. 

In 1751, young William Cook (c.1720- c1784) was a reader at service, in the absence of a priest.

A version of this sonnet appears in SPLENDID LIVES AND OTHERWISE (Nativa LLC, 2011), available, including download, at 

Thursday, April 7, 2011


by Richard Baldwin Cook, great-nephew

You could have stayed and run your father’s store.
But John said, you’re not too young for the ranks.
Your Paw was pleased his boy would give what for,
To Abe who’d free the niggers with his yanks.

Oh! Willie, boy, why did you want to go?
Be nice, a rowdy summer n’Mississip? 
At first light in your first fight at Shiloh,
A twelve pound ball took your leg at the hip.

Through gritted teeth you gave your one command.
By my dear Maw, you put me in the ground.
Sis’ Sue’s husband, a sound and loyal man,
Your casket sent home on a train he’d found.

Your pointless death, Willie, helped us to find,
The Cause you Lost so quick, lived in the mind.

This sonnet appears in SPLENDID LIVES and OTHERWISE: Sonnets of Remembrance (Nativa LLC 2011) available at
Copyright 2011, Richard Baldwin Cook

Drawing by artist Leah Fanning Mebane, 
- from a Cook family photo

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Bears at the Pole are killers beyond bold.
Speed, layered strength is theirs, time before time.
Patience matched only by white Arctic cold.
Ice-caved seals smelled out, crushed; a dinner fine.

Search for fat seals, never a leisured stroll.
Cubs and herself must eat vast calories.
To miss a single meal, their days will toll.
When masters of the cold, grow thin and freeze.

The seal in Arctic waters, safe and quick.
The catch, she must breathe air where jaws like steel.
In silence, waits to lift her body thick,
With fat, which can sustain one bear or seal.

Life measured at its apex, fine, by God.
Though most days spent in ice caves, then in sod.

Photo credit: Scott Schliebe / USFWS

Friday, March 25, 2011

Myrix Josiah Williams, 1811 - 1897

Myrix Josiah Williams

Myrix Josiah Williams, tall, aloof.
Welsh Merricks and Williames, stand behind.
Tiny Glencoe, K  Y offered proof,
Smallest anchor, the largest bark would bind.

Legislator, long Magistracy post,
Large crops, grand home, the finest riding horse.
Leisured breakfast; he read the Journal close.
Life warranted, sustained by slaves, of course. 

Three wives, ten children, Grand Masonic rank. 
Admired greatly, Myrix, by many men.
His eminence increased before it sank.
Took sides against his country; didn't win. 

Acknowledge ancestry with due respect.
But proffer admiration circumspect.

Copyright 2011, Richard Baldwin Cook

This sonnet appears in SPLENDID LIVES and OTHERWISE: Sonnets of Remembrance (Nativa LLC 2011) available at

Written in 2011: Myrix Williams, great grandfather X 3, was born two hundred years ago this year. A Mason, magistrate, legislator, slave-owner, husband of three (widowed twice - his first wife was great grandmother X 3, Junietta Gouge) - Myrix was tall, horse-faced, a no-nonsense dude, who believed in self-restraint and in everyone else doing his biding. 

Happy Birthday Myrix.

We are glad for your life but not for all of the values you brought to it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


patrickhenry.jpg (496×599)
1736 – 1799

From border lands they came to claim a place,
In furth’est reaches of the royal realm.
Scots Irish, coming poor was no disgrace,
Proud, clannish, they’d the Red Coats overwhelm.

Parliament overreach they frowned upon
To fight and ‘haps to die caused them no balk.
Treat “lowland troubles” with the musket balm.
King barred them from the west? An end to talk!

The Henrys and the Winstons led the fight,
Railed, rallied neighbors, honored yet the king.
These borderers enraged when might trumps right.
Said might serves right, free people’s freedoms ring.

Think cousin Patrick’s views were some extreme?
Cut off the grasping hand! No in between!

Copyright 2011 Richard Baldwin Cook
PATRICK HENRY is a collateral ancestor of the poet. 

This sonnet appears in SPLENDID LIVES AND OTHERWISE: Sonnets of Remembrance (Nativa LLC) 2011, available at


March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry delivered the decisive oratory at a meeting of the Burgesses, Saint John's Church, Richmond, Virginia. Both Washington and Jefferson were present.
Did Patrick Henry actually say, 'Give me liberty or death?' Who knows? His oratory was hypnotic but his hearers had trouble remembering exactly what he had said. 

Jefferson on Henry: 
"Although it was difficult, when [Henry] had spoken, to tell what he had said, yet, while speaking, it always seemed directly to the point. When he had spoken in opposition to my opinion, had produced a great effect, and I myself had been highly delighted and moved, I have asked myself, when he ceased, 'What the devil has he said?' and could never answer the inquiry." ("Liberty or Death Speech," Charles Cohen, 38 William and Mary Quarterly 4 (pp. 702-717).

Portrait of Patrick Henry by George Bagby Matthews, Senate Website, Public Domain

Sunday, March 20, 2011


John G Feller, young citizen and vet
Of 1812, then his homestead he’d fix
In Shenandoah, but John G’d not get,
A land grant like the vets of ’76.

Not social, yet a joiner was John G,
In iron works, scattered in the Valley round.
Formed wood molds for hot iron poured carefully.
Such toil for food and shelter, John G found.

G after John may not a lone G be.
Gefeller got quick shortened by the clerk.
No matter how recalled in history.
John recalled down his line for clever work.

Drawn South, German colonials from P A,
They’re found in Shenandoah to this day. 

Copyright 2011 Richard Baldwin Cook

JOHN G FELLER is a lineal ancestor of the poet. 

This sonnet appears in SPLENDID LIVES AND OTHERWISE: Sonnets of Remembrance (Nativa LLC) 2011, available at

Saturday, March 19, 2011



By Richard Baldwin Cook 

Young Jonah came alone but well prepared,
To prairie Springfield, OH, ‘bout eighteen-four.
Anglican, a drover and surveyor,
He opened up a tavern and held court.

Not long 'fore Sarah Scott had caught his eye.
They wed when she was not above fifteen.
Childbirth most likely caused this child to die.
Leaving small ones to Jonah’s harsh regime.

He took another wife and raised them all.
Food, shelter, clothing, books, them to be read.
He’d met the great Tecumseh, watched him fall.
A people unprepared, a nation’s dread.

The skills that such as Jonah Baldwin brings,
The gifts that made White prairie men be kings.

Copyright 2011 Richard Baldwin Cook

JONAH BALDWIN (1777-1864) is a lineal ancestor of the poet. He and Sarah were the parents of Jane Hedges Baldwin, who married Marmaduke Moore and was the mother of Benjamin Moore, husband of Aurelia Mayo and father of Mary Baldwin Moore, wife of John Oliver Taylor Sr, who were the parents of John Taylor Jr. - grandfather of this boy speaking to you.  

This sonnet appears in SPLENDID LIVES AND OTHERWISE: Sonnets of Remembrance (Nativa LLC) 2011, available at

Friday, March 18, 2011


Updike: We need more worlds. This one will fail.
Entitled is each one of us to die.
Lifts Nature from us all weight; furls our sail.
Imagine if the opposite apply.

All joys foreseen, pains endlessly expand.
Centuries pass, long decades days become.
The endless  drab sunrise, no longer grand.
Food, cohabit, ideas; all this benumb.   

For nothing live, as living on is sure.
We savor only what we know must end.
If accident or sickness will not cure
Our wander, sui caedere final friend.

Dream you of endless Heaven, dreadful Hell?
The soundest tree must fall, bleed out its sap.
Accept; embrace, that last expiring knell,
A foretaste, daily twenty minute nap.

To live is grand but grand in brackets comes.
The final gift: all life starts, then succumbs.